Estate Planning

Estate Planning is often considered a non-necessity until someone gets sick or has one foot in the grave.  Sometimes that might be too late because the person must be mentally competent to execute a testamentary document whether a will or trust.  Estate planning documents executed during the last year of someone’s life can easily be contested because “undue influence”, by an heir, can void a testamentary document.  Too often children wait until their parent dies and then are shocked at the documents signed by the parent giving their property to a neighbor or a friend or a certain child, excluding the other children.

estate planning

The Estate Planning documents can consist of, depending on the estate’s needs:

Trust names who gets what and who is in charge of what (simplified version)

Pour-Over Will catches any assets not named in the Trust and can publicly name who will care for the minor children.  You can provide for assets to take care of the minor children in the trust as well as who would have access to those funds.

Will can express your personal desires and put someone in charge of carrying out those desires such as whether a funeral or cremation as well as designate other personal items to be given to certain persons.

Health Care Directive & HIPPA Release will declare who will make medical decisions if you are unable.  The HIPPA Release outlines who you allow your doctors to speak to regarding your health care decision.

A mother of five children came to me after she was hospitalized to make a detailed Health Care Directive because her children argued about how to take care of her in the hospital and her son bullied the girls who knew what was best for her. She wanted the outline in writing her directives for her own care.

Durable Power of Attorney gives the power to allow someone other than you to sign your name on legal documents.

Certificate of Trust, Certificate of Trustee Authority and Power are subdocuments on the trust which you may need to take to the bank to transfer your financial assets into the trust.

Grant Deeds will transfer the title of the real property from the individual to the trust.

Other issues to consider in having a trust

Having title to real property in joint tenancy, that is, the property is 100% owned by the surviving party on the death of one party, may not be the answer for your estate for two important reasons: (1) capital gains tax will be more on the sale of the property by the surviving party; and (2) if both parties die, then the children or surviving heirs will have to probate the real property to transfer title to the heirs. Alternatively, with a Trust, the real property is transferred to the trust which enables successive trustees to be in control of the real property and avoid probate.

If you do not properly designate who will inherit everything after your death, then California law will make that decision for you by intestate succession or next-of-kin order.

If you do not have any living family and the property goes unclaimed, then the unclaimed property is transferred to California State Controller. Of course, if taxes are not paid on a home, then the County may take possession of the real property. Most unclaimed items are from bank accounts or safety deposit boxes when the decedent has not informed anyone of their existence or designated a beneficiary or the designated beneficiary cannot be located.

When you die without a properly executed trust or will, then the costs of transferring everything can cost thousands of dollars and take years as it goes through the probate.

Without the proper documents, if you become incompetent, your family may have to expend thousands of dollars just to have the right to take care of you and to direct your medical care, i.e., conservatorship.

There are many aspects to estate planning to provide clear instructions and avoid the high cost and time-consuming features of probate and/or if someone objects to the contents of the testamentary document which results in hurtful feelings, delay in distributing the estate and added court costs in contested litigation. Further, the tax aspects of estate planning can be very critical to the estate.  Every person needs a thoughtful attorney on this sensitive, critical aspect of their lives.

Frazee Law Group provides Estate Planning to each individual based on their unique needs and desires.  The services can be provided for a simple will for $200 or a more elaborate trust agreement including special agreements regarding the character of the property (especially if a re-marriage is involved), the starting rate for Trust agreement is $499, plus the cost of any additional document required, and can run as high as $5,000.00 if special trusts are created at the same time. If the person cannot travel to the Frazee Law Group office, then RoseAnn Frazee can meet with you at your home, office or hospital.


Probate Court is a specialized-type of court within the Superior Court in California that deals with the property and debts of a person who has died. The basic role of the probate court judge is to assure that the deceased person’s creditors are paid and that any remaining assets are distributed to the proper beneficiaries.

When you die without a properly executed trust, if the assets are above $150,000, then the estate assets must be probated by the Superior Court, including a Will. Only a Trust provides for transfers of assets without probate.

Probate costs of transferring everything you have worked for to your heirs can cost thousands of dollars in court costs, attorney’s fees and trustee fees in a probate proceeding.

Properly executed documents can also eliminate a Will or Trust Contest in the Probate court which would add costs to be deducted from the estate in litigating the distribution of the estate.

In general, terms, after the death certificate is issued, then a petition to probate can be filed in the Superior Court and the probate process can begin.

Probate attorney fees and trustee fees are established by the California Probate Code and can vary year to year. Sometimes investigators are hired at the Los Angeles County’s direction. RoseAnn Frazee has probated estates in various districts in the State of California for years.

Schedule a one-half hour FREE consultation for analysis by an attorney.

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