Estate planning that leaves a legacy, not a mess
Your Orange County choice for bulletproof estate plans
You thought you had a plan.
But will it be followed once you’re gone?
Many families try to save pennies while creating their estate plan, but overlook the disasters that can happen after they’re gone.
Don’t let that happen to you or your family!
Your family deserves a plan that works.
LEAVE BEHIND PEACE OF MIND FOR YOUR FAMILY
The death of a loved one is already stressful. A well-designed plan can be a parting gift, bringing peace and gratitude to a difficult time.
UNDERSTAND WHAT CAN GO WRONG BEFORE IT HAPPENS
By working with us, you won’t leave anything to chance. We’ve spent thousands and thousands of hours writing estate plans that work. We’ll guide you through these important decisions and emotional topics with ease and grace.
PROTECT YOUR FAMILY AND YOUR WISHES
As years go by, priorities shift. That’s why your estate plan shouldn’t be a one-and-done affair. We’ll be there to help with updates over the years. And when the time comes, we’ll be there for your family as well.
Show your loved ones how much you really care
We get it –
it’s no fun to talk
about death & taxes
But you know what’s less fun?
Having your family fight in court after you’re gone because your estate plan was a mess. We’ll make it easy for you to make the important decisions today, so you gain peace of mind knowing you’re taking care of your loved ones tomorrow.
We’ve seen every worst-case scenario, so your family never has to
We’ve helped hundreds of families to write estate plans that work. We know exactly what traps to avoid, because we’ve spent years in the litigation trenches helping families cope with bad plans.
Your family deserves a plan that works.
We offer three packages to suit your family’s needs.
Estate Planning for Families with Minor Children
We'll help you to develop a plan that appoints guardians for your children and ensures that their financial needs are met in case of the unthinkable. Having your plan in place will provide peace of mind and security, knowing that your children will be well-cared for and that their future is protected.
Estate Planning for Spouses in their 50s or older
We'll help you to develop a clear roadmap for distributing your assets at your passing, one that minimizes potential disputes among beneficiaries. We'll also ensures that your plan addresses potential long-term care needs, minimizes estate taxes, and preserves your legacy according to your wishes.
Estate and Business Succession Planning for Business Owners
As a business owner, having an estate plan in place ensures a seamless transition of business ownership and management upon your passing or incapacitation. By coordinating your business succession planning with your estate plan, we'll help you to minimize potential disputes, tax liabilities, and preserve the business's value for future generations.
When you work with Watson Law Group, we promise:
Is Your Estate Plan Bulletproof?
Take this assessment to learn if your family is really protected
Frequently Asked Questions
You may think that estate planning is something that only the elderly or wealthy need to worry about. However, even if your young and healthy, having an estate plan in place is crucial to protect your family and ensure that your wishes are carried out in the event of an unexpected tragedy.
Benefits of Estate Planning
- Protecting your children's future: One of the most important aspects of estate planning is naming a guardian for your minor children. If you don't have an estate plan in place that designates a guardian, the court will decide who will care for your children if both parents pass away or become incapacitated. By creating an estate plan, you can choose the person you trust to raise your children and ensure that their future is secure.
- Distributing assets according to your wishes: An estate plan allows you to specify how your assets should be distributed upon your death. Without a plan, your assets will be divided according to the state's intestacy laws, which may not align with your wishes. By having an estate plan, you can ensure that your family is taken care of and that your assets are distributed according to your preferences.
- Minimizing taxes and expenses: Estate planning can help reduce taxes and administrative expenses associated with transferring your assets to your heirs. By establishing a trust or using other estate planning tools, you can minimize the tax burden on your family and make the process of transferring assets more efficient.
- Planning for incapacity: An estate plan can include documents such as a durable power of attorney and an advance healthcare directive, which allow you to designate someone to make financial and medical decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated. This ensures that your family won't have to go through a lengthy and costly court process to gain control over your affairs.
Risks of Not Having an Estate Plan
- Loss of control: Without an estate plan, you forfeit control over how your assets are distributed and who will care for your children. The court will make these decisions based on state laws, which may not align with your preferences or what is best for your family.
- Financial strain on your family: The process of administering an estate without a plan can be time-consuming and expensive. Your family may face additional legal fees, court costs, and taxes that could have been minimized or avoided with proper planning.
- Family conflicts: When there's no clear plan in place, disputes can arise among family members over the distribution of assets, the care of minor children, or the management of your affairs if you become incapacitated. This can lead to strained relationships and costly litigation.
- Delay in asset distribution: Without an estate plan, your assets may be tied up in the probate process for an extended period of time, delaying their distribution to your family and potentially causing financial hardship.
It's essential to have an estate plan in place to protect your family's future and ensure that your wishes are carried out. By taking the time to create a plan, you can provide security for your children, control the distribution of your assets, minimize taxes and expenses, and plan for potential incapacity. Don't leave your family's future to chance; consult with an estate planning attorney to create a plan tailored to your unique needs and circumstances.
As you reflect on the legacy you wish to leave behind for your family, it's essential to consider the consequences of dying without a will. In California, if you pass away without a valid will, your estate will be subject to intestate succession laws, which may not align with your wishes.
What Happens When Someone Dies Without a Will in California
When you die without a will, your estate is considered "intestate," and the distribution of your assets will be determined by California's intestate succession laws. These laws outline a specific order of priority for your heirs, which may not reflect your personal preferences. In general, the order of inheritance is as follows:
- Spouse: Your surviving spouse will typically inherit the majority or all of your estate, depending on whether you have children, parents, or siblings who are also entitled to inherit.
- Children: If you have children, they will inherit a portion of your estate. The exact share will depend on the number of children and whether you have a surviving spouse.
- Parents, siblings, and other relatives: If you do not have a surviving spouse or children, your parents, siblings, or more distant relatives may inherit your estate according to a specific order of priority outlined in California law.
Risks of Dying Without a Will in California
- Loss of control: When you die without a will, you forfeit control over how your assets, including real estate, are distributed. The state's intestate succession laws may not reflect your personal preferences, leaving your family without the benefit of your guidance and potentially causing disputes among your heirs.
- Additional expenses and delays: The probate process for an intestate estate can be more complicated, time-consuming, and costly than if you had a will in place. This may put a financial strain on your family and delay the distribution of your assets.
- Family disputes: The lack of a clear plan for your estate can lead to disagreements among your family members regarding the distribution of your assets and the management of your real estate. This can result in strained relationships and potentially costly litigation.
- No guardian designation for minor children: If you have minor children, dying without a will means you have not designated a guardian to care for them. In such cases, the court will appoint a guardian, which may not be the person you would have chosen.
- Inadequate estate tax planning: Without a will, your estate may be subject to higher estate taxes, which could reduce the inheritance your family receives. Proper estate planning can help minimize estate taxes and maximize the assets passed on to your heirs.
It's crucial to have an estate plan in place to ensure that your wishes are carried out and your family is protected. By taking the time to create an estate plan that includes a will, you can maintain control over the distribution of your assets, minimize expenses and delays, and prevent family disputes. Consult with an estate planning attorney to help you create an estate plan that reflects your unique needs and circumstances, and safeguard the future of your family.
It's essential to ensure that your estate plan remains current and reflects your evolving wishes and circumstances.
How Often Should You Update Your Estate Plan?
As a general rule, it's a good idea to review your estate plan every 3-years. However, you should also consider updating your plan whenever you experience significant life changes or if there are changes in the law that could affect your estate.
Top Reasons for Updating Your Estate Plan
- Changes in family dynamics: Marriage, divorce, birth, adoption, or the death of a family member can necessitate changes in your estate plan to ensure that your assets are distributed according to your current wishes and that guardianships for minor children are up-to-date.
- Changes in financial circumstances: Significant changes in your financial situation, such as the acquisition or sale of real estate, the receipt of an inheritance, or changes in your retirement plan, may require adjustments to your estate plan to ensure that your assets are managed and distributed effectively.
- Changes in tax laws: Changes in federal or state tax laws can have a significant impact on your estate. Updating your estate plan in response to new laws can help minimize tax liabilities and maximize the assets passed on to your heirs.
- Changes in your health: If your health or your spouse's health declines, it's essential to update your estate plan to address potential long-term care needs and ensure that your healthcare directives and powers of attorney are current.
Benefits of Having an Up-to-Date Estate Plan in Place
- Control over your legacy: An up-to-date estate plan allows you to maintain control over the distribution of your assets and the management of your affairs, ensuring that your wishes are carried out and your family is protected.
- Minimizing disputes and litigation: A clear and current estate plan can help prevent disputes among family members and avoid the possibility of costly litigation, which can be emotionally and financially draining for your family.
- Tax and financial planning: Regularly updating your estate plan can help minimize estate taxes, maximize the assets passed on to your heirs, and ensure that your financial plans are aligned with your current circumstances and goals.
Risks and Costs of Not Having an Up-to-Date Estate Plan in Place
- Loss of control: Failing to update your estate plan can result in your assets being distributed according to outdated wishes, which may no longer reflect your preferences or your family's needs.
- Family disputes: An outdated estate plan can lead to confusion and disagreements among family members, potentially resulting in strained relationships and costly litigation.
- Inadequate tax planning: If your estate plan is not current, you may miss opportunities to minimize estate taxes, which could reduce the inheritance your family receives.
- Insufficient planning for long-term care: Not updating your estate plan in response to changes in your health can leave you and your spouse without the necessary provisions for long-term care, potentially placing a financial burden on your family.
It's crucial to keep your estate plan up-to-date to ensure that your legacy reflects your current wishes and circumstances. Regularly reviewing and updating your estate plan can provide peace of mind, knowing that your family is protected, and
Estate planning is a crucial aspect of ensuring your assets are distributed according to your wishes after your passing. However, will and trust contests can arise, potentially undermining your intentions and creating stress for your loved ones. In California, if a family member believes that your will or trust is invalid, they can initiate a contest in probate court.
Common grounds for contesting a will or trust include:
- Lack of capacity: The challenger may claim that you lacked the mental capacity to understand and execute a valid will or trust at the time it was created.
- Undue influence: The challenger may argue that you were coerced or manipulated into creating the will or trust by someone who benefited from it.
- Fraud: The challenger may assert that the will or trust was created through fraudulent means, such as forgery or misrepresentation.
- Improper execution: The challenger may contend that the will or trust was not executed according to California's legal requirements.
Risks and Costs of Will and Trust Contests
- Emotional strain: Will and trust contests can be emotionally taxing for your family members, potentially causing tension and damaging relationships.
- Financial burden: Contests can be costly, often requiring the estate to bear the expenses of legal fees and court costs, ultimately reducing the inheritance for your beneficiaries.
- Delays in asset distribution: A contested will or trust can significantly delay the probate process, prolonging the time it takes for your assets to be distributed to your beneficiaries.
- Uncertainty: A will or trust contest can create uncertainty about the ultimate distribution of your assets and whether your wishes will be honored.
Steps to Minimize the Likelihood of a Will or Trust Contest
- Consult with an experienced estate planning attorney: Engaging an attorney to help you create or update your will or trust can ensure that it complies with California law and minimizes the risk of a successful contest.
- Clearly communicate your wishes: Openly discuss your estate plan with your family members to ensure they understand your intentions and the reasons behind your decisions.
- Obtain a capacity evaluation: If you are concerned about potential claims of incapacity, consider obtaining a medical evaluation to demonstrate your mental competence at the time of creating or updating your will or trust.
- Include a no-contest clause: A no-contest clause in your will or trust can discourage potential contests by stating that any beneficiary who challenges the document will forfeit their inheritance. However, note that under California law, a no-contest clause is only enforceable if the challenger does not have probable cause to believe that the contest is valid.
- Consider using a revocable living trust: A revocable living trust can help avoid probate and potentially reduce the likelihood of a contest, as it is a private document that may be more difficult to challenge than a will in certain circumstances.
While it is impossible to guarantee that your will or trust will not be contested, taking proactive steps can help minimize the likelihood of disputes and protect your wishes. By working with an experienced estate planning attorney, communicating your intentions to your family, and considering the use of a no-contest clause or a revocable living trust, you can help safeguard your legacy and provide peace of mind for you and your loved ones.
Going through a divorce can be a challenging and emotional experience. Amidst the turmoil, it's essential not to overlook the importance of updating your estate plan. Your circumstances have changed, and your estate plan should reflect these changes to protect your future and your family.
Benefits of Updating Your Estate Plan After Divorce
- Revoking your ex-spouse's access to your assets: After a divorce, you may no longer want your ex-spouse to inherit your assets or benefit from your estate. Updating your estate plan allows you to remove your ex-spouse as a beneficiary and redistribute your assets according to your new preferences.
- Protecting your children's inheritance: If you have children, you may want to ensure that they receive their inheritance without interference from your ex-spouse. Updating your estate plan allows you to establish trusts or other mechanisms to protect your children's inheritance and ensure that it is used for their benefit.
- Choosing new decision-makers: Divorce often means reevaluating who you trust to make financial and medical decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated. By updating your estate plan, you can designate new individuals to serve as your power of attorney and healthcare proxy, ensuring that your affairs are managed by someone you trust.
- Minimizing potential disputes: A clear and updated estate plan can help prevent disputes among family members and avoid the possibility of your ex-spouse contesting your estate, which could lead to costly litigation and delays in the distribution of your assets.
Risks of Not Updating Your Estate Plan After Divorce
- Unintended beneficiaries: If you don't update your estate plan, your ex-spouse may still be listed as a beneficiary and could potentially inherit your assets, even though this may no longer be your intention.
- Inadequate protection for your children: Without updating your estate plan, your children's inheritance may not be adequately protected, potentially allowing your ex-spouse to control or misuse their inheritance.
- Unwanted decision-makers: If you don't update your estate plan, your ex-spouse may still be designated as your power of attorney or healthcare proxy, granting them control over your financial and medical decisions if you become incapacitated.
- Family disputes and litigation: Failing to update your estate plan can lead to confusion, family disputes, and potential litigation, which can be time-consuming, costly, and emotionally draining for all involved.
If you have recently gone through a divorce, it's crucial to take the necessary steps to update your estate plan. This will ensure that your assets are distributed according to your preferences, protect your children's inheritance, and designate new decision-makers whom you trust. Don't leave your future and your family's well-being to chance; consult with an estate planning attorney to help you navigate the process of updating your estate plan to reflect your new circumstances.
As a parent, one of your most important responsibilities is ensuring the well-being of your children, both during your lifetime and after your passing. Nominating guardians for your minor children is a crucial aspect of estate planning, and keeping these nominations up to date can help prevent complications and ensure that your children are cared for by individuals you trust.
Risks and Complications of Not Updating Guardianship Nominations
- Inappropriate guardian: If you do not update your guardianship nominations, there is a risk that your children could be placed with a guardian who is no longer suitable due to changes in their circumstances, such as financial instability, health issues, or relocation.
- Family disputes: Outdated guardianship nominations can lead to disputes among family members regarding who should be responsible for your children's care, potentially resulting in lengthy and emotionally taxing court battles.
- Court intervention: If you do not nominate a guardian or if your nominations are outdated, a court may be forced to appoint a guardian for your children, which may not align with your preferences or be in the best interest of your children.
- Delays in establishing care: The lack of clear, up-to-date guardianship nominations can lead to delays in establishing a stable living arrangement for your children, causing additional stress and uncertainty during an already challenging time.
Steps to Ensure Your Children Are Provided for at Your Passing
- Nominate a guardian: If you have not already done so, nominate a guardian for your minor children in your will or through a separate legal document. Be sure to discuss your intentions with the proposed guardian to ensure they are willing and able to take on this responsibility.
- Update guardianship nominations: Regularly review and update your guardianship nominations, particularly when there are changes in your family circumstances or those of the nominated guardian. Be sure to notify the guardian of any changes.
- Establish a trust for your children: Consider setting up a trust to manage and distribute assets for the benefit of your children, ensuring that their financial needs are met until they reach a predetermined age or milestone. This can also provide protection from creditors and help with long-term financial planning.
- Purchase life insurance: Life insurance can provide financial support for your children in the event of your passing, helping to cover living expenses, educational costs, and other needs. Review your life insurance coverage periodically to ensure it remains adequate for your family's needs.
- Communicate your wishes: Discuss your estate plan and guardianship nominations with your family members to ensure they understand your intentions and the reasons behind your decisions. Clear communication can help prevent disputes and misunderstandings after your passing.
- Consult an estate planning attorney: Work with an experienced estate planning attorney to create a comprehensive estate plan that addresses your children's needs and safeguards their well-being in the event of your passing.
Updating your guardianship nominations and taking steps to provide for your children are essential aspects of responsible estate planning. By addressing these concerns and regularly reviewing your estate plan, you can help ensure that your children are well cared for and protected in the event of your passing. Consulting with an estate planning attorney can help you create a customized plan that addresses your family's unique needs and circumstances, offering peace of mind for you and your loved ones.
Estate planning is essential for ensuring that your assets are distributed according to your wishes and your family's needs are met after your passing. One effective tool for achieving these goals is a revocable living trust.
What is a Revocable Living Trust?
A revocable living trust is a legal arrangement in which you, as the grantor, transfer ownership of your assets to a trust, which is managed by a trustee for the benefit of your named beneficiaries. The trust is called "revocable" because you can modify, amend, or terminate it during your lifetime. When you pass away, the assets held in the trust are distributed to your beneficiaries according to your instructions, without the need for probate.
How a Revocable Living Trust Can Meet Your Family's Estate Planning Needs
A revocable living trust can be tailored to meet your family's specific needs and circumstances, offering flexibility and control over the distribution of your assets. Some ways a trust can be used include:
- Providing for minor children: You can establish a trust to manage and distribute assets for the benefit of your minor children, ensuring that their financial needs are met until they reach adulthood or another predetermined age.
- Protecting assets from creditors: A trust can help protect your beneficiaries' inheritance from creditors or legal judgments.
- Addressing special needs: If you have a family member with special needs, a trust can be structured to provide financial support without jeopardizing their eligibility for government benefits.
- Preserving family wealth: A trust can help ensure that your assets are passed down through multiple generations, preserving family wealth and minimizing potential estate taxes.
Benefits of a Revocable Living Trust
- Avoiding probate: One of the primary advantages of a revocable living trust is that it avoids the probate process, which can be time-consuming, expensive, and public.
- Privacy: Because a trust is not subject to probate, the details of your estate and the distribution of your assets remain private.
- Flexibility and control: A revocable living trust allows you to maintain control over your assets during your lifetime and make changes to the trust as needed.
- Continuity of asset management: If you become incapacitated, the trustee can continue to manage the trust on your behalf, ensuring that your financial affairs are handled without the need for court intervention.
- Potentially reduced estate taxes: A properly structured trust can help minimize estate taxes, maximizing the assets passed on to your beneficiaries.
Risks and Costs of Not Having a Revocable Living Trust at Your Passing
- Probate: Without a trust, your estate will be subject to the probate process, which can be time-consuming, costly, and public.
- Loss of privacy: The probate process is a matter of public record, potentially exposing the details of your estate and the distribution of your assets.
- Potential for family disputes: The lack of a clear, legally binding plan for asset distribution can lead to disputes among family members, possibly resulting in litigation and strained relationships.
- Inability to address unique family needs: Without a trust, you may be unable to provide for specific family needs, such as the care of minor children, special needs beneficiaries, or the preservation of family wealth through multiple generations.
- Increased estate taxes: Failing to incorporate a trust into your estate plan may result in higher estate taxes, reducing the inheritance available for your beneficiaries.
- Lack of continuity in asset management: If you become incapacitated without a trust in place, your family may need to seek court intervention to manage your financial affairs, which can be a lengthy and expensive process.
A revocable living trust offers numerous benefits in meeting your family's estate planning needs, providing flexibility, privacy, and control over the distribution of your assets. By avoiding probate, minimizing potential estate taxes, and addressing unique family situations, a trust can help ensure that your wishes are honored and your loved ones are well cared for after your passing. On the other hand, not having a trust can expose your family to the costs and delays of probate, increased estate taxes, and the potential for disputes among your beneficiaries. To determine if a revocable living trust is the right choice for your estate plan, it's essential to consult with an experienced estate planning attorney who can help you assess your family's needs and craft a customized plan to protect your legacy.
Estate planning is essential for ensuring that your assets are distributed according to your wishes and your family's needs are met after your passing. Two primary tools used in estate planning are wills and trusts.
Differences Between a Will and Trust
A will is a legal document that outlines how you wish to distribute your assets after your death. It allows you to name an executor to manage your estate, appoint guardians for your minor children, and specify how your assets should be divided among your beneficiaries. Wills are subject to the probate process, which involves validating the will, paying debts and taxes, and distributing assets as specified in the will.
A trust, on the other hand, is a legal arrangement in which you transfer ownership of your assets to a trust, which is managed by a trustee for the benefit of your named beneficiaries. Trusts can be either revocable (can be changed or terminated during your lifetime) or irrevocable (cannot be changed or terminated once established). Trusts allow you to control the distribution of your assets during your lifetime and after your death, and can help avoid the probate process.
Advantages of Wills:
- Relatively simple and inexpensive to create.
- Allows you to appoint guardians for your minor children.
- Can be easily updated or changed during your lifetime.
Disadvantages of Wills:
- Subject to the probate process, which can be time-consuming, costly, and public.
- Does not provide for the management of your assets during your lifetime or in the event of your incapacity.
- May not be as effective in minimizing estate taxes.
Advantages of Trusts:
- Allows for the management of your assets during your lifetime and in the event of your incapacity.
- Avoids the probate process, saving time and money, and maintaining privacy.
- Can help minimize estate taxes and protect assets from creditors.
- Provides greater control over the distribution of your assets, including the timing and conditions of distributions to beneficiaries.
Disadvantages of Trusts:
- Typically more complex and expensive to create and maintain than a will.
- Requires active management and the ongoing administration of the trust.
- May not be necessary for smaller estates or those with straightforward asset distribution plans.
- Research: Begin by researching the basics of wills, trusts, and estate planning to understand the general concepts and benefits of each tool.
- Assess your needs: Consider your specific family situation, the complexity of your assets, and your goals for asset distribution to determine which estate planning tools may be best suited for your needs.
- Consult an estate planning attorney: Schedule a consultation with an experienced estate planning attorney who can help you assess your needs, answer your questions, and guide you through the process of creating or updating your estate plan.
- Review your estate plan periodically: Regularly review and update your estate plan, particularly when there are changes in your family circumstances, assets, or tax laws.
- Communicate with your family: Discuss your estate plan with your family members to ensure they understand your intentions and the reasons behind your decisions, and to help prevent potential disputes after your passing.
Both wills and trusts have their unique advantages and disadvantages, and the best choice for your estate planning needs will depend on your specific circumstances, goals, and preferences. Understanding the differences between these two tools is essential for making informed decisions about your estate plan. If you have further questions or need guidance, schedule a free consultation with us today. We'll help you to create a customized plan that effectively addresses your needs and ensures that your wishes are honored after your passing. Remember to periodically review and update your estate plan, and communicate with your family members to ensure a smooth transition and minimize the potential for disputes in the future.