Frequently Asked Questions
What is a will?

In broad terms, a will is a legal document that states how you want your financial assets and property to be handled after your death.  You name an executor, who is charge of distributing your property, and beneficiaries, who will receive your property.  You can also name permanent guardians for your minor children.

What is a revocable living trust?

A revocable living trust is a legal entity you create during your lifetime.  Any property you choose to place into the trust will be distributed according to its terms after your death.  Just like a will, you name someone to manage distributions (the trustee) and the people who will receive your property (beneficiaries).

Unlike a will however, a revocable living trust does not have to go through the probate court to be executed.  In California, the probate court process can take 12-16 months to complete, costs approximately 5% of the value of the estate in court fees, and is completely public.  Creating a revocable living trust saves your loved ones time, money, and maintains your privacy.

What documents are included in an estate plan?

Every LifeLadder Estate Plan includes:

  • - A Will or Revocable Living Trust (as appropriate),
  • - A Pour-Over Will, to catch any assets accidentally left out of the Trust
  • - A Family Wealth Inventory, a consolidated document containing all important financial account information
  • - Guardians+ Plan for Minor Children, designating both temporary and permanent guardians, and requesting the express exclusion of potential guardians
  • - A Financial Power of Attorney, designating someone to act on your behalf for financial matters when you are ill or otherwise incapacitated,
  • - An Advanced Healthcare Directive, naming the person who could make medical decisions on your behalf if you were unable to communicate
  • - A HIPAA Waiver, granting access to confidential medical information to your chosen representatives
How can my estate plan protect my minor children?

The first important way to protect minor children is by naming potential permanent guardians to care for them if you are no longer able. 

A LifeLadder Estate Plan adds the additional protection of naming temporary guardians, in the Guardians+ Plan for Minor Children.  These temporary guardians are physically located within 20 minutes of the children and can respond immediately during a family emergency.  Without a temporary guardian, minor children may be put under the care of Child Protective Services until their designated permanent guardian can be established, located, and brought to the children’s location.  Creating a Guardians+ Plan for Minor Children avoids that undesirable result.

A revocable living trust can also be crafted to ensure that a minor child’s inheritance will be bother supervised and protected from future creditors, court judgments, and divorce proceedings.

Do I have enough assets to require an estate plan?

In California, a family’s home is often its largest investment. If you own a home with a fair market value of more than $50,000 (meaning what the home would sell for, regardless of debt), your family will need to go to court to inherit the house, unless you plan ahead.

The court process, called probate, in CA costs on average 5% of the total value of the estate, is totally public, and delays distribution to your heirs for 12-16 months, minimum. 

If you have minor children at home, planning is a must. If you could no longer care for your children and had no estate planning in place, the court would decide who should raise them and appoint a fiduciary to manage their inheritance, for a fee. Then, when they turn 18, the remaining inheritance would be distributed to them outright, without any guidance or supervision. Your LifeLadder Estate Plan will be crafted to avoid this outcome, giving you the most possible influence on your children’s futures.

How long does it take to make an estate plan with LifeLadder?

When you plan with LifeLadder, we will have three important meetings.  These meetings will be held via videoconference, from the comfort and convenience of your home or office. The entire process takes three months, with one meeting each month. 

The first meeting is the Design Meeting, where you decide the specifics of your estate plan distributions.  The second meeting is the Signing Meeting, where you will sign all the documents in the presence of a mobile notary.  The third meeting is the Delivery Meeting, where you will receive your complete Estate Plan Binder, after having funded your revocable living trust.

How much does it cost to make an estate plan with LifeLadder?

We encourage open lines of communication with our clients. To that end, we’ve thrown out the time clocks and billable hours, so you never have to be afraid to call with a quick question. We offer three LifeLadder Estate Plan packages which are a flat fee, agreed to in advance, so there are never any surprises.  

The Family Plan, which is a will-based estate plan, costs between $1500 and $3500.  The Trust Plan ranges between $3500 and $5500, depending upon the complexity of the trust, as decided by you at the Design Meeting.  For an additional cost of $2000, we can also manage the funding of your trust under the Wealth Plan. 

What if I change my mind about details of my estate plan?
You have 90 days from the Delivery Meeting to make any changes to your existing plan at no additional cost.  Should you prefer to upgrade to a different type of plan, you would be charged the difference. 
I made an estate plan a few years ago, is it still good?

If you already have a will, your estate will still have to go through a court process called probate, at an average cost of 5% of the value of the estate and with a delay of 12-16 months before your family can receive their distributions.  

If you already have a trust, it may not successfully carry out your wishes if it is not kept up to date throughout your lifetime. If there have been any changes in your life, the law or your assets since you drafted your estate plan, your documents need to be updated to ensure they continue to reflect your priorities.  

Other important documents like the Financial Power of Attorney and the Advanced Healthcare Directive are generally less respected by receiving institutions if they are more than three years old. 

I did a DIY will using an online service, am I covered?
Working with an attorney is the best way to ensure you have a personalized estate plan that protects your family and your assets for the future.  With LifeLadder you have the professional expertise of the attorney-client relationship and the ease and flexibility of doing the whole process via videoconference, as is convenient to your busy schedule. 
What do I need to get started?

The first step is to watch this webinar, which will unlock the attorney’s online scheduler.  Prior to the Design Meeting, you will need to fill out a Family Wealth Inventory and Assessment online, which describes your assets and the people you may consider has agents or beneficiaries in your estate plan. 

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