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Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Your Living Trust: Avoiding the Pitfalls


A year of Covid has taught many of us about the importance of being prepared. For millions of people who were sick with this virus, having an updated Advance Healthcare Directive meant that their families could make critical-care decisions on their behalf. For the long haulers—those who continue to suffer the longer term consequences of Covid–having a Power of Attorney in place means that if necessary, a trusted friend or family can manage their financial matters.

A Living Trust means that your assets will pass to your family according to your wishes

A Trust means that they will not have to go through Probate, which can be a long and expensive process at what undoubtedly will be a painful time for your family. Yet an estimated 50% of Americans do not create a Trust. Others make mistakes that have disappointing consequences for the beneficiaries.

One of the most common mistakes we see is not funding a Trust

This can be confusing. Funding is the process of transferring ownership of your assets from you to your Trust. To do this, you physically change the titles from your individual name(s) to the name of your Trust. Your Trust can only control the assets you put into it. Make a list of your assets, which can include bank and brokerage accounts, fine art and antiques, real estate, intellectual property, savings accounts and vehicles.

For real estate, you will need to change the property’s title

If a property is in your name, you will change the name to that of the Trust. Owning property in different states does not necessitate having a separate legal document; you can include it in your Trust. A heads-up—if you do a refi, you will need to move the title out of the Trust, then move it back into the Trust.

Retirement accounts and beneficiary designations

What’s missing from your Trust are retirement accounts, annuities, 401k’s and life insurance policies. These do not belong in your Trust. For these accounts, you will name beneficiary designations that will supersede whatever designation you may have identified in your Trust.

For the accounts that do not go into your Trust, this example illustrates just how important it is to update the beneficiary designation. One of our clients went through a bitter divorce. When he remarried, he was careful to update his Trust. What he forgot to update? His life insurance policy and the 401k that still named his ex-wife as the beneficiary. If something had happened to him, it was his ex-wife—not his new wife—who would have been the beneficiary

Another estate planning issue: Failure to get an inheritance in writing

We see this happen regularly. Uncle Joe promises an inheritance to his favorite nephew Todd. This inheritance is significant enough that it will help pay for his college education, to the relief of his parents—they’re counting on this as part of their own financial planning. When Uncle Joe dies, however, there’s no mention anywhere of this commitment. If you intend to leave something to a loved one, make sure this is included in your Will or Living Trust. If a friend or family member keeps promising to will you something, encourage that person to get it in writing.

Keep your Trust and other documents updated

Keep your Trust updated with life events such as births, deaths, divorces or investments. I like to think of this as any life change that will affect an inheritance. Also review beneficiary designations on retirement accounts and life insurance policies. Relationships and alliances change. Periodically review all of these documents to make sure your estate plan truly reflects your wishes.

Where to keep your Living Trust

Guideway prepares a bound document of your Trust. We also provide a copy of your Trust as a pdf file. Keep these in a safe place in your home or office. We suggest that you share the location of these files with a trusted friend or family member. Unlike other legal documents, a Trust doesn’t get filed with the court or county. If you can’t find it, it doesn’t exist.

Planning for the future is vital to ensure that you and your family are protected and prepared throughout your later years and beyond.

Schedule an appointment to create or update your Living Trust: In-person or Zoom

We are delighted to be offering in-person appointments again! For those who prefer the convenience of Zoom, we can accommodate that as well. Our Trust package includes a Power of Attorney, an Advance Healthcare Directive and a Pour Over Will. Best of all, we guide you through it and we prepare the legal documents.

We service the entire East Bay and North Bay areas

Berkeley, El Cerrito, Richmond, Pinole, Alameda, San Leandro, Castro Valley Newark, San Lorenzo, Concord, Alamo, Danville, Lafayette, Orinda, Moraga, Pleasant Hill, Martinez, Pittsburg, Antioch, Brentwood, Oakley, Discovery Bay, Pleasanton, San Ramon, Livermore, Tracy and Fremont. Our clients also live in the Napa Valley, Benicia, Vallejo, Martinez, Fairfield.


Wednesday, June 9, 2021


An important part of financial planning includes creating a Living Trust. It means that your family will inherit your assets as you have planned.

Another kind of financial planning: Investing that aligns with your values
To assess sustainability based on Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) factors, investors look at a broad range of behaviors:

  • Environmental criteria include a company’s energy use, waste, pollution, natural resource conservation and treatment of animals.For example, are there issues related to its ownership of contaminated land, disposal of hazardous waste, management of toxic emissions, or its compliance with environmental regulations?
  • Social criteria may look at the company’s business relationships. Does it work with suppliers that support the same values? Does the company donate a percentage of its profits to the local community or encourage employees to perform volunteer work. Is there salary equity between men and women?
  • Governance may examine whether or not a company uses accurate and transparent accounting methods and that stockholders are given an opportunity to vote on important issues. They may also want assurances that companies avoidconflicts of interest.

What’s next for SRI?
  • Climate change is a big focus for President Joe Biden, which could further boost ESG funds, experts say.
  • There has been a rise in assets in SRI, to $12 trillion at the beginning of 2018, up from $8.72 trillion at the beginning of 2016, according to a US/SIF Foundation report on investing trends.
  • According to Morningstar, ESG funds captured $51.1B of net new money from investors in 2020, a record that more than doubled from 2019.

Financial planning and your Living Trusts
We service the entire East Bay and North Bay areas

Another kind of financial planning that has grown dramatically over the last few years is socially responsible investing (SRI). Also called impact-, sustainable- and values-based investing, SRI is a investing that helps people and/or organizations align their investments with their personal values.

A Morgan Stanley survey found that 75% of individual investors and 86% of millennials are interested in sustainable investing. But it’s not just a millennial thing, and it’s not just about politics. Things like climate change and equality transcend politics. Last year tied for the warmest on record, and Black Lives Matter protests sprang up across the U.S. following George Floyd’s death.

There are good reasons for SRI. It ensures that you’re not putting your money toward something you oppose for moral or religious reasons. SRI is a mature field with decades of history, but until recently it’s been relatively small and stable. The last few years have brought a significant increase in visibility, demand and a proliferation of new, sustainable investment products.

People are asking questions about corporations’ social impact. Many companies and fund managers are now publishing a Corporate Responsibility Report. This means that companies are self-reporting on their efforts to have a positive impact on the environment, social causes and culture.

Our Living Trust package includes a Power of Attorney and Advance Healthcare Directive. Having these legal documents in place now can help avoid confusion later on. We learned an important lesson from Covid: Once patients were infected with the virus, they were in no condition to be signing legal documents. We guide you through the process, and we prepare the legal documents. Schedule an appointment with Guideway today.

Berkeley, El Cerrito, Richmond, Pinole, Alameda, San Leandro, Castro Valley Newark, San Lorenzo, Concord, Alamo, Danville, Lafayette, Orinda, Moraga, Pleasant Hill, Martinez, Pittsburg, Antioch, Brentwood, Oakley, Discovery Bay, Pleasanton, San Ramon, Livermore, Tracy and Fremont. Our clients also live in the Napa Valley, Benicia, Vallejo, Martinez, Fairfield.


Wednesday, June 2, 2021

In Pursuit of Gracious Aging: Rethinking Aging in Place


A year of Covid has left us all feeling more vulnerable. We can do everything right, yet sometimes it’s not enough. At Guideway, many of our clients took action by creating or updating their Living Trusts. Couples approaching retirement are making important life decisions. Will they age in place, move to be closer to their kids or is a retirement community the right solution?

In a The New York Times article, a “throuple” was making plans for aging in place

A “throuple” is a new term–three people in a romantic relationship—in this case for 15 years. The pandemic forced the retirement issue for this group. They felt some urgency to find a retirement solution now so it will be ready when they need it. While they live in Florida, their desired location is New England, where they have friends and family.

They ended up buying an unimproved 1.7-acre lot of restored tidal marsh that featured changing scenery, natural light and an array of wildlife. When it came to design, there were a few nonnegotiables: Enough privacy to allow for plenty of windows, tidal marsh views, an easily maintained home and an eco-friendly yard.

Gracious aging: Being able to comfortably and safely age was the primary concern

“This is the first time we have worked for a three-person couple for whom gracious aging was part of the discussion from the outset,” said Rustam Mehta, a founding partner of GRT Architects, the Brooklyn firm that designed the 3,300-square-foot house.

The home embodies universal design principles

The one-story house follows universal design principles that are also senior-friendly–open spaces, minimal stairs, wider doorways and hallways. The three-bedroom home is wheelchair accessible and barrier free. There are no steps or thresholds across the entire principle floor. No tubs–all three bathrooms feature zero-threshold showers. For the country’s swiftly aging boomer population, this attention to safety is essential to healthy home life.

What usually happens: Changes are made in response to a fall or accident

More often than not, when homes are upgraded to accommodate seniors, changes are hurriedly made in response to a fall, accident or medical diagnosis. For the aging baby-boomer population that intends to age in place, now is a great time to start turning homes into comfortable, safe places to grow old.

Upgrades can start with easy changes:

  • Installing task lighting in kitchens to accommodate fading eyesight.
  • Building multi-height countertops to allow people of all abilities to both stand and sit while working in the kitchen.
  • Investing in nonslip tiles and grab bars in bathrooms.
  • Relocating select electrical outlets to be 18-inches to 24-inches high, making them accessible from wheelchairs.

Bigger changes can include enlarged doorways

Allowing for wheelchair access or a walker and adding ramps to eliminate stairs are essential changes. Many small modifications can be made that are inexpensive or have no associated cost. Evaluate your home for trip hazards. Unstable area rugs, cracked and loose tiles and flooring, both indoor and out.

According to Dr. Rodney Harrell, the vice president for Family, Home and Community at AARP, “The vast majority of people want to stay in their homes as they age, and most homes in this country aren’t designed to allow that to happen.” Start with the simple things that are easy and inexpensive to make your home safe.

Is it time to update your Living Trust?

Many of our senior clients created their Living Trust eight or more years ago. There’s a good chance a lot has happened since then—births, deaths, divorce, investments and new jobs. Our Trust package includes a Power of Attorney, an Advance Healthcare Directive and a Will. We guide you through the process and we prepare the legal documents. Schedule an appointment with Guideway today. We guide you through it and we prepare the legal documents.

We service the entire East Bay and North Bay areas

Berkeley, El Cerrito, Richmond, Pinole, Alameda, San Leandro, Castro Valley Newark, San Lorenzo, Concord, Alamo, Danville, Lafayette, Orinda, Moraga, Pleasant Hill, Martinez, Pittsburg, Antioch, Brentwood, Oakley, Discovery Bay, Pleasanton, San Ramon, Livermore, Tracy and Fremont. Our clients also live in the Napa Valley, Benicia, Vallejo, Martinez, Fairfield.