Revocable Living Trusts - General Questions & Answers

What is a Revocable Living Trust? A Living Trust is an instrument that directs how your estate is managed and distributed upon your death or incapacity. Assets administered through a Living Trust are not subject to the Probate court process, and a Living Trust can provide for management of assets during your lifetime if you are ever incapacitated.

What is the difference between a Will and a Living Trust? One of the primary differences is that assets administered through a Will are subject to a Probate court proceeding, whereas those administered through a Living Trust are not. A Living Trust can also help with management of your assets during your lifetime if you become incapacitated, whereas a Will does not, and a Living Trust can administer more complex distribution provisions and scenarios.

What is Probate? Probate is a costly, time-consuming, public court process through which your estate must pass if you do not have a Living Trust in place.

Aren't Living Trusts just for the wealthy? The current probate limit in California is $150,000, so if the total gross value of your estate exceeds this amount at your death, it will be subject to Probate. Therefore, if you own real estate in California, it is almost certain that a Living Trust is right for you.

Who cares for my children if I pass away? An important reason to have a comprehensive Estate Plan is to nominate a guardian to take care and custody of your children in the event of death or incapacity. This document is included in our Living Trust Package, and we can help guide you in your selection of the right persons.

At what age will my children inherit my estate? If you have no estate plan in place, your children could inherit your entire estate at the age of eighteen (18). With a Living Trust, assets can be managed until the age(s) you determine would be appropriate for inheritance.

What if I am not a United States citizen? If you (and/or your spouse) are not a citizen of the United States, you can still execute a Living Trust but there are additional tax issues to address. Our office will advise you of these tax considerations and discuss tax and estate planning strategies specifically designed for non-citizens.

Can non-traditional couples such as unmarried partners or same-gender couples create an Estate Plan? Yes, our office has helped many such couples establish estate plans to manage and distribute their estate at death, as well as documents to address tax considerations, finance management, and health care decisions that are unique to these couples.

Can I change the terms and conditions of my Estate Plan? Yes, a Revocable Living Trust is revocable and amendable during your lifetime. This allows you to make changes to the Trustees or beneficiaries, or any other terms, while you are living. Of course, this is true only if you possess the necessary physical and mental capacity to do so at the time.

Living Trust Consultation - General Questions & Answers

What is included in a Living Trust package?

  • Revocable Living Trust
  • "Pour-Over" Will
  • Guardianship for minor children
  • Power of Attorney
  • Advance Health Care Directive (Living Will)
  • Health Care Information Authorization
  • Trust Transfer Deeds

I would like to create a Living Trust, what will I need to bring to my first appointment? Before attending your initial consultation, please obtain our Living Trust Questionnaire so that you can provide the data about yourself, your family, and your assets that allows us to advise and help you. You may also wish to bring the following:

  • A copy (original document is not required) of the Deed for your home(s). If you are unable to locate the deed, our office can usually obtain one for you for an additional fee.
  • Your checkbook to make payment if you elect to engage our office for the drafting of your Living Trust documents.
  • Any Estate Planning documents you currently have in place (if applicable).

How long is the initial consultation? This meeting is generally about one hour. There is no fee or obligation for the initial consultation appointment. Please contact our office to schedule.

If I wish to complete a joint Married Living Trust with my spouse, do both of us need to attend the initial consultation? Yes, both spouses are required to be present for the initial consultation. This can sometimes be accommodated via teleconference or video conference such as Skype or Google Hangout.

What is the typical Estate Planning process? After your initial consultation, our office generates a document draft and this is sent to you for review. We will answer any questions you may have about the documents and can make final edits if you desire any changes. Once the final document draft is approved, we schedule an appointment for you (and your spouse, if creating a joint Married estate plan) to execute your documents by signing with our notary. That signing appointment is usually about one hour.

How will real estate property and business interests be transferred to my Living Trust? Our office will prepare and record Trust Transfer Deeds, which transfer your home(s) or other real estate property holdings into your Living Trust. We can also prepare and execute documents that assign business interests to your Living Trust.

How will other assets (bank accounts, stocks, investment accounts) be transferred to my Living Trust? This process is called 'funding' the trust, and we will provide a Trust Certification document and a list of instructions in order for you to handle the titling of many of your assets yourself.

What is the fee to create a Revocable Living Trust and all related documents? The fee can vary depending on a number of factors, including the complexity of your desired estate plan. The exact fee can be determined during your initial consultation and is usually quoted as a flat rate.

Urgent or Emergency Estate Planning Needs - General Questions & Answers

Do you have rush service available if I am in a hurry due to health issues or travel plans? Yes, we are usually able to accommodate these needs and expedite the completion of the Living Trust. This may be subject to an additional fee.

Can you provide mobile notary service if my Living Trust needs to be signed in a hospital or nursing care facility? Yes, our office has a skilled and experienced mobile notary on staff, serving the Santa Clara County area. This may be subject to an additional fee.

Review and Update of Existing Living Trust - General Questions & Answers

If I already have a Living Trust, do I need to update it? Yes, the law changes frequently and a thorough review on a regular basis helps ensure that your documents are keeping current with the law. You may also need to consider a review of your current Living Trust if you have experienced any of the following life developments:

  • Growth of assets or significant changes in type of assets
  • Change in Marital Status
  • Family events such as births, deaths, divorces or children reaching the age of majority
  • Purchase or refinance of real estate property

Trust Administration Upon Death - General Questions & Answers

Can you help administer a Living Trust after someone passes away? Yes, our office can assist with Administration of a Living Trust upon Death. There are important issues that must be addressed when someone passes away - even if the successor is the surviving spouse. Some of these critical and time-sensitive issues are:

  • Notification of Beneficiaries and Heirs
  • Asset Valuation, including:
    • Establishing Tax Basis of Assets
    • Obtaining Real Estate Appraisals
    • Estate Valuation
  • Making Tax Elections and filing an Estate Tax Return, if needed
  • Preparation and recording of an Affidavit of Death to remove deceased from title to real estate property and financial accounts

Tax Preparation Services - General Questions & Answers

I am a new client, what should I bring to my appointment? I am a new client, what should I bring to my appointment? Bring all your tax statements for the filing year and a copy of the return you filed the previous year so it can be used for reference.

When can I schedule a tax appointment? Tax consultation appointments are available Monday through Friday, during business hours.

How much do you charge to prepare my tax return? Tax Preparation services are charged on a flat-fee basis. This can vary based on the complexity of your return. If you require additional schedules (such as dividend and interest on Schedule B, business information on Schedule C, capital gains and losses on Schedule D and/or rental income and losses on Schedule E); supporting forms (such as those for the child tax credit or additional charitable donation information); or whether your return has "out of the ordinary" line items (like Roth IRA conversions or homebuyer credit repayment), this may affect your fee.

Can I file electronically? Yes, our office does offer this option. It is the fastest way to securely process your return and receive your refund, if any. According to irs.gov, more than 1 billion individual tax returns have been safely and securely processed since the debut of electronic filing in 1990.

Can I file electronically if I owe taxes? Yes, we can prepare and e-file your return and the IRS also accepts electronic payments for the taxes you owe, or you can mail a check and send it in via USPS.

When will I receive a copy of my return? Preparation, printing and assembly of your tax return will take place after your tax consultation meeting and can be e-filed or sent to you to sign and file via U.S. mail.

Can you represent me if I get audited by the Internal Revenue Service? If our office prepared the return for the year that is under audit, we can provide representation. This is not included in your tax preparation fee and is subject to additional hourly fees.

Tip: Before you sign your tax return, review it thoroughly. Make sure you understand everything and are comfortable with the accuracy of the return.

Don't Make this Common Mistake

I'm still young! Should I get started right away? Yes. Don't make the mistake of putting it off - this vitally important planning should be done now, especially if you have young children, elderly parents or others who rely on you for support. Although we all hope to live a long and prosperous life, there is always the possibility that illness or accidents will alter life's course. Take this crucial step now, and create the peace of mind that comes with knowing you are prepared.