What is the difference between a will and a trust?
will is a legal document that carries out your wishes upon death. Before your death, the will has no legal effect. The will only becomes effective upon death. Contrast that to a trust which can have effect upon execution and can continue to operate after your death. For example, if you want to leave money to your children a will takes effect upon death and will disperse your money at that time. Whereas, a trust can hold your money even after you die and disperse it to your children based on your wishes such as after they turn age 25. Additionally, a trust can help a person avoid probate which is usually desirable. There are other differences that are situation specific which I cover during the initial consultation.

What is probate?
Probate is a court supervised legal process where a property of the decedent is transferred into the living beneficiaries name. Most people try and avoid probate for different reasons none the least of which is to avoid probate fees.

Is my estate too small for an Estate Plan?
Most people think you need to have millions of dollars in order to justify an estate plan. Any estate no matter the size should have a plan. If you have a smaller estate then a will might suffice for your needs. If you have more than $150,000 in assets the trust can help in avoiding probate. Moreover, if you want your estate to take care of your loved ones for a period of time after your death, instead of just dispersing all of the money and property a trust can accomplish this. Finally, the probate process can be lengthy which delays the dispersement of your estate to your loved ones, whereas a trust administration is usually much shorter in the order of months.

Who needs a will and or trust?
Parents: Anyone who has children should have an Estate Plan which would include a will and trust as well as other documents such as an advanced health care directive and durable power of attorney. These documents will ensure the person who you choose will take care of your kids. Moreover, these documents will tell that person how you want your kids taken care of financially. If you don’t have a will and or trust a judge will decide who will get custody of your children and how your property is dispersed based on probate law.

Couples: Additionally, couples should have an Estate Plan in place so that there are no complications in your spouse receiving everything you want. In the absence of a Durable Power of Attorney one spouse may not be legally able to sign a document that requires both signatures.

Individuals: Finally, individual people need an Estate Plan to decide things such as who will make their medical decisions when they cannot and who will handle their finances when they cannot. Absent the Advanced Health Care Directive and Durable Power of Attorney an expensive conservatorship is the only option.

Why is your firm different?

  • Matthew Hart was born and raised in Antioch.  That means he has strong ties to the community and understands some of the challenges living in the Bay Area can present when planning for your assets.
  • The majority of our clients who are married are long term marriages.  Having the experience of working with thousands of clients we have identified opportunities for long term marriage that short term marriages don’t have.  These opportunities make it easier for the family after the couple has passed.
  • We offer discounts to pastoral staff to help take care of our spiritual leaders.

When are your upcoming seminars?
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Why do you feature charities?
Our core philosophy is to take what we are given and help out the community. We believe our clients have the same charitable beliefs. In order to help them carry these out we like to highlight charities that we have personally worked with.

What makes you different?
I am a California State Bar Certified Legal Specialist in Estate Planning, Trust & Probate Law.  Moreover I focus solely on Estate Planning, whereas some attorneys practice several areas of law. By focusing only on one area of law I only attend continuing education classes and seminars that cover estate planning.  In addition, being a certified specialist in estate planning, I am mandated to take additional classes each year that other estate attorneys are not required to take.  Contrast that to other attorneys who take a lessor amount of required training but must split their time between different areas of law.

Why don’t you practice other forms of law? 
I believe to be good at something you need to focus on it and devote your time to it and not be distracted with other work.