Tel: (949) 200-7336



Estate Planning

The creation and execution of an estate plan can be a very complicated process and is more than just drafting a will.  An estate plan allows you to name guardians for your children, remember charities, care for family members with special needs, and preserve assets.  If you do not take the time to make these important and personal decisions yourself, the government will do it for you, via the probate process, at a significantly higher cost.  All individuals and families benefit from an estate plan that is comprised of a will, advance health care directive and power of attorney, but estates with a net worth (value of personal property and real property) in excess of $100,000.00 should consider having an estate plan that includes a trust. 

Our Orange County estate planning law firm guides our clients through the many emotions involved, handling your estate plan compassionately and competently.  Our estate planning office has experience handling estates with many different purposes.  Our firm has experience handling multi million dollar estates where wealth preservation is the main purpose.  Our firm also handles estates that are not of high net worth and instead the main purpose is to name guardians for minors and set up procedures if the client becomes incapacitated.  Estate planning is not just for the rich, everyone should consider the advantages estate planning offers.  Our firm will help you find the estate plan which best suits your family and your assets.  We strive to provide our clients with simple and accurate information giving our clients the ability to decide what plan best fits their needs.  

Our Orange County estate planning law firm provides the following estate planning services:


Many individuals are surprised to learn, upon the passing of a loved one, that a will does not keep the decedent’s assets out of the Probate Courts.  A will gives instructions as to how the decedent wishes to have their assets distributed; but the courts must supervise the distribution of the assets.  Alternatively a trust holds title to assets during ones lifetime and can be used to distribute assets when an event occurs, usually upon the passing of the creator of the trust.

Finding an attorney to plan your estate can be overwhelming.  The attorney you choose will be there to advise you during many of life’s changes; you may get married, divorced, have children, loose a spouse, purchase real property, retire, or invest in a business.  During all of these milestones it is important to have an attorney to whom you can turn to for advice.  Communication is the key to a successful estate plan which must be flexible and bend to fit your life.  To help ease the stress of choosing the attorney best for you, we offer a free consultation for new estate planning clients.


Wills & Estate Planning Attorney in Orange County, CA


What is a Will?


A will is a legal document that states how an individual wishes for his/her assets, money, and property to be divided and distributed after death.  In addition, a will also specifies to whom the individual’s assets, money, and property are to be distributed to.  In order for a will to be effective, it must be signed and dated by the testator (the person who creates the will), and witnessed by at least two uninterested adults.


Why Do I need a Will?


It’s a very good idea for all people to have a valid will.  When you have a well-executed will, your wishes regarding the distribution of your assets, money, and property will be clearly documented.  This will help to eliminate any issues or disputes that could potentially arise amongst family members or beneficiaries.   Without a will, your assets are distributed according to California probate laws.  Furthermore, without a will there is no guarantee that your assets and property will go to the people of your choosing.  Drafting and filing a will is the only way to ensure that your property and assets will be distributed amongst your chosen beneficiaries. 

Why Should I Hire an Attorney?


If you are considering creating a will, it’s wise to obtain the legal counsel of an experienced estate planning lawyer who can answer your questions and offer advice.   An experienced Orange County wills attorney can review your assets and help you create a will that meets your specific needs and objectives.  Furthermore, a seasoned wills lawyer can also help you determine which type of will you should create.  For example, if the value of your estate is less than $100,000, you probably only need a simple will.  However, if the total value of your assets is more than $100,000, or if you have complex assets, your interests would be better served with a pour-over will.  Attorney Bree Celeste Winterbotham can review your assets and help you determine which type of will is best suited for your estate plan.


Orange County Living Trust Attorney

A trust is a tool used in estate planning to distribute an individual’s assets to his or her beneficiaries.  The person who creates the trust is referred to as the grantor.  The person who manages the trust and ensures that the benefits of the trust are delivered to the beneficiaries is referred to as the trustee.  The trustee is often the grantor but can sometimes be someone the grantor appoints.  Trusts are sometimes referred to as “living trusts” because they are created and become effective while the grantor is still alive, as opposed to other types of trusts that don’t become effective until after death.  Furthermore, if you establish a revocable living trust, you can change, modify, amend, or revoke the terms of your trust as many times as you’d like.

Why Do I Need a Living Trust?


There are many benefits to establishing a trust.  First and foremost, having a valid trust avoids probate, which is both costly and time consuming.  The purpose of probate court is to divide and distribute your assets and property to your beneficiaries after your death. However, when you set up a trust all of your assets have been “trusted” to your beneficiaries, which means they are no longer in your name.  With no assets in your name, there is no longer a reason for probate.  Having a trust also ensures that your property will ultimately pass to your heirs, children, or beneficiaries without complication.

Trusts are also convenient in matters of conservatorship.  When a person becomes incapacitated and is no longer able to manage his/her own finances, a conservator will be appointed to handle his/her financial affairs.  If a conservator hasn’t been appointed, the court will choose someone to fill the role of the conservator, usually the nearest related family member.  However, by stipulating conservatorship in your trust, you can name a conservator of your choosing and take control away from the courts.

Trusts also greatly reduce federal estate taxes and inheritance taxes.


Irrevocable Trusts in Orange County, CA 

Unlike revocable living trusts that can be changed or modified after they’re created, irrevocable trusts cannot be amended, changed, or terminated once they’ve been established. Irrevocable trusts can only be changed or terminated if the beneficiary (the person who receives the assets in the trust) gives his/her consent.  When the grantor transfers his/her assets into the irrevocable trust, he/she effectively gives up his/her rights of ownership to the assets and gives them over to the beneficiary.

Why Should I Create an Irrevocable Trust?


There are multiple benefits of creating an irrevocable trust.  When an irrevocable trust is established, it protects the assets in the trust from certain estate taxes.  Furthermore, when assets are placed in an irrevocable trust, they are protected from probate laws, creditors, and lawsuits.  Avoiding probate is perhaps the greatest benefit of an irrevocable trust, as the probate process is often complicated, expensive, and time consuming.  Under California probate law, all of a decedent’s assets are subject to distribution upon his/her death.  If the decedent (the grantor of the trust who has passed away) established an irrevocable trust, there is no need for probate, as all of his/her assets have been transferred to a beneficiary. Because the decedent has no assets (because they are now in the possession of the beneficiary) there is no reason for probate.  




Establishing Power of Attorney in Orange County, CA


It’s very wise to establish power of attorney during the estate planning process.  Power of attorney is a legal authorization designating someone of your choosing (called the agent) to make important medical and financial decisions on your behalf in the event you unexpectedly become incapacitated or unable to make decisions over these matters yourself.  Establishing power of attorney is very important.  If you haven’t designated an agent in your power of attorney, and for whatever reason you are no longer able to make decisions yourself, the court will appoint someone to make medical and financial decisions for you.  By establishing power of attorney, you can ensure that someone you trust is put in charge of your affairs, and that your wishes in regards to your healthcare and finances will be reinforced.


It should be noted that even if you have a power of attorney in place, you still have the right to make decisions regarding your finances and healthcare while you’re alive and capable of communicating such decisions.  Power of attorney only becomes effective once a doctor has certified that you’re no longer able to make decisions on your own.  In addition, the person designated in your power of attorney doesn’t have the authority to overrule you in the decision-making process while you’re still capable of making such decisions yourself.

Types of Powers of Attorney


Power of attorney can be very general, covering all aspects of your medical care and finances, or it can be more specific, limited to specific situations.  In California there are two types of powers of attorney: one for financial decisions and one for medical decisions.  A power of attorney for finances allows you to specify not only who you want handling your financial affairs, but also how you want your finances and assets to be handled.  A medical power of attorney, sometimes referred to as an “Advanced Healthcare Directive,” provides instructions for how you wish to be treated in the event that you become ill, unable to communicate, or require life support.  Your healthcare/medical power of attorney also designates someone to make medical decisions on your behalf. 



Orange County Trust Administration Lawyer


Trust administration refers to the legal process of distributing non-probate assets pursuant to the terms indicated in a trust.  If you have you been named a trustee, it’s to your advantage to have experienced representation during the trust administration process.  It’s important for all trustees to carry out their responsibility to protect the assets in a trust and to make sure they are properly distributed to the beneficiaries mentioned in the trust.  It’s also important for a trustee to file the appropriate tax documents and properly manage all other aspects of the trust. 




Guardianship Lawyer in Orange County, CA


If anything unfortunate were to happen to you or your spouse, it’s important to make sure your child will be cared for by someone you can trust to provide proper care.  This person is referred to as the guardian, and will be responsible for caring and providing for your child in your absence, making legal decisions on the child’s behalf, and overseeing the child’s assets, money, and estate.

Guardianship in California


In California, guardianship is established to ensure that a minor (an individual under the age of 18) is cared for in the event that his/her parents or current guardian are no longer able to provide care, usually due to a debilitating illness, death, incarceration, military duty, or instances of child abuse, drug addiction, or alcoholism.  Guardianship legally formalizes the care giving responsibilities of the guardian to the child, without the guardian having to take the more extreme step of adoption. 


Guardianship can be granted to a grandparent, aunt, uncle, sibling (if he/she is older than 18), family friend, or any other person of the parents’ choosing, as long as the chosen individual is capable of caring for the child.  The courts will usually uphold the parents’ wishes regarding the guardianship of their child, unless the guardian of choice:


·         Has a history of child abuse, alcoholism, or drug addiction

·         Is incapable of caring for the child, due to a mental incapacity, illness, etc.

·         Is financially unable to care for the child

·         Doesn’t want to be the child’s guardian


Don’t leave the fate of your child up to the courts to decide.  Take this simple to step to ensure your child will be cared for by someone you can trust, someone you know truly cares for child’s well-being.  For legal matters of this importance, it’s in your best interest to hire an Orange County guardianship attorney who honestly cares about the needs of you and your children. 










Tel: (949) 200-7336


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Copyright © 2005-2014 by The Law Offices of Bree Celeste Winterbotham.  All Rights Reserved.  The information on this site is not, nor intended to create legal advice.  Moreover, please be advised that no attorney-client relationship is created herein.  Every legal situation is unique and requires individualized legal advice.  You should not act upon or rely on any information in this website without consulting an attorney for individual advice regarding your specific situation.