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About Gullotta Law GroupAlthough estate planning is rarely something we want to think about, it is a necessary part of life, plus a little bit of planning now can make a huge difference down the line. At the Gullotta Law Group, our goal is to make estate planning a comfortable, easy experience. We go to great lengths to ensure you are not overly burdened with the creation and administration of your estate plan, offering fixed fees which encourage you to ask questions and take an active role in the decision-making process. Because your estate plan should be uniquely tailored to your life circumstances, your goals and your desires, we want you to be involved.
Attorney Eric Gullotta will not simply tell you what you need—he will truly listen to your wishes, then translate those wishes into the legally binding documents which make up your estate plan. Along with Eric’s supportive staff, you will work directly with Attorney Gullotta throughout the entire process. We believe we can offer you a creative, concise, and competent estate planning. In other words, we make it simple—you tell us what you would like to happen to your assets after you are gone, the decisions you would want made if you were to become incapacitated and answer other questions about your life situations. We will then draft the appropriate documents using your specific wishes, to ensure you and your loved ones are properly protected, now and in the future.
At the Gullotta Law Group we understand that an attorney is not often someone you are excited about seeing. However, when life presents situations you simply cannot navigate alone, it is extremely comforting to realize that there are lawyers out there who truly have your back and who will work hard to achieve the outcome you desire. Although estate planning is not something most adults look forward to, we promise to make it as easy as possible for you. Along with Eric Gullotta, you will interact with Ashley Rose—the friendly voice you will hear on the other end of the phone, and the first smile you will see when you come into our office. Ashley manages all administrative tasks, document preparation and scheduling. In her spare time, you might find Ashely sampling the local cuisine—or in the gym working out.
Karin Smith is another support team personnel you may encounter during your estate planning. Karin is a contract probate paralegal with 28 years of experience throughout the state of California. Karin practices in probate, trust administration, guardianships, conservatorships, estate planning and fiduciary accountings. With a sparkling personality and high attention to detail, Karin has more experience than most attorneys in this area. Karin is also an LDA (a paralegal who can work directly with the public) a certified Pilates instructor, a dive master and a Private Professional Fiduciary.
Eric Gullotta, Lead Attorney
Eric Gullotta was born and raised in Glen Ellen and Sonoma. Eric loves his California community, giving back whenever possible, and priding himself on providing a relaxed, yet professional environment for solving all your estate planning and probate needs. Eric’s office proudly supports Prestwood School PTO, Sonoma Valley Education Foundation, Becoming Independent and the Sonoma Valley Little League. In fact, Eric sits on the Board of Directors for Becoming Independent. Eric strongly believes that being proactive regarding estate planning can save untold amounts of heartache and chaos in the future. Eric attended law school locally at Empire College, and his master’s degree in taxation, as well as his former career as a CPA gives him a unique perspective regarding client’s estate plans. When Eric is not working hard for his clients, handling their estate planning and probate needs, he enjoys spending time with his children and engaging in his hobbies of digital photography and brewing his own beer.
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“Estate planning is complicated at best for the average person. Having someone such as Eric Gullotta who is extremely knowledgeable and professional walk you through the process is worth the time and expense. Money well spent! Especially the insight that he offers proves valuable. Thank you for the help in setting up the trust! Definitely recommend to anyone needing estate planning!”
“I would like to thank Mr. E.G. for his great service and very professional attitude. Mr. G. is prompt, clear, courteous, competent and very kind. Mr. G. is an attorney who listens and acts without delay.”
“When my fiance and I met at his office, within the first few minutes we KNEW he was the attorney to help us. He was genuine and honest and was able to successfully achieve our positive outcome.”
Practice Areas at Gullotta Law GroupAt the Gullotta Law Group, we focus on the following estate planning areas:
- Advance Health Care Directives—End-of-life care is a uniquely personal issue, and an advanced health care directive lays out your wishes in the event you become incapacitated. Because life is so uncertain, all adults—no matter your age—should consider having an advanced health care directive. Having a comprehensive advanced health care directive in place will allow you to choose a person you trust to make decisions on your behalf should you become incapacitated. When you decide to have a California advanced health care directive prepared by your estate planning attorney, you will have many decisions to consider. Would you want CPR to save your life? Artificial nutrition and hydration or the use of a ventilator? How about basic comfort care? These are all important decisions you will consider when having your advanced health care directive prepared by your estate planning attorney.
- Distribution of Assets—Should you die without a will or trust in the state of California (known as dying intestate), state statutes will dictate how your assets will be distributed. If you have a will in place, then your will must be probated, but once probate is complete, the remainder of your assets will be distributed as you have directed in your will. Having a living trust, will also ensure instructions are left regarding how you would like to have your assets distributed – But with a living trust you avoid the VERY high costs of probate.. There are also other steps you can take to ensure your assets go to those you choose rather than who the state of California might choose. Contacting an experienced Sonoma estate planning attorney is a smart first step regarding distribution of your assets.
- Guardianships—Guardianship proceedings could be necessary following a death when there are minor children left behind. If a will is present, a guardian will likely be named for the minor children, as most people want to choose who will raise their children in their absence. Even when a guardian is named for minor children via a will, the California courts will have to approve that guardian. There would be very few instances in which a court would not honor a named guardian, and, in most cases, it is simply a formality. If no will is left, the courts will name a guardian for the minor children. Making sure your minor children are taken care of by the person you choose is an extremely important task, addressed through your will. Having a knowledgeable estate planning attorney help you formalize this decision is imperative to the future of your children.
- Estate Administration—The question of who will administer your estate following your death or incapacitation is dependent on what type of estate plan you have in place at the time of your death or incapacitation. If you have only a will, you will have named an executor in the will—a person you trust to administer your will as per your instructions. An advanced health care directive will allow a person you trust to make healthcare decisions for you in the event of your incapacitation, and a power of attorney allows another person to make financial decisions for you in the event of an incapacitation. Finally, a living trust will name a successor trustee who will be responsible for carrying out your wishes after your death or in the event of incapacitation. If you die without a will, an executor will be appointed by a California court. Executors have a fiduciary duty to ensure your beneficiaries are protected; executors, personal representatives and successor trustees will all “run” your estate in the same way a business would be run by paying outstanding taxes, paying all debts, and distributing the remaining assets to named beneficiaries.
- Estate Taxes—Those in the state of California are particularly fortunate in that the state does not collect an estate tax nor a state inheritance tax—that is, neither the estate of the deceased is taxed, nor are the beneficiaries of the estate taxed. There are, however, federal estate taxes in place, but theses taxes are typically applicable only for those whose estate is above $11,400,000 dollars (as of 2019). In any case, your estate planning attorney can discuss the issue of taxes with you, taking steps to ensure your estate will pay the fewest amount of taxes possible.
- Powers of Attorney—Powers of attorney documents allow you to appoint a trusted person to handle your financial or healthcare affairs on your behalf. While a general power of attorney grants broad powers to a person or organization, a special or limited power of attorney is usually for a specific situation—such as your being away for a length of time. A health care power of attorney allows your chosen agent to make decisions for you in the event of your incapacitation, and a durable power of attorney ensures the power of attorney stays in effect until your death.
- Wills & Trusts—Wills and trusts are the “backbone” of any good estate plan. Depending on your individual circumstances, you might benefit from one or the other—or both. As an example, even if you and your estate planning attorney determine that a living trust will suit your needs, if you have minor children you will also need a will to name a guardian for the children. More than half of all adults in the United States do not have so much as a simple will, let alone a comprehensive estate plan. This means that in the event of an unexpected death, the state will administer the estate—including appointing an executor and appointing a guardian for your minor children. A living trust offers a number of benefits, including privacy (wills are public), no probate process, and the ability to not only protect your assets during your life, but following your death as well.
- Probate Administration—When a person passes away, the probate administration allows the person’s assets to be effectively managed and distributed. During the probate process, the will (if one exists) will be filed with the court, and the estate administered. If there is no will, the court will name an executor, heirs will be located, and the estate will be administered in much the same manner as if there were a will—although the person’s assets are unlikely to go to those they might have chosen. If there are no objections once the will is filed, heirs will be identified and notifications will go to creditors and to the public. The property will be inventoried and appraised; if there are insufficient assets in the estate to pay off creditors, the beneficiaries may not receive some or all of their inheritance. Taxes and creditors will be paid, and the remainder of the estate will be distributed to beneficiaries. When you are putting together an estate plan, your attorney will go over the probate process with you, helping you streamline the process to the extent possible through your estate plan documents.
If you want to put an estate plan in motion, you need experience, knowledge, and an estate planning attorney who can answer your questions. The Gullotta Law Group offers stellar estate planning services to those in the Sonoma area. Contact the Gullotta Law Group today.
About Our Team
At Gullotta Law Group, we believe that estate planning should be easy for you! We go to great lengths to take the burden off of you when it comes to creating or administering an estate plan.
We offer fixed fees for the creation of estate planning documents to encourage you to ask questions and take an active role without worrying about hourly fees. We want you to be involved. This is your plan tailored to your needs and wants. Attorney Gullotta won't tell you what kind of estate plan you need; but rather will ask you your wishes for when you pass away and then will translate those wishes into legally binding documents so they are fully carried out after you're gone. You will work directly with Attorney Gullotta throughout the process...
At Gullotta Law Group, we are dedicated in making the legal concepts of estate planning and probate more understandable to our clients.
Eric Gullotta answers these common questions and more:
- What happens when a person dies without a will?
- How can probate be avoided in California?
- Do I need an estate plan?