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Estate Planning

Estate Planning Attorney Serving San Mateo County

Though many people believe they do not need an estate plan because they do not have an “estate,” in fact, this is far from the truth. Almost every adult has an estate, because an estate is anything and everything you own—your vehicle, your home, any other real estate, your bank accounts, your life insurance policy, your personal possessions, jewelry, furniture, and investments. No matter how many of these things you own, chances are, you own at least some of them.

Since it is highly likely that you do have an estate, thinking about who you would want to have your possessions following your death is important. Having an estate plan can also ensure your loved ones pay the least amount in taxes, legal fees, and court costs and have the least amount of stumbling blocks to deal with. A good, solid estate plan will do the following:

  • Name a guardian for minor children;
  • Include instructions for your healthcare in the event you become incapacitated;
  • Include instructions for passing your possessions to your beneficiaries; 
  • Provide for a family member with special needs while ensuring he or she remains eligible for government benefits;
  • Provide for the transfer of your business after your death, incapacitation or retirement;
  • Provide life insurance for your loved ones;
  • Provide for any family member who might need future protection (from a divorce, creditors, etc.) or provide for a family member who might be irresponsible for money;
  • Minimize taxes, and
  • Minimize court costs.

A good estate plan will be an ongoing process, rather than a one-time event, as all estate plans must be reviewed and updated as family, financial situations, and laws change over time. Another important consideration is the fact that should you die without an estate plan, the state of California will take over, distributing your assets according to probate laws. It is almost certain that you will not be happy with the estate plan the state of California has in mind. In the end, having a comprehensive California estate plan is one of the most thoughtful, considerate things you can do for those you love.

Facts About Estate Planning in California

According to Advance Capital Management, estate planning is not something most Americans want to think about; fifty-five percent of all Americans will die without a will or an estate plan of any kind. Older Americans are, predictably, the most likely to have an estate plan, or at least a will, with about 50 percent of those over 65 having an up-to-date will. Those older than 72 are the most likely to have designated an advance healthcare directive compared to younger individuals. While older Americans are doing better overall in estate planning tasks, a full one-third of seniors have not discussed later-life or end-of-life plans with family members, and 32 percent have not even informed family members where they can find legal, medical and financial documents.

While you might think that wealthier Americans are more likely to have an estate plan than the less-well-off, this is not entirely true. While ten percent of Americans who earn between $100,000 and $150,000 have an up-to-date will, only 15 percent of those who earn more than $150,000 have an up-to-date will. You may wonder why all these people are without an estate plan. Nearly half of all those without an estate plan claim lack of time—they simply have not gotten around to it. Almost a third believe they do not have sufficient assets to warrant an estate plan, and more than half claim it is difficult to find a trusted advisor to create their estate plan. Perhaps most telling is the fact that almost three-quarters of all Americans believe estate planning is “confusing.”

    What Are Myths About Estate Planning? 

    There are a number of myths and misperceptions regarding estate planning. Some of the most common of these include: 

     

    • All I really need is a will. While a will is an important piece of your estate plan, it does have certain limitations. Your California estate planning attorney can help you determine which documents you need for your estate plan.
    • Once I ensure my assets are taken care of, my estate plan is complete. In addition to your finances and assets, you will also want to consider an advance healthcare directive to cover potential incapacitation, as well as other healthcare documents to cover any eventuality.
    • I’m young—I don’t need an estate plan. If you are in your twenties, thirties, forties—or even fifties—you may think estate planning is a task you can wait to tackle for decades. Unfortunately, unexpected things happen every single day, and you would not want to compound an already emotional time for those you love.
    • I don’t want to make an estate plan now because my life circumstances are bound to change. You are right about one thing—your life circumstances will almost certainly change. Fortunately, the arrangements in your estate plan can be altered at any time to reflect changes in your personal situation, financial situation, or both.
    • Estate planning is just too complicated. Once you sit down with a knowledgeable California estate planning attorney and explain your unique circumstances, he or she will be able to create a highly personalized estate plan which accurately reflects your wishes.

    Do You Need an Estate Plan?

    For all the reasons listed above, it is almost certain that you need an estate plan. Most people would simply not be happy with the manner in which the state of California will dispose of their assets absent an estate plan, which includes the following rules:

    • If you die with no will or other estate plans (intestate) and you have children, but no spouse, your children will inherit everything, divided equally.
    • If you die intestate with parents, but no children, spouse or siblings, your parents would inherit your entire estate, divided equally.
    • If you die intestate with siblings, but no children, spouse or parents, your siblings would inherit your entire estate, divided equally.
    • If you die intestate with a spouse and one child, your spouse will inherit all community property as well as half of your separate property, and your child or grandchild will inherit the other half of your separate property.
    • If you die intestate with a spouse and two or more children, your spouse will inherit all your community property, and one-third of your separate property. Your children will equally divide the other two-thirds of your separate property.

    If you die without a will or estate plan in the state of California, what your spouse will receive will depend on how your property was owned—whether as separate property or community property. Community property is generally assumed to be any property you acquire after your marriage, while separate property is any property you had prior to your marriage, as well as a gift or inheritance given to one spouse after the marriage.

    If you and your spouse happen to be legally separated at the time of your death, your spouse will not be entitled to your assets. As far as children are concerned, legally adopted children are treated identically to your biological children. Foster children and stepchildren will not automatically receive a share of your estate unless the child can show that your relationship with him or her began when the child was a minor and continued throughout your lifetime and that you would have adopted the child if it had been legally possible.

    Children conceived by you—but not born prior to your death—are entitled to inherit. A child conceived with your genetic material within two years of your death is entitled to inherit, provided you left written permission for the genetic material to be used. Children born outside of marriage are entitled to inherit if they can prove you acknowledged them as your children and contributed to their support and care. Grandchildren receive an inheritance only if your son or daughter is not alive to receive his or her rightful share.

    “Half” relatives inherit as if they were “whole.” This means if you share a father or mother with a sister or brother (a “half-sister” or “half-brother”), they are considered your full sibling. Finally, if you die without a will or estate plan, and you have no family at all, the state of California is entitled to take your assets. This is rare because almost every person has at least one family member, whether a niece, nephew, aunt, uncle, cousin, etc.

    The Benefits You Will Receive from Having a Comprehensive Estate Plan

    As you can see, there are many benefits to having an estate plan. In short, those benefits include:

    • An estate plan allows you to fully provide for your loved ones;
    • An estate plan allows you to provide a guardian of your choice for minor children, keeping them from becoming wards of the state;
    • An estate plan allows you to minimize costs following your death.
    • An estate plan allows your family members to receive assets quickly following your death.
    • An estate plan will keep your loved ones from having to make very difficult decisions should you become incapacitated.
    • An estate plan allows you to minimize taxes on your estate, leaving your family more of the assets you want them to have.
    • An estate plan can benefit you while you are alive, making your retirement much smoother.
    • An estate plan lets you support your favorite cause or charity.
    • An estate plan will ensure your business will continue to run smoothly in the event of your death, your disability, or even your retirement.

    What Should You Expect When You Begin Estate Planning?

    When you allow Attorney Mark Gullotta to help you plan your estate, you can expect the following:

    • A predictable estate-planning process;
    • A minimum of unexpected surprises for you and your loved ones;
    • The ability to maximize net property transfers to your loved ones;
    • Lower expenses;
    • The achievement of the level of protection you desire for your family members.

    Why Choose Mark Gullotta for Your Estate Planning Needs?

    Attorney Mark Gullotta offers a free assessment of your situation which will minimize the unexpected, giving you a comfortable planning experience, as well as a flexible plan which will grow with you and your family. Mark will clearly and thoroughly answer all your questions regarding estate planning, offers upfront pricing, and has a goal of keeping you informed during the entire process. As an estate planning attorney for more than 15 years, Mark Gullotta serves the San Mateo County area, such as San Bruno, Millbrae, Burlingame, South San Francisco, Daly City Colma, and the City of San Mateo, and offers 15-minute assessments. Contact Mark Gullotta today for all your estate planning needs.   

    Do you Even Need a Proactive Estate Planning?

    Not everyone needs Proactive Estate Planning. If your situation is simple – not much property, no children, or no worthy cause, a simple Will can mostly work quite well.

    However, if you do have property, real estate, business, and loved ones, most likely a Proactive Estate Planning will benefit you and your beneficiaries.

    How to find out?

    We offer a free assessment of your situation. The outcome can be one of one of four.

    • You have simple case.  We will refer your to an online service where you can do you Will yourself.
    • You have a very complex case.  We will be happy to refer you to offices who specialize in such complex situations.
    • You have an Estate Plan in place and it is sufficient based on the current Law and your situation.  No changes are needed.
    • You don’t have an Estate Plan but need one, or have one which is not current. You are an ideal candidate for our Proactive Estate Planning Service