Top California Estate Planning Attorney

Do you know what kind of California estate plan may be right for you?

Click the button to the right to take our Estate Planning Quiz Today!

What is Estate Planning?

Estate planning is the process of appointing someone to manage or transfer:

What you have, to who you want, when you want, the way you want, all while avoiding unnecessary taxes, legal fees and family turmoil.

Probate Attorneys near me

Have You Ever Considered Talking to a California Estate Planning Attorney?

If you’re like most people, your family is the most important thing in your life. Their needs and their comfort will always be of paramount importance. You recognize your role in ensuring their safety and welfare, and that is why you are interested in talking to an estate planning attorney.

Unfortunately, you may have put off making the proper provisions for their future in the event that you are no longer in the picture. This is possibly the worst mistake you could make.

If you fail to plan today for the interests of your loved ones, the courts and California law will certainly do it for you, and the way in which they dispose of your hard-earned assets might well be the opposite of your wishes.

Take our Probate Quiz to find out if your assets will be subject to probate.

Take action, schedule a free phone consult

How can we help you?

Average estate plans per year


Years of combined attorney experience


Documents in our complete estate plan


Estate planning attorneys


Clients have paid over our quoted fee

California Estate Planning Price List


Single Revocable Living Trust

Flat Rate Estate Planning Package
$ 2100
00 Flat Rate
  • Revocable Living Trust*
  • Last Will and Testament
  • Health Care Power of Attorney (Includes Living Will)
  • Financial Power of Attorney
  • HIPAA Authorization
  • Transfer Deed (filing fee included)
  • Certificate of Trust
  • Assignment of Personal Property
  • Personal Property Memorandum
  • Funding Memorandum
  • Memorial Instructions
  • Asset Organizer and USB with all Documents

*Price includes Probate Avoidance Trust. Advanced planning  will be quoted after consultation where attorney determines the scope of representation.

Family cooking in the kitchen together

How Do You Take Payment for Setting up a California Estate Plan?

Generally, we require that half of the payment be made when you decide to hire us and sign our fee agreement. The other half is due on signing. We believe in the importance of estate planning. With that said, we will gladly work with anyone on setting up a payment plan for the cost of your estate plan if you currently are under financial hardship. Please contact us if you have any questions.

Flat Fee Estate Planning: We Don’t Believe in Billing by the Hour when drafting a California Estate Plan.

Legal fees are often a source of anxiety for families. This anxiety can lead to a delay in putting a California estate plan in place.

In addition, we have found that when the clock is always running, clients can make rash decisions or avoid asking their estate planning lawyer questions.

When we set out to create our estate planning price list we wanted to ensure that our clients knew how much they would be charged, and were able to ask as many questions as needed until they fully understand the plan they are putting into place.

Simple, Flat Fee Estate Planning

We feel that a flat fee estate planning price list leads to much better relationships between the attorney and client.

When there is a better relationship, there is a better outcome. Pretty simple right?

California Estate Planning FAQ's

California Estate Planning FAQ

Estate Planning FAQ’s

Definition: A Revocable Living Trust (RLT) is one created by the settlor during lifetime, in which, during his lifetime, the settlor retains the absolute right to totally revoke the trust, change its terms to any degree, and/or regain total possession of the property in the trust.

Put simply, it is a agreement where you (the settlor) gets to appoint an agent (the trustee) to control how your property is managed and distributed throughout all phases of your life and death.


  1. Control over your assets (that you put into the revocable trust) while you are alive and well, if you become incapacitated, and after you pass away.
  2. Privacy in the handling and administration of your assets during your lifetime and upon your death.
  3. Reduce estate taxes and legal expenses by planning ahead and being able to avoid the probate process through a private trust administration.

Definition: A Will is a written document which states an individual’s wishes as to how he or she wants his/her property to be disposed of at death. A Will therefore specifies “who gets what”- and is some cases-“who does not”.

A Pour Over Will is the same as a Will, however in a Pour Over Will you make your Trust the beneficiary of all of your assets. When you set up a Trust, you will transfer title of your assets to the name of the Trust, but if there are any assets that  were not properly transferred, the Pour Over Will will make sure they are transferred.



  1. A will is completely revocable (changeable) during someones lifetime, but becomes irrevocable (not able to be changed) at the moment of death.
  2. You get to control who gets your property upon your death and you get to name who is responsible for carrying out your wishes (Your Executor).


  1. In California, even if you have a will, your executor will still be subject to having to go through some form of probate. The cost of going through probate will be paid for by your estate.
  2. Upon your death, your executor (or his/her attorney) will file your will with the probate court, and it then becomes public record.  Thus, you lose the benefit of privacy that a Trust provides. This may open up the floodgates for disgruntled family members or creditors to dispute the will. Your estate will have to defend the will and the legal costs will likely be paid from your estate, lowering the amount that you can leave for your beneficiaries.
  3. Your will only takes effect after you pass away and does not control any property if you become incapacitated.

Definition: A Durable Power of Attorney or Financial Power of Attorney is a written agreement (or document) that enables an individual (referred to as the principal) to designate an other person or persons as his “attorney-in-fact,” that is, to act on the principals behalf for financial matters. In other words, this document grants authority to an agent to act in the place of the principal with relation to finances.


  1. The scope of the Durable Power of Attorney can be limited (such as “Only to pay my mortgage”) or very broad (“Any and all of the legal powers I have including but not limited to…”)
  2. A “Durable” power of attorney remains in effect during incapacity but terminates upon death.
  3. You can choose to have your power of attorney take effect immediately or take effect only upon your incapacity or a certain date (referred to as a Springing Power of Attorney).

Definition: A Health Care Power of Attorney is a written document that enables an individual (referred to as the principal) to designate an other person or persons as his “attorney-in-fact,” that is, to act on the principals behalf for health care decisions.


  1. You can choose who you would like to make your health care decisions on your behalf if you were to become incapacitated.
  2. You can make decisions for your end of life care, such as the choice to prolong life or not to prolong life.
  3. You can elect to donate organs or tissues for transplantation or research purposes(or elect not to donate any organs or tissues).
  4. You can choose to have your power of attorney take effect immediately or take effect only upon your incapacity.

Definition of Probate: In its most narrow sense, probate means to prove that the will was the decedent’s , and that the will being offered to the court is the “Last Will” of the decedent. In its broader sense, probate refers to the entire process of administering the decedent’s will, including gathering the decedent’s assets, paying the decedent’s taxes and debts, and distributing the remaining assets to the proper beneficiaries.

Read More: Handling the Probate Process

San Diego Probate Court


  • You are able to save money while you are alive by not having a trust drafted.


  • Time: In San Diego there are currently 2 judges that review all of the probate cases and it is not uncommon for a probate case to last from 1-2 years.
  • Expense: While you do save money while you are alive, the cost of going through probate generally far outweighs the cost of setting up a living trust.
  • Public Records: Probate is a public process and your estate will lose the privilege of privacy.

Funding a Trust: Funding of a revocable living trust should occur at the establishment and then again at a later date as assets change over time. It is incredibly important to have a fully funded living trust, because an partially funded (or unfunded) trusts is not able to avoid probate.

In the funding process, you will make ownership changes to the title of most of your assets. You will change the title from your name to the name of your living trust.

It is important to consult with an estate planning attorney to determine exactly what assets should be titled under the trust, and which should be left out of the trust. Here are a list of some assets to consider:

  1. Cash Accounts
  2. Investment Accounts
  3. Stocks and Bonds not held in investment accounts
  4. Stock Options
  5. Personal Effects
  6. Retirement Plan Assets
  7. 529 Plans ( Qualified Tuition Plans)
  8. Life Insurance Policies and Annuities
  9. Notes, Mortgages, and Other Receivables
  10. Partnership Interests
  11. Corporate Business or Professional Interests
  12. Sole Proprietorship Business Interests
  13. Oil, Gas, and Mineral Interests
  14. Real Property

As part of the funding process, it is also important to update any applicable beneficiary designations to coordinate with provisions of the revocable trust.

California Death Tax: While tax laws change relatively frequently, there is currently no death tax imposed by the state of California. “For decedents that die on or after January 1, 2005, there is no longer a requirement to file a California Estate Tax Return.”

Federal Death Tax: In 2016, as an individual, if your gross estate is valued under $5,450,000, then you will not owe any estate taxes. If you are married then the $5,450,000 can be multiplied by 2 (for each spouse). This means that a married couple’s estate will not be taxed if it is under $10,900,000. IRS Website.

What is an Executor: When a person dies, the law in California requires that his/her property must be accounted for and collected. Once the debt’s, taxes, and expenses are paid, then the remaining assets are distributed to whomever is legally entitled to that property. That distribution is determined by the person’s will, or if there is no valid will (or to the extent a will is partially invalid), the intestate laws of California.

It is the Executor (or sometimes referred to as the administrator) responsibility to collect and safeguard the decedents assets, pay the death taxes, debts, and expenses of the decedent, and to make the appropriate distribution of any remaining assets.


The entire process by which these tasks are accomplished (wit the supervision and guidance of the court system) is called Probate.

Definition of a Trustee: A trustee is the person who has been appointed to manage a trust. In California, a trustee has a legal obligation to care for the trusts assets in the best interest of the beneficiary or the beneficiaries. Some common trustee duties are:

  • Managing rental properties
  • Investing funds
  • Paying income to beneficiaries
  • Closing down accounts
  • Accounting to beneficiaries.

A trustee should posses business judgment (even if their is no business), honesty, and integrity. The trustee must be able and willing to exercise a high degree of care over trust property and avoid (however tempting) investments or acts that are likely to result in losses.

A trustee must have legal capacity to contract. This precludes the appointment of someone under the age of 18 or an incompetent adult. It is also a good idea to try and find a trustee who is local so that they can handle the day to day business of administering the trust.

Investment skill is usually necessary. Under the “Prudent Person” rule, a trustee will be liable to the beneficiary for losses unless he/she exercises the same care and skill that a person of ordinary prudence would exercise in dealing with his/her own property.

Because a trustee must examine and review the trust periodically, administrative and legal skills and knowledge are important. Accounting’s must be made to the client and eventually to the other beneficiaries. All parties must be advised accurately on the tax and other legal effects. Provisions in the trust  must, from time to time be interpreted.

Definition of Beneficiary: A beneficiary is the person who is legally entitled to receive the assets from a trust or a will. A beneficiary can be a person or an organization (such as a charity).

  1. Parents who have minor children;
  2. Blended Families 
  3. Individuals and families who own real estate
  4. Individuals and families who have digital assets
  5. Young Adults and Young Families
  6. If you feel your estate is disorganized
  7. Business Owners
  8. If you are interested in protecting your wealth
  9. Professional Service Providers

What is a Living Will?

A living will is a legally binding document that outlines what you want for your own care, thereby preventing some painful debates between family members concerned about your well-being.

It also designates an individual to make medical decisions for you when you cannot, a power that you can limit if you choose. Creating a living will is an essential component of creating an estate plan.

If you experience a serious illness, you may be unable to tell your doctors what medical treatments you want to receive or refuse. Similarly, as you reach the end of life, many circumstances can limit your ability to communicate your health care preferences. It may be a period of weeks or months during which important choices are made on your behalf.

Forms of a Living Will

In California, a living will usually takes the form of an advance health care directive. According to the California Medical Association, traditional living wills are focused only on the refusal of life-sustaining treatment in the event of incapacity.

The living will was often combined with a power of attorney that authorized a specific individual to make health care decisions.

However, the advance health care directive addresses life-sustaining treatment in any situation. It includes the appointment of an agent, also known as a power of attorney for health care, to make decisions. Individuals can include a range of issues in the directive, such as preferences for palliative and hospice care.

If you made a valid form of a living will prior to July 1, 2000, such as a Natural Death Act Declaration, a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care Directive to Physicians, these remain in effect until revoked.

When a Living Will is Used?

The authority of a health care agent under an advance care directive comes into effect when your primary physician determines you are unable to make your own medical decisions. You can also choose to have that authority come into effect immediately, an option that should be carefully thought through.

Contents of a Living Will

In addition to naming your health care agent, the advance care directive allows you to name your primary physician, although the latter is optional. Individuals may also direct the use of organs after death, such as for transplant or research purposes.

Some individuals choose to refer to specific medical procedures in their living will. The Mayo Clinic recommends thinking about such things as:

  • CPR and other forms of resuscitation;
  • Being on a ventilator;
  • Tube feeding;
  • Dialysis;
  • Antibiotic or antiviral medications;
  • Pain management and other forms of comfort care.

While you may choose to refuse these procedures completely, you may also want to simply place limits on their use. For example, you may agree to be on a ventilator for a specific period of time.

Since it may be difficult to make these choices without more information about what the procedures entail, it is a good idea to discuss the issue with your physician before finalizing your directive.

Once preferences are established in a living will, a doctor can create a POLST (Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment).

Most appropriate for those with a serious illness or nearing the end of life, a POLST turns the details of a care directive into treatment orders for medical teams.

Creating a Living Will

The state of California has an Advance Health Care Directive Form for individuals to create a living will. However, it is not necessary to use this form to create a valid directive.

Since some specific issues must be addressed in a directive in order for it to be upheld by a court, it is a good idea to draft the document with a lawyer’s assistance.

You and two witnesses must sign your directive in the presence of a notary or lawyer. The witnesses are, in part, certifying that they not only saw you sign the directive but that you were not under duress while doing so and were of sound mind. Witnesses may not include the health agent named in your living will, nor may they include members of your health care team. A special witness is also required for patients in care facilities.

Apart from the legal requirements, it is good practice to discuss your care directive with family members. Ultimately, your end-of-life preferences are your own, but knowing them in advance can help loved ones deal with the situation with less emotion and conflict.

Choosing a Health Care Agent

In California, there are some restrictions on whom you can name your health care agent. In general, it cannot be your doctor, a member of your care team, or an employee at a care facility where you reside.

You should choose someone whom you trust, is comfortable discussing medical issues, and is well-informed about your wishes. Since agents often have to be a patient advocate in court or in discussion with family members and doctors, they should be able to handle conflict appropriately. For your own peace of mind, confirm your agent supports your preferences and is willing to enforce them.

You should review your living will periodically to make sure it still reflects your wishes. If you remarry or experience a new medical diagnosis, you may want to consider revising the document. At any time before it is invoked, you can update your care directive, including changing your health care agent.

A living will, like all aspects of health care, is of great importance to you and your family members.

It helps to ensure you not only receive the care you want, but that loved ones experience the least possible amount of stress during an already difficult time. 

Matthew Odgers exemplifies integrity. Estate planning is something both powerful and delicate, requiring a balance of directness and grace. Matthew has both of these qualities. He is able to ask the necessary questions, while holding his clients up with dignity and respect. His thoughtfulness, thoroughness and approach are phenomenal. I will be working with Matthew for the foreseeable future and will recommend him to anyone I care about for their estate planning needs
California Estate Planning
Kirk Hinkleman
Past Client

Your San Diego Estate Planning Attorney

T. Owen Rassman

Estate Planning Attorney

Creating a Comprehensive Trust Based California Estate Plan

Benefits of Estate Planning

Planning for your family’s future is serious business, and it’s something you need to do right. With proper planning you will be able to control and protects assets:

  1. While you are alive and well;
  2. Upon Incapacity
  3. Upon Death
California Estate Planning Benefits

Fortunately, Opelon LLP has a comprehensive estate planning package that addresses all three of these life events. Our standard estate planning package includes:

  1. Revocable living trust
  2. Will or pour-over will
  3. Living will
  4. Appointment a legal guardian for minor children.
  5. Durable power of attorney for your finances. (DPOA)
  6. Health care power of attorney for your health care decisions.
  7. Initial funding of your trust and funding memorandum
  8. Personal property memorandum
  9. Memorial instructions
  10. Certificate of trust

Regardless of the specific type of instrument you devise, the expert estate-planning attorneys at Opelon LLP will help you do it right.

If you are unable to come into the office to meet with an estate planning attorney please take a look at our Virtual Estate Planning Services.

If you think that estate planning is a tool for the rich or the elderly alone, it’s time to think again. People of any age can benefit from having a game plan.

If you should die suddenly without first setting up a trust or writing a will, then the probate court may distribute your assets for you in accordance with local laws, and they will do this with no regard for what you might have wanted.

Worse, the process could be held up in probate for months or even years, thus forcing those you love to wait much longer to receive their inheritances.

Advanced California Estate Planning for Gifts, Taxes, Charitable Giving and Asset Protection

Opelon LLP also offers more advanced estate planning strategies for individuals and families looking for asset protection or to save money on estate taxes. Here is a list of the some of the more advanced Estate Planning services Opelon LLP can provide:

Don’t Try This on Your Own, Hire an Estate Planning Attorney for your California Estate Plan

Some people make the mistake of thinking that a one-size-fits-all solution will satisfy their needs. In truth, everyone has a unique financial situation, and simplistic solutions will never suit the needs of all. In addition, without the guidance of an experienced estate planning attorney, you might very well make errors that could slow the distribution of your assets or invalidate your document entirely.

Meeting with an Estate Planning Attorney will help you Understand California Estate Planning Laws

From one state to another, estate-planning regulations are both unique and precise. An expert in the subject can ensure that:

  1. Your estate planning documents will allow your family to avoid probate.
  2. Shorten the amount of time in which assets are distributed to your family.
  3. Avoid unhappy family members or friends from contesting your
  4. Keep family harmony during a time of grief.

Only by careful consideration of all the potential traps and roadblocks can you be certain of avoiding complications that can be as frustrating as they are costly and time-consuming.

Let the Estate Planning Lawyer Experts at Opelon Work for You

Given their thorough familiarity with California’s estate-planning laws, the attorneys at Opelon are in the perfect position to work with all who live in and around the San Diego area. With our assistance, you can develop an estate plan that ensures your family’s future comfort and safety while keeping the courts well out of the picture.

Call our office today and learn how an estate planning attorney can help. Your family will be glad you did. We are happy to provide our in home Estate Planning services to Poway, Rancho Bernardo, Ramona, Carmel Valley, Del Mar, Solana Beach, Cardiff,  4s Ranch, Mira Mesa, Clairemont, Pacific Beach, La Jolla, Escondido, Mission Valley, Vista, San Marcos, Carlsbad, Santee, Lakeside, El Cajon, and North County San Diego.

Best San Diego Probate Law Firm

End of Life Legal Concerns

Estate Planning When Death is Imminent

Everyone hopes to live a long life and slide gracefully into a peaceful old age.

Unfortunately, a sad end to someone’s life has been known to arrive unannounced and sometimes in a hurry.

If the unexpected should happen to you, will you be prepared?

How Your Attorney Can Help With Estate Planning When Death is Imminent

While death can come swiftly without any warning, most people are aware of the approaching end of life. Although it will help to have gotten all your ducks in a row well in advance, it is never too late to settle your affairs, and a competent estate planner can help.

In addition to reducing taxes, avoiding unnecessary expenses and ensuring that your needs are met, having your financial matters straightened out can lend a welcome sense of comfort to you and your family at an otherwise stressful time.


When death appears imminent, planning techniques can easily be the last thing on your mind. Fortunately, strategies do exist to help reduce your end-of-life monetary burdens. When time is of the essence, however, you or those with whom you are close may want some legal assistance.

To begin, you will need to have your lawyer review existing documents as they relate to the planning of your estate. In most cases, you will want to ensure above all that your wishes as stated in these papers remain the same.

Nevertheless, if your family relationships have undergone a shift or changes in state and federal tax, trust, probate, and property laws have occurred, an update is likely in order.

Your attorney will also want to check the sufficiency of your plan. Although it may have served the purpose at the time you drew it up, it may no longer be appropriate for handling your assets as they stand today.

Your Estate Planning Attorney Should Pay Particular Attention to the Following:

Wills and Trusts

It will be vital not only to locate the most recent versions of these documents but also to carefully examine their contents and any codicils or amendments that might exist.

At this time, you may also wish to compose one or more gift letters as another way of ensuring that certain valued items wind up in the proper hands.


Your Current Assets

In addition to revealing your present properties and the manner in which you hold them, an accurate listing will include a full accounting of monies owed along with those coming due and full contact information for all debtors and creditors.

Valid Durable Power of Attorney

It makes sense to authorize a trusted associate or loved one to make the important decisions in case you become totally incapable of making them yourself.

The person or persons whom you choose can ensure that your wishes concerning your property, your healthcare, advance care directives, HIPAA waivers, and anatomical donations are carried out.

Estate Tax Strategies

When death is imminent, there are ways to minimize the associated tax burden. If you are married, for example, the transfer of assets from one spouse to another is often an option.

On the other hand, if you and your partner are not yet married, this might be a good time to think of tying the knot. Your attorney can assist you concerning the best means of extending tax advantages at this time.

Living Will and Health Care Decisions

When your condition is terminal, this important document will help to ensure that the medical professionals overseeing your care will carry out your wishes when you can no longer make them known.

Have your attorney assist you with this, and be sure to give copies to your family members, your doctor, and your healthcare facility.

Anatomical Decisions

People over the age of 18 and in possession of all mental faculties can donate specific organs or their entire bodies to medical science. In California, this will entail signing a so-called document of gift.

If you cannot sign yourself or are under 18 years of age an authorized surrogate, parent, or guardian, may be able to it for you.


California Estate Planning Attorney

Funeral Arrangements


When you become seriously ill and believe that death is around the corner, preparing funeral arrangements ahead of that time can ease your mind and give you a feeling of control.

If you are too sick to meet in person with a funeral director, you might want to consider giving a reliable advisor or family member permission to do this for you.

When Should You Update Your California Estate Plan?

Click the button below to download a list of questions to ask yourself before updating your estate plan.

If You Need Estate Planning Help in California, Send Us a Message!

1901 Camino Vida Roble, Ste 121 Carlsbad, CA 92008
MON-FRI 09:00 - 5:00

How can we help you?