Estate Planning Sonoma County: Protection & Distribution

Estate Planning Sonoma County: Protection & Distribution

If a search for “estate planning Sonoma County” brought you here, welcome! We are here to help.

Shrewd estate planning can result in peace of mind that improves your day-to-day quality of life. This is always preferable to endlessly worrying about how well things will be handled after your passing. 

Even if you are years from sunset, you don’t want to put it off. The longer-termed your plan is, the lower the probability of the IRS getting money that your survivors should receive. 



Estate Planning Is a Critical Element of Retirement Planning

People may not always associate planning estate business with building a retirement portfolio. Nevertheless, the two are more than just logical extensions of each other. 

If you don’t want your assets becoming public domain after you pass, now is the time to ensure against that happening. It begins with leaving the clearest instructions possible.

This is also the best way to avoid (or at least limit the duration of) probate. Whenever someone leaves behind an estate, the government steps in to verify the existence of things like a will. 

Assuming there is a will, the legitimacy of beneficiaries is then verified. Next, after a period lasting anywhere from days to months, the property of the deceased is administered to the legal recipients. 

However, in California, probate can be avoided. The first step is drawing up a will. No one can prove your designations for what you’ve left behind without one. 

The second step is setting up a trust. Legally, its contents count as entirely different from those of your estate. As a result, neither probate nor probate fees come into play. 

Your heirs may also appreciate the benefits of an irrevocable trust: Beneficiaries are taxed on income generated by the trust’s funds; not against the principal amount itself. 

Your heirs can be secure and happy. 


Why Else Should You Plan Your Estate?

Avoiding probate is just the tip of the iceberg. There are many otherwise reasons for proactive estate planning. 

To begin with, it protects your beneficiaries. If the worst happens to the breadwinner(s) in a middle-class family, it specifies where the deceased’s assets go. 

Especially during inflationary periods, these designations can prove invaluable. For instance, a court won’t necessarily rule for a surviving spouse to receive everything, otherwise. 

To be blunt, the best of judges probably won’t know which survivor is a family hero, either. If someone else shouldn’t be trusted blindly with money—and you didn’t plan your estate—they could wind up with a lion’s share of the assets.

Similarly, having a plan in place protects small children. If you want to make certain that your little ones are raised by people sharing your values, have their guardians specified in writing before the unthinkable occurs.

If you don’t, the courts have to intercede. This means that a complete stranger will determine who has custody of your children until they reach adulthood. 

Forgive us if this idea troubles you. We just want you to be aware of undesirable possibilities while you have the power to prevent them. 

An estate plan can prevent less dramatic circumstances from befalling your survivors, too. Massive taxes are usually more of a lengthy headache than a tragedy, but they’re not exactly pleasant. 

The Internal Revenue Service exists to collect; not to save you or your descendants any money. Like a cow in a grain silo, it will eat much of the assets you’ve carefully stored—unless you lock that door. 

Think of estate planning as turning the key. It lets you make sure that the right beneficiaries get your assets and pay the least amount of taxes for receiving them.




Are There Other Reasons?

Families that are normally peaceful sometimes fall into squabbling after someone passes away. This fact is ugly. Regardless, it is reality.

Little by little, their cohesion is replaced by resentment… which eventually boils into anger. Even previously close siblings can wind up shouting at one another across a courtroom.

Worse yet, in some cases, they never speak face-to-face again. Disagreement over the same assets or real estate intended to better their lives becomes a permanent wedge between them.

Generally speaking, it is easiest to stop a fight by keeping it from happening. Solid estate planning avoids chaos by predetermining the allocation of your finances, should you die or become incapacitated. 

For example, you can put resources into a trust for those who probably shouldn’t receive their entire inheritance all at once. The same sort of individual-specific plans can also provide for a child with health care issues or a disability. 

There are ways to preserve wealth for your loved ones that can benefit you here and now at the same time, too. Asset protection strategies like utilizing the IRS’s annual Gift Tax Exclusion can achieve both. 


The Building Blocks of an Estate Plan

The best estate plan will always be tailored specifically for your individual circumstances and assets. For basic reference here though, these are the common elements:

1) Asset Distribution. As the name implies, this concerns how your finances are distributed. The four simplest ways are:

  • Gifting funds before passing
  • Trusts (also established while you are alive)
  • The dispensing of assets at death through a will
  • The dispensing of assets at death outside a will

2) Asset Protection. Mentioned a few paragraphs above, this element encompasses tax strategies and other means arranged to safeguard your wealth. It often includes barriers against creditor claims, litigation, and punishing taxes for your business assets, personal finances, or both.

3) Personal end-of-life decisions. In addition to drawing up a will and establishing trusts, you may also want to specify additional arrangements after your passing. These can range from your preferences for a funeral service to having someone shut down your online presence.

4) Family decisions. Obviously, these should be as confidential as they are protected. As discussed earlier, these concern any specific familial arrangements or instructions. The best way to ensure that they are carried out is to establish them beforehand.

Together, we can put you in confident control of your financial future. 


Let Us Help You

At Montgomery Taylor, we believe next-generation wealth planning should be systematic. We do legacy tax and financial planning, but these are only part of the larger picture. 

Your portfolio, taxes, estate documents, liabilities, pension plan… Your entire financial life should be considered—in order to provide maximum benefit to each aspect. 

Especially if you’ve found yourself searching for “wealth management Santa Rosa CA,” “financial advisor Santa Rosa CA,” or “investment advisor Santa Rosa,” Monty wants to take the stress and burden out of your financial planning.

As a holistic wealth management firm, we may not be able to draw up your trust or will ourselves. However, we do work closely with a few Sonoma-County-based estate planning attorneys who we can work alongside to make sure all of your assets are covered.

Montgomery Taylor Realistic Financial Planning


At Montgomery Taylor Wealth Management, we understand the challenges of retirement planning and can help put together a plan to protect your family’s legacy. Contact us to find out how we can help you!