Excellence in Business & Estate Strategies

Attorneys in Fairfield, Vacaville, Sacramento and Redlands CA

  • Creating a trust-based estate plan is often the best way to start. People in California who own a home often use a revocable trust to avoid going through the probate process. Probate is very costly and takes a minimum of six months from start to finish – if everything goes right. Having the guidance of a lawyer with extensive experience and in-depth understanding of the complexities of these practice areas will definitely work to your advantage.

    Wills Are An Important Part of Estate Planning for Californians
    California is a wonderful but complicated place to live and die. Some of the laws that govern our lives in California allow us the quality of life that we all want for our families. Ironically, some of our laws can also make dying in California a very public, long and expensive process unless you prepare properly. Getting your Will done by a qualified estate planning attorney licensed to practice law in California is the bare minimum you need to do to avoid an unnecessary and costly process. However, a trust-based estate plan is generally much more effective for most people.

    Attorneys who have spent their career studying California probate and estate planning laws are the few individuals who fully understand the laws that govern how your affairs will be handled upon your death. Many websites and well-meaning friends encourage Californians to take a do-it-yourself approach to forming a Will or trust rather than seeking the counsel of a qualified estate planning attorney. There are many, many families that have had to endure a costly and unnecessary probate proceeding or lawsuit because their loved one decided to “save” the family money by doing their own Will or, even worse, thought they were getting good legal advice by using a website or fill-in-the-form software.

    The list of errors that can be made when drafting estate planning documents is long. Please, hire someone qualified to help you. The experienced estate planning attorneys at Reynolds Law LLP can offer the advice you need today and will be there to assist your loved ones to settle your estate in the kindest manner possible.

    Steps to Having Your Will Prepared:

    1) Interview an Estate Planning attorney anywhere in the surrounding area. Remember, all attorneys are not equally skilled. It is up to you to determine if they are qualified to help you. It’s important to choose an attorney that specializes in estate planning, someone you trust and who you know will still be in business when your family needs them.

    2) Once you choose an attorney, talk openly with them. Tell them what you want to achieve, about your finances and about your family. Your attorney will give you the best advice when they fully understand you. If your attorney does not want to talk in detail, you may want to reconsider your choice.

    3) Once all details are decided, your attorney drafts the Will. Your Will must be signed and witnessed before it becomes effective.

  • An integral part of the estate planning process, tax planning involves the arrangement of your affairs in a way to best reduce tax liability. A skilled estate planning attorney will ensure that your estate plan incorporates the simplest tax planning strategy possible to minimize the tax burden on your heirs and still comply with the relevant federal, state, and local laws.

    An experienced estate attorney has up-to-date knowledge of the best ways to distribute your assets and can predict the impact those methods will have on estate tax, income tax, and capital gains tax liabilities. Given the complexities of today’s federal and state tax laws, the legal advice of our attorneys can be extremely helpful in preserving your property, assets, and wealth for your family.

    Considering California and Federal Taxes When Planning Your Estate

    You have worked hard your entire life to build an estate. You certainly do not want to see it depleted because your attorney failed to provide you an estate plan that minimizes your tax liabilities. There are so many estate planning strategies available that the public must rely on trained professionals to help choose and implement the right ones. Despite the commonly-held belief, these strategies are not just for the ultra-rich. They often are very effective for families that have had to work hard to save for their future.

    As estate planning attorneys, we have had the unpleasant experience of having to tell a surviving spouse that the terms of their estate plan failed to give them all the tax benefits that they could have achieved. The unfortunate truth is that not every attorney that provides estate planning services knows how to implement these strategies, so they just do not present them to the client. Or, they simply do not recognize the opportunity to use one of these strategies. The result is the same – the survivors suffer an unnecessary tax burden at the same time that they are grieving the loss of a loved one.

    A true measure of a skilled estate planning lawyer doing their job well is that your estate plan incorporates the simplest effective tax planning strategy; complies with the relevant federal, state, and local laws; and does not tear your family apart.

    Estate Taxes Overview

    The estate tax in the United States is a tax on the transfer of the estate of a deceased person. The tax applies to property that is transferred via a will or according to state laws of intestacy. Other transfers that are subject to the tax can include those made through an intestate estate or trust, or the payment of certain life insurance benefits or financial account sums to beneficiaries. The estate tax is one part of the Unified Gift and Estate Tax system in the United States. The other part of the system, the gift tax, applies to transfers of property during a person’s life.

    In addition to the federal estate tax, many states have enacted similar taxes. These taxes may be termed an “inheritance tax.” The tax is often the subject of political debate, and opponents of the estate tax call it the “death tax”.

    If an asset is left to a spouse or a federally recognized charity, the tax usually does not apply. In addition, up to a certain amount varying year by year can be given by an individual, before and/or upon their death, without incurring federal gift or estate taxes: $5,340,000 for estates of persons dying in 2014, $5,430,000 for estates of persons dying in 2015, and $5,450,000 (effectively $10.90 million per married couple) for estates of persons dying in 2016. Because of these exemptions, only the largest 0.2% of estates in the US will have to pay any estate tax.

    A Long Term Relationship

    Tax laws change. You need a long-term relationship with an estate planning firm that keeps you informed and will be there when you need to change your estate plan because of a change in the law, a change in your circumstances, or, regretfully, when your family needs them to help administer your estate.

    We are particularly proud of the relationships that we build with the families of our clients. We try hard to know both our clients and the next generation of their family so that the family can work with someone that they already know when they have to settle the affairs of their parents. This is one of the many reasons we have grown to be premier estate planning attorneys in Solano, Napa, Yolo, Sacramento, San Bernardino and Riverside counties.

    • Skill and knowledge levels vary greatly among trust administration attorneys. The law firms that want to be known for their work in trust administration law stay current with the newest laws and strategies that help trustees distribute assets in a timely manner while keeping the trustee out of trouble.

      A trust agreement sets forth your right to control your assets for as long as you are able. It names the person that you want to control your assets should you become incapacitated or deceased. This person is known as the successor trustee.

      A properly structured revocable living trust can provide for the surviving spouse while protecting the interests of any children. This may be especially important if the children are from a prior marriage. It also avoids probate and a conservatorship of your assets and can minimize estate taxes. It should work in concert with all of your estate planning documents to minimize capital gains tax and other income taxes paid by the surviving spouse, children, or other beneficiaries.

      An estate planning attorney plays an important role in trust administration. The attorney helps the successor trustee carry out your wishes while protecting your successor trustee from personal liability. Our attorneys also use their expertise to help your family activate the trust and then protect it by ensuring that all necessary procedures and laws are followed.

      How Good Estate Planning Attorneys Handle a Trust Administration

      A surviving trustor or successor trustee of a trust-based estate plan generally will greatly benefit from hiring a qualified trust attorney to help them with the administration of that trust agreement. An experienced attorney will help the trustor or trustee:

    • Understand and properly file the appropriate tax forms.
    • Avoid incurring personal liability while performing their duties.
    • Defend the trust against challenges by heirs and beneficiaries who feel they were not properly compensated by the decedent.
    • Draft and send proper notice to the heirs and beneficiaries of the trust in a manner that limits their time to challenge the trust agreement.
    • Understand the terms of the trust and, if necessary, petition the court to resolve any points of confusion or negotiate a solution with the heirs of the estate.
    • Confirm that all of the liabilities of the estate, including taxes, have been paid in full prior to distributing the assets of the trust.

    Probate is the legal process that takes place after your death to pass title of your assets and resolve any outstanding debts. The process is required for any estate with assets of $100,000 or more held solely in your name (not in a trust) with no valid beneficiary designation, regardless of whether a Will exists. All assets in probate are subject to state-mandated attorney and personal representative fees, as well as court costs.

    The person to be appointed as personal representative begins the probate process by meeting with a probate attorney. After getting the necessary information, the attorney files the appropriate documents with the probate court to have the personal representative appointed. A valid Will dictates the disposition of the assets. In the absence of a valid Will, California law determines a decedent’s heirs. Due to notice requirements for heirs, beneficiaries, and creditors, probate takes an absolute minimum of six months to complete. Without a skilled attorney, a probate can take years to settle.

    Probate and probate administration is also a very expensive process. It can cost an estate up to eight percent of its worth to cover the attorney and personal representative fees. This does not include court costs. Depending on the size of your estate, this could mean tens of thousands of dollars or more that could otherwise have been passed to your heirs.

    In addition, probate cases become public information, entitling anyone access to private matters and potentially causing embarrassment or aggravation to your family.

    Planning ahead to avoid probate may be the single most important act you can do to protect your heirs from this expensive, lengthy, and annoying process. Our attorneys provide expert legal guidance in both avoiding probate, and handling the probate process efficiently if it becomes necessary.

About Estate Planning

An estate plan is not just your trust or your will. It is a complete set of tools used to control what will happen to you and your assets when you are no longer able to make those decisions for yourself. A well-designed and maintained set of tools will make the implementation of your wishes much simpler. A quality estate plan will meet your needs today, implement tax planning strategies appropriate for your current situation and set the foundation for future revisions as your family and financial situations change over the years. This way, you can be sure that you and your family will be prepared for whatever the future may hold.

Our attorneys can help you decide what type of an estate plan is best for you and your family now and in the future. Our goal is to empower you through informed decision making so that your estate plan conveys your wishes precisely.