Living Trusts & Estate Planning
Protect your loved ones in the event of your incapacity or death.
A comprehensive, tailored, unrushed approach to estate planning that meets your objectives and provides you with peace of mind.
Free Initial Consultation
Plan Design & Drafting
Plan Review & Revision
Funding & Delivery
Our Service Commitment
With every estate planning package, we include unlimited telephone and in-person meetings during the planning process to ensure that you receive the guidance and counsel you need, when you need it, without worrying about additional fees.
Wills vs. Living Trusts
A question we hear often: what’s the difference between a will and a living trust? The chart below highlights the key distinctions.
Leave Property to Loved Ones
Control Distributions Based on Age, Achievements, Milestones, etc.
Privacy After Death
Funded During Your Lifetime
Avoid Medi-Cal Recovery
Guardianship & Pour-Over Wills
Although living trusts have many benefits over stand-alone wills, we typically recommend a pour-over will as part of your living trust plan. A pour-over will serves two key functions in your plan:
First, it allows you to nominate a guardian for your minor child(ren) in the event of the death of both parents. For our clients with minor child(ren), this is often the primary concern and purpose of creating an estate plan, so the pour-over will plays a critical role.
Second, the pour-over will serves as a backup to the living trust if any assets or property are accidentally left out of the trust. For example, if you purchase a new home or vacation property and forget to transfer it into your trust, that property will be subject to probate; however, the pour-over will allows the excluded property to be “poured” back into the trust using an expedited court process instead of a full probate administration.
The Revocable Living Trust
What is a living trust? A trust is a legal arrangement whereby one more person(s) manage the trust creator’s property for the benefit of the trust’s beneficiaries. A living trust is a trust created during one’s lifetime. Revocable means that you can modify, or completely cancel, your trust during your lifetime as long as you are of sound mind.
The Living Trust as a Vehicle
An illustration that has been helpful to our clients is to envision your revocable living trust as a vehicle.
Settlor: the Designer and Manufacturer
You (with your spouse) are the designer and manufacturer of the vehicle; in legal terms, we call you the settlor or trustor.
Trust Estate: the Trunk’s Contents
Your valuable property and treasured heirlooms will be placed safely in the trunk of the vehicle; in legal terms, we call the contents the trust estate.
Trustee: the Driver
You (with your spouse) then occupy the driver’s seat for as long as you are able to drive; in legal terms, we call the driver of the vehicle the trustee.
Successor (Backup) Trustee(s): the Passenger Seat
Your passengers are there to help drive if needed (e.g. during period(s) of incapacity or after you’re gone); in legal terms, we call the passengers successor (backup) trustees.
Beneficiaries: the Backseat
In the backseat of your vehicle, safely buckled, are your children and/or organizations you wish to support; in legal terms, we call them the beneficiaries.
Trust Document: the Roadmap
And finally, having now built a fully occupied vehicle, where are we going? Your revocable living trust document will serve as the roadmap for anyone who occupies the driver’s seat (trustees), allowing your family to bypass the probate process and carry out your wishes.
As you can see, when executed properly, a revocable living trust truly can serve as a vehicle to protect and provide for your loved ones across multiple generations.
The critical process of transferring your property into your trust
Keeping with the illustration above, trust funding is the process of transferring your valuable property and treasured heirlooms into the trunk of the vehicle you have just created. This part of the process is critical because assets left outside of the trust may be subject to probate, which would defeat one of the purposes of creating your trust in the first place. For your primary residence and other real estate, we will prepare, execute, and publicly record transfer deeds (along with property tax exemption forms) to move your property(ies) into your trust. For financial or investment accounts, we will work with your institutions to determine the best course of action on an account-specific basis: for the most part, we will either change the ownership of your account to your trust or add your trust as the beneficiary of the account; however, some accounts (retirement accounts) require a different approach. In any case, unlike other firms, the funding process is an essential component of our service commitment, and our representation is not complete until we know your assets and property are in their proper place.
Powers of Attorney for Financial Decisions and Health Care Decisions (Advance Health Care Directives)
Planning for periods of incapacity is just as important as planning for death. The essential incapacity planning tool is the power of attorney, a legal document that authorizes named person(s) to make legally binding decisions on your behalf when you are no longer to communicate and/or make decisions, in accordance with the guidelines you set forth in the document. If executed properly, a power of attorney can help your family avoid the need for a costly conservatorship proceeding prior to making financial and health care decisions on your behalf.
Our Living Trust Plans
Designed to address the most common needs and objectives of our clients.
Living Trust Plan I: Foundational Planning
Recommended for individuals and couples with child(ren) and/or a home
Foundational Planning addresses your estate planning objectives, including probate avoidance, distribution guidelines, and basic multi-generational (dynasty) planning, and includes the estate plan components detailed below.
Revocable Living Trust Agreement
Pour-Over Will (one for each spouse)
Guardianship Nomination(s) for Minor Children
Durable Power of Attorney for Financial and Digital Assets (one for each spouse)
Health Care Power of Attorney (Advance Health Care Directive) (one for each spouse)
Living Will (one for each spouse)
Final Disposition (Burial/Cremation) Instructions
Real Estate Transfer Deed for Primary Residence
Funding Management and Assistance for Financial Assets
Organizational Binder for Safekeeping
Notary Public and Witness Fees Included
Lifetime Digital Backup and Administrative Support
Living Trust Plan II: Structural Planning
Recommended for individuals and couples with child(ren) and/or a home, plus any of the following factors:
special needs, rental/investment property(ies), business ownership, unique family circumstances
Structural Planning includes all of the Foundational Planning estate plan components, plus additional planning for the relevant factors above, which may include special (supplemental) needs planning, formation of business entity(ies) to hold real estate or other business interests, etc. At this level of planning, we will address your estate planning objectives while also addressing risk exposure through basic asset protection planning.
Living Trust Plan III: Fortress Planning
Recommended for Individuals and Couples with Child(ren) and/or a Home, plus a potentially taxable estate ($5.45M per individual, $10.9M per couple), high exposure business/profession (e.g. medical/dental practice, construction), and/or complex business ownership (e.g. buy-sell, shareholder, partnership agreements), with or without any of the additional factors in Structural Planning above.
Fortress Planning includes all of the Foundational Planning estate plan components, may include additional planning for Structural Planning factors, and adds sophisticated planning for wealth preservation (estate tax minimization) and asset protection through the use of irrevocable trusts and business entities. Due to the complex nature of this level of planning, it is imperative that we work closely with your team of trusted advisers to design, prepare, and implement the plan in a precise and thorough manner.
Trust Alternatives & Stand-Alone Planning
While a living trust plan makes sense for many of our clients, it certainly is not the only planning option available. During our initial consultation, we will also discuss alternatives to living trust planning and stand-alone planning so that you can make an informed decision. Estate planning is not one-size-fits-all: our goal is to design and develop a plan that meets your family’s current and future needs while respecting your budget, timeline, and any other unique circumstances.
This is a common, and understandable, question. During our initial consultation, we will discuss your family’s unique circumstances to determine the appropriate level of planning given your needs, objectives, and budget. While a living trust plan makes sense for many of our clients, it is not always the right option, so our fees vary based on the actual scope of representation. Additionally, each component of a living trust plan can be provided as a stand-alone document, which can make planning more cost-effective if an entire living trust plan is not necessary.
We include lifetime administrative support with every estate plan, which means that you are encouraged to call our office any time to discuss any changes you are considering. Many changes are minor (e.g. change of trustee), and are provided at little or no cost. More extensive changes (e.g. changing the structure of your trust) require additional time and planning, so we will charge a fee at that time.
Our Foundational Planning is tax-neutral with respect to your income taxes, property taxes, and estate and gift taxes. At the Structural Planning and Fortress Planning levels, our objective is to maintain tax neutrality if possible, though given the nature of irrevocable trusts and business entities, there are typically some tax consequences that are then outweighed by other protective benefits.
We will spend considerable time on this question during the planning process; however, as a rule of thumb, we advise our clients to choose responsible, financially mature individuals to serve as trustee. Most commonly, adult children, siblings, and parents tend to be strong candidates for trustee, though there are sometimes good reasons to choose someone outside of the family.
On average, 3 weeks. We estimate 2-4 weeks from start to finish, but much of the process relies on your responsiveness and availability, which can affect the completion schedule.