Plan For Your Future Tomorrow


Estate Planning Attorney in Oakland, California

Estate planning is a powerful legal tool that can make sure your assets are managed and distributed according to your wishes in the event of your incapacitation or death. It not only involves drafting a will but can encompass trusts, powers of attorney, and healthcare directives that provide direction for your loved ones on how to honor your estate.

Despite its importance, more than 60% of Americans have not created a will, according to recent surveys, and a significant portion of Californians do not have formal estate plans. Without these documents, you could potentially be leaving your assets and loved ones in a precarious position, which is why it's imperative to reach out to an experienced estate planning attorney. 

At the Law Offices of Gary R. Kershner, I provide estate planning services tailored to the unique needs of my clients. My firm is committed to creating a thorough estate plan that reflects your wishes and aligns with California law. Located in Oakland, California, I proudly serve clients in Berkeley, Alameda, Emeryville, Rockridge, Piedmont, Fruitvale, Fremont, San Jose, San Francisco, and beyond.  

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Comprehensive Estate Planning in California

Proper estate planning allows you to create a well-prepared plan that documents how your assets should be managed and distributed if you become incapacitated or pass away.

The components of an estate plan can differ depending on your estate's size and value. However, common elements of an estate plan include a verified will, trusts, powers of attorney, and healthcare directives.

Once created, these items can help ensure your wishes are respected and your assets are distributed to your beneficiaries according to your wishes: 

  • Wills: A will specifies how your assets should be distributed after your passing. In California, wills must meet specific legal requirements to be valid. The person creating the will (i.e., the testator) must be of sound mind, the will must be in writing, and it must be signed by the testator and at least two witnesses. Oral wills are not recognized in California, but holographic wills (wills that are handwritten and signed by the testator) are. 

  • Trusts: Trusts offer a versatile way to manage and protect your assets both during your lifetime and after your passing. These can take the form of revocable living trusts, which can avoid the lengthy and public probate process, testamentary trusts, which are outlined in a will, and special needs trusts, which won't affect the eligibility of your loved ones for public assistance. 

  • Powers of Attorney: Designating a power of attorney allows you to appoint someone to manage your affairs in the event you become incapacitated. You can choose to have a general power of attorney, which allows the designated individual to manage all your affairs, or a limited power of attorney, which only grants specific powers. 

  • Healthcare Directives: Also known as advance healthcare directives or living wills, healthcare directives outline your wishes for medical care if you are unable to communicate them yourself. This includes instructions on end-of-life care and designating someone as your healthcare agent.

Our firm can guide you through the process of creating a will that meets all legal standards and accurately reflects your wishes. 

What Is Intestacy?

Dying without a will in California means your estate falls under the state's intestacy laws. These laws dictate how your assets will be distributed in the absence of a will or trust.

Under California intestacy statutes, if you pass away without a will, your property will be allocated to your closest relatives, beginning with your spouse and children. If you are unmarried and without children, your estate will then go to your parents, followed by your siblings, grandparents, nieces and nephews, and further extended family in a prescribed order.  

In California, the division of property for married individuals depends on whether it is considered community property (acquired during marriage) or separate property (acquired before marriage or as a gift/inheritance). Community property is generally given to the surviving spouse, while separate property is divided among the spouse and other relatives.

This framework often leads to results that might not align with the deceased's wishes, which emphasizes the importance of drafting a will and providing specific direction for asset distribution according to your desires. 

What Is Probate?

Probate is a judicial process that involves the administration of a deceased person's estate. This legal procedure aims to make sure your assets are given to your rightful heirs and beneficiaries and settle any outstanding debts or taxes according to the directives in your will, or in the absence of a will, according to California's intestacy laws.  

Probate can be a lengthy and complex process, primarily due to court-supervised distribution of your assets. California offers a simplified process for smaller estates valued below a certain threshold, allowing for a more streamlined transfer of assets without the need for formal probate.  

For estates exceeding this value, formal probate is legally required and involves the appointment of an administrator or executor, an inventory and appraisal of the estate, the payment of debts and taxes, and ultimately, the distribution of the remaining assets to the beneficiaries. However, there are some estate planning tools, such as living trusts, that can protect assets and help avoid the probate process, providing a smoother transition for the estate and the involved parties. 

Whether you are going through the probate process or administering a trust, my firm can walk you through what to expect with probate and help you craft an estate plan that best protects your assets and minimizes the costs and duration of the probate process. 

Why Choose My Firm?

At the Law Offices of Gary R. Kershner, I am happy to provide comprehensive, tailored solutions that reflect each client's unique estate and needs. With an in-depth knowledge of California's estate planning laws, I offer a broad range of estate planning services designed to secure your legacy and make sure your wishes are carried out effectively. My key services include: 

  • Drafting Wills and Trusts: I am skilled in the creation of estate planning documents. Whether you need a simple will or a complex set of trusts, I will make sure your documents are legally sound and reflect your wishes accurately. 

  • Establishing Powers of Attorney and Healthcare Directives: I can help you designate trusted individuals to manage your affairs and make healthcare decisions on your behalf should you become unable to do so yourself. 

  • Estate Tax Planning: To minimize the impact of taxes on your estate, I offer strategic planning and advice that includes the use of trusts, gifts, and other legal mechanisms. 

  • Probate and Trust Administration: My services extend to assisting executors and trustees in the administration of estates and trusts, making sure they comply with the legal requirements. 

My goal is to provide peace of mind through comprehensive, thorough, and personalized estate planning. Whether you're looking to protect your assets, prepare for the future, or ensure your loved ones are cared for according to your wishes, I am ready to assist you.

Estate Planning Attorney in Oakland, California 

The Law Offices of Gary R. Kershner is not a one-size-fits-all law firm. I understand the importance of estate planning and how a strong will and the establishment of trusts can provide security and peace of mind for you and your family. With over 30 years of experience practicing law in California, I can help you craft an estate plan that addresses your needs and complies with California's estate planning laws.