Estate Planning

Everyone is better served with some form of estate plan. At each stage of life you need to plan for an unfortunate accident, illness or your inevitable passing.

Traditional Estate Planning Services at this Law Offices of Kevin L. Dorhout include:

Wills – this is the most commonly understood estate planning device (wills have even been written on napkins although that is not an advisable way to prepare a will) and take effect upon the person’s death. A will allows individuals to dictate how their estate will be distributed as well as nominate the executor who will manage your estate and guardians for your minor children.

Some of the advantages of preparing a will is that it is less complicated and less expensive to prepare than a revocable trust. A will does not require a transfer of assets to be effective. Another advantage is that a will is easily amended. Not all wills require probate. As of 2011, small estates of less than $150,000 that meet the requirements set forth in California Probate Code §§’s 13000-13210 may be allowed to summarily distribute the estate without Probate Court proceedings.

Some of the disadvantages of preparing a will is that your estate (if larger than $150,000) may require formal probate proceedings in court in order for your assets to be transferred from your name to your heirs that you name in your will.

Revocable Trusts – there are many types of trusts, but a common trust for most estate plans is a revocable trust. When a person sets up a revocable trust, the advantage is that it allows the individuals or couples to manage their own assets (while in the trust) during their lifetime and provides for a spouse (or caregiver) the ability to manage those assets during any periods of incapacity. A revocable trust further allows for tax planning and may allow a person’s estate to avoid probate (i.e., going to court) when the person dies.

The fact that a revocable trust may not require court supervision is both a plus (as it limits costs) and a minus (as the lack of oversight makes it easy for the trustee, while you are incapacitated or after your death, to self-deal or abuse their position of trust). These are just some of the considerations when determining whether to set up such a trust.

Powers of Attorney – these documents provide someone with the ability to manage your personal finances such as the ability to buy and sell real estate, open and close bank accounts and sign your tax returns. A power of attorney can be limited to a specific transaction or to a specific asset. A power of Attorney can take effect immediately (perhaps an aged parent is moving into a nursing home or no longer wishes to manage household finances) or it can be triggered by a mental or physical disability. Unless otherwise provided for in a trust, the power of Attorney is automatically revoked at the time of death.

Advance Health Care Directives – this document can be used to appoint a family member or friend to make health care decisions for you if you are physically or mentally unable to make those decisions on your own. If you are in a coma or lack the mental capacity to make decisions on your own, the person appointed as your agent is required to carry out your wishes for health care, i.e., how much or how little you might want in terms of treatment. The directive may be specific in the types of medications, drugs or other pain relief that may be provided as well as the specific requirements before the care provider can “pull the plug” and end life support. If you make the decisions now, with input and support from your entire family, it can help later on when the agent is faced with these difficult health care decisions on your behalf.

Kevin L. Dorhout, Attorney at Law, APC serves the needs of Estate Planning (Trusts, Wills, Powers of Attorney, Health Care Directive) clients in Ventura County (Westlake Village, Thousand Oaks, Newbury Park, Simi Valley, Moorpark, Fillmore, Camarillo, Ventura, Oxnard, Oak Park, Santa Paula) and Los Angeles County in the west San Fernando Valley (Agoura, Calabasas, Hidden Valley, Oak Park, Van Nuys, West Hills, Northridge, Woodland Hills) and is located in Westlake Village. Please feel free to contact Mr. Dorhout to set up a free initial consultation.