Thank Congress if You Made Big Gifts in 2012

Hank Wittenberg has a great article on estateplanning.com on why those of you who did year end planning in 2012 made the right choice, even though Congress extended the generous gift and estate tax exclusions with the American Taxpayer Relief Act. The tax act signed into law by President Obama last week provided some very good estate planning provisions. Surprisingly, I have … [More...]

Thank Congress if You Made Big Gifts in 2012

Hank Wittenberg has a great article on estateplanning.com on why those of you who did year end planning in 2012 made the right choice, even though Congress extended the generous gift and estate tax exclusions with the American Taxpayer Relief Act. The tax act signed into law by President Obama last week provided some very good estate planning provisions. Surprisingly, I have … [More...]

Advice from Jeff Bezos

From the 37 Signals blog (via GeekWire). Jeff Bezos says smart people change their mind. The smartest people are constantly revising their understanding, reconsidering a problem they thought they’d already solved. They’re open to new points of view, new information, new ideas, contradictions, and challenges to their own way of thinking. This doesn’t mean you … [More...]

Lifetime Bypass Trust

Until December 31, the lifetime gift tax exclusion is $5,120,000 per person. Unless Congress acts, this amount will drop to $1,000,000 on January 1, 2013.  It is usually best to use a tax exemption as soon as possible – use it or lose it. The opportunity, good now through the December 31, is to gift assets out of your estate and forever exempt the assets and all future … [More...]

8. You Can Give Your Children Divorce and Asset Protection

This is part 8 in my series, Estate Planning – What You Need to Know. Part 8 - You Can Give Your Children Divorce and Asset Protection. Of the thousands of clients I’ve worked with, most know how they want to distribute their assets when they die:  For married couples, it’s usually to the surviving spouse and then in equal shares to their children.  For a … [More...]

How We Can Help You

We are an intentionally small California law firm based in Sacramento. We help families with estate planning (things like living trusts, irrevocable trusts, charitable trusts, wills, trust administration and probate), we counsel entrepreneurs and small business owners, set up corporations and LLCs, and we help churches and nonprofits with planned giving. We will treat you like we would want to be treated. This means we will be kind, we will teach you about legal issues- not lecture you.  We will return phone calls and emails usually in a few hours, and we will charge a fair fixed fee (we rarely bill by the hour – we think you should know in advance what it will cost). Our clients like working with us, and almost all our work comes from client referrals.

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3 Things You Need

Three things you need: 1. An accountant to help take advantage of all the available tax deductions and to file returns correctly and on time. 2. Life Insurance to protect your spouse and children. Unless you are wealthy, you need adequate life insurance for your family. 3. An estate plan to protect your family and estate from probate, to make sure your children are taken care of if something happens to you and your spouse, to distribute your assets to your loved ones according to your wishes and to authorize trusted family or friends to manage your affairs if you become incapacitated. If you don't have these three things, you need to get them. It's your job as a parent and spouse. They … [More...]

California Seal

Plan for Your 2013 Corporation or LLC

If you think you need  to set up a corporation or LLC for your business, now is a good time. 1. The California Secretary of State now takes about 2 months to process new corporate and LLC filings. I know, this is ridiculous. It's a routine task to set up a Delaware or Oregon corporation or LLC online. But here in California, home to Silicon Valley, there is no option to file online, and you have to pay an additional $350 expedited filing fee to avoid a two month wait. So if you want your corporation or LLC in place by the beginning of the new year, you should start now. 2. California corporations must pay the greater of the $800 minimum franchise tax or a tax on net income. California … [More...]

If It’s Too Good To Be True, It Is – Tax Fraud

I've been an attorney for almost two decades, and I am always amazed, but never surprised, at how gullible some people, even supposedly smart people, like doctors and engineers, can be when it comes to estate planning and tax planning. In U.S. v. Vallone, et al the founders and promoters of a complicated estate planning scheme were found guilty of conspiracy to commit fraud against the United States and were sentenced to prison terms ranging from 120 to 223 months. From the court opinion: The trusts were marketed to and implemented for customers across the United States through a network of corrupt promoters, managers, attorneys, and accountants. Although prospective customers who bothered to seek … [More...]

Uncertain Tax Code

How Much Your Taxes Will Rise in 2013?

This Tax Policy Center video explains how your taxes will increase in 2013 if Congress and the President don't act. Fiscal Cliff: How Much Would Taxes Rise in 2013? from Urban Institute on Vimeo. … [More...]

10. Estate and Gift Tax – Part 1

This is part 10 in my series, Estate Planning – What You Need to Know. Part 10. Estate and Gift Tax - Part 1 The estate tax, aka the death tax, and the gift tax are separate but related. Let’s start with the estate tax. Estate Tax The estate tax is the tax the federal and state government levies on your estate when you die. The tax is based on the value of your estate. Each state handles its estate tax differently. It’s beyond the scope of this chapter to explain each state’s tax. I will focus on the federal estate tax. California doesn’t levy a separate estate tax on the estate. It takes its tax out of the federal estate tax. So if you live and die in California, you really … [More...]

Be Your Own Lawyer

Consumer Report Says Legal Zoom Doesn’t Cut It

Consumer Reports says document production sites like Legal Zoom, Nolo and Rocket Lawyer can't hold a candle to a real lawyer. For a fraction of what you’d pay a lawyer, websites such as LegalZoom, Nolo, and Rocket Lawyer can help you create your own will, power of attorney, and other important legal documents. But can they really save you a visit to a lawyer? We recently evaluated those three services. Using their online worksheets or downloads, we created a will, a car bill of sale for a seller, a home lease for a small landlord, and a promissory note. We then asked three law professors—Gerry W. Beyer of Texas Tech University School of Law, who specializes in estates and trusts; … [More...]

9. Other Documents You Need

This is part 9 in my series, Estate Planning – What You Need to Know. Part 9 - Other Documents You Need. Pour-Over Will When you create a revocable living trust as the central piece of your estate plan, you should also include a pour-over will. A revocable living trust only controls property that you have transferred to it. If you die without transferring your property to the trust, such as real property, bank accounts or investment accounts, the omitted assets will not be owned by the trust. This is where the pour-over will comes in The pour-over will instructs your personal representative to literally pour-over the omitted assets into the trust and distribute those assets as if they … [More...]

8. You Can Give Your Children Divorce and Asset Protection

This is part 8 in my series, Estate Planning – What You Need to Know. Part 8 - You Can Give Your Children Divorce and Asset Protection. Of the thousands of clients I’ve worked with, most know how they want to distribute their assets when they die:  For married couples, it’s usually to the surviving spouse and then in equal shares to their children.  For a divorced client or widow, it’s usually in equal shares to his or her children. Is that enough planning? Does that protect your children? Determining who gets what is only half the task of good estate planning. Equally, if not more important, is determining how your loved ones will receive their inheritance. Divorcing Spouses … [More...]

7. Funding Your Revocable Living Trust

This is part 7 in my series, Estate Planning – What You Need to Know. Part 7 - Funding Your Revocable Living Trust Now to get the benefit of your revocable living trust, you have to transfer your assets to your revocable living trust. This is called “funding your trust.” We tell our clients to think of their trust as a big container with instructions. The instructions will control how the assets in the container will be managed. If the assets aren’t in the container, the instructions don’t apply. If you don’t fund your trust, your assets may still have to go through probate - and then you defeat the primary objective of establishing your trust. How is property transferred to … [More...]

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