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Practice Areas

Incapacity Planning


The goal of an effective and well-considered estate plan is to avoid disputes and probate court intervention, but sometimes the decision to plan comes too late. What if something unfortunate happens and you or your loved one don't have a power of attorney or health care power of attorney? Richard Cornell realizes that guardianships and conservatorships, while protecting a person by providing supervision, will limit that person's freedom.


Mr. Cornell takes his responsibility very seriously and is committed to providing the high quality counsel and service your family deserves. If a member of your family may now or in the future require help with management of finances or daily affairs, and you would like to discuss the situation with Richard Cornell, make arrangements for a free consultation.


Since loss of function is often progressive, many families may make arrangements while an elderly member is still able to help in making the decision regarding appointment of a guardian or conservator. If you or a loved one has a progressive condition, such as Alzheimer's or dementia, now is the time to designate your chosen representatives.


Trust Administration and Probate

It's never too early to start planning your estate. When you die, most of your assets will be subject to probate, the court-supervised process of following the instructions in your will. It involves court filings, appointing someone to oversee the process, inventorying assets, and notifying creditors. Probate can be costly and time-consuming.


One exception to probate is the living trust. A trust is a legal entity into which you can transfer your home, car, stocks, bonds, and other major assets. The "trustee" controls the property in the trust and you can name yourself trustee or another person or entity.


Avoid delays and expenses of probate. With a living trust, property can often be transferred after death much faster than by will, since property left by a will has to go through the probate process. Also, the steps taken under a living trust can be less expensive than administering a will.


Flexibility. A living trust can be "revocable", allowing you to change or cancel it prior to death.


Richard Cornell is a San Diego attorney who specializes in estate planning legal services. He can help you achieve your estate planning goals so your property goes to your loved ones, saving on taxes, and making it hard for others to challenge.

Special Needs Planning

Have you been told that your son or daughter, who has a disability, is not allowed to inherit money? It's true, an inheritance will interrupt his or her SSI and Medicaid. Therefore, someone who is disabled cannot inherit more than $2,000 because it will interrupt his or her government benefits.


There is an easy way around this problem. You can leave money for your son or daughter, without interfering with the public benefits by creating a Special Needs Trust.


If you set up a Special Needs Trust, the trustee can buy many of the things your son or daughter will need.


The trust can pay for an advocate to make sure your loved one gets the services he or she needs when you aren't there to help out. The trust can pay for vacations, social events, and sporting goods.


If Medicaid won’t pay for certain medical care or treatments, the trust can step in and provide those. Occasionally, people with mental disabilities are targeted by the police and wrongly accused of crimes; if your son or daughter has a special needs trust, the trust can pay for a good legal defense.


The trust can buy a house for your child to live in, or it can pay for an advocate to insist that your loved one be granted services by the government, as required by law.


For people who are not especially wealthy, a special needs trust is still a good idea. It can be funded with a life insurance policy.



If a person has been determined to be mentally incapacitated and has assets that will be wasted, the court will appoint a conservator to manage his or her assets. In some cases the conservator may also serve as a guardian. In either case the probate court conducts an annual review of the management.


Many people just need a little help with personal care − perhaps someone to organize their medical care or see that their living conditions are reasonable. Other people need more constant and direct supervision, in which case the Conservator is responsible for arranging for and overseeing care in a nursing home, an assisted living facility, or a home setting.


These are sensitive issues and Richard Cornell will do all he can to help families find the best solutions possible for their situations. Contact him today to learn more during a free consultation.​



A legal guardian is responsible for making decisions regarding a minor person’s personal affairs and living situation. Typically, a guardian takes care of a minor's personal needs, including shelter, education, and medical care. A guardian may also provide financial management of a child's assets, although sometimes a second person (often called a "guardian of the estate") is appointed for this purpose.

Estate Planning


Living trusts have several benefits, including the following:

  • Avoids probate at death, including multiple probates if you own property in other states

  • Prevents court control of assets at incapacity

  • Brings all of your assets together under one plan

  • Provides maximum privacy

  • Quicker distribution of assets to beneficiaries

  • Assets can remain in trust until you want beneficiaries to inherit

  • Can reduce or eliminate estate taxes

  • Inexpensive, easy to set up and maintain

  • Can be changed or cancelled at any time

  • Difficult to contest

  • Prevents court control of minors’ inheritances

  • Can protect dependents with special needs

  • Prevents unintentional disinheriting and other problems of joint ownership

  • Professional management with corporate trustee, if necessary

  • Peace of mind

Encinitas Probate Attorney

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