Estate Planning is about everything you have and everybody who is important to you. It is therefore important that your estate plan is comprehensive and addresses your needs. Although many people believe that their situations are “simple” and that they do not need a “complicated” estate plan to effectively carry out their wishes in the event of mental incapacity or upon death, the amount of knowledge and detail that must go into a complete estate plan is astounding.
A good Estate Planning attorney should be knowledgeable in a variety of legal disciplines such as:
1. Creating and drafting estate plans which consist of living trusts, wills, financial power of attorney documents, advance health care directives, HIPAA Waivers, and trust funding (i.e., changing title of assets to the living trust and updating beneficiary designations on retirement plans and life insurance policies);
2. Medi-Cal Planning (also referred to as “Elder Law”) to help people qualify for public benefits to pay for long term care when financial resources are low;
3. Asset Protection Planning (better described as “Risk Management Planning”) by establishing LLC’s and certain irrevocable trusts to help protect assets from creditors in certain situations (and sometimes by incorporating these ideas into a client’s living trust);
4. Tax Planning, such as mitigating or eliminating the application of the federal estate tax, capital gains tax, and preserving the California Proposition 13 Property Tax base;
5. Trust Administration to help settle a decedent’s estate when a living trust was established; and
6. Probate to help settle a decedent’s estate when no living trust was established or when the living trust was poorly written or poorly executed.
I take pride in being well-versed in all of these areas. Most people do not appreciate all the work and knowledge that goes into a detailed and comprehensive estate plan until they are able to see the end result. When I meet with my clients to review and sign their estate plans and they see all of the detail, they often ask in amazement: “How did you learn all of this stuff?” I have a four-part answer:
1. I have such a passion for knowledge (most likely because my parents were both educators) that I often complete quadruple the amount of continuing legal education hours that are required to maintain my license to practice law.
2. I belong to WealthCounsel, a national organization of attorneys who are dedicated to estate planning. My WealthCounsel membership gives me sophisticated software, access to the top estate planning minds throughout the country, access to ground-breaking symposiums on estate planning, and access to cutting edge estate planning ideas. I am also involved with other organizations to help deepen my knowledge such as California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, NAIPC, Compassionate Care Alliance, and Meals on Wheels of the Monterey Peninsula.
3. I am always happy to give presentations on estate planning or provide advice to colleagues such as financial planners, tax preparers, or other professionals who have estate planning questions. By teaching and explaining the law to others, it allows me to view my practice from a different perspective and to identify issues that I would not otherwise recognize.
4. I limit my practice to the areas described above. I think depth of a legal practice is far more important than breadth. The law is too complex to “dabble” in various practice areas. A good attorney knows and appreciates the limits of his or her practice. I have no problem in declining a case if I feel that it is outside my area of expertise and I am more than happy to refer such cases to other attorneys. This allows me to concentrate and further develop my practice areas, ensuring that any project I agree to handle will be a project in which I can provide value to my clients.
A qualified estate planning attorney is knowledgeable in a wide variety of practice areas and ensures that your Estate Plan addresses many different needs.
KRASA LAW is located at 704-D Forest Avenue, PG, and Kyle may be reached at 831-920-0205.
This article is for general information only. Reading this article does not create an attorney/client relationship. You should consult a qualified attorney licensed to practice law in your community before acting on any of the information presented in this article.
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