Jason S. Buckingham

Attorney & Counselor At Law

Painless, affordable, fast estate planning

(707) 745-2200

Estate Planning doesn’t have to be complicated




If you’re like most people (with less than $12.92 million in total assets as of 2023), then you probably don’t need a complicated estate plan. But you still need expert advice on important legal matters.

Our workflow is easy




We have spent many years streamlining our workflow, to make the process as easy as possible for our clients. I gather the necessary information from my clients during our phone consult, and we set an appointment to meet in person. During our 45 to 60 minute in person meeting, clients review and sign their estate plans, so that by the end of the meeting, their estate plan is complete.

See what our past clients have said about working with us.

Our schedule is flexible




We are able to meet with clients on weekdays, after work, or on weekends, depending on a client’s schedule. We also offer house calls for clients with health or mobility issues.

Our flat fees are affordable




Time and money are the two reasons that many people never get their affairs in order. In addition to the time saving efforts described above, my flat fees are, by design, considerably less than those of many other estate planning lawyers.

What is included?




The following documents are included:

  • Living Trust
  • Will(s)
  • Durable Power(s) of Attorney
  • Advance Health Care Directive(s)
  • “Blanket” Declaration of assets transferred to the Trust
  • Deed for primary residence
  • As needed: Nomination of Guardians for minor children, and Marital Property Agreements for clients with Separate Property

How much does it cost?




I charge a flat fee of $1,150.00 for the documents listed above. I charge the same for an individual trust package, or a joint trust package for married couples / Registered Domestic Partners.

Are there any extra charges?




The only extra charge would be for non-owner occupied real estate. To prepare and record deeds for additional property, I charge a flat fee of $200.00 per property for real estate located in California. If you own real estate outside of California, then the fee might vary, and we might need to work with a lawyer in the state where the land is located — be sure to ask about this if it applies to you.

Other Services




In addition to drafting estate plans, I also assist Successor Trustees with trust administration — the process of winding up a person’s affairs after they pass away.

For people who inherit a partial interest in real estate, and don’t want to remain co-owners with the people who own the other portion of the real estate, I provide advice and counsel on negotiating a resolution, often out of court. Sometimes, court cannot be avoided, so in those cases, I represent people in partition lawsuits.

Why do people establish trusts?




For most Californians, the safest way to avoid California’s expensive and time-consuming probate process is through a living trust.

Who may need a trust?




If you own a home (or other real estate), then you may need a trust to avoid probate, because the average value of California real estate is much higher than the current probate exemptions of $166,250.00 (for people who passed away before April 1, 2022) or $184,500.00 (for people who pass away on or after April 1, 2022). As noted below, an estate’s value is calculated on the gross value of assets, not the equity in those assets.

How much is Probate?




“How much” includes the money it will cost, and the time it will take to get through the probate court system. Most California probate cases take a few years to wind their way through the court system, for a couple of reasons: (1) the courts don’t add probate judges at the same rate as our population grows, and (2) by most estimates, somewhere between 60 and 70% of people at risk for probate never do any estate planning.

California Probate Code § 10810 sets statutory fees for a probate. Both the lawyer and the executor (or administrator) for the estate are entitled to fees, so the costs are generally double the amounts shown below. Higher fees (for “extraordinary services”) can be ordered by a court for complicated cases, such as when real estate must be sold to settle the probate.

Statutory fees are based on your “Gross Estate.” Your Gross Estate includes anything that does not pass outside of Probate. In valuing a Gross Estate, the whole value of an asset is used, without backing out any open loans. For example, a home worth $800,000 with a $400,000 loan against it is an $800,000 asset for calculating the probate fees.

The statutory probate fees:




  • 4% of the first $100,000 (4% x $100,000 = $4,000), +
  • 3% of the next $100,000 (3% x $100,000 = $3,000 + the first $4,000 = $7,000), +
  • 2% of the next $800,000 (2% x $800,000 = $16,000 + $7,000 = $23,000), +
  • 1% of the next $9,000,000 (1% x $9,000,000 = $90,000 + $23,000 = $113,000),+
  • 0.5% of the next $15,000,000 (0.5% x 15,000,000 = $75,000 + $113,000 = $188,000).

For estates larger than $25,000,000, the court determines the fee for the amount that is greater than $25,000,000.