Wednesday, April 8, 2020

We’re Open! Work Virtually or Schedule an Office Appointment


We want all of our clients to know that we remain open throughout this period

Our offices are open and we’ve instituted stringent sanitation procedures that include masks and gloves. We’re also permitting just one set of clients in our offices at a time and following the six-foot distancing guidelines.

We’re also working virtually–what does that mean for you?

Virtual means that you can stay safely at home, sheltering in place. Stay in your pajamas and pour another cup of coffee. We can work through the details of your Living Trust, Divorce, Deed or other service over the phone or using Zoom, free online collaboration software.

Online collaboration with Zoom

Zoom has become our collaboration tool of choiceIts user-friendly interface and clear audio and video make virtual collaboration easy. Even those unfamiliar with collaboration tools find this productive and a great enhancement for our virtual sessions. For other clients, we just use our telephones and the website. In a recent case, we completed the intake process for a Living Trust over the course of a phone call. It was seamless.

Working virtually was a change for CDP because of our high level of customer service

Meeting and greeting our clients and making them feel welcome have always been important parts of our culture. Yet we introduced our new virtual process in a matter of days. Our clients are surprised at how easy it is. One longtime client who felt some urgency to update their Living Trust told us, “We dialed in to Zoom for our call, and Ian walked us through the intake questions that are part of the information-gathering phase. It was so easy! CDP will prepare the legal documents and contact us when it’s time to sign and notarize them.”

Make no mistake, these are stressful times

Even as we reach out to find new ways to accommodate our clients, we know that many are worried about their loved ones. Perhaps they’ve tested positive or know someone who has. We’re all worried about the economics of this pandemic, and we want our lives back. We want a return to normal, though that may not be so easy. There well may be facing profound changes as a result of this ordeal.

We’re all feeling the effects of sheltering in place

Cabin fever gives way to panic buying. We obsess about running out of products—it’s been weeks now, and it’s impossible to find cleaning products like ammonia or bleach. Toilet paper remains the season’s hot ticket. Our cloistered spring leaves all of us anxious on many levels.

Let’s not forget the heroes of this ordeal

But my friend Susan is one of the COVID heroes. She’s an emergency room nurse who goes to work each day ready to face another day of utter chaos. She comes home from her long, punishing shifts exhausted. Her face is bruised from the protective mask and shield she hopes will keep her safe. She fights to keep her patients alive, but often it’s not enough. As their patient load increases, her team struggles to find equipment and supplies.
This is the health crisis of our lifetimes. Be careful. Be safe. Take care of those you love.

During this difficult time, many are feeling an urgency to create a Living Trust 

Our Trust package includes a Will, Power of Attorney and an Advance Healthcare Directive and Incapacity Planning. We guide you through the process and prepare the legal documents. At California Document Preparers, for most of our services, we charge one flat fee. We’re helpful, compassionate and affordable. Schedule an appointment today at one of our three Bay Area offices in Dublin, Walnut Creek or Oakland

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.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Estate Planning Includes Planning for Incapacity


We’re all uneasy as we face the biggest health challenge of our lifetimes. Despite stringent safety precautions, this remains a highly contagious disease, and we’re all feeling vulnerable. Many people are feeling the urgency to create estate planning documents.

But estate planning isn’t only about what happens after a loved one’s death

Estate planning includes making plans for incapacity—when loved ones are no longer able to care for themselves.
For my own folks, incapacity necessitated an intervention after my stepfather suffered a minor stroke while driving. He veered off the road and plowed into a police car. The good news is that we finally were able to take his keys away and get him off the road.

My brother stepped in as his Power of Attorney

As the Financial Power of Attorney for my folks, my brother was able to manage their finances. I think my stepfather was happy to be relieved of this burden, and my mother was no longer able to deal with anything substantive. Fortunately, they both still had testamentary capacity and were able to sign the necessary legal documents. My brother also became the Agent for their Advance Healthcare Directives. He now had authority to carry out their final healthcare decisions.

Mental Incapacity can be caused by an accident, injury or illness

Mental incapacity results in someone’s being incapable of making informed decisions about their finances and wellbeing.
  • Without a comprehensive incapacity plan in place, a judge can appoint someone to take control of an incapacitated person’s assets and make all personal and medical decisions on that person’s behalf under a court-supervised guardianship or conservatorship.
  • The incapacitated person and his or her loved ones can lose valuable time, money, and control until the incapacitated person either regains capacity or dies.

Holding assets in joint accounts with another family member is a poor solution

Many believe they’re protected if they hold their assets in joint names with another family member. While a joint account holder may be able to pay bills, for instance, a joint owner of real estate will not be able to sell property without the consent of the other owner.
If that owner is legally incapacitated, the owner will not have clear title to the property and will not be able to sell it. Only a comprehensive incapacity plan will protect you and your assets from a court-supervised guardianship or conservatorship.

During this health crisis, many are feeling an urgency to create a Living Trust 

Our Trust package includes a Will, Power of Attorney and an Advance Healthcare DirectiveWe guide you through the process and prepare the legal documents. At California Document Preparers, for most of our services, we charge one flat fee. We’re helpful, compassionate and affordable. Schedule an appointment today at one of our three Bay Area offices in Dublin, Walnut Creek or Oakland

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.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Protect Your Family with a Living Trust and Guardianship


Every family right now is frightened by the magnitude of the coronavirus. They may be thinking about whether or not they should create a Living Trust. For those families with children under 18, an important part of our Trust package is the Will, where you can name a Guardian to care for your children if something should happen to you.

Naming a Guardian and a Creating a Will are parts of our Living Trust package

If both you and your spouse should die, your children will need a Guardian. If you do not leave instructions in the form of a Will, the court will not have any guidance from you, the parents of the children, and will therefore choose the Guardian. While it is painful to think of leaving your children, it can be reassuring to know that in the case of this unlikely eventuality, they will be properly cared for by someone you love and trust.

Using a Trust to control your children’s inheritance

Sometimes it’s not simply a matter of ensuring that your children inherit your estate after you are gone. You may want to guide and control that inheritance–especially if your children are still young. That’s where a Living Trust comes in.
A Living Trust can manage any assets the children receive if their parents die. If you’re worried about your children getting a large sum of money when they are too young to handle the responsibility, as might happen with a Will. You can identify the age at which they will gain control of the funds.
Rather than getting the entire amount at 18, for example, they would gain control of the money when they are older and better prepared to inherit a large sum of money. It’s reassuring to remember that most parents of young children live long enough to see their kids safely to adulthood. But sometimes the unexpected happens. Having a Will or Living Trust in place now can provide peace of mind about your children’s future.

During this health crisis, many are feeling an urgency to create a Living Trust 

Our Trust package includes a Will, Power of Attorney and an Advance Healthcare Directive. We guide you through the process and prepare the legal documents. At California Document Preparers, for most of our services, we charge one flat fee. We’re helpful, compassionate and affordable. Schedule an appointment today at one of our three Bay Area offices in Dublin, Walnut Creek or Oakland

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, March 18, 2020

AB-5 and LLCs: CDP Provides a Workaround for Independent Contractors


Jane Matthews built a successful business as a video and movie script writer while homeschooling her nine-year-old autistic daughter and shuttling her 15-year-old son to his accelerated science classes at the local college. Her husband’s sales job means that he travels frequently and is unavailable for day-to-day help with the family’s routine. The flexibility of Jane’s home-based business is what makes this all possible, and now she’s in the direct line of fire from AB-5.

Women may have the most to lose when it comes to AB-5

Women tend to be most in need of the flexible hours that draw them to independent contractor work. For those juggling caregiving and a heavy load of unpaid household work, running a business from home instead of commuting is often the only way they can get everything done. Job flexibility allows them to care for family while pursuing careers and generating an income.

The strategy behind AB-5 is that companies will hire their independent contractors

The new California labor law, AB-5, meant for companies to hire their independent contractors as full-time employees, is being met with heavy opposition. The bill’s sponsor, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego), tweeted that under the law “if you are a true independent proprietor, you can still operate as one.” Yet that’s not happening. California writers who bid on national projects are being blackballed.

What were they thinking?

While Governor Newsom was a proponent of the law for its efforts to address income inequality, and he signed it into law, we’re left wondering if they really thought this through. An estimated 37% of American workers are independent contractors. Newsom talked about creating collective bargaining and other ways to start raising worker wages. While wage inequity is bringing this country to its knees, putting people out of work cannot be the solution.

Many choose independent contractor status for the flexibility it affords

While many independent contractors would love to be hired as full-time employees to start accruing healthcare, retirement and vacation benefits, many others, like Jane Matthews, choose to be an independent contractor for the flexibility it affords. The list of professions that have traditionally and still are working independently is a long one. Some are familiar, others obscure. Many stand to lose their livelihoods. Think musicians, horse trainers, hair stylists, massage therapists, the people who give piano or ballet lessons to your kids. Churches and nonprofits. A wide range of consultants who are hired for a specific purpose, often for a specific time window. Many seniors who pick up part-time jobs to supplement their social security income will be hurt by this law.

One potential solution: Creating an LLC

CDP is assisting independent contractors in creating LLCs as a strategy to get around this bill. By forming a corporation, workers can retain their independent status—and potentially avoid losing work.
  • LLCs have become popular because they have fewer formalitiesthan other corporate structures, yet they still provide liability protection.
  • Forming an LLC is straightforward. In California,the filing fee to form an LLC is $75, which is included in our fee.
  • An LLC includes an annual$800 franchise tax, and you also will need to get a business license.
Do you have questions about forming a corporation? Contact us today for more information or to schedule an appointment. 

Lawmakers promise changes to address worker concerns

California Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez continues to defend AB-5, insisting that its intention is to protect those workers who need it the most. Now just a few months into the new year, the law continues to be challenged. Freelance journalists, Uber, Lyft and truckers, among other groups, are involved in litigation.
California Document Preparers is a local Legal Document Assistant firm and we have assisted with organizing small businesses’ LLCs since 2004. We would be pleased to be of assistance.

We charge $599 for our LLC services, which includes:

  • Articles of Organization filing
  • Operating Agreement
  • Statement of Information
  • EIN Assistance
  • Company Kit
We guide our clients through the Business Formation process and prepare the legal documents. We prepare and file the Articles of Incorporation with the Secretary of State. An LLC can be one or many members—making it ideal for independent contractors. We’re helpful, compassionate and affordable. Schedule an appointment today at one of our three Bay Area offices.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

It’s Tax Season: Be on the Lookout for Tax Scammers


I just read about a taxpayer (in this case, we’re using the term loosely), whom we’ll call Victor. He has a good job, has raised three kids and put them all through college. He saves for retirement. His taxes are regularly withheld from his paycheck, so there are probably no big tax debts from which he is hiding. But he has not been current with the IRS for 30 years.

I do intend to file.” Yet it never quite happens

“I’ve often thought about why I do this,” he said. “I have theories, but none has helped me get past the fear of filing and doing it on time. I rationalize. I think I’m just a small guy and the IRS wouldn’t be interested in me.

Unlike Victor, most of us do file our annual taxes, but it’s generally with some trepidation

For the 37% of American workers who are employed as independent contractors, there is the uneasiness of wondering if they’ve claimed enough in their quarterly filings. No one wants a big surprise during tax season.

But there’s a bigger, more insidious surprise waiting for many unsuspecting taxpayers

The IRS calls them “ghosts”. They’re shady operators that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) calls “ghosts”. Those who are certified to prepare tax returns for other people have a legally required 2019 Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). Ghosts don’t have a PTIN and don’t sign the returns they work on, leaving their clients holding the bag for any filing falsehoods.

These ghosts are brazen, setting up shop in pop-up offices

  • Ghosts set up shop around tax time in pop-up offices in malls. They pitch their services at community-gathering places such as churches or clubhouses.
  • They lure customers with promises of big refunds, often predicating their fees on a percentage of the refund. Real tax preparers base their fees on their time, generally an agreed-upon rate per hour.
  • They might invent income to falsely claim tax credits or fabricate deductions for business, education or medical expenses.

By the time the IRS catches on, the ghost will have vanished—with your fee

It’s your name on the return, and you’re liable. It may take some time for the IRS to catch up with you and your missing taxes. In the meantime, you will be accruing penalties and interest.
Some ghost preparers take the scam a step further, stealing refunds outright by routing them into their own bank accounts. Other tax prep fraudsters work online, sending phishing emails that appear to be from tax pros, or creating impostor websites that claim to prepare and e-file your return.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) warns:

“These websites looks legitimate,” but “they’re set up to collect personal information that can be used to commit fraud,” including identity theft.

Here are some red flags. Be very suspicious if your tax preparer:

  • Asks for payment in cash.
  • Has an excuse why you won’t receive a receipt.
  • Bases fees on a percentage of the refund. Tax preparers base their fees on their time.
  • Wants the refund deposited in his or her bank account. Ridiculous.
  • Marks your return as “self-prepared” or affixes a business label rather than signing the form by name. A certified preparer will have a PTIN.

One more thing: IRS robocalls

Who hasn’t received an intimidating phone call that starts with “This is the IRS”. Hang up and report it—this is a robocall. Never return a phone call from someone claiming to be the IRS. The IRS never discusses personal tax issues through unsolicited emails, texts or over social media.

We look forward to assisting our clients with their uncontested legal matters

Taxes and Living Trusts are important parts of estate planning. Our Living Trust package includes a Power of Attorney and an Advance Healthcare Directive. We guide our clients through the process. We prepare the legal documents and file them with the courts. For most of our services, we charge one flat fee. We’re helpful, compassionate and affordable. Schedule an appointment today at one of our three Bay Area offices.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Celebrating the Small, Happy Life


I recently came across David Brooks’s column in The New York Times asking his readers to define their purpose in life. While many were overachievers with lofty themes about changing the world, others found fulfillment in simply living and creating small, happy lives.

I have always wanted to be kind

One story comes from a man whose most precious possession was a banged-up tin pot that he kept carefully wrapped in cloth as though it were fragile. The message? We do not all have to shine. We don’t all have to be doing something big and important. Another response: “I have always wanted to be effortlessly kind. I wanted to raise children who were kind.”
A response from someone who survived the Nazi death camps notes that a predominant quality of these survivors was generosity. Everywhere there are tiny, inconsequential opportunities to be generous and kind.

Another woman writes: “I used to be one of the solid ones”

“Now my purpose is simply to be the person who can pick up the phone and give you 30 minutes in your time of crisis. I can edit your letter. I can listen to you complain about your co-worker. I can look you in the eye and give you a few dollars in the parking lot. I am not upset if you cry.” Think about it. Just being there for someone. In a time when we have to go to our calendars to simply schedule a telephone call, this is really quite a lot.
One gentleman has always admired the fiercely successfully people who make things happen, but he’s chosen to live his life on a much smaller scale and found happiness. “I have a terrific wife, five kids, friends from grade school and high school, college, army, friends locally, and sometimes, best of all, horses, dogs and cats. Finally, I have a small industrial business that I started and have run for 40 years.”

An 85-year old chronicles his life by the seasons in his garden

“I am thankful to be alive. I have a responsibility to myself and those around me to give meaning to my life from day to day. I enjoy my family (not all of them) and a shrinking number of old friends. If there is one thing that keeps me focused, it’s the garden. Lots of plants died during the harsh winter, but, amazingly, the clematises and the roses are back, and lettuce, spinach and tomatoes are thriving in the greenhouse. The weeping cherry tree in front of the house succumbed to old age. I still have to plant a new tree this year. There is something beautiful, concrete and well-proportioned about tending that garden.”
For this older gentleman, the garden becomes a metaphor for the seasons of his life.

We look forward to assisting our clients with their uncontested legal matters

As we embrace another year, we look forward to assisting our clients with their uncontested legal matters. Whether it’s a DivorceLiving TrustProbate or Business Formation, we guide our clients through the process. We prepare the legal documents and file them with the courts. For most of our services, we charge one flat fee. We’re helpful, compassionate and affordable. Schedule an appointment today at one of our three Bay Area offices.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020


Lynda Faye had always looked forward to retirement. Time for gardening and her backyard art studio in Amherst, MA. She wanted to spend time with her grandchildren. To catch up on her reading, to slow down and enjoy life at a slower pace. One thing she never put on her bucket list was caring for an elderly parent.

Faye is 75, and that frail elderly parent is her mother, 99

Yetta Meisel just turned 99. Faye now helps care for her mother, including preparing her meals. She picks up her meds, schedules home aides and transports a wheelchair for excursions. “We never expected her to live this long. She was never particularly healthy, but besides difficulty walking and some cognitive impairment, she is doing better than anyone could have ever expected! Our whole family makes an effort to spend time with her—even if it’s just an hour or so to check in and see how she’s feeling.”
Faye and her mother are part of a growing phenomenon: Seniors spending their retirement years caring for parents who are in their 90s and beyond. Because of longer life spans, many adult children and their parents are now “aging together,” said Kathrin Boerner, an associate professor of gerontology at the University of Massachusetts Boston.

Faye has abandoned her own retirement dreams

Her mother’s longevity has taken a financial toll. Faye has dipped into her nest egg to pay for her mother’s expenses. She put her home with her fabulous garden and art studio on the market. She cares for her mother three days each week and pays for part of her mother’s care out of her own pension. As difficult as her responsibilities are, she considers herself lucky to have a mother with a good sense of humor who appreciates her efforts.

Study finds these senior caregivers suffering from failing health, stress and isolation

Dr. Boerner found that many of these late-life caregivers, typically daughters, suffer from their own failing health, which worsens with the stress, depression, physical tasks and isolation. The financial picture often becomes dire. The adult children spend resources meant for their own later lives. It gets worse when there were toxic relationships between parent and child. Old resentments bubble up, and the quality of caregiving suffers.
Getting exercise and taking much-needed personal time could depend on the family’s ability to pay for home aides, adult daycare and other respite programs.
There are resources that may provide help: 
  • Medicaid picks up some costs for those with limited assets, but the number of hours varies.
  • An accountant will calculate tax breaks for home care and other services.
  • Local senior programs may offer guidance on free and reduced-cost programs.
But children who are draining their own retirement savings should consider a nursing home that accepts Medicaid, and then pay for restaurant outings and other extras.
Even when they do not pay for care, many older caregivers make financial sacrifices. In some cases, children, particularly women, are retiring earlier than they planned or are cutting back on their hours to care for their parents.

The growing problem of caring for our seniors

Most of us these days know someone who is caring for an aging family member. With 10,000 baby boomers turning 70 every day, caring for this demographic is a growing health care issue. It’s only a matter of time before it becomes a political issue.

The need to prepare life-planning documents

If you or someone you know is caring for someone or are part of a caregiver team, it’s important to create a Living Trust. Our comprehensive Trust portfolio includes a Power of Attorney and an Advance Healthcare Directive. It’s important to sign these legal documents while someone still has testamentary capacity. With a Power of Attorney and Advance Healthcare Directive, you or a member of your team will be able to make important healthcare and financial decisions in the event your family member becomes incapacitated.

Our dedicated team has assisted hundreds of families in creating their Living Trusts

We’re responsive and available throughout the process. We’re helpful, compassionate and affordable. Schedule an appointment today at one of our three Bay Area offices.