How to create a will and an estate plan without a lawyer

Estate & Tax Attorney Stefanie Lipson shares advice for those concerned about the fees involved in preparing a will or a trust on how to create a plan without seeking an attorney's advice
How To Create A Will And An Estate Plan Without A Lawyer
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How to create a will and an estate plan without a lawyer

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If you're concerned about the fees involved in preparing a will or a trust in going to a lawyer, there are a number of ways to ensure that you have an estate plan that is appropriate for you without having to seek the advice of an attorney. Most states will recognize some sort of form of holographic will which is in essence of will that is entirely written by you and specifies how your assets are going to be distributed. Again, this is a will and so, it would be subject to a court administered proceeding after you pass away. Having a trust established by you get frankly a little bit more complicated because it's a relationship between the trustee and the beneficiary immediately you and so, it may not be appropriate to establish a trust at that point. But there are a number of ways that you can transfer your assets at death and successfully avoid a court administered proceeding without having to go to an attorney to prepare a will or trust. For example, retirement plans and life insurance pass according to the beneficiary designation set up when the life insurance policy is set in place or the retirement plan is established and those go without a court involvement. Likewise, you can actually go to a bank and establish what's called a pay on death or a transfer on death designation for any bank account and then on your death, it will pass according to that beneficiary designation without the need for court involvement. All of these remain entirely revocable by you during your lifetime. You can change your beneficiaries at any time. Another way to transfer you assets without having to go to court and have a will in place is what's known as by right of survivorship. A lot of states recognize transfers with rights of survivorship especially for things like real property and it would automatically pass to the other person, the surviving tenant, on death. But, it's important to understand that there are potential income tax, and estate and gift tax consequences to having rights of survivorship so you want to think about those in advance.

Estate & Tax Attorney Stefanie Lipson shares advice for those concerned about the fees involved in preparing a will or a trust on how to create a plan without seeking an attorney's advice

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Stefanie Lipson

Estate & Tax Attorney

Stefanie J. Lipson is an attorney in the Family Wealth Planning Group of Greenberg, Glusker, Fields, Claman, & Machtinger, LLP.  Stefanie’s practice focuses on comprehensive estate planning for high net worth individuals, family business succession planning, probate and trust administration and the law of tax exempt organizations.  Stefanie counsels her clients with a holistic approach to wealth transfer solutions, structuring plans to meet a family’s individual needs while addressing the complex estate, gift and income tax implications of wealth transfer.  In addition, consistent with Stefanie’s belief that the most effective estate planning begins early, Stefanie has developed an estate planning program designed specifically to meet the planning needs of young families as they encounter common life events. 

Stefanie’s unique approach and application of Trust and Estate law has been well acknowledged by the legal community.  She served as a panelist at the 2010 Southern California Tax and Estate Planning Forum in a discussion involving multijurisdictional issues in estate planning and has authored publications for The Los Angeles Daily Journal and The Recorder.  Stefanie has been listed in Southern California Rising Stars each year since 2009.

Stefanie received her Bachelor of Arts in 2003 from University of California Los Angeles, graduating magna cum laude with the distinction of departmental honors and a member of Phi Beta Kappa.  Stefanie received her J.D. from the University of Southern California Law Center in 2006.  Following her graduation from USC, Stefanie clerked for the Honorable Fred Keiser, Jr. in the New Jersey Superior Court, Family Law Division.  During her time with the court, Stefanie also served as a court appointed mediator for small claims civil matters. 

In furtherance of her estate planning work, Stefanie is currently pursuing a Master of Laws in Taxation (LL.M.) from New York University School of Law.  Stefanie’s studies at NYU focus on estate, gift and income tax matters relating to wealth succession planning and family business ownership.

Stefanie lives in Los Angeles, with her husband Marc and their new son Noah, whom she regards as her greatest achievement.

Guardianship, Wills and Trusts
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