Areas of Practice

At Waite, Jacobs & Atkinson, we assist our clients in these areas of law:

    Estate Planning, Wills and Trusts

    Our primary objectives are to help you determine your wishes regarding your estate, and to prepare the documents you need to accomplish those goals. We will help you arrange your financial affairs so that, at death, your debts are paid and your assets are distributed as you wish. We will evaluate your estate to minimize tax consequences at your death. If you have minor, young adult, or dependent adult children, we will work with you on how best to provide for them in the event of your death or disability. Though the incidence of this is low with young parents, the consequence to children is significant. Early planning will help ensure that your children are provided for in the best way possible. As part of your planning, we will help you understand the pros and cons of one type of estate plan over another, such as a “Simple Will” versus a “Living Trust.” Once you have made your decisions, we will prepare the documents you need.

    We are professionally and personally committed to making this an orderly, easily understandable process for you. We take the time to walk you through how everything works, including how the documents function – both independently and with each other. The work we do together will serve you and your loved ones well when needs arise.

    Trust Administration / Trust Termination

    Trusts serve a number of important functions, including management of a person’s financial affairs during their lifetime, payment of their debts on death, minimizing taxes, and either immediate distribution or retention of assets – such as in a continuing trust for young children – following the maker’s death. All of those functions are generally referred to as “Trust Administration” or “Trust Termination.” The manager of a Trust, charged with the power and responsibility of Trust Administration, is the “Trustee” or “Successor Trustee.” The Trustee’s duties after a death include inventorying and securing assets, giving notices to beneficiaries, governmental agencies and creditors, paying bills, filing taxes for the decedent and for the Trust, liquidating assets, accounting to trust beneficiaries, and distributing assets to the beneficiaries as directed by the Trust.

    The Trustee is held to a very high standard under the law for all actions taken regarding a Trust and its assets, and can be held responsible for their decisions. To that end, it is important that Trustees seek legal counsel so that they know what is required, when it is required, and how to accomplish it. Often, we advise the surviving spouse who remains as Trustee of a Trust established by both spouses; we then advise the Successor Trustee who steps in at the death of the surviving spouse.

    Health Care Documents

    A major component of an estate plan is a set of health care documents, which empowers your inner circle of trusted family and friends to assist you with your most personal needs. One such document is a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care. It enables a person you appoint to make health care decisions for you in the event that you are unable to do so yourself, including choosing doctors, when and how to administer medications, where you will live, and, at your death, whether you will be buried or cremated, and whether you will be an organ donor.

    It can also include an Advance Health Care Directive, in which you direct your health care providers as to what life-sustaining measures you want, or do not want, if: (1) you have an incurable or irreversible condition that will result in your death in a relatively short period of time; or (2) you are unconscious, with no reasonable expectation of regaining consciousness; or (3) the likely risks and burdens outweigh the benefits of treatment. Critical benefits of such a document include relieving the burden from your loved ones, and speaking for you at a time that you no longer are able to do so. We also discuss with our clients the importance of a HIPAA/CMIA Authorization, which authorizes the release of medical information to your chosen agents, notwithstanding the privacy provisions of the Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act and the California Confidentiality of Medical Information Act.