Estate Planning Services in Palo Alto
Nationally Recognized Attorneys in the Bay Area
An “Estate Plan” can be made up of many combinations of planning documents – there is no “one size fits all” approach. Each family is different. A typical estate plan includes a Living Trust, a Durable Power of Attorney, and an Advance Health Care Directive. But this is only the start. Many families benefit from additional tools and documents.
Though law is infused with a wide variety of Latin phrases, there is one that continues to elude the vocabularies of many lawyers – carpe diem. Popularly translated as “seize the day,” this particular phrase has relevance to your estate planning in ways you may not initially realize. Consider this: There is no time like the present to secure your family’s future and protect their interests in the event of your incapacitation or death.
At Gilfix & La Poll Associates LLP, our accomplished team of attorneys offers a comprehensive array of estate planning services in Palo Alto. These tools and strategies give your beneficiaries the means and authorizations to make important, binding decisions on your behalf without resorting to expensive and time-consuming conservatorships. We have over 35 years of experience assisting clients in this area and are committed to providing you with the practical solutions and peace of mind you deserve.
Do not wait to start discussing your estate plan. Contact us online or call (650) 683-9200 to schedule an initial consultation today.
Protecting You and Your Loved Ones
When planning for your and your family’s future, there are bound to be some challenging questions, especially if you are new to estate planning. We will help answer these questions and work to build an estate plan that ensures your loved ones’ welfare now and in the future. Our lawyers have been practicing in this area since 1983, and we are familiar with a wide variety of estate planning instruments that can help you achieve your goals.
Our estate planning services in Palo Alto include:
- Revocable Living Trusts and Wills. In the event of your death, certain documents will be required to manage and ultimately distribute your estate assets. Both revocable living trusts and wills (the “last will and testament”) direct the distribution of property in accordance with your final wishes. Your will also allows you to appoint an estate administrator and a guardian for your minor children, but the document’s contents are public and will be subject to probate. Revocable living trusts can facilitate estate tax avoidance and are private. You will initially serve as your revocable living trust’s trustee but will name a “successor trustee” to manage the arrangement should you become unable to do so. The benefits of each must be considered in light of individual circumstances.
- Estate and Gift Tax Planning. If your assets may be subject to federal estate taxes, it is often wise to engage in proactive gift planning to minimize your estate tax liability. The annual gift tax exclusion (set at $16,000 per individual for 2022), the lifetime gift and estate tax exemption, and other approaches can allow you to gift assets without incurring additional taxes. Strategic gifting can also reduce your taxable estate and potentially result in enormous savings. We can help you navigate this complex area of the law and develop a strategy for protecting your legacy.
- Trust Administration and Probate. When someone passes away with a living trust in place, your successor trustee will distribute all assets placed in the trust in accordance with the trust agreement. The language of this agreement is private, and discretion is a key component of the process. Trust administration also involves paying all outstanding debts, and certain types of assets may be deliberately held from beneficiaries until specified conditions are met. If someone passes away without a trust, estate administration will be handled via the probate process. A last will and testament allows the decedent to indicate how they wish their assets to be distributed, but all matters of probate are public. Probate is also known for being time- and labor-intensive. Our lawyers can assist with all forms of estate administration.
Certified Specialists in Estate Planning & Elder Law
Co-Founder of the National Association of Elder Law Attorneys
Pioneers in Elder Law & Estate Planning
Hundreds of Millions of Clients' Dollars in Taxes Saved
Thousands of Families in the Community Served
Over 35 Years of Serving the Bay Area
Medi-Cal and Asset Preservation. Qualifying for the Medi-Cal program requires meeting restrictive income and asset limit requirements. It is possible to carefully structure your estate and holdings to meet these requirements and access essential medical benefits, including costly nursing home care without “spending down.” Assets will typically need to be transferred, converted, or sheltered in a manner that does not violate complex program rules. Every strategy will be different, and our team has over 20 years of experience helping our clients achieve eligibility.
- Special Needs Trusts. If you have a child who is unable to work or live independently, a special needs trust can facilitate the long-term support and care they will need to live a full and secure life. By strategically placing assets in these trusts, individuals with special needs can qualify for public health benefits, including Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medi-Cal. We can work to establish an arrangement that ensures a robust financial safety net for your loved one throughout their lifetime.
- Family Protection Trusts™. A Family Protection Trust™ – or “FPT” – is designed to protect the long-term financial security of future generations. Assets placed in these trusts will eventually support your children, their children, your grandchildren’s children, and so on. FPT assets also typically enjoy significant tax benefits, protections from divorce, and protection from litigation. We can help you explore the advantages of an FPT and incorporate one into your broader estate plan.
- Estate Tax Avoidance Strategies. As of 2022, the estate tax threshold is set at $12.06 million, and the federal estate tax rate is a punishing 40%. Losing two-fifths of your estate to taxes will dramatically reduce what you are able to leave to future generations. If your estate’s value is even approaching this threshold, you should consider implementing planning strategies that can work to reduce your estate’s exposure. Our lawyers can evaluate your estate and review all available options.
- Trust and Will Contests. Any interested party can contest the legitimacy of a will or trust, no matter their relationship to the decedent. Contesting parties may claim the latest version of a will or trust is illegitimate. They could also allege recent changes are unenforceable due to lack of capacity or the involvement of undue influence. These claims will be taken seriously and will generally need to be resolved through litigation. Our team is made up of experienced litigators who will aggressively work to protect your and your loved ones’ interests.
- Advance Health Care Directives. Advance Health Care Directives allow you to name someone as your advocate in the event that you become unable to communicate and require medical attention. You can also specify what types of care you wish to receive. Many include instructions for end-of-life care, life-sustaining care, and surgical procedures. We can help ensure your directives reflect your unique wishes.
- Durable Powers of Attorney. Part of estate planning involves preparing for incapacity. When you appoint a durable power of attorney, you enable someone to legally act on your behalf under certain conditions. You may choose to let someone act in your stead from the day the document is designed or have their authority “spring” in a scenario where you become incapacitated. Choosing and formally establishing a Durable Power of Attorney can avoid the need for court-supervised conservatorship.
- Conservatorships and Guardianships. A conservatorship may become necessary when an adult is unable to care for themselves due to physical or mental limitations. The applicable court will appoint an individual to serve as conservator and make medical and financial decisions on behalf of the incapacitated reason. Guardianships function similarly and exclusively involve minor children whose parents have passed away or are determined to be unsuitable. Proactive estate planning can help avoid the need for conservatorships or guardianships.
- Litigation and Dispute Resolution. Our litigation has decades of experience and can represent you in matters involving will contests, trust contests, questioned transactions, contested conservatorships, breaches of fiduciary duty, losses of trust and/or estate value, real estate disputes, insurance disputes, business disputes, elder abuse, and more.
Plan for Your Future with the Help of Our Trusted, Experienced Legal Professionals
As pioneers and recognized thought leaders in the field, we are working to constantly improve our estate planning services in Palo Alto, which is why we remain the preeminent estate, tax, special needs, and elder law firm in our community. Throughout the estate planning process, we endeavor to be as efficient as possible and put a premium on clarity. This allows you to have a thorough understanding of your decisions and the impact they will have on your estate. Our attorneys also strive to help you obtain the comfort of knowing your family’s future is secure.
Call (650) 683-9200 or contact us online to explore your estate planning options today.