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Assembling an Estate Planning Team - April 2010

 

When most people think about writing an estate plan, they immediately think of an attorney. But a good estate plan will include a team of professionals that includes accountants, investment advisors, insurance agents and charitable organizations to whom you wish to donate.

Why do you need a team? The simple answer is that your attorney may not know all of the facets of your life. While a good attorney will seek to find out all of the pertinent information about you, there is still much guidance that the other professionals can provide. For example, the structure of a trust may affect the current income tax status of an individual. If your accountant and attorney are working together, they can structure the trust to minimize any tax liability issues, and provide for a larger inheritance for your heirs.

The same can be said for having an investment advisor at the table. How the money is invested may affect your tax liability. The timetable in which assets may need to be withdrawn is also very important information for the investment advisor, who may have to alter the types of investments utilized to provide money when it is needed. One may invest very differently to provide for a young minor child than a child that is nearing adulthood, with college costs looming.

Charitable organizations can be a source of invaluable information on ways for you to leave a legacy with their organization. There are many tools available to donating to charity after your death, and having the organizations you are donating to "on board" with the team can smooth the process, especially if large amounts of money are involved, or if you are making a restricted gift for a specific purpose.

Insurance is another, often overlooked, component of estate planning. Too much insurance can trip an estate tax trigger that will consume the money you intended to pass along. If you have your team working together, they can ensure that you have the proper amount and types of insurance that will ensure that your wishes are fulfilled in a way that provides for your heirs free from estate taxes

Don't be afraid to ask an attorney to include all of these individuals when you are making your estate plan. Your accountant, investment advisor, insurance agent and charitable giving officers are all important professionals that should be included as you spell out how you would like your assets utilized. Here at Thompson Von Tungeln, we have worked with financial professionals for many of our estate planning clients. Our goal is to create a holistic estate plan that encompasses all aspects of our client's financial life. It isn't about "turf" when you are planning for our client's financial future. It is about creating the best possible plan to protect our client's assets and provide for his or her family.


 

Estate Planning 101 - March 2010

 

For many people when you mention Estate Planning, you get one of two responses; a questioning look, or they talk start talking about a will. Many people have no idea what estate planning entails, or they believe it is for the wealthy. Others think that if you have a will, you are in good shape for estate planning. While a will is an essential part of an estate plan, it is not the only necessary component of your estate plan. Often estate plans include trusts, powers of attorney, and advanced medical directives.

In a nutshell, estate planning is providing guidance for how you want your loved ones and possessions taken care of when you are no longer able to make those kinds of decisions. It can include instructions on what to do if you are medically incapacitated as well as how you want your assets to be distributed after your death.

A well-designed estate plan will protect you and your loved ones, and provide decision-making guidance for your loved ones after your death. There are a number of issues to consider in an estate plan including financial support for survivors, estate taxes levied by state and federal governments, medical treatment instructions, business succession and ownership issues, distributions to charitable organizations, ownership of property and custody of minor children and adults for whom you have guardianship. During the next few months we

Some questions to consider as you begin to think about your estate plan are:

  • Who will care for me if I become incapacitated? How will that care be delivered?
  • When I die, who will raise my children, and how will they be provided for?
  • How can I make sure my spouse has enough to take care of expenses and live comfortably?
  • What will happen to my business and employees when I die?
  • Asset protection through planning for Medi-Cal eligibility and long term care

Estate planning is not for the do-it-yourselfer. It is a complex process with rules that change frequently as the state and federal governments change tax laws. But there are some common components of estate plans that should be considered. They include:

  • A will, which provides instructions on custody of minor children, disposition of some personal property.
  • A trust, which can be created to shield your estate from probate court, and allow you to pass assets and ownership interests in businesses to your heirs.
  • An advanced medical directive. This document names the individual(s) who will be authorized to make medical decisions in the event you are incapacitated. It can also include your instructions to them about the use of heroic measures, and treatment options.
  • " Planned gifts to charities of your choosing. You can provide funding to nonprofit organizations that you support to continue your legacy of support after your death.
  • Asset protection through planning for Medi-Cal eligibility and long term care

A well-crafted estate plan protects your assets, provides for your loved ones, and ensures that your wishes are carried out after your death. Whether your estate plan utilizes a will, trust, power of attorney or any combination of these, it should above all reflect your wishes. After all, it is YOUR estate plan. Here at Thompson | Von Tungeln, we design estate plans that are as unique as the individuals we are designing them for. While there are common elements, there are no "cookie cutter" estate plans that work for everyone. It is YOUR estate plan and it needs to reflect YOUR wishes and your personality.



 
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A P.C.
857 West Lancaster Boulevard
Lancaster, CA 93534-2348
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The Antelope Valley estate planning and probate attorneys at Thompson | Von Tungeln, A P.C., in Lancaster, California, serve clients in North Los Angeles County and East Kern County, including such communities as Palmdale, Santa Clarita, Ridgecrest, Mojave, Acton, Agua Dulce, Littlerock, Llano, Juniper Hills, Quartz Hill, Leona Valley, Lake Hughes, and Pearblossom.