Online resource center to help you explore these key issues, and others, regarding your estate.

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Mr. Miller has many years of experience in designing and implementing a comprehensive variety of Trusts, Wills, and other estate planning documents, as well as settling estates in the most expedient and appropriate method. Further, he counsels and assists clients on becoming eligible for VA benefits and Medi-Cal.

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Mr. Miller has been active in the area of VA Pension and Medi-Cal for well over a decade. He uses various specialized types of Trusts as well as non-trust strategies to gain eligibility for his clients and save the family money.

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Mr. Miller has been settling estates (both simple and complex) for well over 40 years. The starting point is always to create a strategy to settle the estate in the most efficient manner possible with a minimum of taxes. Often times the strategy created allows the family to bypass Probate Court proceedings.

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Loose Estate Plans on a Tight Budget…


By merv,

  Filed under: Blog, Estate Planning

You should always consult an attorney to discuss your particular circumstances, desires, and plans in order to have an estate plan that fully meets your needs.  However, as we round into a fifth year since the stock market crashed, I understand that the thought of legal fees is occasionally more intimidating than contemplating your own mortality can be.  Even if your estate is not large, you still ought to make your preferences known should something happen causing your death or incapacity.  Sometimes even an imperfect estate plan is better than no plan at all.  Here are five things you can do without setting foot in an attorney’s office.
1.    Buy Life Insurance.  Estate planning attorneys will frequently recommend life insurance policies to help cover the cost of estate taxes.  Life insurance policies are very useful estate planning tools but they are not designed simply for estate planning.  Especially if you are young and healthy, a life insurance policy may provide some security for your spouse and your family if you die unexpectedly and you have a lot of debt or rely on two incomes.  Term life insurance policies are especially affordable.
2.    Designate Beneficiaries.  If you buy or have life insurance, you will designate beneficiaries when you sign up.  Additionally, if you have a retirement account at work or otherwise, you generally designate a beneficiary when the account is opened.  Now is a good time to review those beneficiary listings to make sure you know who is designated, that person is still your preferred beneficiary, and that the institution still has a beneficiary on record (yes, banks lose this information!).  There are other, less common beneficiary listings you can make as well.  Most bank accounts can be a “Pay on Death” account, which is exactly the way it sounds.  Often, your bank will provide a form upon request.  Similarly, if you are the sole owner of your car, you can fill in a “Transfer on Death” form with the DMV.  Keep in mind, though, that if most of your assets are transferred through beneficiary designations to a variety of people, creditor problems can arise.
3.    Write a Will.  Contrary to popular belief, you do not need an attorney to draft a Will.  In fact, a handwritten note saying, “I give everything to my spouse, John Smith,” and signed is a valid will.  No date or witnesses are required, although both are advisable.  There are considerable risks with a handwritten Will, particularly if you want multiple beneficiaries.  However, where the person refuses to do an estate plan with an attorney, even with a large estate, a note similar to the above can succeed in allowing the desired (unrelated) beneficiary to inherit the assets.  Remember that just because the Will is valid, doesn’t mean it is effective, but it will suffice in an unexpected situation.  Don’t forget to name an executor!
4.    List your Healthcare Preferences.  An Advance Health Care Directive is, essentially, a non-binding list of preferences to inform your loved one(s) who serve in your shoes to make medical decisions the types of decisions you would make if you could.  It also designates who should make those decisions for you.  A standard form is available from the state of California and from the California Medical Association.
5.    Make a List!  None of these steps are worth anything if no one knows about them.  Additionally, the executor of your estate should be able to find out who your creditors are, where your assets are, and what is generally going on with your estate.  A list of passwords, credit cards, accounts, and other information may be vital to your estate plan.  Your list should be kept in a safe place, but someone should know where it is just in case.
Although you should still consult an attorney for a full estate plan, the above hints will help ensure that your desires are met, even if you decide to wait.

Estate Planning: The Price of Organization, Rewards, Gifts, and Wondrous Tax Things… FREE REPORT: This complimentary report, focused on Estate Planning, is comprised of many of Mr. Miller’s articles from his long running column for the largest regional newspaper in San Diego County. This report will guide you through the questions surrounding getting your estate planning in order.

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About Living Trusts

About Living Trusts is hosted by the Law Offices of Merwyn J. Miller, as your online resource center to help you explore these key issues, and others, regarding your estate.

Merwyn J. Miller, J.D.

  • Board Certified Specialist in Estate Planning, Trust & Probate Law
  • Co-Author of legal text book and of “Don’t Go Broke in a Nursing Home
  • Teacher of law courses at public and private colleges
  • Continuing Education Instructor for attorneys
  • Columnist for largest regional newspaper in San Diego County and professional journals for 15 years, Contributing author to the book “In Your Service: The Veteran’s Friend”
  • Masters Degree in Financial Services - Estate Planning
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