Frequently Asked Questions

Answers from Orange County Estate Planning Attorneys

With over 40 years of legal experience, you can be sure that Attorney P. Arnsen Blakely has much wise counsel to offer. We want to make sure that each one of their clients has the best possible outcome for their estate planning matter. To assist our clients better, our Orange County estate planning lawyer has answered some of the commonly asked questions related to estate planning and probate law. If you have further questions, please do not hesitate to contact our office to make an appointment for your free initial consultation!


What is estate planning?

Your estate encompasses everything that you own, such as your home, car, bank accounts, personal possessions, life insurance, and other investments. In the event that you pass away, you may want to specify how your possessions are distributed, instead of leaving it to the courts to decide. You may also want to try and maximize your assets for your heirs by paying the least amount possible in taxes and court costs.

Estate planning is the process in which you plan for the future your estate, perhaps by creating a will and trusts, or appointing a power of attorney. Because it is usually not possible to know the time of one's death, it is important to create an estate plan early on. Without a plan, the probate laws of California will dictate how your wealth is to be transferred.

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Why is it important to make an estate plan?

Estate planning can greatly assist you in achieving your objectives regarding your assets and end-of-life desires. If you fail to execute a last will & testament or create trusts to transfer assets to your family, then your assets will pass as prescribed by the state laws. If you want to distribute your assets in your own way, then you should make an estate plan.

You can also provide for the care of yourself or your family in case of your incapacity or death. Leaving the matter unhandled may result in your assets being tied up for many months while the estate administration procedure unfolds. With your attorney's guidance, you may also achieve valuable tax planning benefits to minimize estate taxes.

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Why do I need a lawyer for estate planning?

The first reason it is recommended that one seek legal counsel when establishing an estate plan is that it ensures the security and solidarity of the documents. If a will is drafted without the legal counsel of an attorney, it leaves it vulnerable to various contests and there is a possibility that the drafter's wishes may be disregarded.

Furthermore, many state laws dictate what can and cannot be included in an estate plan. For example, there are certain things that cannot be included in a will or trust and limitations on who can and cannot serve as a personal representative, witness to a will or durable power of attorney. In conjunction to being a practical tool, estate planning is a broad, complex and intricate area of law requiring the sound counsel and proficiency of a professional in the field. In order to ensure that your future is secure, consult with an Orange County estate planning attorney.

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What will happen if I die without a will?

When an individual in the state of California passes away without having established either a will or a trust, their estate will become intestate. Intestate refers to the fact that the individual either neglected to draft a will, establish a trust or that the will cannot be found. When an estate is intestate, the assets of the estate will be taken into the custody of the court, which will pay any outstanding debts and taxes that the individual may have had and then distribute the remaining assets according to the intestacy laws of California. The intestacy laws of California differ based on the marital, parental and legal status of the decedent.

The bottom line to remember is that when someone dies without having prepared any plans for his or her estate, the state will determine who gets what. However, choosing to establish an estate plan allows one to override the intestacy laws and determine the destiny of their estate themselves.

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What if a will is being contested?

When a will has ambiguous language, there is a potential for court challenges. This can also occur when a child or heir feels that another family member exercised undue influence on their parent or relative. These cases require a skilled litigator to protect the rights of the individual to the inheritance their relative intended them to have. We can help.

Ensuring your own will is written clearly and that it outlines exactly the intentions of the individual is an urgent matter. We can assist in the drafting of simple or complex wills, and have a highly skilled lawyer that will ensure that the language used leaves no room for interpretation, with the intention of avoiding this problem for your heirs in the future.

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When should I update my estate plan?

An estate plan needs to be reviewed after every major life event that could potentially change your heirs or the amount of assets in your estate plan. Your heirs may change when you get married or divorced, or even if your children and grandchildren marry and divorce. If a child or grandchild is born or adopted into the family, then you may want to include them in your estate plan.

You should also update your estate plan if there are any major asset gains including inheritance and business acquisition or sale. If you move, make sure to find out if your estate plan is valid in your state of resident. Our Orange County estate planning attorney can assess your estate plan to ensure that it is up to date and valid in California!

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What is the best way to avoid taxation in estate planning?

Avoiding taxation on your estate depend on your specific situation. If you are married and your spouse is still living, then your assets could pass on to your partner without an estate or gift tax. While California state law requires no estate tax, the federal government taxes property that exceeds $5,250,000. If your estate does not exceed that amount, then you will not be required to file a tax return. Consult with an attorney from our firm to find out the gross assets of your estate!

There are also a variety of types of trusts that can be created that can reduce taxation, or in some cases, a limited partnership could be valuable. We advise that you contact our firm so that we can review your situation and determine the best way to help you in protecting your assets for your heirs. If you are hoping to maximize the assets of your estate, an Orange County estate planning attorney from P. Arnsen Blakely can assist you in finding the possible ways to organize your estate, based on the assets and properties you own.

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What occurs during estate administration?

The administrator, also known as the executor, that is appointed by the court or the decedent gains control over the estate assets and prepares an inventory for the court. The administrator notifies the decedent's creditors that the estate is being distributed so they may put in claims. The executor then reviews the claims and approves or rejects them.

When a creditor or an heir objects to the handling of a claim, estate litigation may result. The administrator will need to appear in court proceedings to defend his or her actions. Finally after the administrator has handled and paid creditor claims, filed the decedent's tax returns, he or she may prepare a petition for distribution of assets.

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Why is it important to be represented by an attorney in estate administration?

As estate matters are complex, knowledge of the law and procedure is important to smoothly and efficiently administering an estate. If estate litigation occurs, parties contesting your actions will likely be represented by attorneys. If you are not, you will be at a marked disadvantage.

For this reason, you should not hesitate to contact an Orange County estate planning attorney from our firm before initiating any legal processes. In doing so, you will likely stand a much better chance of achieving a more successful resolution to any future litigation.

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Why should I hire P. Arnsen Blakely?

The answers to questions like this often come across as arrogant and proud. We do not want to bolster our own reputation with mere claims of ability and value. Rather, we point to our experience as the reason why we believe we can help you in your estate planning endeavor.

P. Arnsen Blakely has been serving clients since the year 1971. That is almost fifty years of legal experience in the field of estate planning, probate and tax law and above all else, the greatest compliment to legal skills is extensive knowledge that is only obtained throughout years of practice. Furthermore, you can hear what our past clients have to say with their experience of working with our firm and whether they were satisfied with our services on our client testimonials page.

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What can your firm assist me with?

Our legal team has the extensive experience you need in all types of probate, estate planning and tax matters, including but not limited to the following:

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Discuss Your Estate Plan with Our Experienced Estate Planning Lawyer!

Estate planning may seem like a complicated and lengthy legal process when you are unsure of what steps to take. If you have further questions, however, you should not hesitate to contact an attorney from our firm. An experienced legal professional from P. Arnsen Blakely is available to answer any of the pressing questions that you may have in regard to estate planning, so schedule a free case evaluation today.

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Orange County Estate Planning Attorney

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P. Arnsen Blakely
Orange County Estate Planning Attorney
1111 Bayside Drive, Suite 228,
Corona del Mar, CA 92625
Local Phone: 949.220.2492
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The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.