Jennifer Brown Inc.
Frequently Asked Questions About Estate Planning
Do You Have questions? We’re Here to help.
The following Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) are intended to help answer common questions about the firm, the process, as well as questions about estate planning and various definitions.
If you have a question that is not answered here, please feel free to reach out to our office.
Questions About Us, Our Processes & Costs
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What type of law do you practice?
What are the firm’s hours of operation?
Standard hours of operation are Monday – Friday from 8:30am to 5pm, but let’s be honest, we know attorneys work more than that (and sometime scoot out early to go play). Although the firm generally operates within these standard hours, we also offer evening appointments on a case-by-case basis to accommodate busy work schedules.
How much does an estate plan cost?
The cost of an estate plan is directly related to the “type” of plan that is prepared. People who need a simple Will with powers of attorney and advance health care directives will pay less to establish an estate plan (or can do this for little cost through resources available on the internet if they don’t work with an attorney).
People who require a living trust to adequately protect their assets can expect to pay a bit more (as the process is more involved and there are more documents to be prepared). The cost is generally based on a flat rate and will depend on whether we are preparing an individual or married couple plan and how many properties need to be transferred into the revocable trust (if applicable). Revocable trusts are generally ‘packaged’ together with other documents, so clients have a complete ‘plan’ at the end of the process (that directs disposition of assets after death and provides incapacity planning through powers of attorney for financial and medical matters).
The firm offers complimentary consultations so the attorney can determine what type of plan is appropriate for the client and can render a fee quote for services in a no-pressure environment.
Are consultations free?
Estate planning consultations last approximately 30 minutes and they are complimentary. The consultation is a good opportunity for us to discuss estate planning in general and identify what type of estate plan would be appropriate for you in a no-pressure environment.
Do consultations have to be in person?
Consultations are offered over the phone, via zoom or in person depending on the client’s comfort and scheduling availability. In person consultations are conducted in our Roseville office.
What is involved in the process and how long does it take?
After it is identified what type of plan is appropriate, we work with the client to gather the needed facts to assemble their plan. Once we have agreement with how the plan will be structured, we draft the legal documents. Once drafted, clients review the documents and after approved, we arrange for signing and notarization of the legal documents. Some clients are able to complete the process in a couple of weeks, other clients (and the majority of people we serve) take between 1-3 months to complete the process (from initial consult to final signing appointment).
What documents are part of an average estate plan?
The basics of an estate plan will typically involve either:
a) Will, Financial Durable Power of Attorney and Advance Health Care Directive; or
b) Revocable Trust (with supporting trust-related documents), Pour Over Will, Financial Durable Power of Attorney and Advance Health Care Directive.
There are other documents that are prepared to support the above-referenced “core” documents of the plan and are:
- Letters of instruction for disposition of personal property (including firearms)
- Letters of instruction for animals
- Burial / Cremation instructions
- Stand-alone HIPAA Waiver
What do I need to prepare for an estate planning meeting?
It is suggested to have a list of your real estate and other financial assets, including life insurance policies. Having an estimate of your estate’s value is important (all assets added together). It is also helpful to have copies of any existing estate planning documents that have been previously prepared, if applicable.
Before the meeting, it is important to consider the individuals you would like to appoint as personal representatives and for guardian of minor children, if applicable.
What is involved in an estate planning meeting?
The first meeting is spent discussing and identifying what type of estate plan would be appropriate for the client’s situation. What is put together for a plan is largely dependent on the nature and value of a person’s assets, as well as their family situation (to an extent). Some people can be adequately protected with a simple Will, Power of Attorney and Advance Health Care Directive. Others, need more protection that can be offered through a living trust.
"I can personally attest to her expertise, professionalism, and compassion. "
Rachael B, CFP – Client
Educational Questions About Estate Planning & Probate
What is an estate plan?
An estate plan is a collection of legal documents that provide direction and authority to selected individuals for how to manage your assets (your estate) in the event of your death or incapacity. An estate plan also provides direction for guardianship and asset management for the benefit of minor children in the event you die or become incapacitated.
What is probate?
Probate is the court-supervised administration of a deceased person’s affairs. It involves establishing whether the person died with or without a Will, identifying the assets they owned, verifying creditor claims and determination of how assets will be distributed after payment of creditor claims. Due to backlog, staffing and budgeting shortages in the California Courts, probate takes an average of 12-18 months to complete.
If I don’t have a trust, does that mean my assets automatically go through probate when I die?
Many assets offer beneficiary designation appointments (such as life insurance, bank accounts, brokerage accounts, etc.). A valid beneficiary designation will direct disposition of the asset after death and will avoid probate. Other assets, such as real estate, do not have this feature incorporated to ownership and other steps must be taken to properly dispose of it after death.
Assets are subject to probate if they do not have a surviving co-owner on title (joint tenant) or fail to direct disposition after death by beneficiary designation and exceed the probate threshold. The probate threshold is established by California Probate Code Section 13100 (as adjusted periodically in accordance with Section 890). In 2020, the probate threshold was increased to $166,250 (up from $150,000). Assets that are valued under this threshold may be transferred to beneficiaries utilizing other procedures available outside of probate court.
Do I need a lawyer to go through probate?
Probate is a highly technical, procedure-driven and lengthy process. If forms are not properly filled out and steps are not taken in their proper order, a petitioner will experience time delays and may be subject to additional costs. Many people choose to hire attorneys to go through probate because an attorney can help avoid mistakes that cause additional delays.
Does my trust protect me from lawsuit liability?
A revocable trust is a ‘pass through’ entity and your social security number is the “trust tax ID” number. Therefore, if you incur lawsuit liability, the assets held in your revocable trust are not given extra protection and they are still subject to lawsuit liability. The revocable trust’s purpose is for probate avoidance and orderly distribution of assets after death, not liability protection. There are other legal vehicles available for this purpose.
What is the difference between a Will and a “Pour-Over Will”?
A Will is a legal document that directs disposition of your assets to certain individuals after death (and can appoint guardians for minor children). A ‘pour-over will’ differs from a (simple) will in that it names a person’s revocable trust as the beneficiary, rather than specific individuals. This type of Will “pours” /directs assets into the trust to make sure they will be distributed in accordance with the trust’s provisions. This document is commonly used to capture assets that may have inadvertently been left out of the trust but were intended to be transferred in accordance with the terms of the trust.
How does having a trust impact my income taxes?
A revocable living trust is considered a ‘pass through’ entity. When creating a revocable trust, your social security number is the “trust tax ID” number and therefore, the trust is invisible to the IRS while you are alive. After you die, the trust becomes irrevocable and will obtain its own tax ID number (since the IRS does not permit us to transact using a deceased person’s social security number). Irrevocable trusts are treated differently for tax purposes.
Does transferring my real estate into a revocable trust affect my property taxes?
Does transferring my real estate into a revocable trust affect my mortgage?
Federal Law prevents acceleration of your mortgage for transferring your residence into a revocable trust. There are certain exceptions to the rule for investment properties with more than five residences.