The TOP 4 (MUST HAVE) Estate Planning Documents


If you follow us on Facebook or Twitter, you have probably seen the weekly Friday “Homework” in preparing for your estate planning meeting. If you don’t follow us, you should!

So, what is this “Homework?” Well it’s basically a list of things to consider before meeting with our Redwood City estate planning attorney.

The last two weeks were 1) the financial information you should gather and 2) if you’re a parent, some things to consider when selecting a guardian (See our past post here).

In addition to our weekly “Homework” assignments, we have decided to post on the TOP 4 (MUST HAVE) Estate Planning Documents to help you stay even more organized!


1. Will: A will gives instructions for distributing property that you own, upon your death, through the probate process. A will is essential if you have minor children, as this is the only way you can name a guardian for them. Some wills are simple, while others may include complex planning provisions, depending on each particular circumstance.

2. Advance Health Care Directive: An Advance Health Care Directive or AHCD is a document that designates someone to act for your regarding medical care should you become incapacitated. This document will also determine if and how long you stay on life support. So, if at some point you can’t state your wishes regarding health care, someone you love and trust will be assigned to make those decisions for you.

3. Durable Power of Attorney: A Durable Power of Attorney or a DPA gives someone the authority to handle all of your finances and property should you become unable to. This document will allow a person of your choosing to sell, invest, spend and otherwise manage your finances for a specific time identified in the document. The agent you select will be able to handle everything without needed a court order.

4. Living Trust: By transferring your assets to a living trust, you are able to protect your assets if you pass away. Assets that are properly placed in a trust avoid probate- this is key and that’s why a will alone is not sufficient to avoid probate. Generally, you are the trustee for your trust and if something happens to you, you will have already named a successor trustee to handle your affairs. (You ask why is MUST HAVE in parentheses? Well, because if you don’t own property or have certain assets, you probably don’t need #4).

At the Law Office of Carmen M. Rosas, we design plans specific to your needs. Not every client is the same and not every client has the same story. We want to hear your story!

If you liked this post, subscribe, and never miss a post again. And, if you really liked it, shoot us an e-mail and request one our other handy dandy reference guides for FREE(Please let us know which ones you want!)

  • 12 Tips for Choosing a Guardian
  • Things to Consider in Selecting a Guardian

And stay tuned for our e-book, coming soon!

Posted in blended families, Children, Estate Planning, Family, Future, Goals, trust, Wills | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Always Wear Clean Underwear

underwearMy grandma used to tell me to always wear clean underwear. Not, that I had a problem changing them. 🙂

I’m sure you’ve heard this saying once before in your life! She would always ask, “What if you’re in an accident and you need assistance? What will the paramedics or life savers say if they go to help you and you have dirty underwear?!” I never understood because if I was in an accident, well I’m sure they wouldn’t be concerned with what my underpants look like. (That’s for another blog!)

My reason for bringing this up is this: what happens if you are in an accident? If you’re incapacitated? What happens to your kids?!

Imagine being out on a date with your significant other. Your children (ages 7 and 4) are home with a sitter. You leave the emergency contact for the sitter- should anything happen she is to call you or your spouse, call grandparents, or call 911 if its an emergency.

On your way home from dinner, both you and your spouse are in a horrible car accident. Your spouse doesn’t survive and you’re in a coma. What happens now?

Its time for the babysitter to go home. No one can get a hold of you. The sitter calls the grandparents but they just so happen to be out of town tonight. She tries to reach the neighbor but no ones there. She waits, and waits, and waits.

She gets worried and calls 911. The police arrive and they contact local hospitals only to find out about what happened. Again, what happens now??

The police call Child Protective Services to come get the kids. The babysitter offers to stay with them, but the police state that she doesn’t have the authority to care for them. Your children go with the stranger from CPS. They are frightened and scared.

Now they wait until someone comes to get them- this could take a long time as there is a process to have a guardian appointed.

This is what happens if you don’t have a will. This is what happens if you’re not wearing clean underwear.

What would happen if you had a will and had appointed a guardian? If you had prepared for the “What Ifs?”

The babysitter would have had a copy of that will with the emergency information you gave her. The will would state that your neighbors, whose children are the same age as yours and whom your children know and care for, are your children’s guardians should anything happens to you or your spouse. It would have their contact information. The police would have called them and explained what happened. Your children would have gone with your neighbors- to a safe place with people they know and with people who care about them.

I can’t explain how important it is to have a will and appoint a guardian. Even if you feel like you don’t own a lot of assets or have any property, your biggest asset is your children! If you do only the bare minimum, throw on clean underwear and create a will appointing a guardian for your minor children.

If you want assistance creating a will or working with our Redwood City estate planning attorney to create a Child Protection Plan, send us a note or browse our blog some more, follow us on Twitter or Facebook.

And if you shoot us an email at, we will be happy to send you our FREE “Top 10 Points to Selecting a Guardian.” (Don’t worry we won’t sell or give out your information. Promise.)

Posted in Children, Estate Planning, Future, Goals, trust, Wills | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Tight Budgets Need Quality Representation

You want a divorce but don’t know how to manage with an already tight budget. Or maybe you need help with a custody issue but are worries about the cost of hiring a lawyer. To be honest, hiring an attorney is just simply more than you can afford right now. Well, good news- there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Whether Limited Scope Representation is right for you, depends on how complicated your issue is. Often times clients don’t need to hire on an attorney for the full range of services. At the Law Office of Carmen M. Rosas we work with our clients to package services that not only fit the needs of the client, but their wallet too.

Some examples of matters we handle under a limited scope representation include:

  • Drafting of Marital Settlement Agreements
  • Custody/parenting plan requests, hearings, and negotiations
  • Department of Child Support Services (DCSS) hearings
  • Settlement Conference
  • Non-DCSS support modification requests and hearings- Request for Orders

When representing our clients in limited scope, we prepare a fee agreement stating exactly what services are included in the cost. This avoids any confusion as to what is included and what is additional to the cost quoted. And, if there is a hearing in which an attorney will be present, we prepare the Notice of Limited Scope for the Court so they know our attorney is representing you at that hearing only.

“Does hiring an attorney in limited scope mean I can’t hire the attorney for full services?”- No! The limited scope representation is usually a starting point for many clients. Sometimes, if their budget permits or legal issue requires, clients will hire on our attorneys for the full range of services our office provides.

If a client does decide to hire our attorney for more comprehensive representation, we simply draft a new fee agreement stating such.

Getting Help– at the Law Office of Carmen M. Rosas we have a compassionate and experienced attorney in Redwood City and San Jose. Contact Carmen Rosas today for knowledgeable and trustworthy representation. Call us at (650) 503-3770 or e-mail us at

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You Don’t Have to Be Elizabeth Taylor….

Liz and her husbands

Liz and her husbands

You don’t need to be Elizabeth Taylor to be on your second, third, or even fourth or fifth marriage. If you have had more than one spouse, you have special estate planning needs, especially if you have children with each spouse. If you avoid these issues, it is almost certainly a way to create a less-than-desired result in the event of illness, incapacity, or death. The best way to have a smooth transition upon disability or death is to create a comprehensive strategy before you aren’t here to execute the papers.

Remarriage may result in cordial, but often not close, step relations. Frequently, such people thrown together by marriage simply tolerate each other until the biological parent dies or becomes disabled, or divorce occurs.

On the death of the biological parent, what happens? If proper estate planning isn’t done, the surviving spouse and step-parent has the option to take all that you intended to leave to your biological child.

By working with an estate planning attorney, you can ensure that both your new spouse and your children receive what you want them to. This can be done through either a prenuptial agreement and/or a fully funded trust (new post coming soon regarding “funding”).

Contact our San Jose, Fremont, or Redwood City Estate Planning Attorney. We will be more than happy to help you create the plan that best suits your needs or update the one you currently have.

Posted in blended families, Children, Estate Planning, Family, trust | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“My parents aren’t getting any younger. How do I talk to them about Estate Planning?”

It’s Monday! That means its the start of a new “work” week and time to get things done!

I was talking to a client last week (let’s call her Cristina), a wife and mother of two young children. We were getting her estate plan executed. At the end of our meeting she said, “My parents aren’t getting any younger. How do I talk to them about Estate Planning?” Cristina continued on to tell me how she knew it was important, but couldn’t find a way to begin the discussion with her parents.


Cristina isn’t alone. There are thousands, possibly millions, of people who have reached retirement age and still don’t have estate plans. As a young professional, starting a family of your own, it’s important for you to create an estate plan for your family but it is also very important to make sure your parents have one.

I came across this article this morning from the Guardian Fiduciary Services on the 25 Best Questions to Ask Your Aging Parents. Although this isn’t a full and complete list, its a starting to point to get your parents discussing their plans in regards to estate planning.

When discussing estate plan options with your parents and their plans, it’s important to emphasize the importance of THEIR wants and desires- you and your siblings (if any) want to know how to distribute their hard earned assets in whatever way they want.

It may be hard at first, but GET TALKING! Use the questions above to open up a dialogue. You know your family’s dynamics best, but be sure that everyone that needs to be included in the conversation is present, or at least knows whats going on.

Do you have any suggestions on how to begin this conversation? What has worked for you? We look forward to your feedback!

And if you want to have a one-on-one chat with our San Mateo County, Alameda County or Santa Clara County attorney, feel free to send us a note.

Posted in Estate Planning, Future, Goals, trust | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment