Most people will focus their attention on the estate planning issues that come to mind first, such as who is entitled to what, whether or not to create a living trust to ensure that probate is avoided, and minimizing estate and gift taxes with proper tax planning. However, there is a list of smaller, but just as important, issues that are crucial to consider to ensure that your California estate plan is successful. Of course, consulting with a California estate planning attorney will also help to make your plan truly successful.

Critical Estate Planning Issues That are Often Overlooked

  • Cash Flow: Operating expenses are incurred during the administration of an estate. Estates are often required to pay filing fees, federal or state taxes, expenses for maintaining assets that are held in the estate, living expenses for surviving dependents or spouse, legal expenses, and other various expenses that arise while the estate is being settled. Is there a sufficient amount of cash to handle all of this?
  • Creditors: Estates cannot be settled until the creditors have been paid. Create a list of all of your creditors and any account numbers for your estate administrator. It would also be helpful to include information pertaining to where you keep your records, just in case there is a dispute with a creditor claiming that you owe a different amount.
  • Taxes: The estate might be small enough to avoid having to pay federal taxes, however the state may impose taxes. Income taxes must be paid out of the liquid assets until the estate is settled if it is earning an income. Income taxes can also be paid out of inheritances, however, so it is important to determine how taxes will be paid.
  • Assets: The administrator of the estate should have a list documenting all of the assets that are held in the estate, just like your list of creditors. Relevant account numbers and serial numbers should be included in this list. Otherwise, how will the estate administrator know what assets are in the estate?
  • Beneficiary Designation Forms: Certain assets are not subject to a will’s terms. IRAs, bank accounts, annuities, life insurance policies, retirement plans, and even some department of motor vehicles allow assets to be directly transferred to a beneficiary. By completing beneficiary designation forms, those assets will not be included in probate and will simply be passed on to whomever you designate.
  • Living Trust: Your living trust does not protect your estate from probate unless you transfer your assets into the trust formally. If you want your assets, including vehicles, real property, financial accounts, investments, and other vital assets to be subject to the terms of your living trust, you need to transfer them into it.

A lot of “small detail” planning goes into an estate plan. An experienced California estate planning attorney can make sure that you have all of the critical issues covered. Call MMZ Law today at (909) 256-6702. With 14 years of experience, we can help you create a successful, all-encompassing estate plan.



341 W. 1st St. Suite 100
Claremont, CA 91711

MARIVEL M. ZIALCITA is the founder of MMZ LAW, A Professional Corporation, where she practices in the areas of Elder Law – Medi-Cal Planning Asset Protection, Trust & Estate, Special Needs, Conservatorship, Trust Administration, & Probate. Ms. Zialcita is a frequent speaker on trust and estate matters and holds memberships in the State Bar of California, Trust and Estate Section, The San Bernardino County Bar Association, Wealth Counsel and Elder Counsel. She currently assists in the pro bono legal services program at the James L. Brulte Senior Center in Rancho Cucamonga, California. She is based in Claremont but assists clients throughout Southern California.

This information is educational information only and not legal advice.