Estate Planning

Kulkarni Law provides a full range of estate planning services, including, but not limited to: preparation of your estate plan documents, assistance with funding your trust, and assisting the trustee with administration of the trust or the executor with petitioning the court for distribution of assets.

Estate planning is the process of establishing a plan for the management and distribution of your assets upon your death or incapacity. Estate planning is more than just creating a will or living trust. It is a plan…a plan for your family. Having a will or living trust is a gift you give yourself and your beneficiaries. Not only does a well-crafted estate plan avoid probate and the high costs associated with the probate process, but it also reduces stress on your loved ones by providing them with a plan for when you are gone. With your estate plan, there will be no guessing about what family members need to do – we will create a clear plan that they can follow.

If you have real property in the state of California or elsewhere, you should carefully consider how you are currently holding title to the property and whether a Revocable Living Trust may be a better idea for you.

A well-crafted, properly funded trust estate plan is a must for couples who own real property, as well as those that have blended families. Such a trust estate plan saves thousands of dollars in probate fees and clearly sets out expectations for distribution upon the death of each spouse.
By way of example: without a trust estate plan, on the death of the second spouse to die real property will most likely be required to go through the probate process in order to transfer property to the desired beneficiaries. In the probate process, both the attorney and executor are entitled to statutory fees, calculated on a percentage of the appraised value as of the date of death of the assets being administered in the probate process. A probate consisting of just a single piece of real property valued at $250,000 would generate fees totaling $16,000 ($8,000 to the attorney and $8,000 to the executor), plus numerous court, publication, and recording costs.

A trust estate plan prepared by Kulkarni Law consists of the following documents:

  • Revocable Trust
  • Certification of Trust
  • Schedule of Trust Assets
  • Pour-Over Will for Each
  • Durable Power of Attorney for Each
  • Advance Health Care Directive for Each
  • Deed transferring the residential real property into the trust

FUNDING YOUR TRUST ESTATE PLAN

Kulkarni Law can assist you with funding your trust, from preparing and recording deeds to providing assistance with beneficiary designation form completion.

Once your estate plan is drafted and signed, the trust must be funded in order to function properly. “Funding” is the process of transferring assets into your trust. A deed which transfers your real property into the trust must be prepared, signed, and recorded. For bank accounts, brokerage accounts, mutual funds, etc., you should bring a signed copy of the trust, or a shortened version of the trust (called a “certification of trust”) to the entity and ask them to retitle the accounts into the trust. Other steps may need to be taken to transfer more complicated assets, such as LLC interests and timeshare holdings, into the trust.

Some assets, such as retirement accounts and life insurance or accounts held jointly with another individual (with right of survivorship), are not typically transferred into the trust. Instead, beneficiary designation forms should be updated to name the trust or individuals as the designated beneficiaries, but careful consideration should be given to the income tax implications of such designations and transfers.

UPDATING YOUR TRUST

People often ask when they should have their Trusts reviewed or updated.

If your Estate Plan was prepared prior to 2012, chances are good that it does not take into account the current tax laws. Some existing Trusts provide for distribution into survivor’s and bypass trusts (also known as AB Trusts) upon the death of the first spouse, for tax purposes. AB Trusts are no longer necessary for most people. It is important that you amend a Trust with AB Trust provisions prior to the incapacity of a spouse. If a spouse does not have capacity to amend the Trust, it is usually too late to remove AB Trust provisions.

Most pre-2012 Trusts do not have any provision for Government Benefit planning. If there is any possibility that you or your spouse will need government assistance such as skilled nursing, your Trust should include the power for your Trustee to deal with governmental agencies and apply for benefits such as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and to do Medi-Cal planning.

Kulkarni Law can provide a comprehensive review of your current estate plan documents.