Estate Planning, Wills & Trusts

Estate Planning Lawyers in Merced

Proper estate planning will ensure that your assets are working for you and your family throughout your life and can ensure your cares for your loved ones when you are gone.  It is a process that may involve you, loved ones, a business, and in many instances, charitable organizations.  Most people recognize that estate planning includes the drafting of wills or the creation of trusts, but it may also involve tools such as advance health care directives, powers of attorney, conservatorships and guardianships, property agreements, business buy-sell agreements, and preservation of assets through business and tax planning.  A careful and well-crafted estate plan can help to ensure that your assets and your family are protected for the years ahead.

Wills and Trusts

No matter how modest or large your estate, Callister, Hendricks & Spencer will assist you in determining the appropriate scope of a plan to protect and eventually distribute your assets.  Wills are the most commonly known instruments for ensuring that your desires are honored in transferring property after death.  Trusts are powerful estate tools that allow for a smooth transition of your assets when you’re gone.  A revocable trust can often save your estate substantial expense and save your loved ones from unnecessary burdens by avoiding the court probate process.

Powers of Attorney

Powers of attorney provide the necessary authority to an appointed individual or organization to act as your agent in times of unavailability or incapacity.  By utilizing this valuable instrument in your estate plan, you can authorize an agent to perform a wide variety of tasks on your behalf.  Whether you are out of the country or physically incapacitated, a power of attorney can ensure that crucial decisions can be made and actions taken in your behalf.

Advance Health Care Directives

You have a legal right in the State of California to express your health care preferences and have them considered by health care providers, even if you are in a condition which prevents you from communicating at the time treatment or action is necessary.  In an advance health care directive, you provide your family and physicians with certain health care preferences, and you appoint an agent to make crucial decisions in your behalf if that should someday become necessary.  Your advance health care directive may express the types of medical treatment you feel are appropriate, your desire for diagnostic testing or surgical procedures, life support, and organ donation.  Your directive is designed to provide your instructions to your loved ones to save them some of the heartache in making excruciating life-and-death decisions on your behalf, and to give your healthcare providers a legally authorized person who knows your wishes.

Charitable Planning

When planned appropriately, your estate can be a lasting legacy for the causes you are passionate about.  Whether it’s your alma mater, a religious institution, or your favorite non-profit organization, we can help you with all your gifting and charitable planning needs.  Strategic planning for contributions and donations using estate planning tools can ensure your charitable causes are served while still maximizing your family’s benefit from the assets you have worked so hard to secure.

Preservation of Assets

One of the most important considerations when planning for retirement or caring for an elder is to ensure proper care is available for the long term.  In-home care, assisted living facilities, and skilled nursing facilities are all very expensive. There are many resources that can assist with funding for such care, and our attorneys can facilitate the preservation of your assets and assist you in obtaining the information you need to determine eligibility for these programs and making the most of your available resources.  We can assist you with the creation of Special Needs Trusts for handicapped individuals and other public benefit planning.

Conservatorships and Guardianships

A conservatorship provides legal authority for a person to be responsible for the personal assets and/or well being of an adult deemed by the court to be partially or fully incapable of taking care of these things for himself or herself.

A guardianship ensures that a minor will have a caretaker to provide adequate food, shelter, clothing, safety, medical care, education, physical and emotional growth.  A guardianship is obtained by a court proceeding in which the court appoints someone who is not the parent, as custodian of a child and/or gives authority to manage the child’s estate.  Callister, Hendricks & Spencer can assist you in all your conservatorship and guardianship needs.

Property Agreements

Generally, prenuptial and postnuptial agreements are flexible and can accommodate most of the individual desires of the parties involved.  These agreements usually reflect the parties’ desires to hold property differently from what California’s community property laws might otherwise provide, or can provide for the distribution of property upon death or divorce.  We can assist you in preparing an agreement that accurately reflects your wishes within the required legal framework.

Lifetime Gifting

It is often beneficial for parents or grandparents to start disposing of a portion of their estate to children or grandchildren while they are still living.  This is particularly true when the family is involved jointly in a farm or family business or when a person owns property that is not needed for his or her support.  Careful planning can save substantial amounts of income and/or estate taxes and will insure that the ownership and control of the business is retained or passed down gradually as the older generation deems it appropriate.  Sometimes gifting may be direct or over a period of years, and sometimes it may involve trusts or the appointment of “Custodians” for young gift recipients.

Buy-Sell Agreements

Buy-Sell Agreements are important for any co-owner of a business.  A buy-sell agreement (sometimes known as a “buyout agreement”) binds the co-owners to certain procedures if one co-owner dies or is incapacitated, decides to sell his or her interest, or if any other specified triggering event occurs.  Such an agreement will specify how the price of the business interest is to be determined, who may purchase the interest, and who may have a priority position in such a purchase.

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