Frequently Asked Q’s
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Frequently Asked Q’s

ESTATE PLANNING BASICS

What if I don’t have an estate?

 

Everyone has an estate. An estate is simply anything that you happen to own. If you own a set of golf clubs and nothing more, then your estate is a set of golf clubs. If you own five office buildings, several homes, a dozen cars, some investment accounts and a couple of country club memberships, then all of that is what makes up your estate.

 

What is an estate plan?

 

An estate plan is a document or set of documents that set out what happens to your estate when you pass away or are unable to take care of yourself because of physical or mental disability. Documents that make up an estate plan typically include a will, a trust, an advance healthcare directive and a financial power of attorney.

 

Do I need an estate plan?

 

You already have one. Most people don’t know it, but the State of California has laws in place that say who gets your possessions (including your children) when you die. That is your estate plan unless you have your own plan created.

 

Whether you need more than what the State imposes depends on your family, your possessions, your income, and a variety of other factors. Simply fill out our secure online form for a couple or an individual HERE, then set up a free consultation and we’ll discuss whether you need something other than the State’s plan.

 

How long does it take to get an estate plan?

 

Creating an individualized estate plan with California Trust Pros® has several steps that determine the time it takes to prepare and deliver your final, personalized estate plan.

 

Immediately after you submit your information online you will be directed to set a date and time for a  teleconference where we will go over the information you submitted and answer your estate planning questions. If you decide to move forward, we will send you a legal services agreement required by the State of California to formally establish the attorney-client relationship and ask that you to pay for one-half of the agreed-upon fee (the other half is not due until your final documents are delivered, or 45-days after delivery of your draft documents if you want more time to review your drafts).

 

After receiving your signed agreement and initial payment, we generally deliver your draft documents to you by secure email within five days. After you review your draft documents you will let us know if you have any changes, additions, or deletions and, if you want, set up another consultation to go over your draft edits. If you don’t want a second consultation, that’s ok, too.

 

After your second consultation or letting us know that you don’t need one, we generally deliver your final documents with one of our attorneys or notaries to oversee the proper signing of your documents.

 

Why do I need a lawyer to prepare an estate plan?

 

You don’t need a lawyer to draft an estate plan any more than you need a qualified car mechanic to repair the transmission in your car. If you really know how to repair a transmission or if you are willing to study and learn the ins and outs of repairing a transmission you can do it yourself.

 

Similarly, if you know how to draft a proper estate plan or if you are willing to study and learn all of the ins and outs of preparing an estate plan, you can do it yourself and know it’s done right.

 

Having access to a bunch of forms that may or may not be right for your individual circumstances is like having a box of transmission parts that may or may not work in your car.

 

California Trust Pros® makes the decision as clear as possible by making our prices nearly identical to those charged by the online do-it-yourself form sellers.

 

If you can get experienced, professional help for little if any more cost than doing it yourself, why wouldn’t you?

WHO IS CALIFORNIA TRUST PROS?

California Trust Pros® is a group of experienced estate planning lawyers who have developed a new way to deliver high-quality estate planning services and products at competitive prices. We employ the best of online automation with the experience and wisdom of licensed attorneys.

 

All we do is prepare estate plans. We don’t handle trust administration or probate matters. We don’t handle business creation or dog bites or car accidents or bankruptcy or divorce. While most firms try to cover all legal areas to make as much money as possible, we choose to do what we like most and do best.

 

If you happen to have legal needs other than estate planning, feel free to let us know and we will be happy to refer you to one of our trusted colleagues if we can.

OUR SERVICES

Do you take all potential estate planning clients?

 

No. We only work with couples and individuals who reside in California and have a net worth of $5 million or less. If your net worth exceeds that amount, feel free to contact us HERE and we will be happy to refer you to one of our trusted colleagues in your area who handles these situations.

 

I know what I want, will you sell me some forms I can fill in myself?

 

No.

 

Are you “Legal Document Assistants?”

 

Absolutely not; we are licensed California attorneys.

 

Do you use “remote” or “online notaries?”

 

No. California does not recognize remote or online notarization. Our notarizations are done in person using Covid-safe protocols.

 

Do you go to court to establish conservatorships?

 

No.

 

Do you draft Special Needs Trusts?

 

Yes.

 

Do your trusts cover my children?

 

Yes.

 

Do your trusts cover my pets?

 

Absolutely.

OUR PRICES

How Much do You Charge?

Our fee to prepare a complete, basic estate plan for a couple is $1,600. For an individual it is $1,500.

 

What Does That Include?

Our lawyers review the personal information and documents you submit to us online. We then consult with you via Zoom or Skype to go over your information and answer your questions. We prepare draft documents including a living trust, a certification of living trust, a financial power of attorney (2 for a couple), an advance healthcare directive (2 for a couple) a pour-over will, a trust transfer deed for your home, and a preliminary change of ownership report for the county. You review the drafts, make any changes, and schedule a second consultation if you wish. We then finalize, print, and bind your documents for personal delivery.

 

We provide the services of a mobile notary to notarize your documents at your home or office or other convenient location. We also include recording and filing your trust transfer deed and preliminary change of ownership report with the county.

 

What do we charge extra for?

 

If you have more than one real property (a vacation home for example) we charge an additional $350 for each additional property beyond your first property. That includes the trust transfer deed, PCOR, notarization of your signature(s) and recording and filing of the documents with your county. (They charge $404 just for a transfer deed and recording.)

 

If your circumstances require a Special Needs Trust, we charge an additional $450.

 

The online places start at $89 and you charge $1,600. How can you say that’s almost the same price?

 

They advertise $89 for a “Basic Last Will.”  (if you’re sure that’s what you need, the state of California provides a free fill-in-the-blank will for California residents. It’s called a “California Statutory Will” and you can find it in a simple Google search. So, why does the famous online service want to charge you $89?)

 

But let’s say you’re sure you need a trust-based estate plan, what do they really charge for those forms?

Individual Couple
Trust Document with Pour Over Will $279 $279
Advance Healthcare Directive, $39 $78
Financial Power of Attorney $35 $70
30-minutes of lawyer advice $119.88 $119.88
Advertised “Discount” for some reason -$143.88 -$167.88
Advertised Price $329 $379
What do they sell at an extra charge that we include in our flat fee?
Print your documents so you can sign them $39.95 $59.95
Include your pets in your plan $49 $49
Extras they will sell you if you know to ask for them
Property Transfer Deed to put your property in the name of your new trust* $289 $289
Deed Recording Fee** $115 $115
Total amount they will charge you before you even see their online questions*** $821.95 $891.95
What Else We Include That They Don’t Even Offer
Second attorney consult**** $400 $400
Certification of trust $125 $125
Notary $75 $95
Binder $40 $40
Total cost to duplicate what we give you $1,461.95 $1,551.95
Our Fee $1,500 $1,600
Difference $38.05 $48.05

*They don’t mention a transfer deed unless you happen to go to their real estate document section and then they only offer a quitclaim deed or a warranty deed. Are either of those the right form to use? If so, which one? They also don’t mention filing the document that will keep your property from being reassessed for property tax purposes. Uh oh.

** Their recording fee disclaimer says “Fees include initial applicable state, county, and local recording fees and taxes and may also include LegalZoom handling and processing charges. Additional taxes and fees may be required by a governmental agency when the deed is recorded if the property transfer is not exempt (i.e. not spouse to spouse, parent to child, or grandparent to grandchild transfers).”

Got that? 

***Plus you’re stuck filling out all of your own forms, hoping you did them right, arranging witnesses and a notary to get your documents properly signed and then keep paying for – or cancel – their annual legal services contract.

****You can get this through their legal services plan subscription, but it will be billed at the lawyer’s discretionary hourly rate that we have estimated to be $400.

HOW ELSE WE'RE DIFFERENT

From online services like Legalzoom.com™ and Trust&Will.com?

 

  1. We are licensed California attorneys who provide legal advice and prepare personalized, custom estate plans for those individuals and couples who need one. The other online services are not attorneys at all and are not able to provide advice or guidance of any kind. Don’t let them fool you when they say their company was “started by lawyers” or that their forms were “drafted by lawyers.”

 

  1. When you contract with us and you will create a confidential attorney-client relationship. On the other hand, they gather your personal information while you fill out forms online, package that information and sell it to other marketing companies. Um yea, that would be illegal for us to do. Your secrets are safe with us.

 

  1. We don’t have to publish THESE kinds of disclaimers about our products and services on our Website.

 

“Disclaimer: Communications between you and LegalZoom are protected by our Privacy Policy but not by the attorney-client privilege or as work product. LegalZoom provides access to independent attorneys and self-help services at your specific direction. We are not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. We cannot provide any kind of advice, explanation, opinion, or recommendation about possible legal rights, remedies, defenses, options, selection of forms or strategies. Your access to the website is subject to our Terms of Use.”

 

“Our Legal Advantage personal legal plan offers you unlimited 30-minute consultations on new legal matters for one low monthly fee. Start building relationships with attorneys you can trust by signing up for our prepaid legal plan.”

 

“I understand that Attorney Advice is provided through a personal legal plan that automatically renews yearly at $119.88 (rate subject to change).”

“Limited Scope of Services. Preparer’s services are limited to (i) examination of your submitted property and legal description, (ii) preparation of the requested transfer deed, (iii) assuring that the documents you have chosen are in the proper form for the jurisdiction in which they are to be recorded, and (iv) recording the new real estate transfer deed (collectively, the “Services”). Preparer will base the examination and preparation of the deed on information furnished by title companies, public records, or provided by you directly to Firm, GOdeeds, or through LegalZoom. Once your new deed is recorded or filed, your engagement of the Preparer will cease and Preparer will not be obligated to perform any additional services in connection with this order.”

WHAT'S WRONG WITH PROBATE?

Expense

Probate is essentially a lawsuit. If your estate goes through probate the court will appoint a probate attorney who will marshal your estate and get it to the people who are legally entitled to it under the state of California rules. That attorney gets paid according to the value of your assets. (And get this, the value of your assets is the fair market value without considering what you owe on them. So for example, if you have a home worth $500,000, the probate attorney gets a percentage of that $500,000 even if you owe $499,000 on it. Same goes for all of your other assets. And that’s in addition to other experts that lawyer hires such as accountants and real estate sales people to sell your house. Just to give you same context, for an estate valued at $1 million, the probate attorney will receive $23,000.  That’s in addition to the cost of selling your home and the court has the discretion to also appoint a probate administrator who will receive the same amount as the probate attorney. So if you live in a $700,000 house and have $300,000 in investments, your fees in probate will be about $53,000. ($23,000 for the attorney and $35,000 for the real estate transaction — 5% of the sale price).

 

That’s money that could have gone to the heirs you designated in your trust.

 

Timing

A probate case can take months if not years to work its way through the court system. With the closing of many courts because of the pandemic, that time is just increasing and increasing.  And during that time, your heirs probably won’t have access to your assets, cash or home.

 

It’s Public

One of the first things that happens in a probate suit is that the fact of your death and that your probate case has been opened with the court is published in the newspaper. Big deal you think, everyone knows I’m dead anyway. But the complication is that the newspaper publication allows anyone to file a claim with the court that says you or your estate owes you money. Even if the claim turns out to be illegitimate, it delays the process further and can add to expenses.

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