Estate Planning

The term “estate planning” may bring to mind the type of legal steps that only wealthy individuals must consider late in life. Nothing could be further from the truth! Estate planning is something that individuals of all economic levels and in all stages of life should consider to provide security for themselves and their families. Brian Dennis, Attorney at Law, has the experience to guide you through your estate planning needs.

Estate planning may encompass different decisions and processes depending upon the individual, but, overall, estate planning is designed to accomplish three central goals: 1) assuring your interests are respected and implemented while you’re alive, should you be unable to act for yourself; you can designate who should make your health and property management decisions should you become unable to do so, 2) designating who your beneficiaries are, as well as what property they should receive upon your death and how they should receive it, and 3) minimizing the delay, uncertainty, taxes, fees and other burdens associated with the transfer of your property to your loved ones. Brian works to achieve these ends, and creates what he considers to be the following essential estate planning documents:

  1. Will or Pour-over Will: A will is a legal document that designates how you would like your property distributed upon your death, whom your beneficiaries are as well as whom you wish to serve as the guardians for your minor children. Whether you die with or without a will in place, in CA if you die owning more than $150,000 in gross assets (not taking loans into consideration: a $1,000,000 home subject to an $800,000 loan is valued at $1,000,000, not the $200,000 of net equity), the state will decide who receives your property, and the court will oversee its distribution through an expensive process called “probate.” Certain assets don’t count toward the $150,000, including property such as that held in joint tenancy, community property or trust. So, while a will is important, having one that works in conjunction with your estate may allow you to design a plan to avoid probate. When that happens, a normal will becomes a Pour-over will, “pouring” all of your assets over to a trust for distribution that is not subject to probate. Your will would serve as a back-up to the trust for the purposes of distributing your assets to your beneficiaries, and your estate could be distributed privately and seamlessly. Brian Dennis, Attorney at Law, can show you how.
  2. Transfer on Death (TOD) Deeds. California adopted the concept of TOD Deeds on January 1, 2016. When title to real property is held in this manner, probate may also be avoided. However, there are other considerations when using such Deeds, notably that there is no control of where the asset goes once it is distributed to the TOD beneficiary. Brian Dennis, Attorney at Law, can clarify this issue for you.
  3. Stand-by Guardianship. While a will nominates guardians for your minor children should you die, the possibility exists that you could become sick or hurt and become unable to care for your minor children even though you are alive. In this scenario, a Stand-by Guardianship will allow for you to designate guardians for your minor children just as a will would, but the document would become effective during your lifetime, and not at your death. For those with minor children, such a document is a must, and Brian Dennis, Attorney at Law, can assist you with it.
  4. Revocable or Living Trust: Alternatively called Revocable or Living Trusts, this instrument helps individuals avoid the taxes and costs of probate by placing property within a trust. Both personal property and real estate can be included in these trusts.
  5. Durable Power of Attorney for Financial Management: By creating a durable power of attorney, you are appointing someone to step in to manage your property and financial affairs when you are temporarily or permanently unable to do so, facilitating a smooth and continuous life until, hopefully, you recover.
  6. Advance Healthcare Directive: This legal instrument appoints another to make healthcare decisions on your behalf based on your instructions (particularly end-of-life decisions), should you become unable to do so.
  7. Medical Release Form: This form, complying with federal (HIPAA) and California privacy acts, provides authorization to a health care provider to release your documents to your designated agent so that you can receive medical treatment based on your complete medical history. Without such authorization medical records may not be available because providers may not wish to run the risk of being liable for furnishing your private health information to others.
  8. Beneficiary Designation Forms: The contents of certain accounts, such as life insurance and annuity policies, as well as pension plans such as Defined Benefit, Defined Contribution, Cash Balance Plans, IRAs and 401(k)s, are distributed to the beneficiaries shown on the forms. Your will or trust does not determine who receives the money in those accounts: the Beneficiary Designation Form does. It is common for many to ignore the need to complete Beneficiary Designation Forms accurately — or even at all – and not to file them with their financial institutions or employers. Failure to do so could frustrate your entire estate plan. Brian Dennis, Attorney at Law, reviews the importance of these forms with you, counseling on their completion so that they may integrate with and complete your estate plan.

If you are also a business owner, it is important to determine whether two more documents should be included in your estate plan:

  1. Limited Power of Attorney for Management of the Business, which puts the management of your business into the hands of a person you designate should you become temporarily or permanently incapacitated; a spouse may or may not be the most desirable manager, and
  2. Buy-Sell Agreement that authorizes the sale of the business to a guaranteed buyer in the event of disability, death or other circumstances, helping assure that beneficiaries receive the full value of the business interest and that partners can take over the business in a smooth transition.

Estate planning can include a whole host of other concerns and instruments as well. For example, many people want to leave money to charity, and charitable giving (or “Planned Giving”) includes a variety of tax, legal and charitable concerns. Also, estate planning may specifically be directed towards providing for individuals with special needs or avoiding federal and state estate taxes on the very wealthy.

Brian has significant experience in estate planning and charitable giving, and will work with you to understand your estate planning needs. His objective is to provide you with the best options to achieve your goals. His focus is on helping you gain a sense of security and well-being, knowing that you’ve done all you can to take the steps necessary to take care of your family after your passing.

433 N. Camden Drive, Suite 600
Beverly Hills, CA 90210-4416



This is an advertisement, a message concerning availability for professional employment within the meaning of California Rule of Professional Conduct 1-400(A). The information on this website is for general purposes only, and nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. The information is not intended to create, and receipt of viewing or interacting with this website does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship. Brian is admitted to practice law in California and Pennsylvania. The information on this website is intended for viewers in California or viewers with a significant connection to California.