Estate Planning: An Essential Part of a Solid Financial Plan

Professional Circle by Imagine Financial Services, Eps.2

As a CFP® professional, Estate planning is a hot topic I regularly review with clients. It can be a scary and emotional topic, but it is a necessary part of a solid financial plan

My name is Marianne Nolte, Certified Financial Planner™, and I love to talk about all aspects of finance. Recently, I had a wonderful opportunity to sit down and interview Andrew Wertheim, an estate attorney. Andrew’s Law Firm is Pacific Estate Planning P.C.

My clients often ask, what is an estate plan, why do I need one, and what is the difference between a Will and a Trust?

Andrew shared that when we pass away, the law has various paths. If we pass away without a will or a trust, then there will likely be a probate court proceeding. It will take 1-5 years, depending on the circumstances. If you own a house worth $500,000, you should expect to pay around $30,000. If you own a house worth $1 million, then you should expect to pay around $50,000, and this is without considering your other assets. Finally, without a will or trust, you don’t get to choose who inherits from you, the State of California chooses for you, and you probably won’t like the result. If you pass away with a trust, then no probate court proceeding. You have privacy from the outside world. You don’t have to pay the probate court fees, and you get to choose exactly who inherits from you, at what ages, and under what terms.

Estate Planning includes more than Wills and Trusts

Leaving an inheritance and doing it properly is very important, but Andrew explains, the other aspect of estate planning is focused on what happens when a person is alive but incapacitated. The problem is we don’t just pass away. Most of us will experience some form of physical or mental incapacity. It can be a sudden, physical incapacity like a car accident or COVID or it can be mental incapacities like a stroke, Alzheimer’s, or dementia. If you become sick or injured, who will be authorized to open your mail, pay your bills, access your bank accounts, refinance your home, sell your home, run your business, and most importantly, fight for your life in the hospital? You need an estate plan in place so that your wishes are supported by your written authorization.

Who should be nominated as a successor trustee? Are professional fiduciary services recommended?

Professional fiduciaries offer a fantastic service. However, Andrew cautions, be careful and ask the professional fiduciary what are their acceptable asset minimums and what do they charge. He shared that sometimes families are not wealthy enough for the professional fiduciary to accept the trusteeship. 

Andrew goes on to say family fighting does happen after a death, even when there is a trust. However, trust and estate attorneys are specially trained to guide families after a death occurs. Usually, the mistrust and anger come from a lack of information. If you are the trustee of a trust after a loved one’s passing, contact an estates attorney for guidance. The law requires trustees to provide documents to the court, to the State of California, to the heirs of the deceased, to the beneficiaries of the deceased’s trust, and more. If you ignore the law, you are personally liable for all damages. As an example, what would you do if you’re the trustee of mom’s trust. Mom died with $600,000 with estate instructions to divide assets equally amongst the siblings. As trustee, you pay yourself and each sibling $200,000. You spend all $200,000 allocated to you on household expenses, and then years later mom’s child from a previous marriage sues you personally for $150,000 because he was an heir and you never gave him the documents required by law. 

If you are a beneficiary of a trust, and your sibling has been made a trustee and refuses to share any information with you, call an estates attorney. You are entitled to a copy of the trust. You are entitled to yearly accountings so that you know how much money is in the trust and how it is being invested. Horror stories do happen in this field, but almost always they happen because no attorney was involved.

At what age should folks first establish an estate plan?

Andrew is emphatic, as soon as you buy your first home or have your first child – it’s time to protect your assets and loved ones.

For any parents out there, as soon as your child hits age 18, it’s time for healthcare directives to be put in place. Your child is still learning how to drive and if they get into a car accident and arrive at the hospital unconscious, you want to guarantee your right to be in the room to advocate for them. 

What is the process, timeline, and cost of establishing an estate plan?

The process is to meet with your estate attorney for an hour so that they can learn about you and your family, your finances, and your wishes. The estate attorney armed with notes can now draft the estate plan. You then schedule to meet 2 weeks later to receive a full explanation of each document and to sign your documents in the presence of a notary. From this point, you meet with your financial planner to share with them the Certificate of Trust which is a short version of your comprehensive trust document. Your financial planner will review your accounts and determine if the title of any accounts needs to be restated and to ensure your beneficiary designations are in alignment with your wishes.

Andrew provides estate planning chares for two flat fees. If you only want the documents needed to protect you during your life, the fee charged is $1500. If you also seeking a Will and a Trust to avoid the probate court and properly leave an inheritance, his typical fee charged is $2950 for a full estate plan. 

If you like learning about financial planning topics, please be sure to click the subscribe button on Imagine Financial Services YouTube channel as new content is uploaded regularly. 

This was the second recorded episode of Professional Circle by Imagine Financial ServicesProfessional Circle brings together various professionals who may have a big impact on your finances including tax, insurance, even money psychologists.  

Watching this video does not create an attorney/client relationship between you and Pacific Estate Planning or Andrew Wertheim. This video is for educational purposes only. Please seek the advice of an attorney for any specific legal matter.

Pacific Estate Planning P.C.

Phone: 951 972 7508


California Licensed Attorney. License Number: 323236

About the Author

Author, Marianne Martini Nolte, Certified Financial Planner ™ practitioner, provides fee-only, fiduciary, independent financial services. Her firm, IMAGINE FINANCIAL SERVICES (IFS) is a registered investment advisor offering advisory services in the State of California and in other jurisdictions where exempted. Marianne’s focus is serving Women and Young Professionals. 

This article is intended as a high-level view. All written content is for information purposes only. Opinions expressed herein are solely those of IFS, unless otherwise specifically cited. Material presented is believed to be from reliable sources and no representations are made by our firm as to other parties’ informational accuracy or completeness.