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Estate planning is an important process that involves making decisions about how your assets will be distributed after you pass away. It can be a complex process, but understanding the basics is crucial. This guide will cover everything you need to know about estate planning, including the key documents you'll need and the steps you should take to ensure your wishes are carried out.

The Basics of Estate Planning: Terms & Definitions


Probate is the legal process of administering a deceased person's estate. It involves identifying and valuing the deceased person's assets, paying off any debts and taxes, and distributing the remaining assets to the beneficiaries named in the will or according to state law if there is no will.


A will is a legal document that outlines how a person's assets and property will be distributed after their death. It allows individuals to specify who will receive their belongings and how they will be divided. A will can also name guardians for minor children and specify funeral arrangements. It is important to have a will to ensure that your wishes are carried out and to avoid potential conflicts among family members.

Living Trust

A living trust is a legal document that allows an individual to transfer their assets into a trust during their lifetime. The person creating the trust, known as the grantor, can then manage these assets as the trustee of the trust. Upon the grantor's death, the assets are distributed to the beneficiaries named in the trust without the need for probate court proceedings. Living trusts can be an effective estate planning tool for those looking to avoid the time and expense of probate, as well as maintain privacy and control over their assets.

Asset Protection

Asset protection is a crucial aspect of financial planning. It involves safeguarding your assets from potential risks such as lawsuits, bankruptcy, and divorce. By implementing effective asset protection strategies, you can ensure that your hard-earned wealth is protected and preserved for future generations. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you with your asset protection needs.

Revocable v. Irrevocable

A revocable trust is a trust that can be changed or terminated by the grantor at any time during their lifetime. This type of trust is often used for estate planning purposes as it allows the grantor to maintain control over their assets while they are alive. the other hand, an irrevocable trust cannot be changed or terminated by the grantor once it has been created. This type of trust is often used for asset protection and tax planning purposes. It is important to carefully consider the advantages and disadvantages of each type of trust before making a decision.

Trustee v. Executor v. Administrator

When it comes to estate planning, it's important to understand the differences between a trustee, an executor, and an administrator. A trustee is responsible for managing assets in a trust, while an executor is responsible for managing the distribution of assets in a will. An administrator, on the other hand, is appointed by the court to manage the estate of someone who died without a will. Each role has its own set of responsibilities, so it's important to choose the right person for the job to ensure your wishes are carried out properly.


A beneficiary of an estate is an individual who is entitled to receive assets or property from a deceased person's estate, wether by will, trust or probate. Beneficiaries have the right to be informed about the administration, the distribution, to receive their inheritance in a timely manner, and to contest a will or trust if they believe it is invalid. However, the specific rights of a beneficiary may vary depending on the laws of the state and the terms of the will. It's important for beneficiaries to seek legal advice to understand their rights and obligations.

Estate Tax

Estate tax, sometimes called Death tax, is a tax on the transfer of property after someone passes away. It is based on the value of the property and can be a significant expense for heirs. The rules and exemptions for estate tax vary by


Pour-Over Will

A pour-over will is a legal document that is used in conjunction with a trust. It ensures that any assets that were not transferred to the trust during the grantor's lifetime are "poured over" into the trust upon their death. This helps to ensure that the assets are distributed according to the grantor's wishes and can help to avoid probate.

Trust Administration

The process of trust administration involves managing and distributing assets held in a trust according to the terms outlined in the trust document. This includes identifying and valuing assets, paying debts and taxes, and distributing assets to beneficiaries. The trustee is responsible for carrying out these duties in accordance with the law and the trust document.

Trust Assets 

A trust can hold various types of assets, including but not limited to real estate, stocks, bonds, cash, and personal property. The specific assets held by a trust depend on the terms of the trust agreement and the intentions of the trust creator.

Funding Your Trust

Funding your trust is important because it ensures that your assets are properly managed and distributed according to your wishes after your passing. Without proper funding, your trust may not be able to fulfill its intended purpose, which can lead to legal complications and disputes among your beneficiaries. By funding your trust, you can have peace of mind knowing that your assets will be protected and distributed according to your wishes.

850 Petition aka Heggstad Petiton

A Heggstad petition is a legal document filed in California to transfer assets from a settlors estate to the Trust or the trust's intended beneficiaries. It is typically used when a trust was created but assets were not properly transferred into it. The petition is named after the landmark case that established its use, Estate of Heggstad.

Power of Attorney v. Advanced Healthcare Directive

While both a power of attorney and an advanced healthcare directive are legal documents that allow someone to make decisions on behalf of another person, they serve different purposes. A power of attorney grants someone the authority to make legal and financial decisions for the person granting the power, while an advanced healthcare directive allows someone to make medical decisions for the person granting the directive in the event they are unable to do so themselves. It's important to understand the differences between these documents and to consult with a legal professional to determine which one is appropriate for your situation.

Nomination of Legal Guardian

When creating a trust, it's important to consider who will be the legal guardian of any minor children in the event of your passing. By nominating a guardian in your trust, you can ensure that your children will be taken care of by someone you trust and who shares your values. It's important to discuss this decision with your chosen guardian beforehand and to update your trust if your circumstances change.

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