Mark will work with you in planning for passing your assets to spouses, partners, other family members, friends, and/or charities upon your death. This planning process need not be and will not be stressful. Together we will consider your goals and the most efficient way of achieving them. We will make sure that all of your assets, whether large or small, are included in a comprehensive plan that meets your needs and assures that your plans are followed upon your death.
Often, a simple well-drafted Will is all you need. However, in every case Mark will also discuss the benefits of a living trust, and let you decide whether this more complicated document is right for you. Mark will also see how your property is held, and explain to you how jointly held real property and financial accounts, and assets with designated beneficiaries, will affect how debts and taxes are paid and allocated.
Estate planning also includes preparing for disability. In that regard, Mark will discuss with you powers of attorney and advance health care directives, so that persons you choose can easily step in and act if and when needed. Without these documents, you may be subjected to costly intervention by the courts, which can place people in charge of your health and finances who you would not have chosen, at a time when you cannot express your own views.
If you have HIV and believe you may be eligible for free or low cost estate planning services, contact the AIDS Legal Referral Panel (www.alrp.org).
A close friend or relative has died and you are designated as executor and/or trustee and you don’t know what to do. Or there is no Will, and you don’t know what to do. Mark can help.
Often, formal probate is not required if property has been placed into a trust or if it is held in joint tenancy. Probate is also not required if the entire estate of the deceased is less than $150,000.00. Finally, full probate is not required if the estate is passing to a spouse or registered domestic partner. Mark will assist you in seeing that property passes without probate if possible.
If probate is required, Mark will help you navigate the court system one step at a time. While the probate process looks daunting, and complicated problems can present themselves, Mark will guide you through the system and explain each part so you understand and can comprehend the process. We will assist in preparing all the documents needed to be filed with the court and help you organize the estate so that you can faithfully carry out your duties.
Domestic Partnership Issues
Gay and lesbian partners have many unique legal issues which for years the law has not been able to adequately address. Only recently has California recognized registered domestic partnerships, and of course, same-sex couples marriage for those couples who were able to marry before Proposition 8 passed in November, 2008. Nonetheless, many gay and lesbian partners for many reasons have not registered and are not married.
When same-sex couples decide to register under California law, they are subject to the same community property rules that straight (and now, some, gay and lesbian) couples live by. Often however, when gay and lesbian couples decide to register as domestic partners, they have substantial assets and sometimes one or the other has substantial debt. Mark can discuss with you the legal effects of registration and the benefits of a pre-registration agreement (similar to a pre-nuptual agreement). Mark will not tell you whether or not to register. Only you can decide that.
Often, non-registered and unmarried partners, both same-sex and opposite-sex, find that their relationship is ending. This can be a very stressful time because not only is the end of a relationship emotionally draining, but the partners now need to divide assets that they have accumulated over a number of years. Unfortunately, California law does not easily provide a road map for how property should be divided. Mark can help you determine what your rights are, and help you through this difficult process. If you and your ex-partner are equally motivated, this can often be done without going to court.
Mark has assisted many clients in the establishment and running of their small business corporations or limited liability companies (LLC). Corporations and LLCs are advisable for anyone running a business because they can insulate personal assets from being subject to a judgment because of business setbacks or unforeseen damage to another’s person or property. However, the benefits of incorporation or establishment of an LLC can be lost if the entity is not established correctly, or is not run correctly. Mark can help you keep your business on track by making sure you are following the rules.
Mediation is a process which allows you to resolve a dispute before it goes to trial, and perhaps before the courts are involved at all. You and the other person come together and with the guidance of a mediator fashion a resolution that is acceptable to both without the expense and stress of litigation. All that is required is that the parties genuinely wish to resolve their dispute and are willing to seek solutions. The mediator does not dictate the result. The parties determine the resolution.
Mark can mediate domestic partner issues, probate contests, and small business disputes.
Mark has received 40 hours of mediation training from Professional Mediation Associates, San Rafael, California.