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Luxury real estate agent Mary Myers has years of experience helping her clients find houses that fit their present needs and lifestyle. However, for many of these buyers, houses take on something extra after years – or decades – of settling in, imprinting the home with their particular character, and creating valued memories for generations of family members. At some point, a home can become more than simply a financial asset; a home can become a cherished inheritance.

Think smart and think ahead: as a homeowner, what do I need to know about estate planning?

Myers frequently refers clients to San Diego estate planner John Reynard of Anderson Reynard, who focuses on helping families plan out their estates so that important assets can be both protected and preserved according to each family’s specific goals and concerns. Proper planning can prevent significant legal fees and controversies, which usually burden a surviving spouse or other heirs. Reynard can help Myers’ clients preemptively address issues involving:

  • Estate transfers
  • Probate
  • IRS Tax complications
  • Time delays
  • Asset Protection

Learn how to avoid the pitfalls of having a house fall victim to intestacy, as Myers and Reynard outline:


No Will, No Trust, No Safety

Imagine a coastal vacation home where family gathers from near and far for a precious respite from the stresses of everyday life. Perhaps a grandparent is the owner of this home that offers the rest of the family both a relaxing getaway and time to spend with loved ones. But what happens to this house if the grandparent passes away?

“A home can become more than simply an asset; a home can become a cherished inheritance.”

In California, if a person passes away intestate – i.e. without a will or a trust – his or her assets are split amongst heirs as provided for under California statute:

  • If there were a surviving spouse, he or she may receive all of the assets, however, it can depend on how assets are titled as well as issues with separate and community property
  • If there were no surviving spouse, assets may be split up evenly amongst any children. But what about adopted children, or children from prior marriages, etc.?
  • Without children, the statutes look for more distant relatives in order to find the appropriate beneficiary.

While California’s intestacy statute may seem fairly reasonable for a family without prior marriages, or other complexities, the division of assets isn’t the ideal scenario for many homeowners. Verbal agreements such as giving one child a house and another child cash can go out the window without the proper legal prep work. Furthermore, when an estate enters probate, the assets become public – which can place unwanted attention on a family during a time that is inherently stressful and demanding.

Timing Is Everything

Perhaps most importantly, probate is time consuming. In best-case scenarios, the process is completed within a few months. On the longer end of the spectrum, the process can take years. If all parties (spouse, children, grandchildren) are amenable and the probate is not contested an estate may pass relatively smoothly, but when beneficiaries cannot agree, probate can drag on for years at the expense of the parties.

Without an estate plan, feuding relatives can drag out a probate for years.

As an added safety measure, when Reynard creates a will and trust in San Diego, he also prepares Power of Attorney and Healthcare Directive documents to ensure that your family and caregivers have the documentation necessary to continue managing both your finances and health care decisions should your capacity diminish:

  • If you become incapacitated without a Power of Attorney and Health Care Directive, there is no immediate transition of control. Going through the court systems to obtain the legal ability to make decisions for your wellbeing can unnecessarily delay time-sensitive action – such as signing checks to pay caregivers.
  • If you become incapacitated with a Power of Attorney and Health Care Directive, you decide whom to trust with the care of your health and your estate – and the transfer of control is much more immediate and orderly.

Save For The Future

According to the San Diego lawyer, in a case where the estate is worth 1 million dollars, approximately $46,000 will be spent on probate fees. In addition, when the state calculates the size of an estate for the purpose of determining fees,debt is not deducted from the gross value of the probate estate. This means that a 4 million dollar probate for an estate that has 1 million in outstanding debt is still treated as a 4 million dollar estate when calculating fees.

A trust can save your family time – and a tremendous amount of money – so that they can move forward with as few legal delays and expenses as possible.

Conversely, a wise homeowner who has formed an estate plan with a will, a trust, a power of attorney, and healthcare directive typically pays $3-5,000 to form the trust and then much less than the statutory probate fees to administer the assets and follow the terms of the trust.


Keep It In The Family

For homeowners, an estate planner is essential for making sure your assets are protected for your family. While we hope this post was informative for you, it should not be considered legal advice. It is imperative to meet with an attorney to determine the best course of action for your unique estate. Read our next article, “When Is The Right Time To Consider Estate Planning” from Mary Myers, to learn:

  • Step-by-step process to set up a plan for your estate
  • Tips for ensuring your wishes are executed
  • Benefits of estate planning with your real estate agent

Watch Mary Myers and John Reynard 

Is video more your style? Check out the video with Mary Myers and John Reynard as they discuss the importance of an including an attorney on your team