Estate Planning FAQ


Do I need an estate plan?

If you or your spouse passed away, are you uncertain what would happen to your property?  If you became incapacitated, would your family have the ability to carry on your personal affairs and make your medical decisions? Do you have minor children who depend on you? Do you have children of a previous marriage that financially depend on you?  Would you like to avoid probate of your estate? Would you like to minimize or eliminate Federal Estate Taxes? Are you married with assets only in the name of one spouse?  If you answered yes to any of the above, then you most likely need estate planning.

How much does it cost to do estate planning?

Costs of estate planning vary depending on your personal situation and individual estate planning needs. Call The Law Offices of Gregory Cabo to set up an appointment to discuss your personal situation and your individual goals. At the conclusion of your consultation, you will be provided with a cost estimate describing what is best for your individual situation »


Is an attorney necessary to prepare an estate plan?

Estate planning is not a “one size fits all” matter that can effectively be accomplished on the cheap.  While estate planning forms are available from many sources including the internet, utilizing these forms can be tremendously risky.  Copying someone else’s estate plan is equally dangerous.  Using non attorney drafted forms may not be legally effective, may cause unintended tax consequences, and may make matters worse than if you had no plan in place at all.

Your estate plan must be drafted considering your personal situation, your individual needs and applicable California law.  Only a licensed California attorney can offer you specific legal advise regarding your individual situation. For your estate planning, contact The Law Offices of Gregory Cabo »


What is a will?

A will is a formal legal document naming the people who will receive your assets after your death.  A will also names who will manage your estate and its distribution and can nominate guardians for your minor children.


Does a will provide for complete distribution of all of my assets upon death?

A will does not control distribution of all assets. Many assets are distributed outside of the will such as joint tenancy property, designated beneficiary accounts or payable on death accounts and life insurance policies.  Property distributed under a will does not avoid probate. Probate cannot be avoided unless estate planning is done in advance.


What is a Trust?

A trust is a legal relationship usually created by a written trust document or declaration of trust, where the “settlor” transfers property to the trustee who holds the property for the benefit of the beneficiaries.  The same person can be the settlor, trustee or beneficiary at the same time.  In the typical revocable living trust, the settlor or settlors transfer their assets to themselves as the initial co-trustees of their living trust to hold their assets in trust for their own benefit while living.  Upon the death of a settlor or settlors, a successor trustee or trustees is appointed as specified in the trust document, to manage and distribute the trust assets according to the trust terms.  Ultimately, the property held in trust will be distributed according to the terms of the trust.


How large does my estate have to be to make a trust advisable?

While having an appropriate estate plan can avoid probate if implemented correctly (see costs of probate below), a trust will not eliminate all fees of estate administration since property will still have to be accounted for and distributed.  Normally, this is less costly than probate.  Further, a trust can eliminate court involvement, expedite distribution of assets, and maintains more privacy and can reduce or eliminate estate taxes in married couples.

While there is no minimum net worth needed to benefit from a trust, your individual circumstances and goals should be assessed by an attorney to determine the appropriate type of estate planning for you. Call The Law Offices of Gregory Cabo to set up an appointment to assess your individual situation »


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

Even if all of your assets have been properly placed in your trust, it is good practice to have an accompanying “pour over” will.  In the event that an asset is not properly in the trust or other assets come into the estate after death, they will be property transferred or “poured over” to the trust and properly distributed according to the trust terms.


Can an estate plan be changed or revoked?

Generally, wills and living trusts can be amended, changed or revoked during your life.  Certain types of trusts, however cannot be amended or revoked.


What is a durable power of Attorney?

A durable power of attorney is a document giving another (the agent) the power to conduct your personal and financial affairs on your behalf.  These transactions may include paying your bills, managing your investments, signing your tax returns, withdrawing monies from your financial accounts or even selling your house.  The specific powers are usually spelled out in the document as well as when the power to act becomes effective.  Generally, a durable power of attorney is prepared to only be effective when you are incapacitated or legally incompetent, but can be drafted to be immediately effective upon signing.


What is an Advance Health Care Directive (Living Will)?

An advance health care directive or living will is a document giving another the power to make medical decisions for you.  They are drafted to reflect your own wishes with respect to your medical decisions, and include a specific statement with regard to your end of life decisions, including your choice about when to prolong your life, when to provide pain relief and when to withhold treatment.  Advance health care directives can delineate your wishes regarding organ donation and burial wishes.  Generally, an advance heath care directive is prepared to only be effective when you are incapacitated or unable to make your own medical decisions, but can be drafted to be immediately effective upon signing.


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