Estate Planning

We believe that planning ahead is the best way to protect and preserve your assets, provide for your wishes and simplify matters for you and your families. It is much easier to plan ahead than to face conflicts which could have been avoided by planning. At the Hedtke Law Firm, we offer comprehensive legal services for individuals and families of all sizes, income and wealth. We tailor a practical and sound estate plan for the unique situations of each of our clients.

The Importance of Having Wills and Trusts Prepared By A Professional

We focus our estate planning services on protecting you, your loved ones and your assets. In California, upon your death, if you do not have at least a Will, state law determines to whom your assets are distributed regardless of your wishes or the wishes of your family. At a minimum, you should have a Will prepared by an experienced estate planning lawyer to simplify the distribution of assets and limit the involvement of probate courts. In addition, if the value of your estate exceeds $150,000, you will want to consider a Living Trust to avoid the expensive and lengthy process of probate. If you have children and/or a special needs child, there are important provisions to include in your estate plan to provide for their distribution and care. These are just some of the important estate planning issues that the Hedtke Law Firm can address with you to achieve your desires for you, your loved ones and your assets. for help with a variety of estate planning matters, including:

  • Consultation and planning of estates to effectuate your wishes while minimizing estate and income taxes
  • Drafting documents such as Living Trusts, Wills, irrevocable trusts, durable powers of attorney and health care directives
  • Inheritance transfers involving businesses, heirs and tax considerations
  • Estate administration for decedents, including probate, trusts and other non probate transfers
  • Trust administration for trustors, trustees, and beneficiaries
  • Medi-Cal consultation and planning, including elder law and planning for the special needs of the elderly

Trust Administration

Your loved one saved your family from an expensive, lengthy and public probate process by creating a trust.  He or she placed a high level of confidence in you by appointing you as trustee. Now that it’s time to administer the trust, you’re probably wondering where to begin.  You may be getting calls from the trust beneficiaries and creditors.  Don’t feel overwhelmed. A trust administration attorney can quickly guide you through the process.

Trust administration is a legal process. Some people are surprised to learn that California Probate Code applies to private trusts.  Although trust administration takes place outside of court and is much simpler than a probate, the law requires a few things to happen before trust property can be distributed to its beneficiaries. First, all beneficiaries must be notified and given an opportunity to review the trust.  There are documents to be prepared and filed with the county.  Taxes, funeral expenses, medical bills, administrative costs, and valid creditor claims must be paid prior to final distribution.  In most cases, trust beneficiaries have a right to request a full accounting, inventory, and appraisal of the trust estate. If there is a dispute that cannot otherwise be resolved, the matter may be brought to probate court for resolution.

We can help you get it done. Chances are, being a trustee is new to you.  Trustees owe a fiduciary duty to protect estate assets and make prudent financial decisions.  Mistakes with real property transfers or taxes could lead to major complications down the road. The Hedtke Law Firm will advise you on what steps must be taken and how to handle any issues that come up. When you come to our office, we’ll ask you about any potential challenges to the trust and let you know which documents you need to gather so we can complete the legal filings for you.

If you are the surviving spouse for a joint trust, please be aware that even if there are no distributions to make, there are a few steps you need to take to give legal notice that you are now the sole trustee, especially if you own real property.  You should also establish the current value of the decedent’s share of the estate and take advantage of any “step-up” in tax basis which may reduce your future taxes.

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