Careful estate planning can minimize or avoid many potential problems for loved ones in the unfortunate event of your incapacity or death by ensuring that your wishes are carried out according to your intentions, minimizing taxes, and avoiding disputes or litigation among family members or other beneficiaries. Typical estate planning commonly includes Wills, trusts, powers of attorney, health care directives, and gift planning solutions.
If you decide to proceed, we will prepare the appropriate estate planning documents and send them to you in “draft” form. After reviewing your estate planning documents to ensure that your estate planning needs are effectively met, we will finalize the documents for your execution.
Probate is the court-supervised administration and distribution of an estate in accordance with the decedent’s Will or, if there is no Will, according to California law. This process ensures that all creditors are paid, the rights of the beneficiaries and heirs are protected, and that the estate assets are properly distributed.
If the decedent had a Will, then the person nominated in the Will as executor will be appointed by the court as executor of the decedent’s estate. If the decedent did not have a Will, then the court will usually appoint a family member of the decedent as administrator of the decedent’s estate. Executors and administrators are often collectively referred to as personal representatives. Being a personal representative is a tremendous responsibility requiring the navigation of complex legal rules and procedures. If a personal representative violates any of these rules or procedures, they can be held personally liable for losses to the estate.
Trust administration is the process of distributing an estate without court supervision, in accordance with the decedent’s trust. This process includes the holding/transferring of property and assets by one party, called the trustee, for the benefit of/to another party, called the beneficiary (often his or her spouse or children).
Under California law, a trustee has a fiduciary duty to the beneficiaries to ensure that the trust is properly administered. Errors and missteps can lead to personal liability for the trustee.
It is an unfortunate fact that disputes often arise as to the validity of Wills or trusts or as to the administration of a probate or trust estate. It is therefore extremely important to have competent legal counsel to protect your interests. At The Godbe Law Group, we are skilled in probate/trust estate litigation matters and will employ all means necessary to vigorously defend the rights of our clients.
We regularly prepare federal gift tax returns, federal estate tax returns, and estate/trust fiduciary income tax returns. In addition, we offer tax planning strategies to help minimize property taxes under Prop. 13, minimize federal estate taxes, and minimize income taxes to both the estate/trust and beneficiaries.