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Frequently Asked Questions: San Marcos Trust & Estate Planning

What Does an Estate Plan Do For My Family?


Estate plans are designed plans that are used to allocate the property and assets you’ve accumulated during lifetime.  It is an involved process that goes beyond simply dictating who gets your belongings after death.  Unfortunately, informal methods of disposing assets to loved ones by simply telling them who gets what is a poor strategy and is often not legally enforceable.  Such a strategy can cause family conflict, not to mention financial costs to your loved ones after your passing.

Instead, a properly executed estate plan will help avoid such issues.  A good estate plan is comprehensive, and will be custom designed specifically for the needs of you and your family.  We understand that every person is unique in character and personality.  Families are a summation of their family members, and as such, every family is unique.  With a comprehensive interview process we design customized estate plans that will fit our clients goals and the needs of their family situations.  Besides the confidence and peace of mind that your loved ones will be provided for, the benefits of having an estate plan include: 

  • Probate avoidance
  • Making sure children from prior marriages will be provided for
  • Providing a layer of asset protection
  • Reducing or eliminating taxes
  • Taking care of minor children
  • Long term planning for disabled family members
  • Providing for you if you become incapacitated
  • Avoiding unnecessary court costs and administration fees

At Tan Ngo Law, we will help guide you in making the decisions you need to make and creating a plan that is unique and customized specifically for you.

What Happens if I Die Without an Estate Plan?


If you pass without an estate plan, the State of California has a default one-size fits all plan for everyone.  Your assets will go through the court process called probate, and will be distributed to your heirs according to law. The court will appoint someone, usually a relative, to be in charge of the process.  Unlike a Trust focused estate plan, a Will based plan will need to undergo probate and be administered by the court.

What is Probate, and What is So Bad About it?


Probate is the court process that your loved ones must go through if you die without a plan in place, or if you only have a simple will.  It is a mandated court supervised process to settle your estate after your passing.  Unlike a trust based estate plan, the terms of a properly executed will is administered by the court and will undergo the probate process.

In California, the Probate process can be a notoriously long drawn out process and can often take at least 10- 12 months, if not longer to complete.  While the court is administrating your assets, the assets itself cannot be utilized, until the court approves their final disposition. 

Finally, the probate process can be very expensive.  The statutory fees are set by law, and are prescribed by Probate Code §10810.  They are based on the value of the estate.  The State of California fee schedule for an attorney assisting the estate executor with administration of the estate are as follows:

Probate Code §10810

  • 4% of the first $100,000 of the estate
  • 3% of the next $100,000
  • 2% of the next $800,000
  • 1% of the next $9,000,000
  • 5% of the next $15,000,000

These fees may be applied twice – once to cover the attorney fees associated with the probate, and then again to cover the fees of the executor of the estate.  Therefore, for an estate valued at $1,000,000 the attorney and executor of the estate are statutorily entitled to $46,000 in compensation.  This amount does not include additional filing and procedural fees that can add another estimated $3,000. Finally, if any part of the probate process is disputed, additional legal costs can accrue.

Given the average property values in California, homeowners would be prudent in having an estate plan in place to avoid the high costs associated with the probate process.

I Don’t Have Substantial Assets, Do I Still Need A Plan?


Avoiding the high costs of probate is just one of the benefits of having an estate plan, but not the sole benefit.  A well designed plan will also help plan for who will help manage your financial and medical affairs if you somehow become incapacitated, or experience other medical emergencies.  It can also provide instructions as to who or whom will serve as guardians for minor children.  It can also be used to provide financial support for family members who might have unique needs, well after you’ve passed.

How We Serve Our Clients


We stay current on the cutting edge of estate planning strategies so that our clients can use the most up-to-date techniques and best practices when creating their customized estate plan.  We undergo continued legal education workshops to stay current on the latest IRS regulations and their impact on qualified retirement plans, as well as the ever-changing California property tax landscape.

We are members of Wealth Counsel, a national organization of highly regarded estate planning attorneys that are leaders in the field of estate planning.

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Disclaimer: While the information on this site is about legal issues, it is not legal advice or legal representation. Because of the rapidly changing nature of the law and our reliance upon outside sources, we make no warranty or guarantee of the accuracy or reliability of information contained herein.

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