Santa Barbara Wills and Estate Planning Attorney

Discussing death is never easy.  Most people avoid thinking about what happens when they are gone, but it is often a necessity.  Especially for Californians with business interests, high income, investments, property, or large savings, it is vital to plan what happens to your finances when you are gone.  The Santa Barbara will and estate planning attorneys at the Law Offices of Bamieh & De Smeth, PLC help clients in Santa Barbra, Buellton, Carpinteria, Goleta, Guadalupe, Isla Vista, Lompoc, Mission Hills, Orcutt, Santa Maria, Sisquoc, Solvang, and the surrounding areas.

Even if you already have a will, updating your plans and writing a new will every few years is a good idea.  If you never written a will before, now might be the best time to start planning what will happen to your estate.  California law creates dozens of opportunities to save your finances from the hefty taxes associated with probate.  Our attorneys work to help exercise your last wishes in a way that will best protect your finances for your family and heirs.

California Will Drafting

Our attorneys can write your will in the manner that best puts your wishes onto paper.  The most important part of writing a will is phrasing your wishes within accepted legal formats.  The accepted practices of will drafting ensure that courts and heirs will correctly understand your wishes after you are gone, and that your estate will be handled how you want it to be.

Some wills fail to account for unexpected scenarios.  Our attorneys can help you fight some of these common flaws, including:

  • Heirs who predecease you,
  • The effects of divorce on a will,
  • Children born after the will is written,
  • Unexpected changes in wealth between the writing and death,
  • Changes in executor/administrator, or
  • Children born or discovered after your death.

Even if you already have a will, you can always benefit from occasional revisions.  Our attorneys help manage your future estate as an ongoing process.  If you write a will once, then need it to take effect 20 or 30 years later, the changes in your life may make that will ineffectual.  At the least, an outdated will may no longer represent your expectations later in life.  Our attorneys can update or re-write old wills, executing them anew to keep your will accurate.

Keep in mind that any property that passes through a will is subject to “probate.”  This is the process of going to court and having the will’s demands put into effect.  All property that passes via a will is subject to taxation, being put on a public court record, and being disclosed to the heirs and potential heirs who may demand a share of your estate.  If you want to keep your money and possessions private and reduce the taxes on your estate, other “will alternatives” might be appropriate.

Non-Probate Assets and Will Alternatives

In many cases, something that acts exactly like a will, but is not formed like a will, is illegal.  However, there are many tools that a good estate planner can use to transfer your assets without putting them through probate.  This helps you discreetly pass on your assets without subjecting them to high tax rates and the public eye.

Many non-probate and will alternative tools are things you may already be familiar with.  For instance, any of the following are excellent tools to help pass on finances and property without putting them through probate:

  • Trusts – Living trusts, revocable trusts, irrevocable trusts, and even charitable trusts are excellent ways to continue to manage your finances in the way you want them managed, even after you are gone.
  • Shared Property – Often, real estate owned jointly with another person can be passed upon your death without facing probate or other transaction costs.
  • Shared Accounts – Joint bank accounts, Totten trusts (also called Payable On Demand or POD trusts), and other types of accounts may be transferred without passing through probate.
  • Business Entities – Setting up your finances as a limited liability corporation (LLC) or another business entity may allow for continuity in your financial management, even after you pass.
  • Lifetime Gifts – Some gifts given in anticipation of death may be considered part of your testamentary estate, thus subject to probate. Our attorneys can help you manage gifts given in place of passing through a will to help you ensure they are not subject to additional taxation and public disclosure.
  • Life Insurance – Money that passes as part of an insurance policy may be subject to some taxation, but does not pass through probate. Properly assigning the beneficiaries of your insurance policies can ensure that the payments pass to the correct people, trusts, or entities that will best manage these finances.

Managing trusts, planning your finances, and properly assigning joint ownership are vital parts of estate planning, even while you are alive.  Talk to an attorney today to start planning.

Planning for Child Care

The thought of leaving your children may be paralyzing to some, but it is a reality that many people face.  Ensuring that your children are properly cared for after you are gone is one of the most important aspects of estate planning for many people.  Our attorneys can include portions of your will that properly state your wishes for your children’s continued care and financial support.

In the event that only one parent dies, custody typically passes to the surviving parent.  In the event that both parents die, our attorneys can write a will that will properly care for your children.  Determining who you would want to raise your children in your stead is a difficult decision.  On top of this, planning finances that will continue to support your children is vital.  Our attorneys can help you place your estate into a trust that will continue to grow and support your children, passing the money under their control when they turn a certain age.

Santa Barbara Family Law Attorneys

For help planning your estate and writing your will, contact The Law Offices of Bamieh & De Smeth, PLC.  Our attorneys offer free consultations to help you start making plans for your family’s future.  Call (805) 643-5555 today for a free, confidential consultation on your estate planning.

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