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Your New Year’s Resolution

& Your Estate Plan by Tina Triano, Esq., PhD


am frequently asked by both clients and non clients, who needs an estate plan. I always answer every-

one. But this isn’t because I’m an attorney or a Certified Estate Planner. It’s because it’s true. Whether you own a lot of assets or only a few, you should still designate someone who can make both medical and finan- cial decisions for you in the event of your tem- porary or permanent incapacity or death. If you don’t have many assets, your estate plan should focus on who will manage and receive your assets and pay off your debts. If you have a lot of assets and/or income, you should discuss ways of avoid- ing, reducing or deferring taxes both while you are alive and upon your death. Failure to create an estate plan

results in a judge appointing someone you did not choose to manage you and your estate. Your assets will be distrib- uted to your heirs based upon state law. Yes, I said “manage you.” If you become temporarily or permanently incapacitated without an estate plan, the court will choose who will “man- age” you and your care. This leaves you without a choice regarding your personal care. The state will then decide who will receive your assets, how few or how many they may be. But what are a few assets and what are a lot of assets? How do we deter-

20 January 2012 • Out & About

mine if our “estates” are large or small? When can you do it yourself and when do you need a professional? My motto regarding estate planning has always been simple: some- thing is

$1,940,999 to probate expenses, or the estate of Accountant Alwin Charles Ernst that lost 56% of the Gross Estate of $12,642,431 to probate expenses. Avoiding pro- bate is the key which cannot be accomplished using a Will. A properly drafted trust avoids probate and saves time and the expenses associated probate. Notice that I said: “properly drafted”. A poorly drafted estate plan can take even more time and

expense than having no estate

plan. You’ve worked hard for your assets

better than nothing. What do I mean by this? I mean that even if you buy an estate planning book at the book- store, or you buy a DIY kit on line, it is always better than nothing. It isn’t the best choice, but it is still, usually, better than nothing. If you want it done right and you want it tailored to your personal needs and desires, then an estate planning attorney is required. If you want your beneficiaries to be

able to avoid the time and expense of probate, then you DO NOT need or want a Will. A Will is your ticket to probate. What you really need is a Living Trust. Consider the estate of President Franklin D. Roosevelt that lost 29% of the Gross Estate of

and you certainly do not want to lose 29% to 56% of them to a legal proce- dure than can easily be avoided with some minor pre-planning. Contrary to popular belief, the average estate plan, takes about 2 ½ hours of total actual “planning” time from start to finish. If you don’t have an estate plan,

make it your New Year’s Resolution to get yours done because it’s too late

after you’re gone. ~ Tina Triano Esq. is a California licensed attorney with over 15 years of trust and tax planning experience and a California licensed real estate broker with over 20 years of real estate contract experience. Tina is available

for group lectures and private consultations. Call 408 425-7953.

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