KR Hess Law in Carmel Valley assists families with estate planning goals

Attorney Kristina Hess
(Photo by Jenette Klein)

From asset protection to estate planning and guardianship, KR Hess Law has been helping families in San Diego meet their goals for more than 10 years.

The firm was founded by Kristina Hess, an estate planning attorney, mediator and legacy building coach. She started the firm because she’s passionate about “helping people create legacies and making sure that their wishes are honored and everything they’ve worked so hard to build their whole life is passed on in the way they would want so they can leave the legacy they want.”

One reason why there’s a sense of urgency for wealthy families to manage their estates is a nearly $13 million gift and estate tax exemption that helps transfer wealth to the next generation. As of now, this exemption will decrease to about $5 million in 2025 with adjustments for inflation.

“There are types of irrevocable trusts and use of the lifetime gift tax exemption that people can use now,” Hess said. “So you can either give away money when you die or you can give it away now. So what a lot of our clients are doing is a spousal lifetime access trust and they’re giving away assets to their spouse to remove them from their taxable estate, so they’re leveraging this really high estate tax exemption that’s available now before it goes away. Because it’s going to go down to $5 million with an inflationary adjustment, that will be around $6.4 million. It’s going to be cut in half essentially.”

The estate tax exemption has grown in recent years, but there is uncertainty about whether that trend will continue.

“We’ve come a long way over the last 20 years,” Hess said. “If you were to take a poll, most people believe that given the nation’s economic situation and debt these exemptions are not going to remain this high, that they’ll let them sunset in 2025. So I think for people with significant assets, now is the time to plan.”

KR Hess Law also handles more basic estate planning services.

“Of course we do the bread and butter estate planning, people who want to avoid probate when they die,” she said. “In California, probate on estimate is about 5% of the fair market value of the estate and the beneficiaries are not always the people you intend. Whereas with a revocable trust and an estate plan, you can set it up in the best way possible to maximize your tax saving, give the assets to the people you want, when you want, how you want. Make sure that any children and underage beneficiaries are protected from themselves, as well as from creditors and predators. So there’s a lot that people can do. Also for the basic, average family in San Diego, there’s a lot that they can do by setting up the five legal documents that everybody needs.”

Hess said her career in estate planning began when her father died and she had to manage his estate.

“He really wanted to leave a legacy,” Hess said. “He wanted to leave assets to his grandchildren — I have three children, my brother has three, my sister has one. He really wanted to set up the next generation, and he just died suddenly before he got to finish what he started.”

Estate planning is also one of those tasks that many people put off.

“If you’re 30 or 35 and you just bought your first house and you have your first couple kids, it’s the last thing on your mind,” Hess said. “You don’t think you’re going to die or anything’s going to happen to you. But things happen. People die prematurely.”

KR Hess Law is located at 12264 El Camino Real, Suite 305, San Diego (Carmel Valley), 92130. For more information, visit

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