FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Q: Do I need an estate plan?
A: It's not all about money. Do you have assets of value such as a bank account, retirement account, home, or vehicle(s)? Do you have children you would like to provide for after your death? Do you have a special-needs friend or relative you would like to provide for? Do you have a pet you would like to provide for? Do you have special desires for how your estate is used, such as providing education/tuition for a child, grandchild, niece, or nephew? Do you have a church or favorite charity you would like to receive an end-of-life gift from you? Do you have specific wishes for the medical care you will be provided if you can't speak for yourself? Do you have specific wishes for how your remains will be cared for after your death?
If you answered YES to any of those questions, then you would likely benefit from having an estate plan. We can help.
Q: Is your consultation really free?
A: Yes. You are going to be starting a relationship with whomever you choose to do your estate planning, handle your divorce or even handle business planning and transactions on your behalf. That attorney-client relationship usually involves frank discussions about very personal issues like values, family issues, finances, medical concerns, and end-of-life wishes. These are not always easy conversations, and it is important to choose an attorney you trust and feel comfortable with. Like many relationships in life, not every one is a natural "fit." The free consultation is an opportunity for us to meet and for you to decide whether our firm is a good fit for you and your needs, without any expectation or obligation.
Q: I wrote my own will based on some information I found online. Isn't that good enough?
A: Maybe, or maybe not. It's true that it is legal in California for a person to prepare his/her own will. However the issues involved are sometimes tricky and there is a lot of confusing and contradictory information online. Much of that information is out of date or just untrue. Additionally, there may be tax implications or other issues you are not aware of. If a self-prepared document is not determined to be legally sufficient, it can have the effect of your wishes not being honored at your death, and can cause additional burdens to your heirs in the form of legal fees, probate costs, and tax problems. Consulting with an attorney to prepare your documents may be a small price to pay compared to the potential agony your loved ones may suffer, caused by an ineffective will or trust.
Q: I had an attorney prepare documents for me, but it was a long time ago. Are they still good?
A: The documents are likely as good now as they were when they were drafted. But life can be unpredictable and your circumstances can change. Those documents may no longer meet your needs and wishes. If you've had a change in circumstances since you prepared your documents, such as the birth of a child, marriage, divorce, large purchase (home, business, etc.), change in financial circumstances, death of a person named in the will/trust/power of attorney, or change in your priorities, then it might be a good idea to have a professional review your documents. Also, some documents like a durable power of attorney can benefit from being regularly renewed, even if no changes are needed. If you've had a significant change in your life or if several years have passed since your documents were prepared, it would probably benefit you to review them with an attorney.
Q: I am a small business owner (or thinking of starting a small business). Do I need to file an LLC, Partnership or incorporate?
A: The answer depends on the size and type of business you are running, and what your particular needs are. There are advantages and disadvantages to nearly every type of professional business organization with regard to liability, taxation, protection of your business and personal assets, succession planning for your organization, and other issues. There are also plenty of pitfalls to trip you up if you decide to go it alone. If you have questions, or are thinking of setting up a business or nonprofit, contact us to set up a consultation for an overview of your options.
Q: Are there changes in the new law that effect my estate planning due to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act?
A: The answer is yes. There are some important changes in the new law that may make it a wise choice to have an attorney review your estate plan and determine whether the strategies in that plan are still your best options. How much the new law may effect you depends on the size of your estate and the type of business you own if you are a small business owner. We can help clear up the confusion if you have questions.