Estate Planning, Trusts, & Probate in California

California Estate Planning, Trusts, and ProbateFor California residents, living trusts are a common estate planning tool. Due to high property values throughout the state, especially the San Francisco Bay Area, estate assets can easily reach millions of dollars. Trusts allow asset distributions to beneficiaries without going through the California probate process, avoiding additional costs and saving time when closing an estate.

Why Set Up a Living Trust?

In a living trust, as the person creating the trust (the grantor), you place your assets into a revocable trust. While you are alive, you are also the trustee and the beneficiary, and you control your assets. Because the trust is revocable, you can add or sell assets, change beneficiaries, etc. Upon your death, the trust becomes an irrevocable trust. The person(s) you named as your successor trustee(s) then assumes control and administers the assets for the beneficiaries according to your instructions.

Revocable Trust Fiduciary Duty

The trustee(s) have a fiduciary duty to the beneficiaries. They must put the beneficiaries’ interests before their own at all times while following the mandates in the trust agreement. Many long-term or complicated trusts also name a trust protector, who advises, oversees, and can replace a trustee if necessary. This offers an additional layer of protection for the beneficiaries. Read the rest of this entry »

How to Find the Best Financial Advisor Recommended for Your Situation

The financial advice field is a bit convoluted, but this guide can help.

Financial Advisor Fees/Costs

First, there’s how you pay for advice. All financial advice has a cost, but sometimes it’s explicit (e.g., you can see it), and sometimes it’s only implicit (e.g., it’s embedded inside a financial product, and what you’re paying is not easily visible).

Most financial advisors today describe themselves as fee-based advisors. Legally, this means they can (and generally do) perform their activities in two ways: they earn a commission on certain product sales, and a fee on certain investments. The title is a bit misleading in this way, but the moniker persists.

We think this creates a conflict of interest: it often causes (even if only subconsciously) the financial advisor to recommend things that pay them the best compensation over what is in the client’s best interest.

Because of this inherent conflict, a special sub-set of financial advisor was born: the fee-only financial advisor. We recommend anyone seeking financial advice only work with a fee-only advisor.

A national organization lists and ensures fee-only compliance for all of its members; it’s called the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA), and it has an online directory of all of its members. So, for example, you can search for a list of all the fee-only financial advisors in Omaha, NE or the San Francisco, CA Bay Area (cities where we have offices).

Read the rest of this entry »

The Difference Between Mutual Funds and ETFs

This is a question we get a lot here at Callahan Financial Planning, and with all the recent news and new options, I thought it would be a good topic to revisit.

As a refresher, let’s start with a quick note on what Mutual Funds are:

  • An Investment Company that invests shareholders money in a (usually) diversified portfolio of securities like individual stocks or bonds.
  • Assets are held in custody at a third-party bank, and are subject to regular inspection by the SEC in addition to any independent auditors to the bank and mutual fund. Read the rest of this entry »