I talk to people all the time who, when they find out what I do, say something like, “Hey, I need to talk to you!” Or, “Man, we’ve been talking about putting an estate plan together for years!” Invariably, those who make the first comment don’t get around to calling the number on the card I give them. And those who make the second resolve to really get around to it someday.
Turns out the State of California has an estate plan for everyone. It’s called the Law of Intestate Succession and can be found in the Probate Code at Sections 6400 – 6455. Chances are, unless you really have no assets to speak of when you die, you – and those you love – wouldn’t be happy with California’s default estate plan.
To begin with, it’s expensive. Probate court fees and attorney/administrator fees start out at a combined 8% of the first $100,000 in gross value of an estate and get uglier from there. There’s also no privacy: everything (with certain limited exceptions) done in Probate Court is a matter of public record.
If that’s not bad enough, there’s no flexibility: everyone in the family gets a piece and no one outside the family gets a penny. The dissolute daughter and the self-medicating son are in. The beloved charity is out in the cold. Will your death or catastrophic illness leave minor-aged children without a living, competent parent? The State of California has ideas about who should care for those kids. They may be very different from who you’d prefer to raise them in your tragic absence.
I know it can seem weird to talk to someone you’ve just met (or barely know) about the very most personal things: who you love, who you don’t; how much money and property and stuff you have, and where it’s located; your health, your fears, your hopes and dreams and plans for the future. A recent, happy client told me, when we were done signing her living trust documents, “Well, that was easy. And straightforward. And you know, it feels like the mature, adult thing to do.”
I’m a good listener. I ask good questions and help sort out potentially complex and confusing options in a way that genuinely brings comfort and piece of mind to my clients. It’s why I tell people what I do is practice Helping Law. The State has greater problems and concerns, and little interest in helping you.
How can I help you and your family? Let’s Talk.