Botti & Morison Estate Planning Attorneys
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As of January 1, 2024, Medi-Cal will no longer factor in assets such as bank accounts, cash, second vehicles, and homes when determining eligibility. This monumental shift holds promising news for those in the Long-Term Care Medi-Cal program, especially those in skilled nursing facilities. We are updating the “Understanding Long-Term Care Medi-Cal’ eBook with these new guidelines. The Third Edition will be available soon. Provide your information and we will notify you as soon as it is available.

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Botti & Morison Estate Planning Attorneys, Ltd. offers free estate planning workshops and webinars for those who are interested. Our workshops are designed to teach attendees various methods to eliminate all costs of probate to their families. The seminar also provides valuable information on how to protect, preserve, and manage one’s estate in the event they pass away or become too incapacitated to make decisions.

Some crucial estate planning topics our workshops cover include:

  • How to avoid the cost and delays of probate
  • Specifying a guardian for minor children
  • How to defuse potential conflict that could arise over the estate
  • Methods to eliminate or minimize estate or transfer taxes
  • Asset protection and preservation from financial predators
  • And so much more

Find out if our workshops are a right fit for you here.

Despite popular misconceptions, estate planning is not only for the wealthy. Everyone should have an estate plan established in the event they die or become too disabled to make decisions. Our attorneys assist interested clients by crafting a comprehensive integrated estate plan customized to fit their needs. The attorneys at Botti & Morison Estate Planning Attorneys, Ltd., Chris Botti and Paul Morison, are well-versed in all aspects of estate planning including Trusts, Probate, Powers of Attorney, Veterans Planning, Asset Protection, Probate/Trust Administration, among many others.

Learn more about Botti & Morison Estate Planning Attorneys, Ltd. estate planning services and packages here.

Managing a loved one’s estate whilst in the midst of grief is by no means an easy process. That is why the attorneys at Botti & Morison Estate Planning Attorneys, Ltd. provide valuable advice and guidance on all probate and trust administration matters including petitioning for Guardianship or Conservatorship. With over 90 years of estate administration experience, Chris Botti and Paul Morison have a thorough understanding of what’s entailed in the personal representative’s duties as well as their liabilities. They can provide the effective counsel needed to ensure the loved one’s estate is administered lawfully while fulfilling their last wishes.

Learn more about our estate administration services here.

Disputes are not uncommon when administering a trust or probating an estate, especially if the estate is held at a substantial value. In some cases, arbitration is just not appropriate, and litigation is simply unavoidable. The attorneys at Botti & Morison Estate Planning Attorneys, Ltd. represent both beneficiaries and fiduciaries in trust and probate disputes. They have successfully prosecuted and defended their clients interests both before the courts and through alternate dispute resolution.

Learn more about our trust and probate litigation services here.

Not only does Botti & Morison Estate Planning Attorneys, Ltd. craft estate plans, but our legal team assists clients interested in modifying or updating their estate plan. An estate plan should be reviewed every five or so years and/or after a major life event occurs. Our attorneys provide in-depth estate plan reviews and from there can pinpoint any inconsistencies, errors, or vulnerable areas that could be improved upon. They can assist with the selection of a trusted executor or trustee, inventory all assets, ensure all heirs/beneficiaries are identified, and incorporate new estate planning instruments that could prove beneficial in the future.

Look over our estate planning checklist here to ensure your affairs are all in order.

Welcome To Botti & Morison Estate Planning Attorneys

Botti & Morison Estate Planning Workshops
BBB Accredited Business A+ Rating

Having over 90 years of estate planning experience, Botti & Morison Estate Planning Attorneys, Ltd. have completed thousands of tailored estate plans and continue to do so as we educate people just like you who are interested in ensuring that their loved ones are cared for and their affairs handled properly. Our services include: Trusts, Wills, Power of Attorneys, Health Care Directives, Medi-Cal and Veterans Planning, Asset Protection, Probate Administration… and many more.

It is important to seek qualified professional advice when considering any of these services so that they will withstand IRS scrutiny while accomplishing your objectives. If you are thinking about estate planning services, please contact us to schedule a free no-obligation consultation with one of our attorneys. You can also attend our free workshop where we’ll answer all of your estate planning questions.

Christopher Botti - Estate Planning Attorney

Christopher Botti

Paul Morison - Estate Planning Attorney

Paul Morison

What Our Clients Have To Say

We pursue justice on behalf of our clients. Throughout the years, we have helped thousands of people achieve their estate planning goals and secure favorable outcomes in their probate proceedings. Hear what some of them have to say about our services.

Client Testimonials

“We thought that creating a trust would be time consuming and expensive. Botti & Morison made the whole experience easy and inexpensive.”

– Peter & Christine M.

“We found the workshop helpful as there is a lot to know and it motivated us to start the process.”

– Cary & Madeline H.

“It was a pleasure working with Ms. Karen Dion, Esq. Karen provided excellent, efficient, quality estate planning explanation and advice.”

– Nabil & Inman M.

“We were able to complete the process with Chris Botti in a safe and respectful way during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

– Kris & Margaret S.

“Very patient, kind, thorough. Only wish I had done it years ago and not waited. Would highly recommend!”

– Alexander C.

“We were very pleased with our total experience with Botti & Morison. It was a relatively painless process that has given us a greater peace of mind.”

– Judy & Jack S.

*The content of client testimonials does not constitute a guarantee or prediction regarding the outcome of any legal matter.

Botti & Morison Reviews

Protecting Your Legacy: The Case for Encouraging Adult Children to Establish a Separate Property Trust

May 10, 2024|Property Trusts|

As parents, ensuring the protection and preservation of our hard-earned assets for future generations is often a top priority. However, traditional estate planning may not adequately safeguard your legacy in certain circumstances, particularly when it ... Read More

Our attorneys discuss how our firm, Botti & Morison makes an often-unpleasant topic easy and painless. Attend the full Estate Planning webinar from the comfort of your own home and get all of the helpful information you will need to know to complete your Estate Plan.

Free Live Workshops

Our free, informative workshops will explain estate planning and demonstrate how we have made the process simple and affordable. At the workshop you will learn how to eliminate all costs of probate to your family.

Botti & Morison Estate Planning Workshop

Free 2-Hour Estate Planning Workshop – Camarillo, CA

Tuesday, September 17, 2024
10:00 am
- 12:00 pm

Botti & Morison Estate Planning Workshop

Free 2-Hour Estate Planning Workshop – Camarillo, CA

Tuesday, September 17, 2024
7:00 pm
- 9:00 pm

Botti & Morison Estate Planning Workshop

Free 2-Hour Estate Planning Workshop – Camarillo, CA

Saturday, September 21, 2024
10:00 am
- 12:00 pm

Botti & Morison Estate Planning Workshop

Free 2-Hour Estate Planning Workshop – Camarillo, CA

Wednesday, September 25, 2024
7:00 pm
- 9:00 pm

Our Office Locations

Botti & Morison is a proud member of every community we serve as evidenced by our A+ record with the Better Business Bureau. We are proud of our success and look forward to continuing our relationships with each local community. Botti & Morison is here to help you and your family establish the peace of mind that comes with a customized estate plan.

Estate Planning Law Firm Ventura, California

Our office headquarters located in Ventura, California.

Request A Free Consultation

Use the contact form to submit an email requesting a free and confidential consultation with one of our attorneys. Our team is standing by and ready to help. We will get back to you as soon as possible.

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Request Estate Planning Consultation

For your convenience, consultations may be held over the phone, video conference or in person at one of our six office locations.

*All fields are required. Submission of this form does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Please do not include highly sensitive information. If your situation is urgent, please call our office at (877) 585-1885.

California Estate & Probate Lawyers

We specialize in Estate Planning, Elder Law, Trust Administration and Probate Litigation in the state of California.

Although it may feel strange to plan for the end, every person no matter their wealth should have a comprehensive and customized estate plan in the event they’re deceased or incapacitated. Most estate plans are comprised of a will, but they can also include other important documentation including the establishment of a trust, Durable Financial Power of Attorney, an Advance Health Care Directive, among other important estate planning instruments. To learn more, visit the links listed below.

Once a person has passed, their loved ones must take up the mantle and administer their estate according to their wishes. The outcome of this process would depend on if the deceased had an estate plan already established. Without one, the estate must go through a court-supervised process known as probate. To learn more about probate and administration of one’s estate, visit the articles linked below.

In some cases, litigation may be necessary to take control of a person’s estate-especially if the personal representative has exhibited issues while managing said estate. Litigation, whether it’s during probate or in regard to a trust/will, is necessary if disputes arise over the administration or distribution of the decedent’s estate. To learn more about probate and estate litigation, visit the article linked below.

Dedicated Advocates Working to Preserve & Protect Your Interests

Botti & Morison Estate Planning Attorneys, Ltd. offers comprehensive estate planning services for individuals and families from all backgrounds and levels of wealth. Whether it’s establishing the foundation of a complex estate plan using advanced irrevocable trust strategies, managing a will through the probate process, setting up structured lifetime gifting, or litigating a probate or trust dispute; our attorneys at Botti & Morison Estate Planning Attorneys, Ltd. have seen it all and can assist you no matter how complicated the issue is. The attorneys at Botti & Morison Estate Planning Attorneys, Ltd. have over 90 years of collective experience in all estate planning matters including asset protection, wills, probate administration, trusts, and probate and estate litigation.

The legal team at Botti & Morison Estate Planning Attorneys, Ltd. provides ample estate planning and trust solutions to clients who wish to preserve their wealth and legacy. These estate plans range from drafting a simple will to utilizing advanced estate planning strategies such as a Irrevocable Trusts or Intentionally Grantor Defective Trusts. What may work for you and your family could be drastically different than the next, which is why we highly encourage you to consult with the professionals at Botti & Morison Estate Planning Attorneys, Ltd. before making any major decisions regarding your estate plan.

Both Chris Botti and Paul Morison possess extensive and in-depth estate planning knowledge from their many years of practice that could prove to be pivotal for your future. In addition, Christ Botti is currently a State Bar of California Board Certified Specialist in Estate Planning, Trusts and Probate Law. This certification puts him in an elite group of lawyers that take up less than one-half of one percent of all attorneys in California.

The lawyers at Botti & Morison Estate Planning Attorneys, Ltd. can provide the honest and thorough answers you need for all your legal questions today. That way you can get started on the right path towards a comprehensive integrated estate plan. Contact us at (877) 585-1885 to set up your first consultation or inquire about one of our webinars/seminars. Botti & Morison Estate Planning Attorneys, Ltd. has offices in Ventura, Westlake Village, Bakersfield, Valencia, San Luis Obispo, and Santa Barbara, California.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Below you will find answers to many of the most common questions people have about Estate Planning. Click on the questions below to read their answers.

What is a Last Will?2024-05-15T20:09:23-07:00

This is a legal document that takes effect upon death and is used as an instrument to direct the disposition of your property upon death. A Will also serves the critical function of naming guardians for your minor children. In California, wills trigger probate unless the gross value of your “estate” is less than $166,250.00. When used in conjunction with a living trust, a will (then known as a “pour over will”) serves to leave assets not otherwise titled in your trust to your trust to determine the disposition of your property upon death.

How long does a Will remain valid?2024-05-15T20:09:23-07:00

A Will remains legally valid unless revoked by its creator.

When would I need to amend my Will?2024-05-15T20:09:23-07:00

Your Will should be amended when your situation changes – a birth or death in the family, a need to change your executors, or to change the guardians for minor children are common examples of circumstances triggering the need to amend Wills.

What if I fail to amend my Will after I have another child, get married or divorced?2024-05-15T20:09:23-07:00

A California Probate Court may decide guardianship of your new child. If you get married, the California Probate Code would likely modify your plan of distribution to account for the community property rights of your spouse. It is critical that your Will is updated to reflect the changes in your life. Otherwise, your wishes may not be followed.

Can my Will be contested?2024-05-15T20:09:23-07:00

There is no key required to gain access to the courthouse. In today’s litigious society, there is absolutely no guarantee that your Will or any other estate planning document that you prepare will not be challenged. Your estate is liable for the legal expenses necessary to defend your Will. If you think it is a possibility that your Will may be contested, please let your attorney know. There are several defense mechanisms that can be added to your Will and other estate planning documents to eliminate or minimize this risk.

What happens if you die without a Will?2024-05-15T20:09:23-07:00

The Probate Court will decide who will administer your estate and who will become guardian of your minor children. The California Probate Code dictates who gets your money and your belongings.

An inappropriate person may be appointed by the court to administer your estate.
An inappropriate guardian may be appointed by the court.
Children will receive their share when they become “adults”, at the age of 18!
The beneficiaries may not be those you would have selected if you had been prepared and had completed your own estate plan.

Why is a “homemade” (handwritten) Will dangerous?2024-05-15T20:09:23-07:00

Handwritten Wills are easily challenged because of unclear (non-legal) language and often lack witnesses to prove the person writing the Will was legally competent.

Lawsuits challenging this type of Will are expensive and usually result in a compromise, with beneficiaries you wanted to disinherit receiving part of your estate.

Is joint tenancy an acceptable substitution for a Will or a good way to avoid probate?2024-05-15T20:09:23-07:00

If a couple is married or part of a domestic partnership, holding assets in joint tenancy is acceptable, but far from ideal. Married couples living in a community property state (such as California) can obtain a “double step-up in basis” (HUGE Tax Benefit), but most people fail to take advantage of this tremendous tax benefit by keeping assets in joint tenancy.

However, adding anyone else (besides your spouse or domestic partner) as a joint tenant can create other problems, such as:
The new joint owner could misappropriate the asset. After all, you gave it to them.
Did you file a gift tax return when you added his/her name to your asset? Adding a name to an asset is a gift that could subject you to gift tax liability and potentially cause adverse consequences with respect to the Federal Estate Tax.
Do you really want to expose your assets to someone else’s problems?
If the joint tenant gets involved in a divorce, bankruptcy or lawsuit, your assets may be tied up in a long legal battle and ultimately your assets could be encumbered, compromised or lost.
Joint tenancy means “automatic right of survivorship” so the surviving joint tenant will get the entire asset, regardless of what your Will or Trust says.

Can a Will hurt my loved ones?2024-05-15T20:09:23-07:00

A Will does not avoid probate if the gross value of the assets in your estate exceeds $166.250.00 at your death. If your estate is less than $166,250.00, a living trust may not be required for you and your family. You should consider our “Will Package” as a planning option.

What is the cost of Probate in California?2024-05-15T20:09:23-07:00

The cost of probate will take a large bite out of your estate. California Probate Code Section 10810 sets the maximum statutory fees that attorneys can charge for a probate. Higher fees can be ordered by a court for more complex cases. The fees are 4% of the first $100,000 of the estate, 3% of the next $100,000, 2% of the next $800,000, 1% of the next $9,000,000, and 0.5% of the next $15,000,000. For estates larger than $25,000,000, the court will use its discretion to determine the fee for the amount that is greater than $25,000,000. The fees listed below are the statutory fees used to compensate attorneys and executors in probate cases for various sized estates. If both the attorney and the executor receive a fee (the most common occurrence), the amount paid will be double that shown below.

SIZE OF ESTATE

STATUTORY FEE

$150,000

$6,000

$200,000

$7,000

$300,000

$9,000

$400,000

$11,000

$500,000

$13,000

$600,000

$15,000

$700,000

$17,000

$800,000

$19,000

$900,000

$21,000

$1,000,000

$23,000

$2,000,000

$33,000

Estates are appraised by probate referees who determine the fair market value of the assets. The fair market value does not deduct for mortgages or other debt, which can result in an appraisal of the property that is higher than the equity that the deceased person owned in the property. Probate referees are appointed by the state controller’s office and they receive a fee based on 0.1 % of the assets appraised.

In probates that are complicated by lawsuits or tax problems, the attorney and executor can ask the judge to approve fees that are higher than those set by state law. In addition to the “statutory” fees, there are costs for court filing fees, appraisal fees, publication costs, and miscellaneous fees charged by the county. A typical estate might incur $1,000 to 2,000 in court costs and other mandated fees.

Is a Living Trust right for my family and I?2024-05-15T20:09:23-07:00

Following are the benefits of a Living Trust.

A Living Trust:
Avoids probate, thereby avoiding delay, expense and the public nature of this formal proceeding of the Superior Court.
Avoids the need for a conservatorship if you become incompetent or incapacitated.
Offers potential tax savings.
Can continue for the benefit of:
Your loved ones;
Minor children and elderly dependent parents; and,
Adult children with drug or alcohol problems, mental, physical, or educational special needs, or developmentally disadvantaged adult children on SSI.

What are the advantages of a Living Trust?2024-05-15T20:09:23-07:00

Summary of the advantages of a Living Trust

Whether you are single, married, divorced, or widowed, if your assets exceed $166,250 (or any amount if real estate is involved), your heirs will be forced to experience probate unless you have established a Living Trust. Avoid the delays of up to two years or more for settling the estate.
No 120-day waiting period for notice of creditors.
No need to file petitions and reports to the probate court as with a Will.
The Trust can enable your heirs’ income to continue without interruption after your death.
All property or income is immediately distributable in accordance with the provisions of your Trust, and at the times you specify.
No court costs or publication expenses and no Executor’s fees. Also, attorney fees are substantially reduced compared to attorney fees in probate which are set by statute and are based on a percentage of the gross asset value, not the net.
Privacy. Since a Trust eliminates probate, no information concerning the decedent’s estate can become public knowledge.
Not as readily subject to challenge as a Will. Generally, Living Trusts contain “no contest” clauses or other techniques engineered to reduce or eliminate challenges.
Out of state probate is avoided. Regardless of where you live or move to, your moves do not affect your Trust.
As Trustee of your Trust, you retain complete decision-making control over your assets and may buy, sell, withdraw, or add to your Trust at any time.

Built in Avoidance of Conservatorship

If you become physically or mentally incompetent and cannot serve as Trustee, you designate your Successor Trustee such as a family member, a bank or a Trust company without the necessity of a court supervised conservatorship.

You then have the opportunity during your lifetime to determine whether the Trustee is doing a good job and/or whether the Trustee should continue or be discharged.
The Trustee can be given discretionary powers to provide for your comfort and support should you become incapacitated due to illness or accident.
You eliminate court action that could declare you incompetent for either physical or mental reasons.
Your Trust eliminates the cost of a court-appointed guardian for minors or conservators for incompetents. Since you eliminate the need for regular accounting to the court, you also eliminate the resulting fees.
Heirs do not have to make decisions about the management of assets which have been placed in the Trust.

Tax-Saving Potential

Income taxes are payable on Trust income by the individual creating the Living Trust, just as though there were no Trust. Use of an “A/B” (or “Unified Credit”) Trust will preserve the estate tax exemption of the first spouse to die, which otherwise typically would be forfeited due to a failure to plan properly. Estate & Gift Tax Provisions of the Tax Relief Act:

Year In Which Death Occurs (The “Applicable Exclusion Amount”)
2020 and beyond $11,580,000.00*

*This amount is subject to a cost of living adjustment each year.

Gift Tax Provisions
Beginning in 2018, the annual exclusion for gift tax purposes increased to $15,000*; and
Beginning in 2020, the lifetime exemption for gift tax purposes shall be $11,580,000*.

*These amounts are subject to cost of living adjustments each year.

Reducing Federal Estate Taxes By Using a Credit Shelter Trust for Married Couples

What is a Credit Shelter Trust? A Credit Shelter Trust is known by many names, including Bypass Trust, Exemption Trust, or B Trust. Regardless of the name of the Trust, its purpose is to reduce or eliminate federal estate taxes for a married couple’s estate. This type of estate plan sets up an Irrevocable Trust that will hold the assets of the first spouse to die. The amount transferred to the Irrevocable Trust will not be taxed for federal estate tax purposes when the second spouse dies.

How Does It Work? Let’s look at how the estate of a married couple would be taxed if the couple did not have a Credit Shelter trust:

Example 1:

Assume that a married couple owns $15,000,000.00 in community property and has no estate plan. On the death of the first spouse, all of that spouse’s assets will be transferred to the surviving spouse in accordance with the California intestate succession laws. Regardless of the amount that is transferred, there will be no federal estate tax imposed at this point. Federal law allows an “unlimited marital deduction” to be used when assets are transferred to the surviving spouse, and that deduction eliminates any tax that might otherwise be due. However, when using the marital deduction to transfer assets to your spouse, you are wasting your federal estate tax exemption.

As a result of the death of the first spouse, the surviving spouse now owns the $15,000,000.00 estate, but there is only one $11,580,000.00 exemption available because the marital deduction was used to transfer the entire estate of the first spouse to the surviving spouse. If the surviving spouse dies with an estate of $15,000,000.00, a tax of approximately $1,368,000.00 will be due from his or her estate. There must be a better way. See Example 2 below.

Example 2:

Assume that a married couple with a net worth of $15,000,000.00 has set up a living trust that includes Credit Shelter trust provisions. While both of them are alive, the assets will be held in the revocable living trust. On the death of either one of them, the trust will be split into two trusts: The survivor’s trust and the Credit Shelter trust.

In this example, the deceased spouse’s share of the estate, $7,500,000.00, will be transferred to the Credit Shelter trust. The “marital deduction” will not be used because there are no assets that are transferred to the surviving spouse outright. The Credit Shelter trust and the surviving spouse are two separate taxpayers for this purpose. The surviving spouse will manage both trusts, will receive the income from the exemption trust and may spend the principal of the Credit Shelter depending on how it is structured. As a result, the exemption amount for the first spouse to die is not lost because his or her assets were transferred to a taxpayer other than the surviving spouse. Although this may seem like a minor difference in the estate plan, establishing the Credit Shelter trust will save the couple’s estate $1,368,000.00. If the surviving spouse dies with an estate that is not more than the exemption amount that is allowed in the year of death, the surviving spouse’s estate will pay no federal estate tax. Moreover, since the Credit Shelter trust is irrevocable the surviving spouse may not alter the plan of distribution and/or transfer the assets to a new spouse or other third party ensuring the wishes of the first spouse to die are honored and protected and blood lines preserved. Your attorney will discuss with you the many different ways to structure Credit Shelter during your consultation.

What are the disadvantages of living trusts?2024-05-15T20:09:23-07:00

Following are the disadvantages of a Living Trust.

  • Living Trusts usually:
    Cost more to prepare and fund than an estate plan involving just a Will.
    Transferring assets to the Trust involves costs and paperwork (recording deeds and the like) not required for less elaborate estate plans, such as a Will.
  • Administration of an Exemption Trust or Credit Shelter Trust (defined below) can involve additional effort for the surviving spouse.
    Refinancing real property that is owned by a Trust may require removing the property from the Trust before the refinancing, and then titling it in the name of the Trust after the refinancing. (Not all lenders require that property be removed from the Trust in order to refinance.)
If I have a Trust, do I also need a Will?2024-05-15T20:15:40-07:00

Yes, for two very important reasons:

  • As a safety net to “pour” assets into your Trust in case you have forgotten to put an asset into it.
  • To provide for the care of your minor children or other dependents.
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