Santa Barbara & Ventura County Estate Planning Lawyer
Estate planning, contrary to some popular misconceptions, is not limited in scope to serve the extremely wealthy, nor does it focus only on death. Estate planning is actually a map for the future, designed to address your personal needs, goals, and desires in terms of retirement, business succession, distribution of wealth, and caring for those you love.
Since none of us know what is coming next, preparing for contingencies is an important part of responsible adult life. Whether you need help planning your own estate, assisting an older relative in planning his or hers, or are taking on the role of executor, consulting with the first-rate California estate planning Law Office of Brian L. Fox APLC is an invaluable first step. When you come to us, you can rest assured that you are working with consummate, caring professionals.
Communication Is a Priority
Beyond having extensive legal knowledge in the field of estate planning, our attorneys understand how best to communicate that knowledge. We are well aware of the importance of familiarizing you with the vocabulary of our field (as you would have to familiarize us with the vocabulary of yours) in order for us to communicate comfortably. Once words and concepts like “probate,” “irrevocable trust,” and “intestate” are clarified, you can participate in the creation of an estate plan that feels entirely appropriate to your particular situation.
Elements of Estate Planning
There are many aspects to estate planning. At the Law Office of Brian L. Fox we will discuss those that will be helpful in your particular circumstances and address the steps that need to be taken in order to put you and your family in the most beneficial position. At the Law Office of Brian L. Fox we are prepared to assist you with:
Drafting a Will
A will is a document in which you name the individuals, groups, or entities that you wish to inherit your accumulated wealth and property and also name an executor who is tasked with making sure that your wishes are fulfilled.
Your will also has the significant purpose of naming a guardian for any minor children you may have at the time of your death. In your will, you can also describe the way you wish your funeral or memorial to be handled. If you die without a will (known as dying “intestate,”), your money and property will be doled out according to California law without any consideration of your personal wishes.
Dealing with Probate and Estate Administration
Though probate seems complicated and confusing to many, it is simply the process of having the court prove a will’s validity. Once this has been accomplished, the estate will then be administered by the executor of the estate according to the terms of the will. Since the probate process can be costly and time-consuming, especially for substantial, complex estates, the Law Office of Brian L. Fox is well-prepared to craft a carefully constructed living trust that will allow you to avoid probate altogether.
There are three types of property, beyond trusts, that do not go through probate:
- Property that is jointly owned by “tenants with right of survivorship”
- Retirement accounts with designated beneficiaries, such are IRAs and 401(k)s
- Bank accounts with “payable on death” (POD) or “in trust for” designations.
The Law Office of Brian L. Fox will be happy to help you explore these options as well.
Asset Protection and the Establishment of Trusts
Another important aspect of estate planning is protecting your accumulated wealth from unnecessary taxation and creditors. Our savvy attorneys will listen carefully to the details of your particular circumstances and guide you to trusts that will be beneficial in your particular case.
Irrevocable trusts are of great value as a way of protecting your assets, since they take the money placed in trust out of your name and control. Of course, not being able to control your own money also has its disadvantages. To fully understand such pros and cons it is essential to work with a knowledgeable estate planning attorney to clarify your best options.
Other types of trusts are designed to serve specific purposes, such as protecting a special needs loved one from losing government benefits, or making sure that an irresponsible family member does not go through his or her entire inheritance recklessly. There are a great number of trusts that can assist you in shaping your legacy exactly as you want it to be, and the Law Office of Brian L. Fox is well-equipped to set them up for you. Other types of trusts include:
- Revocable (living or inter vivos) trusts
- Charitable trusts
- Trusts for minors
- Spendthrift trusts
- Testamentary trusts
- Qualified Terminable Interest Property (QTIP) Trusts
- Qualified Personal Residence Trusts (QPRT)
- Special needs trusts
- Generation-skipping trusts
- Pet trusts
- Marital trusts
Each type of trust serves a different purpose. Our office will zero in on which type(s) will be beneficial to you and will make certain that each trust we create is well-structured and legally binding.
Preparing for Incapacity
Though none of us like to think about it, the majority of us will become incapacitated in one way or another before we die. If and when such a time comes, life will be hard enough for everyone involved without having to scurry to prepare documents, get signatures, and/or have to have the courts intervene in what should be a private decision-making process. At the Law Office of Brian L. Fox we will advise you regarding which of the following documents need to be signed in advance of the necessity for their usage:
- Durable Power of Attorney (POA)
- Advance Health Care Directive
- Living Will (including possible organ donation)
- HIPAA Release Form
- Business Succession Plan
Estate planning works according to the underlying principle of being better safe than sorry. For this reason, we will work diligently to make sure that you and your family are prepared for unexpected future occurrences.
Contact Our Santa Barbara & Ventura County Estate Planning Law Firm
Life is not static, so our skilled estate planning attorneys recognize the importance of working with you on an ongoing basis. We will periodically review the changes in your life to see how they will impact your estate plan and to help you make any necessary changes. Events like the birth or adoption of a baby, a marriage, divorce, remarriage, establishment of a new business, sizable inheritance, or death in the family — each of these may require some revision to the estate plan we have created. We want you to be aware that once we take you on as a client, we will always have your best interests at heart. You can count on us for timely responses to any questions you have and for unwavering commitment to you and your family. Contact us by phone, email, or by filling out a form on our website.