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Top Estate Planning Tips

If you missed our client seminar in October, it was a wonderful morning! We enjoyed seeing hundreds of our firm’s clients, some long-time and some brand new, at the Hilton Arden West. After a continental breakfast, we introduced ourselves to our newer clients and then delved into legal updates pertaining to estate planning.

In my presentation I shared my top 10 Estate Planning Tips. Here they are:

10. Use the Internet for recipes, NOT legal advice. The internet cannot be held accountable for errors that occur, which likely won’t be discovered until you’re gone. Consult an experienced estate planning attorney for legal advice.

9. Homemade lasagna, great! Homemade amendments, not! The only ones who benefit from DIY trust amendments is trust litigators. The language required to make a valid, unambiguous amendment to your trust is very specific. Use an experienced estate planning attorney to make any changes to your estate plan.

8. See your lawyer every 5 years. We recommend setting a trust review appointment about every 5 years. This allows you to review your estate plan, discuss changes in the law and in your wishes concerning your estate, and make sure your estate plan reflects your current desires.

7. Be careful with the beneficiary designations. Make sure the accounts with beneficiary designations (life insurance, retirement accounts, etc.) match your desires.

6. Title controls. The title to your assets will determine who receives them upon your death. Make sure the accounts you want to be handled by your trust are held in your name, as trustee of your trust.

5. Don’t give away highly appreciated assets. Waiting to distribute highly appreciated assets (like a family cabin or home) until your passing can have significant tax benefits.

4. Understand Medi-Cal and nursing homes rules.

  • Single asset limit: $2,000
  • Assets include cash, stocks, bonds, investments, savings, checking accounts, and real estate (not including primary residence)
  • Exempt assets: personal belongings, an automobile, primary residence
  • Look Back period is 30 months
  • Average Private Pay Rate: $8,841

3. Consider bouncing your last check. Consider long and hard your children’s relationships and what this inheritance will do to them.

2. Remember you will be the last to know you’ve lost it. Lack of capacity and undue influence are the two most common causes of estate litigation. Make sure any desired estate planning changes are made while you still have sufficient mental capacity to legally be able to do so.

1. Listen to your lawyers. Find an experienced estate planning attorney who you trust and then heed their advice.