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23041 Mill Creek Drive

Laguna Hills, CA 92653

Phone: (949) 855-9250

Fax: (949) 380-1128

email: gbeck@beck-christian.com

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Beck & Christian, APC


The information contained herein is provided for informational purposes only, and is not intended to serve as legal advice. You should not act or fail to act based on the information on this website. This website contains general information only, and may not reflect recent changes to the law. All cases differ – please contact an attorney in your area to get legal advice as it pertains to your case. Attorneys Gregory Beck and Stephen Christian are licensed to practice law in the State of California.

Estate planning refers to the way a person arranges their financial affairs and manages their assets. In the event of your death or disability, your assets will be distributed in the manner you have prescribed in your estate planning documents. A comprehensive estate plan also includes instructions for your medical care.

Deep consideration is critical because your decisions can secure your legacy, impacting your family today and well into the future. Estate planning determinations may affect your business, business succession plan, and the tax status of you and your beneficiaries. The experienced estate planning attorneys at Beck & Christian, APC offer expert guidance to help you navigate this process.

Advanced Estate Planning

Estate planning determines the exact manner in which your stated beneficiaries will inherit assets. When drafting your estate plan, you will need to make numerous decisions. If you have few assets, the process may be simple. If you have business interests, real property, monetary holdings, investments or retirement benefits, the process may be complex. An experienced estate planning lawyer can help you with advanced estate planning, including ensuring that proper valuation of assets and applicable gift tax and estate tax issues are handled. You may find there are significant advantages when a legal professional is involved from the beginning.

The estate planning process may involve more than one way of transferring your assets. You may decide when the distribution takes place, either in your lifetime, upon incapacitation, or upon death. The most common estate planning devices are wills and trusts.

Wills pass assets to your beneficiaries after your death. The will must be filed with the probate court. Because these become part of the public record, probate documents are obtainable by the public.

Trusts are legal agreements in which you lay out your plans for the handling of property after your death. A reliable trustee will need to be chosen. This person will carefully administer the trust. Many kinds of trusts are available to protect your assets and serve the unique needs of your situation. With a trust, your information can be kept private while also avoiding probate. A trust may offer tax advantages for your beneficiaries in the future.

Advanced estate planning also includes several documents designed to protect you, your family, and successive generations. An advance healthcare directive, also known as a living will, allows you to name the person who will make critical healthcare decisions on your behalf in the event you are unable. A durable power of attorney names the person you are authorizing to make financial decisions in the event you are unable.

A Last Will and Testament

A will is intended to be part of a comprehensive estate plan. By itself, a will may not position your estate for the greatest legal protection. A will is necessary to direct the distribution of assets upon your death. As the testator, the person who is creating the will, you must have the legal and mental capacity to do so. If you pass away without having signed a will, the state of California makes the determination on how to handle your estate. Your assets are distributed following the laws of intestate succession which are based on a beneficiary hierarchy.

Several types of wills are recognized in California. Attested wills are dated and signed by the testator when witnesses are present. The will includes a statement recognizing the testator understands the document. Holographic wills are hand-written by the testator. Pour-over wills are incorporated into trust documents. Statutory wills are pre-printed and filled in with the testator’s information. Witnesses must be present at the signing of a statutory will.

Trusts in California

Trusts outline the manner in which your assets will pass to successive generations and beneficiaries. A trust protects your estate from the costs and time-consuming process of probate. A diverse array of trusts are available that cater to the unique needs of each estate. An experienced estate planning attorney can help you determine which is the most appropriate for your situation. Your financial details, familial relationships and objectives must be identified prior to choosing a trust. You are the trustor and the trust can be customized for your needs. Common trusts include:

Trusts are complex estate planning devices that can benefit all involved parties when drafted and executed properly. The potential advantages include a reduction of estate and gift taxes, cost-efficient distribution of assets, and privacy from avoiding probate.

Transferring Business Ownership

If you own a business or have a partnership interest in one, it is imperative to create a business succession plan for transferring ownership. As part of your estate plan, a business succession plan coordinates transference while maintaining continuous, uninterrupted operations. It can maximize fiscal success while minimizing taxation upon your death or in the event you retire or become incapacitated. An experienced estate and gift taxation attorney can help you consider the numerous tax implications prior to making decisions.

Trust Administration

Trust Administration refers to the process of managing assets of a trust. It begins the moment a trust is created and funded. These activities are accomplished by the trustee who is charged with inventorying assets, obtaining appraisals, paying debt, and distributing assets to beneficiaries.

Trustees must take actions in accordance with the trust’s terms and within the limits of the law, always maintaining the fiduciary duty to oversee the trust properly. A trustee can breach the fiduciary duty in many ways, including intentionally refusing to comply with the terms, omitting relevant information, benefiting personally, or neglecting the wishes of the person who created the trust. An experienced trust administration attorney can help a trustee administer the trust or protect the rights of trust beneficiaries who believe the trustee may have breached fiduciary duty.

Probate and Probate Administration

The probate process includes validation of the will and settling the estate of a deceased person. This process can be time-consuming and costly for family members who are grieving. The court also oversees the executor and appoints another if duties are not appropriately conducted.

Settling an estate through probate may take months or it may take years. During this time, the executor is gathering assets and providing legal notice to creditors and heirs. A full legal accounting is required. The court must ensure payment of all debts before assets can be distributed. Probate fees are set by the court and partly based on amount of assets.

In the event a will is found to be invalid and another cannot be located, the state moves forward following the laws of intestate succession. Assets are distributed following a standardized beneficiary hierarchy.

Contact Laguna Hills Lawyers Beck & Christian at (949) 855-9250 to schedule a consultation. We’ve been serving the Orange County community for more than 35 years.

Estate Planning Information Sheet | Beck & Christian

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Estate Planning Information Sheet