Estate Planning

What’s the matter?  Don’t think of Estate Planning as a Joyful activity? We do. Leaving behind a legacy is not just something for the super-rich. You may have built a business you wish to pass on after you retire or pass away. You are likely to have heirloom items you want to see pass to certain people. Or you may have homes that need to be sold and/or cash, investments, and personal property to be distributed.  These gifts make a lasting difference to the people you love after you are gone. 

But Estate Planning is so much more than just passing on the assets you have accumulated.  It’s about planning for the unpredictable while you are still living your life. It’s about setting the protections in place to take care of you and your loved ones, at any age or stage in life. 

Don’t feel as if you are ready for this?  Join the club.  Studies consistently show that while people recognize they should have an Estate Plan, the vast majority do not.  Be an iconoclast.  Let’s get this done.    

Want more information before you get started?  Please take advantage of our Frequently Asked Questions and Answers below and check out our Resources page.

Ready to talk now?  Contact CASHMAN LAW to set up a free consultation.


At CASHMAN LAW we believe informed clients make the best clients.  Whether you have retained the firm or are just looking for some general information before or after your free consultation, please make use of our FAQs and other resources found on this website.

General frequently asked questions

Estate Planning, that’s where you tell me how to invest my money, right?

No not really, but we understand the confusion. Some financial planners refer to what they do as estate planning.  If you have a financial planner and/or an accountant, we can communicate with them with your consent to help design your estate plan.  We will ask for their contact information as part of the process so those who manage your estate after you pass can properly identify and disburse your assets. While some of what we do together involves navigating tax and finance law, estate planning from a legal perspective has different goals.

Need more information? Contact CASHMAN LAW to set up a free consultation.

Do I need an Estate Plan?

There are few legal questions that can be answered with a straight “yes” or “no.” This is probably one of them regardless of your individual situation.  The fact is, we are all going to pass from this earth at some point, and when that happens we are going to want the things we have accumulated to pass to the people we want to have them.  In the absence of an estate plan, state laws will determine who gets what, and this may not be done according to your wishes. It also may  not be done in a very efficient manner.  Estate planning involves minimizing gift and estate taxes (which can go as high as 40%), as well as emotional distress and conflict among family members. It also may involve: transferring a family owned business to succeeding generations, managing assets during unexpected mental or physical disability or incapacity, long-term care decisions, and end of life planning. 

Need more information? Contact CASHMAN LAW to set up a free consultation.

I am still young and in good health, why do I need an Estate Plan?

Fair question. Perhaps it’s healthy to think of estate planning as the final part of your retirement plan.  Few question the value of retirement planning, even at an early age as you are accumulating wealth. We purchase life insurance at an early age, but don’t do it because we believe we are on death’s doorstep. In fact, we hope we pass long after the policy terms expire and that we never receive the benefit from a life insurance policy.  An estate plan is like a life insurance policy that is definitely going to pay off one day.

We all have an aversion to thinking about death, as if just thinking about it takes us a step closer.  In fact, most people will say that completing their estate plan gives them a feeling of relief and comfort.  Estate planning reduces stress on individuals and family members by knowing a plan is in place, regardless of what tomorrow brings.  It can help avoid a costly and time-consuming probate court process. It can provide plans to care for minor children, and or unexpected incapacity, and provide needed guidance to loved ones in the event of unexpected medical issues. Whatever your individual goals: securing your future in advanced age, providing for your family at any state in life, charitable giving,  reducing stress on those left behind; a thoughtful estate plan is easy to create and can help give you the peace of mind to live your life and focus on those things you enjoy more.

Need more information? Contact CASHMAN LAW to set up a free consultation.

Shouldn’t I just wait until I am close to passing to create my Estate Plan?

I know right?  It’s the question we are all thinking, until we say it out loud and realize it doesn’t make much sense. Each of us has been touched by a friend or relative in seemingly perfect health who has passed unexpectedly: either by unknown health conditions or a tragic misfortune.  Another common question is, “Everything I own is owned jointly by my spouse, so we will just wait until the first of us passes before we invest in an estate plan.”  Okay, fair enough.  Some thoughts to consider:

  • Will it be difficult for you to be worrying about estate planning while you are grieving for your spouse?  Studies have shown a 66% increase in mortality rates during the first 3 months following a spouse’s passing.  Would it be better for you both to plan in advance to alleviate that stress on your spouse? 
  • Would you like your spouse’s input on how your joint estate should be distributed? Determining how to pass your assets on can be a difficult topic, but perhaps less so when you discuss it together. 
  • What will your physical and mental state be when you finally feel “ready” to discuss your estate plan? As we all live longer and longer lives there is an increased prevalence of diminished physical and mental capacity.  Waiting too long can subject your estate plan to attack by those who disagree with it.

At CASHMAN LAW, we want happy clients.  If you are not ready, you are not ready.  Please do keep in mind that estate planning involves more than just creating an effective and efficient way to distribute your property when you, or you and your spouse, pass.  It involves putting the pieces in place so you have a plan when you reach a point in your life when you are unable, or unwilling, to make these type of decisions.  It involves planning for minor children or special needs relatives when you pass, long-term care for yourself, or unexpected incapacity.  That kind of peace of mind may be valuable to you at any age.

Need more information? Contact CASHMAN LAW to set up a free consultation.

What are some of the goals of Estate Planning?

As you might expect, Estate Planning goals are many and varied depending on your particular situation.  Some common ones include:  

  • Care for minor children or family members with special needs
  • Reducing the tax burden on your estate
  • Use of government programs to reduce the cost of long-term care 
  • Reducing discord among family members upon you passing 
  • Protecting your legacy by providing direction to your beneficiaries 
  • Charitable contributions
  • Providing guidance for the distribution of your assets
  • Consideration for blended families
  • Protecting your autonomy should you become seriously injured or ill

Need more information? Contact CASHMAN LAW to set up a free consultation.

What Legal Documents are involved in an Estate Plan?

The legal documents can vary depending on your particular situation — amount of assets, goals, present age and health, number and types of beneficiaries, etc. — but generally an estate plan involves the following:  

  • A last Will and Testament– this is the cornerstone of any estate plan, but it alone will not help you avoid probate court for the distribution of your estate.  
  • Will Substitutes- Will “substitutes” are methods which provide for the distribution of your estate outside of the probate process.  They include holding assets jointly, naming payable on death or transfer on death beneficiaries, and designating beneficiaries to life insurance and pension plans.  Or, you can take advantage of simplified probate procedures if the value of your estate falls below a certain threshold. The most common and comprehensive Will substitute is the creation of one or more Trusts
  • Advance Health Care Directive
  • Durable Power of Attorney
  • HIPAA Release

Let us help you find an Estate Plan that is the right fit for you. Contact CASHMAN LAW to set up a free consultation.

I would like to leave some money to charity. Can I do that?

Some people choose to leave a portion of their estate to a charitable organization.  You can either do that during your lifetime, or you can designate one or more charities as a beneficiary in your Will or Trust. Commonly, charitable giving takes the form of cash or property that is either bequeathed to the charity directly or sold and they are given an amount from the sale.  If done properly, charitable donations provide income tax deductions, save on capital gains taxes, increase income, and provide you, or whomever you designate, income during your life.

Need more information? Contact CASHMAN LAW to set up a free consultation.

What is a Power of Attorney (POA)?

A power of attorney appoints a trusted individual to act as your agent with respect to certain specified things. It can be general, providing wide powers which include the authority to transact business in your name; sell or purchase property; open or close financial accounts; make investment decisions; file or settle lawsuits, and enter into contracts. Or, a POA can be limited to a specific or special need, like signing for household goods, or collecting rents.  It can take effect immediately, or it can take effect upon the occurrence of some preconditioned event, like incapacity.  

Need more information? Contact CASHMAN LAW to set up a free consultation.

I already have a Trust. Why do I need a Power of Attorney (POA)?

You may not need one.  We will draft your estate plan to suit your needs.  Typically, a power of attorney is included in our estate plans in the event you become incapacitated before you pass away.  In situations like this, your successor trustee would have control over those assets placed into your Trust, but no control over the assets outside your Trust.  A power of attorney allows this designated person to also direct these assets consistent with your wishes. As a part of your periodic review of your estate plan, you should check to make sure the financial institutions that hold assets which are not in your Trust will honor your power of attorney.

Need more information? Contact CASHMAN LAW to set up a free consultation.

What is an Advance Health Care Directive (AHCD)?

Also commonly referred to as a health care power of attorney, an AHCD makes known your wishes in the event you suffer an injury or illness that interferes with your ability to make your own decisions. These must be executed before you need them, updated periodically, and are activated when you lose your decision making capacity.

Need more information? Contact CASHMAN LAW to set up a free consultation.

Is a Living Will the same as an Advance Health Care Directive?

No, but the mistake is common.  Think of a Living Will as one category of an AHCD.  A Living Will typically only deals with situations where you are terminally ill and provides your instructions about life-sustaining measures.  An AHCD can be that, and much more.  Its real value is when you designate someone as your agent to make medical decisions for you in any situation in which you are unable. 

Need more information? Contact CASHMAN LAW to set up a free consultation.

What is a HIPAA Medical Release Authorization?

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) ensures the privacy of your health care information. These strict privacy rules may restrict others from obtaining access to this information, even loved ones when it becomes necessary.  A HIPAA Authorization allows your designated individuals to obtain this information.

Need more information? Contact CASHMAN LAW to set up a free consultation.

What is the difference between an Heir and a Beneficiary?

Your Heirs and Beneficiaries can be, but are not always, the same. Beneficiaries are those people or organizations that you name to receive all or part of your estate. Heirs are those people – family members – who, by state law, would receive all or part of the estate in the absence of some guidance found in your Will or Trust.  

When it comes to selecting your beneficiaries, most people choose those closest to them. Usually this means that spouses and children and grandchildren will be provided for first. If you are still having children or grandchildren at the time you complete your estate plan, they are typically included even though they are not yet born.  In other cases, people wish to provide for other relatives or friends, and in some cases, charities. 

Need more information? Contact CASHMAN LAW to set up a free consultation.

When I die, will my estate immediately pass to my beneficiaries?

Estate planning offers remarkable flexibility in the distribution of your assets.  Your distribution terms can be as general or specific as you like.   You may choose for an immediate distribution, or you may wish for certain conditions to be met prior to a distribution.  Provided those conditions are not illegal, you can make those conditions consistent with your particular goals.  You may direct your Trustee to follow some general guidelines and use their best judgement to follow your wishes.  Or, you may enlist some very specific conditions. Commonly, particularly with larger estates, the disbursement of funds may be conditioned upon children reaching a certain age, or given in staggered disbursements at certain ages.  Or distributions could be conditioned upon meeting certain educational goals, or upon the demonstration of certain financial maturity, as described in your estate plan or to the satisfaction of the Trustee. 

Specific terms are best discussed in confidence with your estate planning attorney.  Contact CASHMAN LAW to set up a free consultation.

Probate frequently asked questions

What is this Probate Thing?

Probate refers to a type of state court.  Just as Criminal Courts deal with criminal matters and Civil Courts deal with civil matters, Probate Courts deal with matters of the estate: Wills, Trust, Guardianships, Conservatorships, etc….  In some states (and some counties within states) courts are combined.  In others, Probate Courts are separated and have judges who only deal with Probate matters.  The Probate process deals with the transfer of titled property from the Decedent to his or her heirs and beneficiaries. The probating of a Will permits a court to supervise the transfer of assets from the Decedent to his or her beneficiaries. Besides transferring the title to property, the Probate process is also used to notify creditors of the death of the Decedent and requires them to submit claims against the estate within a certain period of time, to provide for the filing of final tax returns, and to qualify guardians and fiduciaries.

Need more information? Contact CASHMAN LAW to set up a free consultation.

I have been told to avoid Probate Court. Why?

Well, please don’t avoid any court if you are called, but probably someone is trying to tell you that when it comes to the distribution of your estate, the Probate Court can be slow and costly.  The Probate process typically runs for a year or more, (sometimes years), and can cost tens of thousands of dollars even for a relatively small estate.  So, using some simple estate planning tools, like Will substitutes (commonly a Trust) you can pass your assets to the people you want to receive them in a relative short time.  There are also tax issues involved that can significantly dwindle your estate if not properly addressed.  Finally, Probate Court is a public forum, and documents filed in Probate Court are public records.  Many people prefer to have family matters kept private. 

Need more information? Contact CASHMAN LAW to set up a free consultation.

If I have a Will, I don’t have to go through Probate, correct?

No, not correct, but a common misperception.  A Will alone cannot keep your property out of Probate Court following your death.  Nor does a Will offer the best protection for you and your assets if you’re incapacitated.  If you own real property (a home) or have modest savings, you will likely need to execute a Trust to protect your beneficiaries from costly Probate proceedings. A Trust can also ensure that minor beneficiaries and other beneficiaries with special needs inherit your assets in a way that best protects their well-being and future. 

Need more information? Contact CASHMAN LAW to set up a free consultation.

Are there any simplified Probate Procedures I can use?

Yes, good question! Creating a Trust is not always the best solution for everyone. That said, if you don’t own real property and your estate is valued at less than a certain threshold amount (currently $166,250 in California and $100,000 in Hawai’i) there are simplified probate procedures that can be used. So, if you find yourself in a position where your assets fall below these thresholds, or you can whittle down your assets under these thresholds, your beneficiaries can take advantage of simplified Probate procedures without the use of a Trust.

Need more information? Contact CASHMAN LAW to set up a free consultation.

Trusts frequently asked questions

Do I need a Trust?

The creation of a Revocable Living Trust is the most common estate planning tool used today.  We used to think of Trust creation as something reserved for the super-rich.  Not so much anymore.  If you have minor children, own real estate (commercial or residential), and pass with assets over a certain threshold ($166,250 in California; $100,000 in Hawai’i), you will probably benefit greatly from the use of one or more trusts.

Need more information? Contact CASHMAN LAW to set up a free consultation.

Why can’t I just go to any lawyer or even on-line and get a Trust done?

In reading these FAQs I hope you are impressed by some of the complexities of building an estate plan. Keep in mind that Trust law is state law.  And while many states have adopted, in whole or in part, the Uniform Trust Code (34 states as of January 1, 2020, but not California or Hawai’i), there is no federal (or national) Trust law.  Having an attorney who is licensed in the state where you live, aware of the particular assets you own or intend to own, and understands your goals, likely has value to you.  Additionally, state law and state and federal tax law, changes, often depending on which political party is in power.  You deserve a trusted advisor to check in with every now and again to make sure your plan is still the best plan for you.

Need more information? Contact CASHMAN LAW to set up a free consultation.

I have a Trust, how do I know if it still meets my goals?

Hard to say.  We advise clients to revisit their estate plan every 3-5 years to make sure it still meets their goals.  Sometimes circumstances change.  Sometimes the state Trust and state and/or federal tax laws change.  Want an example?  Okay, strap in this may get rough. 

One question we often get is about what is referred to in legal parlance as the A-B Trust (also called a Credit Shelter Trust or a Bypass Trust). Much has been written in the past few years about the effectiveness of an A-B Trust.  If you are not familiar with this, (and why would you be), many joint (husband and wife) revocable living trusts drafted prior to 2012 were A-B Trusts.  This took advantage of certain tax laws existing at the time to reduce estate taxes.  In 2010 the tax laws changed, making the A-B Trust less attractive for some, but depending on how they were drafted not necessarily in need of a revision.  The change in the tax laws created something called “portability.”  Portability provided for the unused portion of the estate tax exemption which was not used by the estate of the spouse who passed first to be transferred to the surviving spouse, for use when he or she passed.  Then in 2017, there was another change in the tax laws.  This significantly increased the estate tax exclusion, i.e. the threshold amount when the government would begin taxing the amount of assets left in the estate at the time of passing.  

This was good news for many who had high value estates, but presented challenges for others whose estate plans were written with language that tightly directed the division of assets upon the passing of the first spouse.  In this case, there may no longer be an incentive to use the bypass Trust benefits, but (depending on how the Trust was written) forced its use and prevented taking advantage of other tax benefits. (Specifically, as a “step up” on basis on certain property). Some estate planning attorneys, not foreseeing these remarkable changes, wrote estate plans directing specific division of the estate and created a conundrum.    So, if you have an A-B Trust you may want to make some changes, or you may be okay.  

Still feeling good about that on-line Trust creation option? 😉

Need more information? Contact CASHMAN LAW to set up a free consultation.

I heard Trusts are expensive to create, do I really need one?

Maybe.  Maybe not.  We want your estate plan to match your legacy goals.  If there are other more cost-effective ways to build your estate plan, we will recommend those instead.  One goal of estate planning is to avoid the cost and delay caused by the probate process.  In comparison to how much your estate may spend in Probate Court distributing your estate, Trust creation may be a bargain.  A simple Trust typically costs a few thousand dollars.  Probating your estate, with or without a Will, could cost many times that amount. 

In California, state law provides for compensation for both the personal representative and the attorney administering the Will through Probate Court. The fee schedule for both is as follows: 

Four percent on the first $100,000

Three percent on the next $100,000

Two percent on the next $800,000

One percent on the next $9,000,000

One-half of 1 percent on the next $15,000,000

For all amounts above $25,000,000, a reasonable amount to be determined by the court

So, an estate valued at $1 million, would result in fees of $46,000.  That’s $23,000 for the attorney and $23,000 for the personal representative. How about a $5,000,000 estate? $126,000.  So, like we said, building a Trust can be a pretty cost effective solution.  

If you would like an estimate of the statutory fees for probating an estate in California, please visit our free on-line Probate Calculator found on our Resources page.  Probate fees in Hawai’i are no longer subject to statutory fees, but instead a reasonable amount as determined at the closing of the estate by the court.  

As you consider these numbers, keep in mind that the value of the estate for probate purposes is the gross fair market value at the time of passing, not the net value used for estate tax purposes.  Fair market value on real property does not include deductions for mortgages, but does include life insurance benefits paid to your beneficiaries.  If you own a home, even with a substantial mortgage, and have some modest savings at death, you are not going to be able to take advantage of the simplified probate procedures.

Need more information? Contact CASHMAN LAW to set up a free consultation.

Types Of Trusts frequently asked questions

Are there different types of Trusts?

 Oh, so many. The two basic categories are Revocable Trusts, trusts that can be changed (modified, amended, altered, eliminated all together at your discretion) and Irrevocable Trusts, trusts that cannot be changed (except under certain conditions).  Beyond that, the variations are endless depending on your goals. Here are some common types you may have heard of: 

  • Living Trust, or Revocable Trust
  • Irrevocable Trust 
  • Generation Skipping (or Dynasty) Trust 
  • Qualified Terminable Interest Trusts 
  • Qualified Personal Residence Trusts 
  • Charitable Remainder Trust 
  • Grantor Retained Income Trust 
  • Wealth Preservation Trust 
  • Life Insurance Trust 
  • Special Needs Trust 
  • Discretionary Trusts 
  • Asset Protection Trusts 
  • Intentionally Defective Trusts 
  • Pet Trusts 
  • Gun Trusts 

Need more information? Contact CASHMAN LAW to set up a free consultation.

What is a Revocable Living Trust?

A Revocable Living Trust, (also referred to as a Revocable Trust or Living Trust) is a legal document that seeks to place (or title) your assets in the name of a Trust. Typically, this transfer is accomplished immediately following Trust creation, but can occur at any time before your passing.  (NOTE: the mere creation of a trust does not transfer title.  You must do this separately.  We will provide guidance on how to accomplish this.)  Commonly, you are the initial trustee of your Trust, (either individually or with another as co-trustee), and importantly, you remain in control of your assets as if they remained titled in your name. You do not need a separate tax identification number and you file your taxes just as you have done before. 

Upon your passing, or if you reach a time when you are either unwilling or unable to continue as the trustee, the Trust document will name your successor trustee(s) who will care for your assets in accordance with the instructions found in the Trust.  

Upon your passing, a living trust becomes irrevocable and your successor trustee transfers your assets to the people or organizations you choose (your beneficiaries) under the terms you have provided. 

Need more information? Contact CASHMAN LAW to set up a free consultation.

How does a typical Revocable Living Trust work?

One example of how a typical living Trust might work: 

A spouse is often the primary beneficiary, and in many cases receives the entire estate. 

After considering the needs of a spouse, or if there is no spouse or domestic partner, children are the next most common beneficiaries. Often the entire estate is distributed to the spouse with an expectation that the spouse will provide for the children either during his or her lifetime, or upon passing. If minor children exist at the time the Trust is created, the passing of the estate to them is often delayed until they reach the legal age of inheritance, or in many cases some older age.  The estate is then “held in trust” for them and administered by a successor trustee until they reach this age. In some cases, the estate may be held in trust for the grandchildren.

While many individuals include only a spouse and/or child(ren) as beneficiaries, beneficiaries are anyone you choose to inherit part of your estate: other family members, friends, and/or charities.  It may be desirable to provide for siblings or elderly parents.  In other cases, nieces and nephews may be appropriate choices.

It is, however, important to identify those heirs whom you do not want to receive assets from your estate.  For example, if you have a child that you have already provided for in your lifetime, you may not want them to be a beneficiary of your estate, but by state law they may still be an heir.  This choice should be identified in your estate plan.  Another example may be for people who do not have children, and whose parents predecease them, and they intend to leave everything to one sibling but not another or other siblings. Those other siblings would remain heirs, but not beneficiaries, and therefore should be identified in your estate plan.

Need more information? Contact CASHMAN LAW to set up a free consultation.

What is an Irrevocable Trust?

Unlike a revocable Trust, an irrevocable Trust requires the person who created the Trust to give up all control and ownership of the Trust. The transfer of the assets is permanent, and it typically cannot be modified in any way after the Trust has been executed.  In some cases, the grantor can still retain some benefits of the property titled in the Trust for a specified number of years, for example: annual income with the remainder to a charity;  retain income with a remainder to a beneficiary, or use of a residence with a remainder to a beneficiary. Irrevocable Trusts are also commonly used to provide for loved ones with special needs, long-term care planning, charitable giving, and lowering estate taxes and protecting asset.

Need more information? Contact CASHMAN LAW to set up a free consultation.

What Is a Generation Skipping (or Dynasty) Trust?

In some cases, people feel that their children are either already well cared for or established enough in their own professional careers that they wish for their estate to pass to the next generation.  There may be other concerns or goals as well.  In these cases, grandchildren or some later descendants might be the proper beneficiaries of the estate assets. A Generation Skipping Trust can be structured to provide for further generations.  Children may receive some, or no benefits, with the remainder passing to another generation.  There are limits on how many years can pass before a final distribution can be made. 

For more information on Generation Skipping Trusts,  Contact CASHMAN LAW to set up a free consultation.

What Is a Qualified Terminable Interest Property Trust (QTIP)?

A Qualified Terminable Interest Property Trust (QTIP) is an irrevocable Trust that is commonly used for blended families, or people who have remarried and want to ensure they provide for children from a prior marriage.  They want to provide for their current spouse in the event they pass first, but also want to ensure the remainder passes to children.  In a blended family, where both partners have children from a prior marriage, or there is a significant difference in the ages of the partners, a QTIP can be a tool to achieve these goals and reduce family discord. 

For more information on Qualified Terminable Interest Property Trusts, Contact CASHMAN LAW to set up a free consultation.

What is a Qualified Personal Residence Trust (QPRT)?

Under California and Hawai’i law, if you have a primary or secondary home (such as a vacation home) that you intend to pass along to your children or others, a qualified personal residence Trust may allow significant transfer tax savings. It does this in two ways:

First, the property is valued for gift tax purposes at the time of transfer to the Trust.

Second, if you pass after expiration of the Trust term, your estate will not pay estate taxes on the property as you do not own the property at the time of your death. 

For more information on Qualified Personal Residency TrustsContact CASHMAN LAW to set up a free consultation.

What is a Charitable Remainder Trust (CRT)?

A Charitable Remainder Trust (CRT) is an irrevocable Trust that generates an income stream for beneficiaries — you or others you designate — and donates the rest to one of more of your favorite charities.  It can be used, for example, to achieve long-term philanthropic goals while providing for living expenses, thereby helping with retirement, estate planning, and tax management.

There are two main types: Charitable Remainder Annuity Trusts (CRATs), which distribute a fixed amount each year, but additional contributions to the Trust are not allowed, and Charitable Remainder Unitrusts (CRUTs), which distribute a fixed percentage of the Trust assets, and additional contributions to the Trust can be made.

For more information on Charitable Remainder Trusts,  Contact CASHMAN LAW to set up a free consultation.

What is a Grantor Retained Income Trust (GRT)?

Similar to a Charitable Remainder Trust, Grantor Retained Trusts allow you to create an irrevocable gift, but in this case the remainder is not limited to a charitable organization, it can go to a family member. A Grantor Retained Income Trust (GRIT) allows you to transfer ownership of assets but retain the income or use of those assets.  A Grantor Retained Annuity Trust (GRAT) pays you a fixed amount of money while a Grantor Retained Unit Trust (GRUT) pays you a specified percentage of the Trust.

For more information on Grantor Retained Trusts,  Contact CASHMAN LAW to set up a free consultation.

What is a Wealth Preservation Trust (Medi-Cal/Medicaid)?

Long term care can be expensive. Fortunately, there are government programs, Medicaid and Medi-Cal, that can provide assistance.  To qualify for these programs, your assets and income must fall below certain thresholds.  So that people don’t liquidate their assets just so they can qualify for these programs, the government sets limits on asset distribution subject to a “look-back” period: 30 months in California and 5 years in Hawai’i and most other states. 

A Wealth Preservation Trust is one estate planning tool that can help with the dilemma of not wanting to give away your wealth too soon, but keeping you eligible for these benefits when you need them.

For more information on Wealth Preservation Trust,  Contact CASHMAN LAW to set up a free consultation.

What is a Life Insurance Trust (LIT)?

A Life insurance Trust is an irrevocable Trust which owns (is the beneficiary of) your life insurance policy.  It can be a useful tool in lowering your taxable estate. Ordinarily, you own your life insurance policy and under the tax laws, the benefits paid out are included in your estate for estate tax purposes.  To avoid this, a LIT is created which then owns the policy and pays the policy premiums, typically with non-taxable “gifts” made by you during your lifetime. Because you don’t own the policy at the time of your passing, the death benefits are excluded from your taxable estate.

For more information on Life Insurance Trusts,  Contact CASHMAN LAW to set up a free consultation.

What is a Special Needs Trust?

A Special Needs Trust or Supplemental Needs Trust, is typically established so that individuals can provide for loved ones with special needs without disqualifying them from receiving essential benefits under the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medi-Cal programs. It can also be used to protect your disabled beneficiaries from potential creditors. 

For more information on Special Needs Trusts, Contact CASHMAN LAW to set up a free consultation.

What is a Discretionary Trust?

A Discretionary Trust is an irrevocable Trust that is commonly used to protect the assets from the beneficiary’s poor money-management skills, extravagant spending habits, personal or professional judgment creditors, or divorcing spouse. The Trust typically limits how much can be distributed to the beneficiary and when the distributions can be made. Amounts, terms, and time frames can be as broad or as narrow as needed. 

For more information on Discretionary Trusts, Contact CASHMAN LAW to set up a free consultation.

What is an Asset Protection Trust (APT)?

An Asset Protection Trust is an irrevocable trust where the Grantor (you) is a permissible beneficiary. They are designed to shelter assets from creditors, and can have certain state income tax benefits for states without income taxes.  It is essentially a spendthrift trust for yourself.  But it is only available in certain states, and not in California or Hawai’i.  So, if you have a friend who has told you about these, and you live in one of the 35 states that do not recognized them, we will have to use different estate planning tools.  

For more information on Asset Protection Trusts, Contact CASHMAN LAW to set up a free consultation.

What is an Intentionally Defective Trust (IDT)?

An Intentionally Defective Trust, also referred to as an Intentionally Defective Grantor Trust or Intentionally Defective Irrevocable Trust is an irrevocable Trust that takes advantage of certain gaps in the tax code.  Assets are transferred into the Trust, which grow tax free for future estate tax purposes.  But the Trust terms are purposefully “flawed” so that the Grantor continues to pay income taxes on the assets.  The beneficiaries, typically children or grandchildren, receive assets that grow without income tax reductions.  The grantor (you) can then lower the taxable estate and give more wealth to beneficiaries.

For more information on Intentionally Defective Trusts, Contact CASHMAN LAW 

What is a Pet Trust?

A pet Trust is as it sounds: a plan to care for one or more pets that survive you. It can be its own standalone document or integrated with the rest of your estate plan. The pet Trust can identify how and who would care for the pet, from what funds, and how remaining assets would be distributed when the last surviving pet passes.

Need more information? Contact CASHMAN LAW to set up a free consultation.


What is a Gun Trust?

Gun Trusts can make it easier to pass on firearms after the owner’s death. It can assist surviving beneficiaries, or your personal representative, from inadvertently violating the law. Gun Trusts can also help avoid transfer taxes and allow more than one person use of the guns after your passing.

Need more information? Contact CASHMAN LAW to set up a free consultation.

Taxes frequently asked questions

What are Estate (or inheritance) and Gift Taxes?

Excellent questions. A gift tax is tax paid by the donor (you) when a transfer of property (cash, use of property, etc…) is made without the expectation of receiving something of equal value in return.  

The federal Estate Tax is a tax on the transfer of property at your death.  Your “taxable estate” includes the fair market value of your assets at the time of death (Gross Estate) minus certain deductions. Depending on the size of your taxable estate, or if the surviving spouse elects to use a portion of the deceased spouse’s unused estate tax exclusion, your estate must file an estate tax return. (yep, even after you pass, you could be owing taxes.) 

Knowing this, things can be done to best minimize the taxes due on the estate at the time of passing, e.g., reducing your taxable estate by transferring life insurance policies into a LIT. You can also reduce your taxable estate by giving non-taxable gifts during your lifetime.

Need more information? Contact CASHMAN LAW to set up a free consultation.

What are the current federal Estate Tax rates?

Our federal government first began collecting estate taxes in 1862. It has been referred to over the years by many different names: estate tax, inheritance tax, legacy tax, death tax. The amount collected, and whether it is collected at all, waxes and wanes over the years, frequently depending upon which political party is in power, and/or the economic state of the federal government.  Even when in place, the estate tax has a threshold exemption.  In other words, if your total taxable estate is less that a certain amount: no estate tax.  Over that amount, just like income taxes, you pay estate taxes on a graduated scale.  In 2001, the threshold exemption was $675,000 with a top tax rate of 55%.  So, as you can imagine, estate taxes were a significant part of estate planning.  Tax laws passed in 2002, 2010 and again in 2018, made this threshold amount jump significantly.   For the 2020 tax year the threshold amount is $11,580,000, with a top bracket of 40%.  (Note: the estates of non-resident aliens are subject to a much lower threshold.) Even more favorable for married couples, a 2012 tax law created something called portability. This allows the surviving spouse to use any unused portion of the first deceased spouse’s estate tax exemption.  

As a result, estate taxes are only being paid by about one-tenth of a percent of the population.  If your taxable estate is in that range, Congratulations!  There is a lot we can do at CASHMAN LAW to help.  If not, don’t feel left out, as the political winds blow you are likely to find yourself back in a position where these will affect you again, as they did for majority of people for almost a century.  At CASHMAN LAW we can help you create a plan that provides flexibility to take advantage of changing laws, without endless amendments and restatements.  

For more information on Federal Estate TaxesContact CASHMAN LAW to set up a free consultation.

The Process frequently asked questions

I already have an Estate Plan, so I am good right?

Maybe.  Who did it?  How long ago was it executed or updated?  State Trust law and federal and state tax laws are constantly in flux. Have you had any major changes in your life? Are you contemplating revisions to your successor trustees? Or beneficiaries?  Have you acquired new assets, but not placed them in the Trust? How long has it been since you had a power of attorney? Or updated your Advance Health Care Directives? If you have not revisited your estate plan in the past 3-5 years, it’s a good idea to do that.

See our guide to revising your estate plan found on our Resources page, Contact CASHMAN LAW to set up a free consultation.

How does the Trust creation process work?

Building an estate plan requires identifying five basic things: 

  1. Who you are (the “Settlors,” or “Grantors” or “Trustors”);
  2. To whom you want to distribute your estate (your “Beneficiaries”);
  3. How you would like that distribution to take place (your terms for distribution);
  4. Whom you want to be in charge of that distribution (your “successor trustees”); and,
  5. What will be in the estate. (your assets)

At CASHMAN LAW, we leverage technology in building your estate plan to reduce clerical errors, maximize efficiency, and keep costs down. As a part of the process, you will be asked to submit this information thru our secure client portal so we can focus on the legal stuff: building an estate plan that matches your goals. 

Need more information? Contact CASHMAN LAW to set up a free consultation.

I have concerns about giving money to a beneficiary, what can I do?

Don’t feel bad.  It’s not uncommon for people to have concerns about a certain person having the financial ability to manage assets.  It could be they are too young, have a bad history with managing finances, or maybe particularly vulnerable to pressures from friends or relatives.  In these cases a “spendthrift” provision can be included in your Trust. With this inclusion, you can legally limit the ability of others to gain access to Trust assets. For example, so long as the assets were subject to the distribution terms of the Trust, they would be immune from attachment by a judgment creditor-or prevented from being transferred to a divorcing spouse.

Need more information? Contact CASHMAN LAW to set up a free consultation.

What does a (successor) Trustee do?

Simply stated, a successor trustee follows the directions found in the Trust.  Generally, that involves inventorying the Trust assets, managing Trust assets until a distribution can be made, distributing them, and seeing the proper tax documents are filed.  Under state law, a trustee has specific legal duties to the Trust and the beneficiaries:  duties of good faith, fair dealing and impartiality. In the case of a Revocable Living Trust, other specific things a trustee will do after the death of the settlor include: obtaining copies of death certificates, reviewing the Trust documents, and providing an accounting to the beneficiaries.  Your successor trustee may be able to perform these tasks without legal assistance, or they may wish to hire legal counsel to assist and advise.  We recommend they at least contact an attorney to discuss the process. Along with our completed estate plans, we provide simple checklists that you can pass on to your successor trustees to get them started. 

Need more information? Contact CASHMAN LAW to set up a free consultation.

How do I Choose my (Successor) Trustees?

Unless you choose otherwise, during your lifetime, and so long as you as willing and able, you will be the (co)trustee of your trust.  When you pass, or if you become incapacitated, your successor trustees will take over this role. Assuming you have passed, and your estate plan calls for an immediate distribution of your estate, the trustee’s job may be to simply identify, gather, and make a final distribution to your beneficiaries.  The trustee may also need to work with the executor/personal representative of your estate to pay your final income taxes and handle assets that weren’t held in the trust. For this reason, many people choose the successor trustee of their living trust to also serve as their executor.  Family members who have good judgment—and tact—often make the best trustees, or co-trustees.  One or more adult children, who are also the trust beneficiaries can be chosen to serve as trustees. Listing several successor trustees is useful as one or more of your selections may predecease you.  You may also select the same person, or succession of people, to serve as guardians (caretaker for minor children) and conservators (caretaker for you) in the event you are incapacitated or pass before your children reach the age of majority.  

In some cases, because of the potential duration of the trust, or the amount or type of assets in the trust, or for other reasons, some people choose a bank or trust company to serve as successor trustee. 

In considering your choice(s), your confidence in their reliability and their ability to handle this important fiduciary role can guide your choice.  While you are not required to share the contents of the trust document with your successor trustee before they become trustee, it is recommended that you at least discuss with them their role and responsibilities as a trustee.

Need more information? Contact CASHMAN LAW to set up a free consultation.

Can I make changes to my Revocable Living Trust?

Yes.  At any time prior to your passing, so long as you are mentally competent, you can make changes to your Revocable Living Trust.  Occasionally, your life circumstances change, and certain changes are needed.  For example, you may decide to change your successor trustees, or you may wish to change the allocation of your distributions to your beneficiaries.  In some cases, you can make these changes yourself.  In others, you will want an attorney to review and make amendments to the document.  We recommend revisiting your Trust document every three to five years just to make sure it still complies with your wishes. 

Need more information? Contact CASHMAN LAW to set up a free consultation.

Is it easy to change a Trust or a Will?

Yes. One of the common procrastination tools in estate planning is: “Well, I am not sure how I want to divide up my estate, and I am still building wealth, so I will just wait. I don’t want to have to pay to have it changed later.”  Okay, let’s put aside the fact that you might not be given all the advanced notice you may like before you pass, or you might become too incapacitated to make these decisions.  And, of course, there is the complication of waiting too long and finding your wishes now challenged for capacity. Or the many, many other reasons that people put estate plans in place while they are still very young and very healthy. If you need a Trust, particularly a revocable Trust, making changes, or amendments, can be a little easier than a Will.  For one, Wills require witnesses.  Trusts are only required to be notarized. The standard for challenging a Trust for incapacity is also more stringent in most states.

Need more information? Contact CASHMAN LAW to set up a free consultation.

If I create a Trust, do I still need a Will?

Yes. For those clients who ask for one or more trusts as part of their Estate Plan, we also provide what is referred to as a “pour-over” Will.  It functions as you would expect from its name: it “pours over” any assets unintentionally left out of the Trust so they can be distributed pursuant to your wishes.  And yes, this combination works to help you avoid intestacy and probate administration of your estate.  A pour-over Will has a number of other benefits.  For example, you can use it to name guardians for minor children.  It also eliminates confusion in the event you had a prior Will by letting everyone know that Will is no longer valid. 

Need more information? Contact CASHMAN LAW to set up a free consultation.

Sounds like you are going to need to gather a lot of personal and financial data to get this done, what security measures do you use?

Another good question.  At CASHMAN LAW we use two unique measures that are not used by most other law firms.  First, we collect data through a series of tailored questionnaires in our secure client portal. Second, when we need to exchange documents, either documents we need to build your plan, or the drafts of that plan, we use SideDrawer.  SideDrawer systems are compliant with not only HIPAA encryption requirements, but also the General Data Protection Regulation (EU) and the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (Canada).  When your plan is complete, you keep the executed copies, and you can keep the Sidedrawer account to maintain your records at no cost to you. You can use SideDrawer to safeguard your documents, share documents safely with your accountant or financial advisor, and designate your agent for access upon your passing or incapacity. Or if you choose, you can close the Sidedrawer account and secure you documents by another method: fireproof safe, safety deposit box, etc… At your request, we also delete our files of any sensitive information you have provided us.

Need more information? Contact CASHMAN LAW to set up a free consultation.

Okay, I am ready to get started, how does this work?

Congratulations! You have taken the first step towards gaining peace of mind for your future.

Procedurally, we adjust our process to meet our client’s needs.  Some clients prefer to meet in person.  Others, for convenience, like to do as much as possible over the phone or in a virtual meeting.  The easiest way to start is to set up a convenient time to talk by visiting our scheduling page. Pick a time that works best for you, and in the interim we will ask you to provide some basic information to help our first meeting run efficiently— like what is your current family situation, and what are the category of assets you own, and what kind of estate planning goals do you currently have.  

After our call, we will provide you with an engagement letter that outlines the services we will provide based upon the objectives we have discussed.  You will then receive a series of questionnaires through our secure client portal that allows us to gather information specifically tailored to your goals and your circumstances so we can build your estate plan.  

Once those are completed, you will be provided a draft plan for your review and for us to review together to answer any questions or make any changes.

Finally, we will deliver your final plan, which can be notarized at our office, or as is more often selected, by a mobile notary at your home, office, or other selected location.  With your final plan, you will receive information on how to transfer assets into your Trust so your plan works as we have designed.

Need more information? Contact CASHMAN LAW to set up a free consultation.