To my web visitors:

I know this is an anxious time. You are likely aware (and many of you are likely subject to) the public health "shelter in place" mandate applicable to the San Francisco Bay Area. Among other restrictions, these rules require us to work remotely and minimize person-to-person interactions. I am moving all my meetings to Zoom or telephone for the time being, and will work with you to have remote document signings. I do not anticipate that these restrictions will impact my ability to provide services to you, as best I can given the current restrictions. We have for many years had the ability to work anywhere with an Internet connection. Please don't hesitate to contact me if I can be of benefit. Stay safe. Get exercise. Wash your hands often.

Empowered Estate Planning:
Gain Peace of Mind, Share Your Values, Protect Your Loved Ones

Estate Planning is a gift to the people that you love the most. It doesn’t have to be a chore. Instead, it can be your opportunity to create a meaningful legacy, to communicate your most cherished values, and to gain peace of mind.

If you are looking for a compassionate and clear-thinking lawyer who will empower you to create an estate plan that is truly your own, or work with you to settle an estate fairly, then I look forward to working with you.

What I Do

I write estate plans that include living trusts, wills, durable powers of attorney and health care directives. I advise trustees in trust administration and executors in probate proceedings. I write books and host a podcast to educate and empower my clients.

I believe in radical common sense and finding the most elegant (and simple) solutions to meet your legal needs. I believe that you are the expert in understanding your family and that we must work together to find legal solutions that will work over the long run. I don’t think there is such a thing as a ‘dumb question.’

I structure my estate planning practice around transparency and flat fees so that you will engage with me in the process, ask lots of questions, and be a partner in the planning and administration process. I require you to commit to finishing your estate plan, or settling an estate, within a reasonable period of time—6 months for planning; 1 year for trust administration and probates. Part of my job, after all, is to help you finish what you’ve started.

My Credentials

I’m a graduate of Stanford Law School. I’m a Certified Specialist in Estate Planning, Trust Administration & Probate Law, from The State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization. I’ve written two books that demystify and explain the process of estate planning and trust administration:

El Monte Superior Courthouse

Every Californian’s Guide to Estate Planning: Wills, Trusts, Everything Else

El Monte Superior Courthouse

And (with Attorney Carol Elias Zolla), The Trustee’s Legal Companion: A Step by Step Guide to Administering a Living Trust

El Monte Superior Courthouse

I host a podcast, Life/Death/Law that explores the intersection of life, death and law in conversation with thought leaders from the fields of psychology, medicine, philosophy and religion.
Life/Death/Law

How I Do My Job

Here are my goals for our work together:

Your experience will be pleasant because your wishes will be respected, your concerns will be listened to, I will structure the whole experience so that you can think through the important issues and get well-informed answers to all of your questions, promptly and without making you feel insecure or misinformed, or over-charged.

Your experience will be convenient because I offer Flat Fee pricing, in-house notarization of your documents, and will work with you to review draft documents in person or by Zoom, whatever works best for you.

Your experience will be efficient because I provide you with all of the tools you'll need to educate yourself about the estate planning on this website, I provide you with a questionnaire to gather all of the essential information that I'll need during our first meeting (and after), and I have streamlined and organized the drafting, review, and execution stage of the process to make it simple for you. When you are done, you'll leave with a signed original of each document and a thumbdrive with pdf's of all of your executed documents for digital storage.

For trust administration and probates I have a full-time paralegal who will work with you to manage the accounting and reporting necessary for Trustees and Executors.

What’s in an Estate Plan?

For most people, an estate plan consists of four main documents: a Trust, a Will, a Durable Power of Attorney for Finance, and an Advance Health Care Directive. When we work together, we’ll figure out which ones you need and how to structure each to accomplish your goals.

Here’s a short description of each one. To read more, download the Getting Started Packet here.

Wills are the simplest estate planning tools. They are extremely flexible and provide for appointment of guardians, tax savings trusts, and trusts for children. They do not substantially reduce the costs of wealth transfer (i.e. probate).

Living Trusts are legal entities that hold property during a person’s life and provide for a distribution plan after death. All assets in the living trust avoid probate. Living trusts are coordinated with pour-over Wills to appoint guardians (if necessary) and tie up loose ends.

Powers of attorney allow someone to make decisions and to manage your financial affairs for assets outside of a living trust if you become incompetent.

Advance Health Care Directives allow you to name an agent to make health care decisions for you and state your wishes for end-of-life care.

What Happens in a Trust Administration or Probate Proceeding?

In trust administration and probate proceedings, the main steps are the same, although how those steps are completed differs:

  1. You must identify all of the decedent’s assets.
  2. You must get all of those assets appraised.
  3. You must notify all heirs and beneficiaries.
  4. You must pay all taxes and creditors.
  5. You must distribute the assets as directed by the Trust or Will.
  6. You must keep excellent records.
  7. You must be fair to all beneficiaries and avoid any self-dealing.
Now What?

If you are ready to get started, please do the following:

  1. Download the Getting Started Packet here.
  2. Call 650/428-3900 or 650/237-7218 to make an appointment.
  3. Email us at lizainfo@gcalaw.com if you have any questions.
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Life/Death/Law Blog
Ask Liza: Nolo's Estate Planning Blog
Contact Me
(650) 428-3900