Estate Planning for Newlyweds

NewlywedsIt’s that time of year! Time for beautiful weddings, fun receptions, delicious cakes, special gifts, and romantic honeymoons.  While this is a happy and joyful time for everyone, it’s also time for you and your new spouse to plan for your future- for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, right?

If you’re recently married or engaged, this post is for you!

Why Newlyweds Need to Plan Their Estates

Why should newlyweds care about estate planning?  Because everyone – young or old, married or single – needs to protect themselves and those they love.

Unfortunately, many couples spend more time planning their wedding and honeymoon than they do planning the best way to protect each other.

What Happens Without an Estate Plan?

This fallout of becoming incapacitated or dying without an estate plan is serious, expensive, and painful.  It often causes financial ruin and family discord, lasting for generations.

Without an estate plan:

  • You will leave your spouse and the rest of your family in the dark – they won’t know what you would want to happen if you became incapacitated or died.  This often leads to family fights as each individual champions for what she thinks you would have wanted.
  • You’ll leave a huge burden on your loved ones to make tough decisions about medical heroics and the withdrawal of life support.
  • The court or state law, not you, will decide who makes health care decisions if you are unable to make those decisions yourself.
  • A judge, not you, will decide who raises your children.
  • The court can lock down your assets so even your spouse has to get court permission before making a financial move.
  • Any assets you leave to loved ones can be taken by their divorcing spouses, bankruptcy creditors, medical crisis creditors, predators, and frivolous lawsuits.
  • You may accidentally disinherit your spouse and your children.
  • Your beloved pet could end up in a shelter or euthanized.

What Should You Do?

We invite you and your new spouse to telephone our office to set up a meeting.  We’ll walk you through how to protect each other and those you love; how to protect your beloved pets; and how to protect your assets and make things easier for you and your families.  Call now; we look forward to hearing from you.

You can leave a legacy like César Chávez

written by California Estate Planning Attorney Carmen Rosas. 

Live a life you're proud of

Live a life you’re proud of!

I spent Sunday afternoon watching the new César Chávez movie. As a granddaughter of an immigrant who initially came to the states as a farm worker, this story hit home and in honor of César Chávez day in California (March 31st), I thought today would be a good time to discuss how you too can leave a legacy.

Mr. Chávez worked tirelessly to improve the working conditions of migrant laborers.  He has left a legacy that includes recognition from U.S. Presidents, and parks, streets, university buildings, public schools, a college and a Navy ship named for him.  His greatest legacy is in the eyes and hearts of the many people whose lives he helped elevate.

Not many of us reading this blog will be as well known as César Chávez.  And not everyone who has followed his activities has agreed with every one of his positions.  However, there is no question that he has left a legacy.

In our own lives, most of us want to leave a legacy.  We might not aspire to have a postage stamp in our image, or to win the Presidential Medal of Freedom, or to have great structures named after us, but we hope that the fruits of our labors will be recognized, appreciated and well used by those who succeed us.

The organizing efforts of César Chávez that became effective and that had a lasting effect took careful planning and execution.  To leave our own legacy, we must also engage in effective planning.  One great opportunity we have is in creating and carefully maintaining a proper estate plan.  The worldly means and the principles we stand for can be left in an effective manner to bless generations to come.

If you have questions or would like to feel free to give our office a call at 650-503-3770 or send me an e-mail via our contact page.

Happy César Chávez Day!

There is a family emergency…..What do you do?

written by Silicon Valley estate planning attorney Carmen Rosas.
Create a plan for your family. It's called an emergency for a reason.

Create a plan for your family. It’s called an emergency for a reason.

As most of my current clients know, my family recently had a family emergency. This emergency sent our family into a whirlwind. Emotions were high, stress was soaring and at some points, we had no idea what was going on.

Family emergencies are not uncommon. It happens everyday to a family throughout the world. The past two weeks I’ve learned that without a plan, your whole world stops.

The key to having a plan that works, is having a plan specifically designed for your family. Not all plans are cookie cutter and fill in the blank. Families have various reasons for creating a plan, there are different dynamics in each family and sometimes simply appointing Uncle Joe or Aunt Mary to act as an agent for all purposes, just won’t work.

As you might guess, my family luckily had a plan and although there were times we felt confused and emotions were soaring, we knew what needed to be done.

For those of you who do not have a plan yet, here are some things to consider:

  • Who do you trust with your finances? Someone financially responsible with their own finances would be ideal.
  • Who do you trust with your children? Does this person have their own children? If so, would caring for your children be too much of a burden for them?
  • Who would you want to manage your healthcare issues?  Someone to make life changing decisions regarding treatment?
  • What would you want them to do? How would you want them to handle your affairs.

These are just a starting point. If at the bare minimum, you hand write something out to show your intent and to simply just think about it, DO IT!

If you want documents that are legally binding, our office can help. Give us a call and our Client Intake Specialist will schedule an appointment for you and get you documents to fill out before our meeting.

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.

Baby, It’s Cold Outside!

written by California Estate Planning Attorney Carmen Rosas.


I hope everyone is staying warm! It’s been extremely cold here lately in sunny California! I woke up to pictures of thermometer readings on Facebook this morning. That’s when you know the temperature is extreme for the Golden State! Although there isn’t any snow, it’s still pretty close to freezing!

Anyhow, I’m going to take a moment this morning to remind you a little bit about how probate can be just as cold as this 30 degree weather. Now, that’s not to say that for some people, probate may be beneficial, but for most of us out there, probate is frightful subject (nothing delightful there! Horrible, I know!)

Probate is long and lasts at minimum (with budget cuts and what not) one year. That’s one year without access to funds for funeral/cremation expenses. One year without access to money to pay last bills, the inability to transfer homes, and the inability to mourn/celebrate the life of a loved one because of logistical issues with probate.

With the cold, icy weather upon us, and possibility of rain and sleet, accidents are more likely to happen. And no I’m not saying because the weather is crappy, you’re going to get in a car accident, but the chances increase. I just want you and your family to be protected.

If ANYTHING happens to you or your spouse/partner/baby’s parent, and neither of you could care for your minor kid, do you know what happens? No, they don’t get to go to grandma and grandpa or auntie or uncle. They risk going in to foster care until a judge can decide where the minor(s) should go. This is a scary situation, especially for little ones.

So, if the length and annoyances of probate aren’t enough, or your children going to foster care isn’t enough, then how about giving away $10,000 of your hard earned money to an attorney and the state? Didn’t think so.

This is why estate planning is ESSENTIAL. And, unless you have a really complicated estate and are a gazillionaire, your estate plan will be about 1/3 of what probate costs, it will be PRIVATE, and your loved ones will have an easier time dealing with the logistics/technicalities of your incapacitation or passing.

So, on that note, stay warm and get to work- make an appointment with an estate planning attorney (yes, even if it isn’t me)!

4 Estate Planning Tips for Unmarried Couples

written by Bay Area attorney Carmen M. Rosas 

Estate Planning for Unmarried Couples

I have had quite a few clients contact me the past week, wanting to create an estate plan for their partners. These clients are unmarried and don’t intend to get married. So what does that mean? Well, it means that if they don’t necessary steps, their assets will go to their next of kin, not their partners.

If you have a long time boyfriend/girlfriend/life partner  or whatever tittle it is you call each other, and you don’t intend to tie the knot , there are some steps you can take.

  1. Name each other as beneficiaries on all pensions, retirement accounts and insurance policies. Of course there are tax penalties when those plans are distributed to a non-spouse. Just check with your institution and financial advisor to see the best way to handle this.
  2. Create a will (and a trust). If you do not have either of these documents, your stuff can pass to a sibling or parent. So, if you want your partner to inherit your assets, be sure to create at minimum, a will.
  3. Create a Durable Power of Attorney and Health Care Directive. If there is an emergency situation or accident, you will be unlikely to make any decisions. f you don’t appoint your partner — in writing — someone in your family or the state can appoint someone else to make your health and financial decisions.
  4. Plan for a Breakup. Well, not all relationships last whether it’s married or unmarried couples. Sometimes living together without getting married seems easier, but when there is a breakup, unmarried couples split, there isn’t a court proceeding. Draft up a “Living-Together Agreement” that dictates what happens upon a break up. Just be sure not to mention anything about sex since it could be deemed to be a contract for prostitution (and that would open up a whole other can of worms!)

Hopefully theses tips helps you start the process. As you may see, #1-4 are basic estate planning documents and are important for any individual- single, married, co-habitating. If you have any other questions, feel free to contact my office at 650-503-3770 and we can schedule a FREE 30 MINUTE CONSULTATION.

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.

“Screw College! I’m 18 and rich!”

Happy Wednesday folks!

I read an article last night regarding the importance of your children’s age when leaving an inheritance.

When I speak to my clients, I often explain to them that although at 18 an individual is legally an adult, many 18 year olds are just entering college and aren’t thinking about long term financial stability.

They are aren’t thinking about life after retirement or even starting their own families. Very few 18 year olds are mature enough to handle thousands of dollars, or if they’re lucky, millions.

Clients are usually advised to allow the initial distribution at the age of 25, and continue the distributions until about 35. This allows children to go through college, establish their careers, start their families, save and begin thinking about retirement. At 35, the inheritance they receive won’t deter them from the hopes and dreams you have for them or the ones they have for themselves.

But, if you don’t have an estate plan, you don’t have control over this and whatever is left after probate fees, will go directly to your children at the age of 18. Yikes!

What age do you think a child is financially mature enough to receive an inheritance??