Estate Planning Attorneys in Los Altos

Customized & Practical Approaches to Estate Planning

Estate planning is a catch all phrase that refers generally to pre-death planning. At Kohler Legacy Law Group, our estate planning practice encompasses the following:

  • Preparation of revocable living trusts, wills, powers of attorney and ancillary documents in which you to direct the disposition of your assets at death, designate individuals to make financial and medical decisions for you during your incapacity, state your end-of-life preferences, and nominate guardians for minor children;
  • Assistance with funding revocable living trusts to prevent Probate Court involvement at death;
  • Advice regarding beneficiary designations for life insurance, retirement accounts and stock options to ensure they are coordinated with your other documents and structured in a manner to minimize taxes;
  • Preparation of a range of irrevocable trusts, including Crummey trusts, GST trusts, GRATs, CRTs, QPRTs, and ILITs, and advice regarding other sophisticated estate planning strategies to address estate, gift, generation-skipping and property tax;
  • Advice regarding intra-family and charitable transactions, such as gifts, sales, and loans;
  • Preparation of petitions to the Probate Court to resolve a range of issues, including petitions to approve trust accountancy, to modify an irrevocable trust, to update trustee succession, and to seek instructions from the Probate Court on a particular matter; and
  • Preparation of federal gift tax returns.

Your estate plan is intended to be updated from time to time as your goals, relationships, or wealth changes, or as the laws change. If you already have an estate plan in place, we will review it with you to ensure that it still carries out your wishes and complies with state and federal law.

In the estate planning process, we pay attention to the various tax issues that arise, whether it be estate tax, gift tax, generation skipping transfer tax, income tax or property tax, and to other fees that may be imposed on your death. We will let you know how your estate plan can be structured to carry out your wishes while also minimizing these taxes and fees.

Estate Planning areas we will discuss with you:

Will vs. Revocable Living Trust

While it is slightly more time-consuming and expensive to establish and fund a revocable living trust, by using a revocable living trust your estate will be able to avoid a court-supervised conservatorship and probate administration. In addition, unlike a will, the terms of your revocable living trust will not be available for public scrutiny following your death. Even with a revocable living trust, we will prepare a simple “pour-over” will for you. In some circumstances, a will, rather than a revocable living trust, will be the better vehicle for your estate plan.

Your Fiduciaries

Following your incapacity or death, the fiduciaries you have named in your estate plan will assume responsibility for the administration of your estate. Ideally, you will name primary fiduciaries, followed by alternate fiduciaries. You may appoint co-fiduciaries or a professional fiduciary. You may name different fiduciaries for the different roles.

Your Beneficiaries

Following your death, your estate will be distributed to the beneficiaries you name in your estate plan. Consider to whom your assets should be left at your death and whether those assets should be delivered to the beneficiary outright or retained in a trust for the beneficiary . Your beneficiaries may include specifically named persons (e.g., my mother), groups of persons (e.g., my descendants) and/or charities. You may divide the estate among the beneficiaries in equal shares, or you may divide the estate among them in specific dollar amounts or percentage shares. In the unlikely event that none of the beneficiaries you name in your estate plan survive you, you will need to select the persons and/or charitable entities to name as contingent beneficiaries.

Advance Health Care Directive

We will prepare an advance health care directive whereby you designate a person to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable to make these decisions yourself. You will also be able to provide instructions pertaining to your end-of-life decisions, such as withdrawal of life sustaining treatment and in-home care, and post-death decisions, such as organ donation and cremation.

Financial Durable Power of Attorney

We will prepare a power of attorney for finances whereby you can designate a person to act on your behalf in certain matters and with respect to certain property that is not held in your revocable living trust. For example, the person you designate may sign your tax returns, defend a lawsuit filed against you, and make gifts of your assets to charities or your family members. The powers you grant this person may be effective immediately or only upon a determination of your incapacity.

Beneficiary Designations

Certain assets pass by beneficiary designation, such as life insurance, retirement accounts and stock options. We will review with you the current status of your beneficiary designations and let you know if any changes should be made to ensure that you have a fully coordinated estate plan.

Guardian for a Minor Child

If you have a minor child, you must nominate a person to serve as guardian of that child upon your death. The person you select will be appointed by the court, will be granted all parental rights, and will be responsible for the child’s day-to-day care and upbringing until the child attains the age of majority.

Tax Planning

If the value of your estate exceeds (or is projected to exceed) the federal estate tax exemption amount, you may wish to consider estate planning techniques to reduce estate and/or generation-skipping transfer tax on your death. For 2024, the federal estate tax exemption is $13,610,000 per person ($27,220,000 for a married couple). This number is adjusted annually for inflation. On January 1, 2026, the estate tax exemption will be reduced by half. The very wealthy may wish to explore using the current, increased exemption before it lapses in 2026. There are many tax planning strategies we utilize for clients, ranging in complexity and outcomes, and we would be happy to discuss these with you.