A solid Estate Plan ensures that your family and beneficiaries will be able to settle your estate in the simplest, most cost effective manner.
Many people make the incorrect assumption that estate planning is just for the elderly, or for older clients looking to protect large estates. In reality, most people benefit by having an estate plan that keeps pace with their changing needs over time.
The Law Office of Lynn A. Dean regularly works with business people and young families to structure estate plans that help them easily manage personal or business financial assets to achieve their long-term goals.
Lynn Dean and Tracy Poston Shows have 50 years of combined legal experience, helping clients with:
- Living (Revocable) Trusts
- Special Needs Trusts
- Advance Health Directives
- Financial Power of Attorney
Living (Revocable) Trusts
A Living Trust is one that is prepared and activated while a client is still alive. We work with you to create a trust, and then assist you in transferring all of your assets into that trust. At that point the trust becomes the recognized owner of the assets, while you remain in charge of the assets as the trustee, or manager of the trust. When you pass away, the individual you documented as the successor trustee will take over as the manager, and distribute assets according to the terms of the trust. A Revocable Trust is a type of trust that can be changed over time, as you wish.
The primary advantage of a Living Trust is that it avoids probate when you pass away. While an estate can be distributed through a trust within 4-5 months—with no court process necessary—a typical probate will take 6 months to a year, with considerable expense.
When a family has significant assets, a trust can also provide a method of reducing (or eliminating) estate taxes. The estate tax is currently in excess of five million dollars, however, Congress can decide to adjust that amount in any given year. Consult with an experienced estate planning attorney to fully understand the current law with regard to the Federal Estate Tax.
Like many, you may not believe your assets are significant enough to qualify as an “estate.” Or, you might not feel your estate is large enough to warrant a Living Trust. In reality, most people benefit by having a Living Trust. We can discuss all of your options, based on the specifics of your situation and goals.
Special Needs Trusts
A Special Needs Trust protects the assets of a beneficiary with special needs after their parents’ death. If you are caring for an individual with special needs, you need to think about how that care will continue when you are no longer in the picture.
A Special Needs Trust allows the individual with special needs to receive income from the Trust without impacting their federal eligibility for income dependent benefits, like Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Medi-Cal. Assets held in this type of trust do not qualify as available income when calculating eligibility, as the funds are not considered to be within the recipient’s direct control.
Set at just 2/3 of the poverty level, SSI alone is not enough to cover someone’s minimum needs. Without this type of trust, your loved one with special needs will likely face enormous hardships after your death, depleting funds from their inherited estate within just a few years. A Special Needs Trust allows them to draw on federal financial benefits in addition to drawing income from the estate.
The purpose of the Will is to provide a back-up plan to the Living Trust, for any assets that may not be transferred to the Trust. It is also a useful tool for identifying guardians for minor (under 18) children, and identifying any specific bequests you wish to make.
Advance Healthcare Directive
Living Wills are now referred to as Advance Healthcare Directives in California. This document does more than just state your wishes for, or against, life-sustaining treatments if you become terminally ill or permanently unconscious. You can now specify your wishes to accept or refuse life-sustaining treatments in any situation. You can also appoint someone you trust to make healthcare decisions on your behalf, if later you become incapacitated. The healthcare directive also allows for someone to handle the disposition of your body and make funeral arrangements following your death.
Financial Power of Attorney Documents
A financial power of attorney identifies someone who can act on your behalf to sign documents. These documents can cover authority for assets that may not be included as part of your Trust, such as IRAs, 401K retirement plans, and insurance policies.
Durable Powers of Attorney Documents
A power of attorney (including healthcare directives) is considered “durable” when it allows someone to make those decisions, even when you become mentally incapacitated. Powers you assign can be limited or broad, and cover things like buying property, initiating contracts, tax planning, making gifts, or planning for government benefits, like Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medi-Cal.
While issues involving the interdependence of legal, tax, financial, personal, family, and health concerns may be complex, we make the process quick and easy. We have the experience and know-how to ensure all important facts regarding your estate are evaluated, and using this information, we create a customized plan that best protects your interests.
"In August of 2010, my husband and I decided it was time to update our wills. We made an appointment with Lynn Dean, Attorney at Law. In the process of making out our wills and revocable trust, it was determined that we needed other documents to complete our future needs. The documents were an Advance health Care Directive and a General Power of Attorney (Durable).
A few months later my husband’s illness progressed rapidly. It became necessary for me to use the Power of Attorney. The long term care insurance would not discuss his policy with me until they received a copy of the Power of Attorney. One of the fire departments would not send a bill until they received a copy of the Power of Attorney. I gave a copy to the hospital and several facilities that he resided in; some for a few days, some for a month or more. The power of Attorney was copied and faxed many times.
I cannot emphasize enough how important a Power of Attorney document is to insure that your loved one can receive the proper care. I now ask most of my friends and family if they have a Power of Attorney, and I will continue to be an advocate for Advance Directives, especially Power of Attorney.”