Estate Planning FAQ

What is estate planning?
Estate planning is a term used to describe the important steps a person makes to insure that their family and loved ones are taken care of, their property distributed according to their wishes, and their health care wishes are honored.  When the time comes, your family will be dealing with the grief of losing a loved one.  During this painful time, ease their pain by planning ahead.  With a complete estate plan, a number of legal issues will already be resolved and your family will not have to deal with the additional stress of determining a number of legal questions that will arise.   Planning ahead will give you and your family peace of mind.
What is involved in estate planning?
Estate planning is a process that determines:

  • What your assets include and their approximate value
  • Who will receive your assets and when
  • Who will take care of your minor children if you cannot
  • Who will make decisions concerning your health and finances if you cannot
  • What will happen to your remains after your death
What will happen to my estate if I die without an estate plan?
The court will decide what happens to your estate and who will take care of your young children if the other parent is unavailable.  In California, generally your property will go to your surviving spouse and children.  If you do not have a surviving spouse or children, usually your estate will go to relatives.  If you have no relatives, your property will go to the state.  Therefore, if you wanted your certain assets to go to certain family members and loved ones, it may not go to them if you do not have an estate plan.
What is a will?
A will is a document containing your wishes and instructions on how your property and assets are to be distributed after your death. 
If I pass away and have a will, what will happen to my estate?
Your estate will go through probate after you pass away.  Probate refers to the entire court process of administrating your estate after you pass away.  A will must usually be probated if the value of your assets, including both real and personal property, exceeds $150,000.
Why do I want to avoid probate?
You want to avoid probate because it involves formal court supervised administration of your estate which tends to be slow and expensive.

  • IT IS TIME-CONSUMING – The minimum period for a probate proceeding is 6-9 months.
  • IT INVOLVES HIGH COSTS – Probate costs include court filing fees, probate referee appraiser fees, publication costs, the personal representative’s commission (unless waived), and attorney fees.
  • THERE IS NO PRIVACY – The court file of a probate proceeding discloses extensive information about your assets, debts, and disposition of the assets.  This is public record and easily viewable by anyone.
What is a living trust (or a revocable trust)?
A living trust is a written legal document that partially substitutes for a will.  With a living trust, your assets are put into the trust, administered for your benefit during your lifetime, and then transferred to your beneficiaries when you die.
What are the benefits of a living trust?
  • IT IS FLEXIBLE – It gives the trustee complete control of the assets and the ability to change the document at any time.
  • IT AVOIDS PROBATE – All assets that you put into your living trust pass to your beneficiaries without going through probate.
  • PRIVACY – With a trust, nothing is filed in court.  That means only you, your trustees, and your beneficiaries need to know details of your estate.
  • IT CAN AVOID TAXES IN SOME INSTANCES – Applying some simple estate-planning techniques to your trust could save a small fortune in federal income tax.
  • MANAGING YOUR PROPERTY IF YOU ARE INCAPACITATED – A trust is useful for managing your property if you are incapacitated.  If you are the trustee and you become incapacitated, then your successor trustee will take control of the trust assets.
What are the disadvantages of a living trust?
  • CAN BE COSTLY TO SET UP AND MAINTAIN – You need an attorney to draft the document and you are likely to consult with an attorney several times before you die to update the trust and to put newly acquired assets into the trust.  However, at Vu Law Firm, we have reasonable prices that will make setting up and maintaining a living trust affordable for you and your family.
  • POTENTIAL PROBLEMS WHEN YOU REFIANCE – If you refinance your home or other real estate in the trust, most lenders require the property to briefly be taken out of the trust and put back in your name.  It does not cost a lot to do this.  However, it will cost you a lot if you do not remember to put your property back into the trust.  If you forget, your property will go through probate.  However, at Vu Law Firm, we will help remind you to put your property back into your trust after you refinance.
  • STILL NEED A WILL - Even if you have a trust, you still need a will.  This will is called a “pour-over” will. This will directs where any property you own that is not in the trust should go to.  However, if you decide to go with Vu Law Firm, our trust packages include this pour-over will at no extra charge.

What is a Durable Power of Attorney and do I need one?
A durable power of attorney is a legal document in which you designate another person to act on your behalf to handle your financial affairs.You should consider getting a durable power of attorney just in case you become incapacitated or are traveling abroad and need someone else to immediately handle your finances for you.  This durable power of attorney ends when you pass away or whenever you decide it should end.
What is an Advanced Health Care Directive and do I need one?
An advance health care directive lets your physician, family and friends know your health care preferences.  These preferences include the types of special treatment you want or do not want at the end of life (your living will), your desire for diagnostic testing, surgical procedures, cardiopulmonary resuscitation and organ donation.By considering your options early, you can ensure the quality of life that is important to you and avoid having your family guess your wishes or having to make critical medical care decisions for you under stress or in emotional turmoil.
How do I find out more about creating an estate plan that is right for me?
By contacting Vu Law Firm, you will be on your way to safeguarding your family’s future.  Our firm will work with you to provide insight and solutions that fit your needs.  Feel free to call us and set up a consultation at (510)-545-9473.

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