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

Practice Areas

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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VA Pension/Aid & Attendance/Medi-Cal

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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Probate & Estate Administration

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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Think Your Estate Planning is Done? The Pitfalls of Keeping Your Estate Plan up to Date.

By merv,

  Filed under: Blog, Estate Planning

Think your estate planning is done once you’ve gone to the trouble of making a will? Think again. All your hard work can be undone with the stroke of a pen when you open a bank, brokerage, or retirement account. Investors have the option of naming beneficiaries directly on a wide range of financial products. The appeal: When the account owner dies, the assets go directly to the beneficiaries named on the accounts, bypassing the sometimes long and costly probate process. The problem: Because these beneficiary designations override your will, they need to be carefully coordinated with your overall estate plan.

The Wall Street Journal’s reporter Carolyn Geer wrote a detailed article on the topic: “Most Common Mistakes in Naming Beneficiaries“. Carolyn quotes an estate-planning attorney in Paramus, N.J. “People don’t realize the importance of this, a carelessly named beneficiary on a financial account can cause a loved one to be disinherited, a disabled child to lose government benefits, and heirs to be slapped with a big tax bill”.

Another pitfall can occur when a trust is drawn up but not funded. What does that mean? All property held in the name of the trust must have a change of ownership. You no longer hold ownership of your assets as an individual. You hold them as trustee. If titling of the account is not changed, for instance to “John Smith, trustee for the Smith Living Trust”, none of the property is deemed owned by the trust. If you die, your estate may not avoid the costly and drawn out process of probate. The value of the trust won’t be worth the paper it’s written on! Check out our California Probate and Estate Settlement FAQ and our Estate Planning FAQ to evaluate whether a trust is right for you.

Last but not least is the importance of reviewing or establishing a Power of Attorney. Some time ago I wrote an article on the topic of “Why Powers of Attorney Need to be Reviewed and Updated“. This article talks about why having a Power of Attorney is an important part of your overall estate plan.

You’d be surprised how easy it is to undo good planning because a bank employee was “just following procedures”, or a loan officer says the lender requires the property be titled in your name when refinancing or purchasing a home. We recommend our clients review their beneficiary designations, account ownership, deeds, and estate planning documents every few years, but certainly after a life-changing event.

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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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