Federal Estate Tax Return

It may be required to file an estate tax return and pay taxes within nine months of a death for an estate valued over $10 million for a couple or an estate over $5 million for a single person. Even when the return is not required or no tax is due, a federal estate tax return may be filed when the first spouse dies to maximize the portability of that spouse’s estate tax exemption and help reduce or eliminate estate tax when the surviving spouse dies.

A state estate tax return may also be necessary if you own assets outside of California. Our work in preparing these returns goes far beyond plugging in your information and computing the taxes due; we employ legal strategies to help reduce your family’s tax obligation. We have efficiently and effectively prepared these returns for over one thousand of our clients over the years.

Trust Termination – Distributions To Beneficiaries – Changing Titles

It is often simple and inexpensive to properly terminate a trust and properly distribute the trust’s assets. Your trustee will want to come in for a free initial consultation to determine what will need to be taken care of and what, if anything, he or she will need our help with.

Most importantly, real estate transfers should not be made to your beneficiaries without the assistance of a law firm, otherwise your Proposition 13 (low property tax base) status may be jeopardized. Your plan may also call for your beneficiaries to receive their inheritance through a “Personal Asset Trust,” which will need to be established properly in order to maximize its intended asset protection benefits.

Spousal Petition

If you do not have a Living Trust, you may avoid lengthy probate proceedings at the death of the first spouse through the use of a simplified spousal property petition. Additionally, if no property agreement was entered into by a married couple, the community property character of assets may be confirmed by the court, thereby permitting the surviving spouse certain substantial capital gain (income tax) benefits as well.

Probate Administration

We are experienced at assisting with probate procedures when someone fails to do proper Living Trust planning or doesn’t keep it up-to-date. (Probate should not normally be necessary if you have a Living Trust fully funded with your assets.) We often can complete probate within a year or less from the date of death.

Trust Modification Or Reformation

Sometimes, changes may be necessary, appropriate or desirable to an irrevocable trust (including a Living Trust after the maker or first spouse dies). We may utilize a special agreement between the trustee and beneficiaries or several different court procedures to accomplish these important objectives.

Trust And Estate Litigation Or Contests

In the event the trustee, executor or beneficiaries of an estate or trust must commence or defend against a legal action to properly interpret or enforce provisions of a will or trust, we may provide assistance in handling these court matters or refer you to another outside specialist.

Estate Planning For Beneficiaries

Once an inheritance is received, your beneficiaries will want to protect their assets from lifetime threats (divorce, lawsuits, creditors) as well as from testamentary problems (probate, estate taxes). We are here to assist your “next generation” of loved ones with their estate planning needs as well.

Philip J. Kavesh
Nationally recognized attorney helping clients with customized estate planning guidance for over 40 years.