For more than 10 years, Chhokar Law Group has been customizing estate planning for its clients. Their process is so unique that they decided to trademark it. It’s called “Your Total Estate Plan.” According to Michael Morales, one of the attorneys at the firm, the reason is that no two people are the same, so no two asset-protection or estate plans should be the same either. “We believe that estate planning should not be a set of boilerplate documents. We customize our estate-planning documents for all of our clients’ specific goals, family needs and legacy objectives.”
Morales is quick to point out that Chhokar Law Group is not an asset-management firm. They are not a financial planning firm, but a law firm focused solely on asset-protection through estate planning. What’s the difference? “As an estate-planning firm, we strive to create plans that fit the goals and needs of each client and family. If the client is concerned about their children, we can create trusts for their benefit, while avoiding the creation of ‘trust fund babies.’”
Morales says that creating an estate plan now is not just about wills and trust funds. It’s also about planning for unexpected events, like suddenly becoming incapacitated. Who would be responsible for health-care needs? Who would become the successor trustees? Who would take care of the kids?
Morales explains, “If a client has minor children, we not only ensure that permanent guardians are selected, but also temporary guardians. We worry about a situation that a permanent guardian must travel to a client’s children—this could take several hours or days. We have our clients nominate temporary guardians, who are normally within a 30-minute drive time from the client’s home. These temporary guardians can stay with the children until the permanent guardians can arrive. This ensures that the children will not be in the custody of Child Protective Services.”
The group not only helps to plan for the unexpected. They also plan for the expected – which includes long-term financial goals as retirement approaches. “We work in sync with wealth and life-planning goals to implement proven, legally-sound strategies that will help preserve the client’s wealth and safeguard their assets against future risks. We take the time to provide guidance on complex trust and estate issues, and we explain them in terms that everyone can understand.”
The typical client at Chhokar Law Group comes to the firm by word of mouth, mostly referred by past clients, CPAs or other trusted advisors. The attorneys work with clients to develop estate plans to avoid probate, minimize estate taxes, and preserve and protect assets.
Morales says that often, people don’t realize they need an estate plan, and assume it’s only necessary for high net-worth individuals. But that’s not the case. He explains that even if you have a net worth of $150,000 (including real estate, bank accounts, retirement plans and life insurance), your assets will go through the probate process, which is lengthy, time-consuming, expensive and public. This could mean a spouse or children won’t get the financial security they need right away. “As a parent, I never stop worrying about my children, and it is the same with my clients. You are worried about who will take care of them in the event of your premature passing. Without proper estate planning, the courts will appoint a guardian, regardless of your intent.”
For clients with older children, different issues arise. “I have clients with older children who may have developed an addiction issue, have poor spending habits, or are in a rocky marriage. We can assist in creating an estate plan to keep your children’s share in trust, and provide protection against future creditors or divorcing spouses.”
Morales believes everyone should have an estate plan once they turn 18. He asserts that even a high school graduate going off to college should have a will, power of attorney and health-care documents at the ready. His passion is protecting families. “Helping people preserve family values and safeguard assets for future generations is what I am passionate about. We all work hard to provide more for our families, and I see how proper planning provides financial stability.”
His professional advice? “Don’t put off planning. Everyone needs an estate plan whether it is a will or trust. I know we all think we have more time to plan for our future, but the truth is nobody knows how much time we actually have remaining. It is never too soon to execute a plan, but it can be too late.”
Chhokar Law Group is comprised of Siddharth Chhokar as managing partner, attorney Michael Morales and attorney Kristopher Williams, as well as three paralegals on staff. Their office is located at 10945 Vista Sorrento Parkway, Suite 100, in San Diego. To learn more, email them at email@example.com or call them at 858-384-5757. You can also visit www.socalclg.com.
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