- Why do I need an estate plan?
First and foremost, you can provide for your family’s future. Your estate plan will ensure that you and your family are properly cared for in the event of disability or incapacity. I can draft an estate plan that will protect your family’s financial future according to your wishes while reducing death taxes. You will also avoid the costly and public probate process, allowing your estate to be distributed privately. Finally, you prevent the emotional trauma of family members competing to make decisions about you and your estate after you are gone.
- Can’t I do a will myself?
Sure. But only the expertise applied by an attorney to your estate plan will ensure that your assets are fully protected, that your health care decisions in the event of incapacity are as you desire, and that your final wishes are carried out after your death.
If you only have a will, your estate will be required to be administered through the costly, lengthy, and public probate process. A will also does not employ the tax avoidance strategies of a carefully crafted estate plan.
A will you prepare by yourself will probably result in substantial and costly litigation upon your death and the failure of your wishes to be carried out, as illustrated by the following examples:
Actor James Gandolfini lost $30 million of a $70 million estate to taxes because he only had a will! Read here.
Musician Prince didn’t even have a will. His estate will now be distributed publicly and lawyers will be paid far in excess of what an estate plan would have cost. Read here.
- What is a conservatorship?
A conservatorship is a procedure by which the court appoints an agent to manage a person’s affairs when he or she has lost the capacity to do so. I can prepare your estate plan to avoid this costly and time consuming procedure so that you plan by whom and how your health and financial decisions are made. If, however, your loved one has already lost the capacity to care for him or herself, I can petition the court to establish a conservatorship so that you can make the proper decisions on your loved one’s behalf.
- What if I already have a trust?
Events may have taken place which require your trust to be updated. The birth of a child, the death of a beneficiary, the purchase of a new house, the refinance of your current house are all examples of such events requiring an update to your estate plan. Also, the law is constantly changing. I can update your estate plan so that your wishes can be carried out under the new laws.
- How long will divorce take?
Unfortunately, the court calendars are very full, so divorce is a lot like taking a number and waiting your turn. This can take anywhere from months to even years. That said, I will push the court and the opposing counsel to move expeditiously and avoid wasting your time. As you might expect, a more complicated case will take longer, and a simpler case will not take as long.
- How much will child support and spousal support be?
Child support and spousal support are calculated using a formula fixed by state law. The factors which determine these amounts include your income, your spouse’s income, the number of children, the timeshare with the children, and whether support payments are made for children of a different relationship. In the court's discretion, the judge can set child or spousal support above or below the "guideline" support amount. I will advocate for support amounts which are advantageous to you.
- What will my timeshare with the children be?
The standard the court uses is what is in the best interests of the children. The court will take into account each parent’s history of caring for the children and their future ability and willingness to do so. Each case is different. I will advocate for a fair and practical timeshare with your children.
- What will happen to the family home?
There is no simple answer to this question. The answer depends on many factors, such as the proportion of the equity of the home each spouse owns, the income of the spouses, and other assets owned by the husband and wife either jointly or separately. The court has the power to award the home to either party, to order the home to be sold, or to set the amount which one party may pay the other to keep the home. I will advocate for your desires and what is best for you and your family.
- What is community property?
Generally speaking, “community property” is all property acquired during the marriage. There are some exceptions, such as property acquired by gift or inheritance. Also, in some circumstances, property which was once community or separate property can be “transmuted” into the other. I will work with you to determine how to characterize the property owned by you and your spouse and ensure that you keep what is rightfully yours.