Our experience in family law and estate planning allows us to prepare more quickly and handle your legal issues more efficiently. You will receive answers to substantive law questions and recommendations during your consultation and visits with your Palm Desert estate planning attorney.
Our law office will make a difference in your estate plan, save you valuable time and money, and reduce potential future conflict between loved ones.
- READ the pages of our website and get a feel of who we are.
- ASK yourself the questions posed below before you make a decision.
- DECIDE who is going to help you protect the people who are most important to you.
Do I Need Both a TRUST and a WILL?
Until you have the chance to sit and discuss your life goals with an estate planning attorney, the answer is going to be: probably. Both instruments are excellent devices for planning your future, but they are totally different tools. Everyone needs a Will because it disposes of your property the way you want, and up front, it seems inexpensive. Your Will does not take effect until you die and usually takes the public Probate Court procedures eighteen months to hand out your assets. If you created a Trust, all of your transfers would be private, and they take place immediately. You do not have to die for your Trust to be in effect, so you can name other people in life to help care for you. The cost of the Trust is finalized at the beginning, whereas with a Will, the average cost of Probate is about 5% of the total value of the estate. You can spend a fixed and known amount now or you can give away an additional 300% and 400% more, at the time of probate.
How Do I Find a Good Estate Planning Attorney?
Choosing the right attorney is like trying to pick the right veterinarian, dentist, or mechanic. If you don’t know anything about the area you are asking for help, you might feel helpless, vulnerable, and previously taken advantage of. Yes, you can even try to do it on your own (that is not my advice without talking with you first), but in the current day of litigation, I would suggest you speak with a family estate planning attorney in Palm Desert.
Finding the right attorney is important. If you do not feel like you “fit” with your attorney or their office, you might want to look for another one. Working with your attorney should not be difficult when discussing your estate plan. Many attorneys aggressively litigate cases in court with the ability to work peacefully in unison with their clients at the office. We will spend several hours together, planning and building your estate plan if we decide to work together. Having a good “fit” is essential when planning your future.
Most people do not look for “fit” when looking for an attorney — they look for “cost.” I am not saying that cost is not a factor. Anyone considering estate planning is already considering the costs of life. The same reason people choose only a Will over a Trust is the same reason people choose a “cheap” attorney over a “good” attorney. They both have a job to do. You must decide how much protection you want for your family, children, and assets, and how much actually comes with both options.
There are a few things that set good attorneys apart from the other ones. During your phone call or consultation with the attorneys you contact, learn the following information, and see if they will be a good fit for what you want:
- Avoid Probate: A good attorney will inform you that your Will, shall land you in Probate court, so if you want to avoid the probate process, consider other options.
- Fixed Prices: Sad to say, but some attorneys have “floating” fees that seem to change depending on how much their client can afford to pay. “Hourly” fees have a way of climbing and sneaking up on you at the end of your services, or months later after an innocent phone call for clarification and you receive another bill. Our estate plans are all fixed with a set price; you will not pay more simply because you have more.
- Experience: Find out how long your attorney has been working in the area you want your documents prepared. If you need an estate plan for a family with children, or a blended family, you might want to talk with a family attorney as opposed to a business lawyer.
- Work Product: Learn who will prepare the actual documents for your estate plan and make the decisions regarding the planning and building for your plan. Inquire if the office uses spreadsheets to track assets or if they provide contact cards for the protection of your children.
- Advanced estate planning may be needed for you and your family if your estate is large. If all properties, assets, etc., are not taken into account, it can trigger probate.
- Prepared or Administered: Do you need a Living Trust prepared for your estate, or has someone died and you need the Trust administered (settled) because the Trustor died or became incapacitated?
- Turnaround Time: Many people want to know how long it takes to complete a family estate plan, and we can give you a good idea when you call depending on whether or not you have children and how vast the assets may be. Usually, we have our clients signing their estate plan within five weeks, on average.
- Reviews: If you design an estate plan with our office, it automatically comes with no-charge reviews of your plan every three years to ensure that no changes are needed. We know life changes, assets come and go, so sometimes modifications need to be made. It is crucial to maintain these reviews after completing an estate plan.
The majority of families use only one of the following Trusts, but all of the Trusts below have been designed and created for the owner of assets to protect themselves from the probate process and unnecessary taxes. These Trust options allow nearly every family an opportunity to protect themselves and provide for their loved ones when they are no longer able to do so.
This is not a complete list of estate planning trust options, but a few to review:
- Qualified Terminable Property Trust (QTIP): A Qualified Terminable Property Trust (“QTIP Trust”) permits a spouse to gift a life estate without the federal gift tax. The donee (surviving spouse) has an income right in the Trust but not the power to appoint the principal.
- Charitable Remainder Trust (CRT): A Charitable Remainder Trust is a cash gift, or other asset, to an irrevocable trust. The Trust provides income to the donor for a period of years or life, and the assets of the Trust are later transferred to the named charity at the end.
- Charitable Remainder Unitrust (CRUT): Charitable Remainder Unitrusts can be used to provide steady income to donors and avoid capital gains tax. This is popular for the wealthy individuals who donate money to universities or colleges while reducing their tax liability.
- Grantor Retained Annuity Trust (GRAT): A Grantor Retained Annuity Trust (GRAT) is a financial instrument that can be used to minimize taxes on large financial gifts to loved ones through estate planning. An Irrevocable Trust can be created under these plans for a specified time. When the Trust is established, the trust creator sets a gift value. An annuity payment is made every year. Assets are then placed under the Trust. After the Trust expires, the beneficiaries receive the assets free of tax.
- Intentionally Defective Grantor Trust (IDGT): An Intentionally Defective Grantor Trust (IDGT) is an estate-planning tool used to freeze assets for estate taxes purposes temporarily, not for taxes. A grantor trust is an intentionally defective trust. It allows the Trustor to continue to pay income tax on certain trust assets. However, income tax laws do not recognize the assets being transferred away.
- Special Needs Trust (SNT) and Third-Party: A Special Needs Trust is a legal arrangement and fiduciary relation that allows someone with a chronic illness or physical disability to receive income. This does not affect their eligibility for public assistance benefits such as Social Security or Supplemental Security Income. Fiduciary relationships are when a person or entity acts for another person to manage assets.
- Spousal Lifetime Access Trust (SLAT): A Spousal Lifetime Access Trust is an irrevocable trust that allows one spouse to make a gift into a trust for the benefit of the other spouse and possibly other family members while removing assets from their combined estates.
- Qualified Personal Residence Trust (QPRT): A Qualified Personal Residence Trust (QPRT) is a particular type of irrevocable Trust that allows the creator to remove personal property from their estate for the purposes of reducing gift tax. This tax can also be reduced with a unified credit.
- Dynasty Trust | Legacy Trust: A Dynasty-trust or Legacy Trust is a trust used to pass wealth on from generation to generation without incurring transfer tax, such as the gift tax or the generation-skipping tax (GSTT), for as long as assets remain in the Trust. The distinctive characteristic of the Legacy Trust is its duration.
- Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust (ILIT): An Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust (ILIT) cannot be rescinded. Once the grantor has contributed any property or life insurance death benefits to a trust, they can’t change the terms or claim any properties.
- Charitable Lead Trusts (CLT): A charitable lead trust (CLT) allows you to give cash or property to an irrevocable trust. For a specified time, the Trust will provide income to the designated charity. Depending on the Trust’s structure, the donor may receive a gift, income, or estate tax deduction for the donated assets.
When You Want the Very Best for Your Loved Ones, Choose Us
Proper family estate planning requires a good understanding of a number of disciplines — succession, taxation, finances, insurance, probate, and estate administration, for example. What’s missing in the repertoire of some estate planning attorneys: the “family” part. As a practicing family law attorney as well as an estate planning lawyer, I “get” the nuances that are often beneath the surface when it comes to family dynamics. Every family has a different story, and I listen. I know how estate planning law and family law intersect and how to build a family estate plan that reflects what my clients really want.
I also understand that dynamics change. Relationships change. People change. That’s why it’s important to review the estate plan periodically — to make sure it is up to date and absolutely reflects your wishes.
Estate planning lawyers aren’t all built the same. Every legal document I create in your family estate plan is meticulously drafted so they all work together and all the bases you want are covered. Family estate planning is not just about the finances after all.
I also recommend Advanced Health Directives and the appropriate Powers of Attorney. There is no place for uncertainty in my work. Your future — your legacy — should be in good hands. I want to help you make sure that you and your loved ones are taken care of. I want you to have that peace of mind — you deserve it.
Contact Heath Baker Law to Speak With an Estate Planning Lawyer in Palm Desert Today
The Law Office of Heath L. Baker is devoted to protecting what is important to your family. As a family attorney, Heath provides his clients with legal advice in the areas of estate planning and family law. Considering the two areas of law are resolved in different buildings, the combination of the different applications allows us to see hundreds of outcomes in both realms. For over a decade, I’ve learned, studied, and built plans for families to protect their wealth, retirement, property, and children. Call us today to schedule a consultation.