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At The Estate Planning & Elder Law Firm, we empower California families by giving them the information and guidance they need to plan for disability, incapacity, or death; long-term care; and protection from future creditors!
The “Sandwich Generation” Planning Guide
Are you worried about caring for your children as well as your aging parents? Download our comprehensive guide to estate planning in California.View Details
The Kids Protection Plan
Your children will not automatically be protected if the unthinkable happens to you. Discover our seven easy estate planning steps to becoming worry-free!View Details
Our Woodland Hills Estate Planning Attorney & Elder Law Provides the Guidance You Need to Gain Peace of Mind
Why Choose Us?
Attorney Richard M. Seff is a former social worker and hospital administrator, and he brings a unique set of skills to the table. He really listens to his clients, has a keen understanding of the family dynamics at play during the estate planning process, and communicates clearly in language that his clients understand—not legalese. In addition, his past experience working with families helps him to identify issues that other attorneys may miss, and that can have a profound effect on the success of an estate plan!
In addition to having a background that complements his estate planning and elder law practice, Richard takes a different approach to working with clients—all to provide the best possible protection and service. Following are a few things that set his firm apart from traditional estate planning and elder law firms in California:
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Frequently Asked Questions
What’s California Probate? How Much Does It Cost? How Long Does It Take?
Probate is a legal proceeding that is used to wind up a person’s legal and financial affairs after death. In California probate proceedings are conducted in the Superior Court for the county where the decedent lived, and can take at least 8 months and sometimes as long as several years. The California Probate Code sets the maximum attorneys fees for a probate: 4% of the first $100,000 of the estate, 3% of the next $100,000, 2% of the next $800,000, and 1% on amounts over 1 million. It is noteworthy that the fees to the attorney are calculated on the gross fair market value of the property going through probate. Also note that the executor is entitled to the same amount of fees.Learn More +
Exactly What Is "Estate Planning?"
Estate planning is not just about what happens to your assets after you pass away. Effective estate planning looks at all of the issues, from death and disability to planning how to pay for long-term care. The objectives of an estate plan are:
- I want to control my property while I’m alive and well.
- I want to plan for my loved ones and myself if I become disabled.
- When I die, I want to give what I want to whom I want, when I want, the way that I want.
- I’d like to do all of that knowing what it’s going to cost me.
That is what we can do for you. This is what we do for every family we serve.Learn More +
How Do I Select The Right Attorney For Estate Planning?
- Attorney reviews. You can find reviews of estate planning lawyers on many online rating websites. You can, for example, search an attorney’s name on Yelp or look at testimonials on attorney websites to get opinions from people who have already worked with the lawyer you are considering.
- Attorney experience. Be selective in choosing the attorney who drafts your estate plan. Look for an attorney with the sole specialty of estate planning. Estate planning is a unique area of law, and you want someone who has the experience and education to achieve the results that you desire.
- Cost. The cost of estate planning will vary substantially from attorney to attorney. It is very important that the quote be complete and include consultations, ancillary documents, and help in getting assets transferred into applicable trusts, for example. Documents are worthless if they don’t fit your needs.
- Your feeling when you meet with the lawyer. Paying for an estate plan without personally meeting with the attorney is like having surgery without the doctor in the room. You want to know that you can trust the person that you hire to do such an important job for you. A free, initial consultation is your opportunity to ask questions and get answers. Your initial impressions and gut feelings matter.
What Is Included In A Typical Estate Plan?
Every family presents unique issues to deal with. That said, we offer what we call the Foundational Estate Plan. This includes:
- Revocable Living Trust
- Pourover Will
- Durable Power of Attorney
- Advance Health Care Directive and HIPAA Release
- Property Agreement
- Trust Certification
Does A Trustee Need An Attorney For Assistance With The Trust Administration Process?
Being a trustee can take a lot of time and a lot of effort. It can also put you at risk of being sued if you make a mistake. Accordingly, you may want to protect yourself by working with professionals who can make sure that you are doing everything correctly. For example, an accountant can help with tax returns, a financial planner can help you with investments, and a lawyer can make sure that you are complying with all applicable laws so that you, the trust grantor, and beneficiaries are all protected.
While not every trust beneficiary needs a lawyer, many will benefit from the experience of a skilled attorney. If you are a trustee, then we encourage you to contact us today for an initial consultation about your rights. If we believe that you can handle your trustee duties independently, then we will tell you that. Likewise, if we believe that we can help you comply with applicable laws and administer the trust fairly, then we will also tell you that.
How Long Does It Take To Settle A Trust?
A simple trust settlement could take as little as a few months, while other trust settlements may take significantly longer.
Factors That Make Some Trust Settlements Take Longer
A trust may take longer to settle if:
- There are many assets. Every asset must be located and valued before a settlement occurs.
- Assets are hard to value. Trustees have a fiduciary duty to the beneficiaries of the trust. This means that they need to get a reasonable value for each asset. This can take some time in a poor economy or if there is no ready market for a specific asset.
- A beneficiary cannot be located. All named beneficiaries should be informed of the trust before a settlement is reached.
- A family member or beneficiary is contesting the validity of the trust. This may occur if the person was not informed of an estate plan and believed it to be something other than what existed at the time of the decedent’s death. Sometimes, if children or grandchildren are treated differently or if significant assets are left to charity, then a dispute may arise.
- Creditors claim a right to the trust property. Some creditors, such as the IRS and hospitals, may claim a right to the trust assets to satisfy existing debts.
Any of these factors can stretch the settlement of the trust out by months or years, depending on the unique issue.Learn More +