If something unexpected happens to you and you haven't planned for everyone you love and everything you have, the State of California has a default plan for you.
Sound scary? Well, it can be. Those you love would have to deal with the red tape and bureaucracy of government procedures and regulations.
We at Sky Unlimited Legal Advisory help you understand the legal and financial consequences of not having a comprehensive Estate Plan to protect your loved ones ... and more.
Before meeting, we'll ask you to complete a Family Wealth Worksheet, which will help you understand what you own and what needs to be decided for the well-being and care of your loved ones and cherished belongings. We'll meet for a Family Wealth Planning Session™, where we spend some time together reviewing this document. You'll learn about our Planning for Life process and we will both decide if it makes sense to work together to design an estate plan that will best suit the needs of your family.
The foundation of your estate plan will often include a revocable living trust, which when done properly and maintained over time, should help your family to avoid the cost and delay of probate and minimize or eliminate estate taxes.
At Sky Unlimited Legal Advisory, we do not offer a "one size fits all" estate plan. We form a working relationship with our clients. We educate you, take the time to get to know you and your family. We will discuss your concerns, your goals, and will gladly and patiently answer all of your questions. Our goal is to create an estate plan that is exactly right for you.
Our services include a no-charge three-year review to ensure that as your lives change, so will your estate plan to safeguard your assets for maximum protection.
If this sounds like the kind of relationship you're looking for, please call us at (650) 761-0992 to schedule your personal Family Wealth Planning Session™ today or schedule online now.
Having a will simply is not enough. It doesn't guarantee the care of your children if the unthinkable happens! See how we do it differently...
The strategies that are appropriate for protecting your assets are different for every family. Check out our proven process that gives you peace of mind...
Our unique legacy process gives your loved ones a precious gift - a lasting expression of your love. Find out what we offer with every plan...
Articles from the Chief Counsel's desk. Sign up for our newsletter to receive these in your email with additional discounts, offers and rewards.
You want your pet to continue to have the kind of love and care you provided during your life, but estate planning for furry friends requires a little more thought than you might expect.
To understand why, it’s important to know two things:
A WILL WON’T CUT IT
While you see them as part of the family, under the law, a pet is considered personal property, just like your money, furniture, and clothes.
Because of this, you can’t actually leave money or possessions to your pet directly through your Will or Trust. Even if you try to leave money directly to your pet in your Will, the money will instead skip your pet and pass to the beneficiaries you named to receive the remainder of your possessions. Or, if you didn’t name anyone else, the court will give your possessions, including your pet, to your next of kin, as determined under the law.
Worst of all, the person that receives your pet and money for its care through your Will has no legal obligation to use that money for your pet’s care or to even keep your pet at all. That’s why it’s so critically important to work with an estate planning attorney who knows the proper way to plan for your pet, so that when you die or if you become incapacitated, your beloved companion won’t end up in an animal shelter or given away to anyone you wouldn’t want raising your beloved familiar.
Boss and Holkers shared a seemingly extremely happy life together in Los Angeles, California where they were raising their three children, ages 3, 7, and 14. Sadly, on December 13, 2022, Boss died by suicide at the age of 40. Boss’ death was a complete shock to fans and loved ones who reported the star seemed happy in the weeks leading up to his death.
Boss died without a Will or Trust in place, meaning his wife, Allison Holker, has the task of petitioning the California court system to release Boss’ share of their assets to her.
While California has tools to simplify this process for some couples, Holker will still need to wait months before she can formally take possession of the property Boss owned with her, as well as property held in his name alone, including his share of his production company, royalties, and his personal investment account.
UNNECESSARY COURT INVOLVEMENT IN A TIME OF GRIEF
In order to have access to her late husband’s assets, Holker had to make a public filing in the Los Angeles County Probate Court by filing a California Spousal Property Petition, which asks the court to transfer ownership of a deceased spouse’s property to the surviving spouse.
Holker must also prove she was legally married to Boss at the time of his death. While California’s Spousal Property Petition helps speed up an otherwise lengthy probate court process, the court’s involvement nonetheless delays Holker’s ability to access her late husband’s assets - a hurdle no one wants to deal with in the wake of a devastating loss. In addition, the court probate process is entirely public, meaning that the specific assets Holker is trying to access are made part of the public record and available for anyone to read.
During such a difficult time, all a person wants is the space to mourn and manage their loved one’s affairs in privacy and peace. With court involvement, the timeline of steps that need to be taken is dictated by the court, and the process of proving your right to manage your loved one’s assets can feel like an unfair burden when there are so many other things to take care of during the death of a loved one. This isn’t just a problem for the wealthy. Even if you own a modest estate at your death, your family will need to go through the probate court process to transfer ownership of your assets if you don’t have an estate plan in place.
We regularly meet with clients who ask us to review an estate plan that they created online or with an attorney who isn’t experienced with estate planning. You see, these clients usually think they found a faster and cheaper solution to estate planning, but once the plan is signed and done, they’re often left wondering whether this “cheap” plan will actually accomplish their goals, or if it will leave their family with a big mess instead.
And what I see time and again when I review these estate plans are poorly designed plans with simple but devastating mistakes. What’s more, these clients wouldn’t even realize their plan had these mistakes if they hadn’t met with us!
While it might seem simple enough to put together a trust online or have your tax attorney prepare your will, it can be very difficult to create an estate plan that works without the proper training and experience. What might seem like minor details to the inexperienced eye can often have major effects on your plan’s final outcome.
More often than not, clients who meet with us to review a DIY plan find out that instead of saving money on their estate plan, they’ve actually cost themselves much more by buying a plan that has mistakes. And if these mistakes aren’t caught by you while you’re alive and well, your loved ones will be the ones paying the price to resolve them after you’re gone.
Here are the three biggest mistakes I see when reviewing DIY and low-cost estate plans:
Hiring a lawyer to help you make wise decisions for life and death can be the most empowering choice you ever make for yourself and your loved ones. The way I explain it to my friends and family is, “estate planning isnt about planning for your death, it’s about planning for your life.” So, with that frame in mind, let’s talk about how to choose an estate planning attorney, because we aren’t all cut from the same cloth.
The right lawyer will be there for your family when you can’t be, so you want to understand who the lawyer is as a person, not just an attorney. Of course, you’ll also want to discover the services your lawyer offers and how they run their business.
Here are five questions to ensure you don’t end up paying for legal services you don’t need, expect, or want. Once you know exactly what you should be looking for when choosing an estate planning lawyer, you’ll be much better positioned to hire an attorney that will provide the kind of love, attention, care, and trust your family deserves.
An estate plan ensures any medical decisions needed while away from home will be handled according to your wishes, and with as much ease as possible, no matter what the rules are where something happens. If you fall ill or become injured and can’t make medical decisions for yourself, your estate plan will ensure that decisions will be made by the person you choose, and with your indicated desires for your care at the forefront.
Without an estate plan in place, your family or friends could have a heavy lift to get you back home, locate your assets, keep your bills paid, and even ensure your children get taken care of by the right people in the right way.
Lastly, an estate plan ensures that any debts or liabilities are taken care of properly in case something happens while on vacation. This can help prevent creditors from trying to collect from surviving family members after the fact — something no one wants to deal with during such a difficult time.
ENSURE YOUR WISHES ARE RESPECTED
The primary reason to update an estate plan is to ensure that an individual's wishes are respected upon death. For example, suppose an individual has recently acquired valuable property or has had changes in family structure (such as marriage or children). In that case, updating the documents that outline how assets should be distributed is important.
If the documents are not updated, this could lead to disputes between family members and legal complications when probate occurs. Additionally, if laws change at the state or federal level, those changes need to be incorporated into the existing estate plan to remain valid and effective.
ENSURE YOUR LOVED ONES ARE PROTECTED FROM TAX IMPLICATIONS
Another reason for updating an estate plan is for future tax planning purposes. Without proper planning and asset allocation, taxes can significantly reduce the amount that beneficiaries receive after one's death. Additionally, some states have transfer taxes on certain assets (such as real estate), which must be factored into one’s estate planning decisions. In addition, changes in Federal tax law may affect whether other taxes, such as capital gains tax, applies at the time of death or while transferring assets during life – thus providing additional incentive for individuals to review their plans regularly with their advisors and make necessary updates when necessary.
The simple fact is that the day your child turns 18, he or she becomes an adult and has the legal rights of an adult. This means that you lose your prior held rights to make medical and financial decisions for your child unless your child executes legal documents giving you those rights back. Without the proper legal documents, accessing medical information and even being informed about your adult child’s medical condition can be difficult and in some cases, impossible.
When sending kids off to college, it is crucial to consider the legal implications of an accident or medical emergency on your ability to stay informed and participate in important decision-making for your young adult child. Medical professionals are responsible for following the Privacy Rule of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which ensures medical privacy protection for all adults. Once your child turns 18, they are (from a legal perspective) no more attached to you than a stranger, making communication about medical issues is tricky if your child is incapacitated and not able to grant permission on their own.
If you do have a plan and it distributes your assets outright to your kids -- even in stages, over time, some at 25, then half of what’s left at 30, and balance at 35 (or something along those lines), you’ve overlooked an incredibly valuable gift you can give your children (and the rest of your descendants for generations); a gift that only you can give them. And a gift that, once you’ve died and left them their inheritance outright, is lost and cannot be reclaimed.
Leave your kids a nest egg protected from lawsuits, divorce, and estate taxes.
While you may think to yourself, my kids’ inheritance doesn’t need to be protected. They aren’t going to get sued. You may be right, but you may also be overlooking one of the most common “lawsuits” that causes inheritances to be lost everyday, and that’s divorce. If you want to protect the money you are leaving to your children from their future divorces, even if you love their spouses nor or expect you will, in the future, you can easily do so using a protected trust. And, if your child is ever involved in a lawsuit, for example, a simple car accident, or if a business transaction goes bad, what you leave to your child can be protected from all future lawsuits or claims against them.
The best part is that if your child has their own taxable estate when they die, your planning now could save your family 40 cents on every dollar (or more) handed down from one generation to the next.
Shopping for an estate plan based on getting the lowest cost plan possible is often the fastest path to leaving your family with an empty set of documents (maybe in a beautiful binder, but not worth the paper they are written on) that won’t work for your family when they need it.
Unfortunately, we see the negative effects of cheap estate planning when family members come to us during a time of grief with that fancy binder that sat on the shelf for years sending out signals of false security, full of out-of-date estate planning documents, and find themselves stuck in what could have been an avoidable court process, or even conflict when that’s exactly what their loved one thought they had paid someone to handle for them.
Here Are 5 Reasons Why Shopping For The Cheapest Estate Plan Is Likely To Leave You With A Plan That Won’t Work For Your Family… And Could Leave Them With A Big Mess Instead.
You can shop around and find a lawyer to create planning documents for you or create your own DIY plan using online documents. Then, you’ll put those documents into a drawer, mentally check estate planning off your to-do list, and forget about them.
The problem is, estate planning is more than just a one-and-done type of deal.
It will be worthless if your plan is not regularly updated when your assets, family situation, and laws change. Failing to update your plan can create problems that can leave your family worse off than if you’ve never created a plan.
The following story illustrates the consequences of not updating your plan, which happened to the founder and CEO of New Law Business Model, Ali Katz. Indeed, this experience was one of the leading catalysts for her to create the new, family-centered model of estate planning we use with all of our clients.
You can find all of our estate planning articles by clicking here.