Estate Planning for Divorcing Couples in California

When facing a divorce in California, estate planning takes on added significance. California is a community property state, and there are no laws that preclude an estranged couple from inheriting from each other in the absence of an up to date estate plan. We understand the unique needs of divorcing couples and offer specialized services to ensure your assets and family are protected.

Special Considerations for the Divorcing Client:

Many professionals believe that a person contemplating or in the middle of a divorce cannot engage in estate planning. This is not true.

If you become incapacitated before your divorce is final, without the right documents in place your soon to be ex could ask a court for permission to make health care decisions for you and manage your assets. If you die before your divorce is final, your soon to be ex could inherit your community property and at least a portion of your separate property. If your soon to be ex is a bad actor and should not be given sole custody of minor children, you will have no voice with the courts to avoid this outcome.

Twenty Minute Complimentary Consultation

Estate planning is a highly personal process, and finding the right attorney is crucial. This is your opportunity to interview us and determine if we’re the right fit for your needs.

The Lawyer’s Learning Meeting

Once you’ve decided to work with us, we schedule our first substantive meeting. During this session, we delve into your background, family, and close relationships. We conduct a thorough review of your assets, discuss insurance, tax preparation, and financial advisory matters. We’ll also review essential documents such as advance health care directive, HIPAA waiver, and California Uniform Powers of Attorney, and perhaps a simple will and would like you to sign these documents shortly after our meeting. We will also provide referrals. Divorcing people often lose most if not all of their professional advisors, we are here to help you build the team.

Notarization #1

We offer both in-person and remote online notarization services. Clients are encouraged to sign their health care directives, powers of attorney, and short form wills within days of our first meeting. This prevents a soon-to-be ex-spouse from gaining control during a period of incapacity or inheriting assets.

The Client’s Learning Meeting

We send you documents for review but insist on an in-person meeting to ensure you fully understand the purpose and function of each document. During this meeting we will carefully review your trust, a long form power of attorney, and other ancillary documents. This is an opportunity to make revisions and address your questions. We can also add provisions to your trust to safeguard your assets from your ex-spouse or ensure funds are used for your minor children’s benefit.

Notarization #2

In-person and remote online notarization options are available. During this session, clients sign their revocable trust and additional ancillary documents, along with new Pour Over Wills.

The Funding and Maintenance Meeting

Your estate plan isn’t just about documents; it’s about implementation. We discuss the tools necessary to fund and maintain your trust successfully. This meeting can only occur once your family law attorney confirms that assets can be transferred to the trust. For divorcing clients, often this meeting cannot be held until a court has issued an order stating “who owns what.” We will invite both your financial advisor and your divorce lawyer to this meeting.

Complimentary Client Service Package

With your consent, we share copies of relevant documents with your financial advisor, tax advisors, insurance brokers, and corporate counsel to assist with trust funding. Over the next three months, we’ll send you informative emails on topics like digital assets and document sharing. We also provide yearly reminders to review your estate plan and offer a complimentary meeting every three years.

Read Patricia’s Contribution in the Chapter “Finding Security in Times of Strife: The Necessity of Estate Planning during Divorce.”

“Patricia De Fonte is super knowledgeable, thorough and manages to put together comprehensive personalized estate plans, so that you know your family is protected. Having worked with many attorneys, I can attest that Patricia is the creme de la creme.”