Estate Planning

Working with a San Diego estate planning attorney allows you to build a plan for your family and your assets ahead of time, so that there’s no confusion about your wishes or difficulty following through with them.

Am I too young to have an estate plan?

No. It is never too early to start an estate plan. It will assist in assets being distributed in the event of a tragedy.

How much does it cost to put an estate plan in place?

Depending on the complexity of your individual needs, estate planning costs can vary greatly.

It’s very common for a lawyer to charge a flat fee to write a will and other basic estate planning documents. The low end for a simple lawyer-drafted will is around $300. A price of closer to $1,000 is more common, and it’s not unusual to find a $1,500 price tag.

What documents should I have to start my estate plan?

To start your estate plan, make a list of documents, including where each is stored. Include papers for:

  • Life insurance policies
  • Annuities
  • Pension or retirement accounts
  • Bank accounts
  • Divorce records
  • Birth and adoption certificates
  • Real estate deeds
  • Stocks, bonds and mutual funds

Another item helpful for your heirs is a list of bills and accounts, including contact information and account numbers for each, so your representative can settle and close these accounts.

Every estate plan should include:

  • Will/trust
  • Durable power of attorney
  • Beneficiary designations
  • Letter of intent
  • Healthcare power of attorney
  • Guardianship designations

How does spending money on a lawyer help me save money on my estate plan?

The initial investment in your estate plan can save your beneficiaries thousands of dollars in probate costs and fees.

Trust Administration

When someone sets up a trust, they typically alert the person who they name “successor trustee,” or the person who assumes control of the trust after the creator dies. That way, the successor trustee is prepared for the tasks and responsibilities that begin once the creator of the trust passes away.

What is a trust?

A living trust serves two purposes: It allows you to pass on assets without going through the public probate process, and it allows someone else to manage your affairs if you become incapacitated.

What powers does a trustee have?

The trustee has the power to collect, hold, and retain trust property received from a settlor or any other person until, in the judgment of the trustee, disposition of the property should be made.

If I already have a will, do I need a trust?

A will and a trust are two different estate planning tools. Trusts offer more control of assets, but they are more expensive, can be tedious to set up, and must be actively managed. If you do not have an estate-transfer plan, the state in which you live and the federal government will have one for you. Making this a priority now can save money and precious time later.

What is a Revocable Living Trusts?

A revocable living trust is a trust document created by an individual that can be changed over time. Revocable living trusts are used to avoid probate and to protect the privacy of the trust owner and beneficiaries of the trust as well as minimize estate taxes.


Probate is a complicated process, and most people aren’t really sure what it is — other than something to be avoided.

So what is probate, how does it work, and what are the steps you can take with your attorney to keep your family out of probate court?

What is probate?

Probate is the legal process that takes place after someone dies. It makes sure property and possessions are given to the correct people, and any taxes or debts owed are paid in full.

Do I have to use a lawyer for the probate process?

If the estate that you’re handling doesn’t contain unusual assets and isn’t too large, you may be able to get by just fine without a lawyer’s help.

Does all property go through probate when a person dies?

No. Most states allow a certain amount of property to pass free of probate or through a simplified probate procedure.

How long does probate take?

The answer depends on a variety of factors, but in general, probate could take anywhere from a few months to more than a year (or even years).

How much does probate cost?

In California, the fees are four percent of the first $100,000 of the estate, three percent of the next $100,000, two percent of the next $800,000, one percent of the next $9,000,000, and one-half percent of the next $15,000,000.

Why does everyone want to avoid probate?

Here are some of the reasons people want to avoid probate.

  1. Cost – Probate costs, including attorney’s fees, can be expensive. This is especially true if you own real estate in different states, because probate proceedings would be required in each state that you own property. A trust can help to correct this problem.
  2. Efficiency – The probate process can be complicated and time consuming, so it may take many years to completely resolve everything. Avoiding probate can speed up the process of settling your estate.
  3. Privacy – Wills and probate proceedings are matters of public record. If you would like to keep your affairs private, and prefer that people don’t know how your estate was distributed, avoiding probate through a trust or other mechanism is the only way to do so.
  4. Flexibility – Trusts can be tailored to your specific requests. The execution of a trust is much less formal than a will and it is easy to change the terms of a trust.

Entity Formation / Business Setup

There are all kinds of steps to take once you’ve decided to open your own business, from choosing the correct legal entity to taxation and record-keeping responsibilities. You want to create a solid business structure so that every step of the process goes smoothly.

Do I have to incorporate my business?

If you expect that you will hire employees, you should incorporate your business before then. If you run your business as a sole proprietorship, you as an individual are liable and your personal assets are at risk. However, if you have incorporated, the corporation or LLC is the employer and takes on the liability risk.

How do I choose between an LLC and corporation?

The main difference between an LLC and a corporation is that a LLC is owned by one or more individuals, and a corporation is owned by its shareholders. No matter which entity you choose, both entities offer big benefits to your business. Incorporating a business allows you to establish credibility and professionalism.

What is the difference between an S-Corp and a C-Corp?

The biggest difference between C and S corporations has to do with taxes. C corporations pay tax on their income, plus you pay tax on whatever income you receive as an owner or employee. An S corporation doesn’t pay tax. Instead, you and the other owners report the company revenue as personal income.

What is the difference between a joint venture and a partnership?

A joint venture involves two or more persons or entities joining together in a particular project, whereas in a partnership, it is individuals who join together for a combined business. A joint venture can be described as a contractual arrangement between two or more entities that aims to undertake a specific task.

What is a non-profit corporation?

A nonprofit corporation is a corporation formed to carry out a charitable, educational, religious, literary, or scientific purpose. A nonprofit corporation doesn’t pay federal or state income taxes on profits it makes from activities in which it engages to carry out its objectives.

Is it a good idea to have a Buy-Sell Agreement?

A buy-sell agreement is a legally binding agreement between a business and its owners that clearly stipulates how a significant event—such as death, divorce, or departure of a partner—affects the management and control of the business.

What permits, licenses, or registrations do I need for my business?

1) Tax Registration

Employer Identification Number (EIN): All employers who have employees, including business partnerships and corporations, must be assigned an Employer Identification Number (EIN) or Employer Tax ID from the United States Internal Revenue Service, sometimes referred to as a Form SS-4.

2) Business Licenses

3) Local Permits, such as:

  • Alarm Permit
  • Building Permit
  • Business License and/or Tax Permit
  • Health Permit
  • Occupational Permit
  • Signage Permit
  • Zoning Permit

4) Incorporation Filing

Businesses which operate as corporations, limited liability companies (LLC), a partnership (either limited or limited liability) or who are a non-profit organization need to register with the state.

Businesses which claim sole proprietorship do not need to register with the state. However, in California, sole proprietors wishing to do business under a name which is different from the proprietor’s legal name will have to file a DBA.

5) Doing Business As (DBA)

Filing for a fictitious name allows the creation of a business name which is then separate from your legal name. This is called Doing Business As, or DBA. Sole proprietors wishing to do business under a business or company name which is different from the proprietor’s legal name will have to file a fictitious name with their county registrar at the county clerk’s office. Partnerships, corporations, or LLCs may also choose to file a DBA.

6) Employer Requirements

There are several registration requirements for businesses which have employees:

  • Withholding Income Taxes: The IRS requires that records of employment taxes be kept for at least four years.
    • Federal Income Tax Withholding (Form W-4)
    • Federal Wage and Tax Statement (Form W-2)
    • State Taxes: The requirement of state tax withholding varies depending on where employees are located. Visit your state tax agency for further information. California businesses are required to register with the Employment Development Department (EDD) in order to file reports and pay taxes.
  • Employee Eligibility Verification (I-9 Form): Federal law requires that employers verify work eligibility in all employees hired after November 6, 1986. Proof of eligibility to work in the United States must be completed within three days of hire by completing the Employment Eligibility Verification Form, commonly referred to as an I-9 form. Form I-9 must be completed for both citizens and non-citizens.
  • New Hire Reporting: Employers are required to declare all newly and re-hired employees within 20 days of hiring.
  • Insurance Requirements: The State of California requires businesses to carry certain kinds of insurance. The Employment Development Department (EDD) administers California’s Unemployment Insurance and State Disability Insurance (including Paid Family Leave), as well as payroll and income tax withholding.
    • Disability Insurance
    • Unemployment Insurance Tax
    • Workers’ Compensation Insurance

Pet trust

⅔ of American households have pets, but very few of them have a plan in place for what will happen to their pet when they die. This is especially important for families with animals who have longer lifespans — such as horses, birds, and turtles — but as with regular estate planning, it’s good to be prepared for anything.

What is a pet trust?

A pet trust is a legal arrangement to provide care for a pet after its owner dies.

How does a pet trust work?

Typically, a trustee will hold property (cash, for example) “in trust” for the benefit of the grantor’s pets. Payments to a designated caregiver will be made on a regular basis. The trust, depending upon the state in which it is established, will continue for the life of the pet or 21 years, whichever occurs first. Some states allow a pet trust to continue for the life of the pet without regard to a maximum duration of 21 years.

What types of instructions should I include in my pet trust regarding the care of my pet?


The trust will need to name a caretaker who will be willing and able to care for your pet. The caretaker should be someone who is comfortable with your animal.

Care Instructions.

The trust should include specific instructions on all aspects of the pet’s care, including the brand of food, activities the pet enjoys, and the preferred veterinarian.


The amount of money necessary to fund the trust depends on the individual animal. Typically, you can leave the money to the trust in your will. Be warned that under most pet trust laws, the court can reduce the amount of caretaking funds to what it deems is reasonable for the care of the pet.

What happens if the trust runs out of money before my pet dies?

If the trust runs out of money before the pet dies, the caregiver will have to provide the financial assistance that your pet requires. If they are either unwilling or unable, you will not receive the outcome that you had once hoped for.

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