Many of my California estate planning clients at first ask about using an off-the-shelf trusts and wills kit and whether it may be detrimental to their heirs. Don’t get estate planning advice from a box. Purchasing a kit, filling in the information it asks for and then believing that your estate and tax planning needs are satisfied may create more legal issues than it solves. Estate planning software purchased online or from one of the stationary superstores doesn’t address all kinds of issues which may be important to you such as:
Accounting. Whether or not the trustee must provide the beneficiaries with an accounting at least once a year and whether the beneficiaries have the right to challenge the accounting.
Prior Marriages. Whether to distribute property from the trust estate when the first spouse who dies has kids from a prior marriage or leave the whole estate to the surviving spouse. Later, when the surviving spouse dies, how does the property go to the kids of the other spouse when the surviving spouse wants to leave the entire estate to his or her own kids.
Trustee’s Compensation. Do you want to pay your trustee? If so, how much? A fixed dollar amount, a percentage of the value of the estate or some other calculation? Would you not pay a family member serving as trustee but pay a non-family member?
Trustee’s Powers. You have options about how much power to give your trustee to handle your affairs after your death. Kits won’t provide you with flexibility but give boilerplate language.
Have your wills, living trusts and other California estate planning documents prepared by a qualified attorney. Call Mitchell A. Port, a Los Angeles tax lawyer, for help. Call (310) 559-5259.