Mom? Divorced? Unmarried? If any of those apply, this is for you.


If you have a kiddo under the age of 18, you have a minor. If you’re divorced or unmarried, you could face issues when appointing a guardian.

There is the “Guardian of the Person” and “Guardian of the Estate”- sometimes it’s the same person, others its not.

So what’s a mama to do? Let’s walk through this.

Guardian of the Person

Guardian of the Person is the person your kid will live with on the day-to-day- think location, home, school.

In California, dad will automatically receive “custody” of the child, especially since there are likely court orders in place that indicate the dad already has rights.

When working on your guardianship appointment you must take into consideration (because the court sure does) what is in the “best interest of the child”- if being with dad is best, then that’s what happens. If not, then you can appoint a “guardian of the person” or someone else who would get physical custody of your kiddo. You’ll also want to make sure you have supporting evidence as to why dad isn’t the best option.

Guardian of the Estate

Guardian of the Estate is the person who will manage all your moolah for your kid- think trust fund. Now, if you’re divorced or your baby daddy can’t keep up with child support, you don’t want him to manage the money for your kid.

Most times, mamas will appoint the same person she appoints as her trustee- someone she trusts with money.

So you have a couple of things to consider. Have questions or want to chat some more? Give us a call or shoot us an email to set up a time. You can even head on over to our CONTACT page and schedule it online.

Happy Hump Day!

World Autism Awareness Day + Special Needs Planning

written by Silicon Valley Estate Planning Attorney Carmen Rosas



April 2 is celebrated as World Autism Awareness Day. With the growing prevalence of autism, more and more parents are learning what it’s like to care for a special needs child.

However, with that additional care requires additional planning to ensure the child is properly cared for long term.

Special needs planning through your estate plan allows you to appoint a caretaker and manage finances in a way that will not inhibit any government benefits your child may receive.

If you have questions about estate planning and creating a special needs trust for your adult or infant child, give us a call. For more information on autism, visit

Reduce the Risk of Identity Theft When a Loved One Dies

written by Bay Area estate planning attorney Carmen Rosas.

Don't let your loved ones be the victim's of identity theft.
Don’t let your loved ones be the victim’s of identity theft.

A common trend among identity thief’s?

Afterlife identity theft. And unlike, the recent comedy released, it’s not a funny topic. Identity thief’s are using obituaries to obtain information about deceased individuals.

Upon the passing of a loved one, be sure to contact all financial and government institutions, including:

  • Banks
  • Social Security Office
  • Credit Bureaus


Do’s and Don’ts of Estate Planning During a Divorce

Written by Silicon Valley Estate Planning Attorney Carmen Rosas

Over the past few weeks, I have had a few client’s contact me regarding making changes to their estate plans while they are going through the divorce process. Some things can be changed, while others can’t.

For example wills and powers of attorneys can be changed to reflect someone other than your spouse as the agent or executor. You might not want your soon-to-be ex making decisions regarding life support or important medical decisions while the divorce is pending!

Below is a list of common assets that get overlooked after a final divorce decree is signed (i.e. “loose ends” that are never tied up):

  1. Beneficiary designations on life insurance policies
  2. Beneficiary designations on retirement accounts (IRA, 401(K), etc)
  3. Payable on Death or Transferrable on Death designations on bank accounts and investment accounts (meaning this account transfers immediately upon death to the person named)
  4. Title to real estate — did you execute a new deed for property you received or that your former spouse was to receive pursuant to a divorce decree?
  5. Title to vehicles
  6. Owners and signers of safety deposit boxes
  7. Beneficiary and Executor designations under a Last Will and Testament
  8. Trustee and Beneficiary designations under Trust agreement
  9. Agent designations under a Statutory Durable Power of Attorney (financial power of attorney) or Medical Power of Attorney

If you would like to update your estate planning documents or have questions about what you can change while your divorce is pending, give our office a call at 650-503-3770 or send me an email at carmen at carmenrosaslaw dot com.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Wishing you all a lucky day! I hope you’re wearing green!

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day and getting lucky, we have a new referral program! If you refer a client and they execute any estate plan, you’ll receive a $100 Visa Gift Card!


Happy St. Patrick's Day!

What’s a Letter of Instruction & Do I need one?

written by California living trust attorney Carmen Rosas.

I had a client ask me the other day about whether or not he needed to have a Letter of Instruction (LOI) in addition to his estate plan. The answer to his question- it depends. (of course, right?)

A LOI is a letter that you leave behind for your heirs, the executor of your will or trustees, giving guidance and instructions for settling your estate. Its purpose is to add detail about your wishes that isn’t included in your will or in other parts of your estate plan – and to address assets and belongings that aren’t addressed in your will or trust, which usually deals only with items of substantial value, such as real estate and other significant assets.

In our estate plans, we include all the essential documents as well as personal property declarations, burial/cremation instructions, and sample letters that you can write to your children (these are different from the LOI).

So, what it comes down to is whether or not your estate plan includes sufficient detail for your loved ones.

A letter of instruction can include:

  • the location of house, car, safe keys
  • burial/cremation arrangements
  • personal property assignments
  • where your pending bills are located
  • contact info for your attorney, financial advisors, tax people, etc.
  • location of your estate plan, important documents, financial statements
  • your wishes regarding how your heirs/beneficiaries should use their inheritance
  • location of your social media and online accounts login

Just like your estate plan, this document should be updated regularly to reflect your wishes. However, unlike an estate plan, a LOI does not have the same legal authority, so be sure that the LOI is simply a supplement to your estate plan.

If you have any questions or want to schedule a FREE 30 minute strategy planning meeting, give us a call at 650-503-3770. We offer services throughout California via in person (San Jose Office or Redwood City Office) or via a virtual Skype meetings.

Be sure to share this post if you know someone who could benefit from this.

Making Changes- Baby Boomers are editing their estate plans.

Image courtesy of PAE300

Image courtesy of PAE300

In a recent Reuters article, a common trend among baby boomers was discussed.

Parents are making children wait until they are older to receive trust distributions. Due to the economy many parents have adult children moving in with them. That means at 20 and 25, children are living at home and might not necessarily need or use the money as intended.

Baby boomers have been updating and making changes to their will to distribute money to their children at 30 and 35 instead of outright at 18, 21 or 25.

Making these staggering distributions allows parents to ensure that children have funds to cover major life events like going to college or buying a first home.

In the meantime, a family member or trusted individual would act as trustee until the age of final distribution.

The trustee can still make distributions for various needs. For example if your child wants to buy a home, they can. The trustee will purchase it out of the trust assets.

There are numerous reasons for creating a trust and postponing distributions, but beware that an adult at 30-35 may have issues being told they cannot have access to the trust funds. But, just remember you aren’t necessarily trying to make your beneficiaries happy- you are trying to ensure you are a good steward.

So, if you haven’t already updated your estate plan, you should!

What are your thoughts on waiting until children are older to distribute funds? Pros? Cons?

Share your thoughts with us!

Don’t let your child’s guardian be an embezzler!

Over the weekend, I came across an article about a guardian who was sentenced to serve 30 years in prison for embezzling hundreds of dollars from an account he was a guardian of.

Attorney Michael Brown was sentenced to 40 years, with 10 suspended, on two counts of embezzlement related to the estate left to the grandson of late civil rights leader Aaron Henry. Henry led the NAACP until he passed away in 1997 and left his estate to his only daughter, who died in 2000. One of Henry’s grandsons was a minor at the time and Brown was appointed by the court to be a guardian of the estate. Rather than keeping the funds in a separate trust, and placed it in an escrow account.

You can read more here, but the moral of sharing this story is: “Select a Guardian YOU can trust!” 

Don’t leave assets in your minor child’s name. Doing so subjects those assets to be dealt with in court and possibly in the hands of an individual who may embezzle from your child.

As mentioned in our previous posts, selecting a guardian is one of the BARE MINIMUM things you can do as a parent.

If you haven’t already selected a guardian, you can do a few things to get started:

1) Request our 12 Tips for Selecting a Guardian (which is free- just shoot us an e-mail);

2) Keep an eye out for our Guardianship Workshop to learn how to appoint a guardian; or

3) Schedule your own workshop with friends/families/parent groups to teach you how to appoint a guardian.

I just want to be a millionaire! (Doesn’t everyone?)

As I mentioned a couple weeks ago, estate planning and financial planning have a lot more in common than you think. See my blog post here.

Many young professionals are hesitant to create an estate plan because “they don’t have anything.” (I can relate because I WAS one of THOSE people!) So your little estate, thats a little bit of a problem, right? WRONG!

Although your “estate” or “stuff” isn’t millionaire status, it’s still worth protecting. I mean you have your health (do you want to be on life support or have your organs donated?); you have your “stuff” (your grandmother’s flask and your grandfather’s sewing kit, your pet, and all those clothes!); and you have a bank account (even if it is EMPTY, oh and that 401(k) thing your employer matches). It’s worth having a plan for all of these important things, even if it does get donated to Goodwill or the Salvation Army.

An estate plan is like a cool treasure box- you throw all your stuff and money into it and when you die or hit the looney bin, all your stuff is in one place for your loved ones to access.

Any how, why wouldn’t you want to create a plan NOW when things aren’t so complicated? You create an estate plan with your basics mentioned above and as you get older and get more things of value (i.e. more MONEY!), you will have a place for them.

I bet your next question is “HOW can I make more money?!”- well, I don’t have THE answer, but I do have some tips on how to take control of your personal finances so you can try to get to millionaire status. Read it here!

Since it’s Friday. I’m going to go enjoy the weekend and if I have more cool tips for you, I’ll post them Monday. Either way, you should join my e-mail list so you never miss a beat and you’ll get all the fun extra goodies I send out just go here or here!

P.S. September 1st is our BIRTHDAY! The law office will be 1!! Keep an eye out for a special edition of our newsletter and the offers we have to celebrate our birthday!! Have a great weekend!

A Match Made in Heaven?

I’m talking about financial planning and estate planning.

If you follow my blog, I’m sure you can tell how IMPORTANT creating an estate plan is- I mean it is meant to PROTECT your assets.

But, how can you make those assets continue to grow? How do you make sure you don’t lose it all to creditors, in the stock market, or bankruptcy? You work with a financial planner of course!

So, if you have assets that YOU think are worth protecting and passing down when you die then you need both a financial planner and an estate planning attorney. Not only should you have both, but your financial planner should have a firm grasp of what your estate plan looks like and vice versa.

Your financial planner advises you on how to grow the assets you have while your estate planning attorney advises you on how to protect them.

For example, let’s say that you are 30 years old and have assets worth $100,000.

You should sit down with your financial planner/advisor to determine how best to invest and save those assets so that they will grow to $5 million by the time you are 65 years old.

Your estate planning attorney, on the other hand, will look at the assets you have and how much you expect to have in the future and help make sure they are legally protected. Your estate planning attorney, for example, might advise you to create a revocable trust in the event you become incapacitated.

As your estate grows, your attorney will also give you advice on how to create an estate plan that will minimize the tax consequences of passing down those assets when you die.

In order for both your financial plan and your estate plan to work well you should keep both advisors in the loop about what is happening with the other plan. They also should BOTH understand what YOUR goals are so they work together to achieve them!

We work closely with many financial advisors to ensure that our clients’ are properly taken care of. If you do not yet have a financial advisor, we have some in our network that we can recommend. Whatever you decide, be sure to be proactive- grow and protect your assets- sooner rather than later.