We Answer Some Frequently Asked Questions About Estate Planning
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Will my California estate plan still work if I move out of state?
Many of our clients lived or owned property here, and subsequently have moved out of state. Because technology makes it easy to stay connected, we can usually continue to assist clients even when they move away. You can also hold any U.S. based assets in your California revocable living trust, often eliminating the need to start over when you move away.
Can I change my plan in the future?
Yes, if you have mental capacity, you can make changes to your estate plan during your lifetime, also provided your plan is revocable.
Where should I store my estate planning documents?
We recommend you store your estate planning documents in a secure location that can be easily accessed during an emergency. For this reason, it’s important for you to tell your key decision makers under your estate plan where you keep your documents, how to conveniently access your plan, and how to get in touch with your attorney. We do not recommend you provide copies to your key decision makers in case you change your plan down the road. We also encourage clients to file their Medical Directives with their primary physician and local hospital.
Does the Trustee have to be a U.S. Citizen?
Yes. There are serious federal tax implications from choosing a foreign Trustee.
What are the duties of a Trustee?
The Trustee must ensure that the Trust is administered in a timely fashion and according to the rules. For a complete list of Trustee duties, click here.
I don’t have a trusted family member or friend to serve as my Agent, Executor, or Trustee. What are my options?
Some people choose to nominate a Professional Fiduciary or a Bank or Corporate Trustee to manage their finances if they become incapacitated or pass away. We can help connect you with these professionals once we have a better understanding of your family’s individual needs.
What is the difference between a Durable Power of Attorney Agent, an Executor, and a Trustee?
Your Agent is the person you designate in your Durable Power of Attorney to make financial decisions for you if you are incapacitated. An Executor is the person you designate in your Will to handle any financial or guardianship issues that would be subject to the probate court process. Your Trustee is the person you designate in your revocable living trust to wrap up your affairs upon your death and manage the financial distributions to your designated beneficiaries. Typically, you choose the same person to serve as your agent, Executor, and Trustee.
What happens if I become incapacitated while I am pregnant?
Your medical powers of attorney should address what should happen to you, or your unborn child, if you become permanently incapacitated while pregnant. Many women choose to include an override provision in their Living Will that would allow their designated health care agent to decide whether to keep the incapacitated mother on artificial life support until the child is born, if physicians determine the child will survive and lead a healthy and meaningful life. You should talk with your attorney about what your wishes are, and make sure they are appropriately documented and honored.
My young adult child is going away to college. Can I still help make my young adult child’s medical decisions in an emergency?
Technically no, unless your young adult child authorizes you to act on your young adult child’s behalf by granting you those powers through the appropriate medical directives. We can prepare these legal documents for your young adult child, so you can continue to help them make decisions for as long as your young adult chooses, especially if your young adult child becomes hurt and cannot make these decisions for themselves.
Can my family members talk to my doctors if I am hospitalized?
Under federal law, HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996), your medical information is safeguarded and presumed to be completely private. This means hospitals and physicians are precluded from sharing your medical information with family and friends, unless you have authorized them to do so. Many people wish to keep their medical information private while they have capability, but would want hospitals and physicians to be allowed to talk with designated family members or friends if there was an incapacity or death. This can be authorized by completing appropriate medical directives, including an Advance Health Care Directive, Living Will, and HIPAA Authorization.
Should we wait to schedule a meeting until after our baby is born or we are done having kids?
No. You should meet now and determine when the best time is to execute your plan. Our estate plans can cover after born or adopted children, eliminating the need to wait.
What other areas of law do you practice?
We focus on estate planning, special needs planning, elder law planning, and business planning. If you need help in another area of law, we have outside trusted firms we can refer you to.