Wrap Your Head Around Planning Your Estate For Teaching Professionals

Updated: Sep 25, 2019

The words “estate planning” often conjure up someone elderly in front of a stately mansion surrounded by manicured lawns. You picture the house full of antiques and the bank full of money. That is usually far from the truth!

Planning your estate is an important topic for teachers. I found the perfect guest to educate us on the subject.

I recently sat down with Dennis Sandoval, who was in a car accident in 1992, that left him paralyzed. Before the accident, he was a scuba diving instructor on Catalina Island in Laguna Beach, California. His love of the ocean is evident in his office space. He has 16 marine fish tanks with coral and fish from all over the world. It’s quite a sight!

Now let’s talk about his professional status!

He is a NAELA Fellow, who has used his experience as a person with disabilities to help other disabled persons. He has dedicated his law practice to assisting the elderly and disabled in the areas of estate planning, elder law, special needs planning, and government assistance planning. In addition, he assists the elderly and disabled with veterans benefits, probate, conservatorships, tax disputes, and trust and will contests.

He's been practicing Estate and Elder Law Attorney for 20 years in Riverside, California.

His specialty is working with the elderly and incapacitated people.

He has been named a Southern California Super Lawyer each year since 2011. He is also one of less than 100 attorneys nationwide, who has been named a fellow of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys.

Whew! Now that's what I call a resume!


Dennis explained to me that everyone needs estate planning.

Planning your estate is important if you are a parent. It’s important to set up a will to name a guardian for your children. If you're single with children, you would need to appoint someone to care for your children, unless the other parent has joint custody rights.

Compare that scenario to a single person whose focus is on appointing an agent to manage their finances or make healthcare decisions for them if they don't have a spouse.

Your choices will be different depending on your age, life stage, and circumstances.

Basic Documents

Dennis also indicated that there are certain basic documents that you need when planning your estate.

A Financial Power of Attorney (a document that allows somebody to make financial decisions for you in the event that you're unable to do so for yourself).

An Advanced Health Care Directive has various other names but it allows you to appoint someone during your lifetime to make healthcare and personal decisions for you.

While the documents above are the baseline, let’s look at what having a will is all about.

Your Will

Are you going to prepare your will or is the state going to do it for you? Do you want to choose who your beneficiaries are or will you allow the state to designate them?

Let's say you want your estate to go to your girlfriend after you pass away. In some states, there isn't any provision under the intestate law for a girlfriend. If you didn't have a will set up, she would not get anything upon your passing away.

Every state has intestacy laws to settle the matter of who will benefit from your estate.

It usually goes in order for your spouse, children, grandchildren, and then your parents. Your siblings are at the end of this list.

Your options for creating a will include going to an attorney or doing it yourself.

If you choose to the DIY method be sure to understand and fulfill the legal requirements.

Choosing a Professional

How do you find someone that can be trusted for your estate planning needs?

Find out if your state allows for a certified specialist and start your search there. You can also search for an attorney on the bar website.

Here are some other suggestions:

  • AVVO.com (Investigates, reviews and rates attorneys with the highest rating of 10)

  • Martindale Hubbell (They do the same as above with the highest rating of AV)

  • Super Lawyers (The same as above but they only allow the top 5%)

Be sure to check your lawyer out. The last thing you want is to is to work with a lawyer who has a disciplinary history!

The Cost Of Planning Your Estate

It varies depending on the state you are in and your attorney.

I’ll give you an example from Southern California.

The documents you would need:

  • Trust

  • Will

  • Power of attorney

  • Advanced Healthcare Directive Deeds (puts your real estate into the trust)

  • A General assignment (putting your other assets into the trust)

  • Possibly some other ancillary documents that may be needed

As a single individual you will start planning your estate between $1,500 to $3,000 for a comprehensive plan. If you are married you'll pay approximately $2,000 to $4,000.

Again, the costs vary depending on the work to be done and your circumstances.

If you’d like to visit Dennis’ website go to www.protect-your-wealth.com or call his office at (951) 787-7711.

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