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Estate Planning

Living Trusts and Wills

Powers of Attorney and Advanced Health Care Directives

Irrevocable Trusts

Life Insurance Trusts

Family Limited Partnerships/LLCs

Charitable Trusts

Qualified Personal Residence Trusts

Business Succession Planning

Asset Protection Trusts

NFA Gun Trusts

Estate Planning

Christensen Capital Law Corporation provides estate planning services uniquely tailored to each client’s specific needs rather than the “cookie cutter” approach promoted in media advertising. Estate planning involves decisions about how your property is distributed after death as well as important issues which may occur during your lifetime. Many different types of documents may be drafted, according to your particular wishes.

Wills

A will is the traditional tool used most often to pass assets to intended beneficiaries upon death of the will-maker (testator). A will must conform to specific statutory requirements in order to be valid. A will that is contested can get tied up in court in a lengthy and time-consuming process. A well-drafted document by a competent and experienced attorney is your best defense against future will contests.

Trusts

A living trust is a popular way to transfer assets instead of a will. In a living trust, the assets are transferred to the trust by the person creating the trust (the "trustor") during the trustor's lifetime. Legal title passes to a trustee, who manages the assets for the benefit of the beneficiaries. During the trustor's lifetime, the trustor is usually both the trustee and the beneficiary of the trust, allowing the trustor to control the assets in the trust and use the assets in the trust for the trustor's benefit. Upon the death of the trustor, the successor trustee of the trust transfers the assets to the beneficiaries in the manner specified in the trust. Trusts can be helpful in minimizing the tax consequences of asset transfer.

Like a will, a properly-drafted trust may be revoked before death if circumstances or desires of the trustor change. However, unlike a will, a properly drafted and funded trust allows the assets in the trust to avoid probate, and unlike a will, which has no legal effect until you pass away, a trust provides a plan for the management of the trust's assets in case you become incapacitated.

Probate

Probate is a court-supervised process by which the estate of a deceased is settled, distributing assets according to the terms of a will or by law, and paying debts or taxes owed by the estate. Probate can be an expensive and time-consuming process, depending upon the size and complexity of the estate. With careful planning, however, probate can be minimized or avoided altogether.

The living trust is one strategy for transferring assets which avoids probate, since the assets are already transferred during the lifetime of the trustor. Other devices which transfer assets without probate include insurance policies and retirement benefits plans with named surviving beneficiaries. Jointly-titled property or jointly-held bank accounts can also pass to the co-owner without the need for probate, however there are potential tax and legal liability consequences to placing another person on the title to your assets, therefore you should consult with an experienced estate planning attorney before changing title or ownership.

Planning for Incapacity

A well-prepared estate plan considers not only what will happen in the event of a death, but also what will happen in the event you become incapacitated. As mentioned previously, a living trust provides a plan for incapacity, but only with respect to the assets held in the trust. The issue of incapacity is usually addressed by preparing additional estate planning documents, such as the following:

  • Durable Financial Power of Attorney: A durable financial power of attorney enables you to appoint someone to make financial decision on your behalf if you become incapacitated.
  • Advance Health Care Directive (Power of Attorney): This document allows you to appoint someone to make medical decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated.
  • Living Will: This document—usually part of the Advance Health Care Directive—allows you to specify your wishes with respect to end-of-life care, such as life support.

The wide variety of options available in estate planning makes it incumbent upon you to seek experienced legal advice in planning your estate.

If you require legal assistance with wills, trusts and/or probate anywhere in California, call us at (877) 453-3376.

International Estate Planning

Persons who are not United States citizens, such as nonresident aliens and green card holders, face a challenging United States estate tax planning environment when they invest in United States assets. Instead of the generous exemption amounts to which United States citizens and permanent residents are usually entitled (the current estate tax exemptions are in flux during 2010), a nonresident alien is entitled to an exemption of only $60,000 for his/her United States property. Permanent residents of the United States, while entitled to the same estate tax exemption as U.S. citizens, are subject to United States estate tax on their worldwide assets, including assets held in the home country. Both nonresident aliens and green card holders may also be subject to estate tax in their country of citizenship.

The United States has entered into an estate tax treaty with a select number of countries, including Australia, Austria, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. These treaties, in general, allow a citizen of one of the treaty countries who owns property to avoid the possibility of both countries taxing the same asset at the time of death. As far as the United States estate tax is concerned, a treaty might reduce or eliminate such tax on the United States property of a nonresident alien.

Proper planning can greatly reduce the incidence of the United States estate tax for nonresident aliens and permanent residents, by taking advantage of certain structures and planning techniques, such as:

• Pre Immigration Planning
Debt Financed Real Estate
Offshore Trust Planning

Christensen Capital Law has experience representing nonresident aliens and greencard holders with estate planning issues and strategies, particularly individuals from the “treaty” countries in Europe and from Asia, the Caribbean, Central America South America.