For too many law firms, estate planning involves little more than a checklist of necessary documents. Their process is then typically focused on who’s in charge and who gets your possessions after you die. Our law firm offers a radically different approach. We focus on your overall planning goals, crafting the appropriate instructions for those goals, and then organizing your information and supporting communication so that your plans have the best chance of a successful reality. Only then do we prepare the necessary documents for that plan.

At Blacksburg Law, we know that the documents are important – but they are just the vehicle that we use to help you accomplish your goals. Our trust-based estate plans center around the things that are important to you, from children (or parents), values to philanthropy to beneficiary well-being. Throughout the process, we collaborate with our clients, their loved ones (and sometimes, advisors) to craft a workable game plan that accounts for what’s important to you.

Our law firm offers a flat fee so we can go where your planning needs take us without anyone watching the clock or toe-tapping. This includes ensuring you understand our process, in-depth conversations about what matters to you and what you hope to accomplish with your estate plan, and the legal underpinnings and context for why a living trust system works. By getting to know you instead of watching the clock, we can facilitate and craft a better estate plan for you and for your loved ones. If success matters in preparing an estate plan, please schedule a consultation, start the conversation and learn why we’re different.

What Is a Living Trust-Based Estate Plan?

Before getting into the hows and whys of our process, it is important to understand what it is we offer. Blacksburg Law primarily works with clients to create trust-based estate plans. That means that your estate plan uses a revocable living trust (or just living trust), the most efficient, cost-effective and private means for managing and distributing your assets during life and after death.

A revocable living trust is an incredibly flexible estate planning document. Most people understand it as the document that helps you avoid probate, the lengthy and costly court process of handling your affairs after you die. But this vehicle also helps your loved ones avoid the probate process should it be necessary while you’re alive (conservatorship). Using a living trust also provides greater privacy after death, greater leverage in dealing with creditors, more flexible asset management and more flexible distribution solutions for your loved ones. Living trusts can support greater legacy protection while still providing for a spouse or partner or even your children. You can use a trust-based estate plan to achieve almost any goal that you would like, both for how you want to live, or be cared for during life, and the gifts that you would like to leave for your loved ones or your community.

Get In Touch

Fields marked with an * are required

    When used in conjunction with some other legal documents, your chosen managers have complete authority to act on your behalf for any asset, responsibility or death distribution wish. A trust-based estate plan typically contains a number of legal documents:

    • A revocable living trust
    • A “pour-over” last will and testament
    • Durable powers of attorney for finances
    • Advance health care directive and HIPAA authorizations
    • Nomination of guardian
    • Asset transfer documents

    Our legal team works with you to ensure that these documents are well-crafted for your unique set of wishes, concerns and assets. We ask questions that are designed to get you thinking about what it is you are really hoping to accomplish. We offer suggestions on how best to accomplish these goals. We help you broaden your understanding of how to give a gift to your children when they might not be ready to receive it. And, we aim to prepare you for the most important part of any plan: communicating it to those that will implement it.

    Trust-based estate plans are a great choice for almost anyone, particularly if you have children/grandchildren or care for a parent (or others), own a home (or other kind of real estate), own a business, or if you want to make numerous gifts to a variety of folks and charities. A trust-based plan is also a good choice for anyone who is interested in multi-generational and/or legacy planning.

    How Are Our Trust-Based Estate Plans Different?

    Michael brings a unique set of skills to the estate planning process. In addition to his legal practice, he has worked as a fiduciary advisor and corporate trustee.  Michael is also a credentialed leadership coach through the International Coaching Federation.  This gives him a far deeper understanding of the estate planning ecosystem compared to most estate planning lawyers.  As a former senior advisor with a private bank, he is experienced in both wealth management and investment strategies that are integral to estate planning.

    Of course, while money is important, we believe that it is just the tool that can be used to accomplish your goals. We know that the topic of estate planning can be challenging for many people, which is why we focus on empathy over fear. Instead of talking exclusively about what will happen when you die, we work with you to figure out how to structure an estate plan for how you want to live.

    We try to think about estate planning in terms of Jay Hughes’ five capitals: human, intellectual, social, legacy and financial. These capitals should be used to enhance the lives of family members. As a law firm, we believe that the financial capital is the platform through which all of the other capitals can grow and flourish. With each estate plan, our goal is to help you decide how to use your financial assets to harness the capitals that are most important to you, whether that be charitable giving, travel, health, education, or any other goal.

    Too often, estate planning focuses exclusively on the transactional aspects: how to minimize taxes or which asset goes to which person. These issues are important, of course, but they aren’t what truly matters when it comes to determining your legacy.

    Think of it this way: when you go to a birthday party, you might bring a gift and a card (or nice bag). Depending on what the gift is, the wrapping and card might cost 20% of the total value of the gift. When you leave the ultimate, final gift to your loved ones, shouldn’t the way that you “wrap” it be equally important?

    Our estate planning process begins with the notion that the ultimate success of the plan is far more important than the documentation. You can rest assured that your documents will be well-drafted, but we will also advise you well beyond the documents to ensure that:

    • You know what you are doing, and why you are doing it;
    • Your beneficiaries feel the way that you want them to feel about the gift; and
    • You will be remembered how you want to be.

    We view estate planning as a road trip, with the documents as the vehicle. The vehicle is critical, as it is how you get to where you want to go. But it is far more important to know where you want to go and what you’ll do when you get there.

    Our Process

    We believe that estate planning is far too important to complete in a single appointment. As part of our flat fee arrangement, you will have multiple conversations with our team over a period of time. That way, we can really get to know you before drafting documents that achieve your goals.

    During the initial consultation, we will talk to you about what success looks like for you. We’ll ask questions that are designed to figure out who you are as a person – not just the documents that you might want. These questions might include:

    • Who will you put in charge?
    • What conversations have you already had with your spouse, children, and other beneficiaries?
    • What issues have arisen during these talks?
    • How do you want your gift to be “packaged” for your loved ones?
    • How do you want your gift to be delivered?
    • How would you like your gift to be used?

    By listening to our clients, we get a true sense of what really matters to them.

    After this first meeting, we start to design your plan based on your assets, responsibilities, and desired legacy. We know that – like us – many of our clients are part of the sandwich generation, raising children while simultaneously caring for our parents. We will talk to you about how the need for multi-generational planning can impact your estate plan.

    If you’re leaving assets in trust to children, we will ask you to do some homework by writing a letter to your fiduciaries and guardians that express your goals and hopes (don’t worry – we can give you a template to get started!). This letter helps our clients really think about what beneficiary success looks like and the legacy that they would like to leave behind. This isn’t about being prescriptive or controlling. Instead, it is a way to express your hopes for them – and to ensure that you are being remembered in the way that you want to be.

    During this stage, we will continue to have conversations with you that go back to those original questions. These talks are often eye-opening for our clients, particularly when it comes to issues such as who should be in charge of your trust. Being a trustee isn’t just a nominal title – it is a real job. Your trustee should be someone that you can rely on to ensure that your wishes are followed.

    Of course, we do have to get into the nitty gritty, such as 401ks, life insurance policies, and other assets. We will also set up clear directions and rules for funding health, education, maintenance and support. Our team will also draft all necessary documents, while simultaneously working with you on the details such as:

    • What are the instructions?
    • How do we make this workable?
    • Where exactly is your money is, and who will be managing it?

    This step is important, because too many estate plans focus on the technicalities without getting into the practicalities. For example, many of us store our photos and other memories electronically. How will your loved ones access those hard drives and other devices?

    Our goal is to provide the biggest, best bread crumb for our clients’ trustees and beneficiaries to follow. Your loved ones shouldn’t have to spend the months following your death trying to figure out what you owned and where it is located. We will provide you with a binder that has all of the information necessary to carry out your estate plan.

    For an additional fee, we can also help you work your way through these details. We can handle all of the paperwork associated with funding your trust. We can also facilitate a meeting between your family and your fiduciary where we walk through the plan and ensure that it is workable. After this meeting, our clients may decide to add details to the plan to support the fiduciary or even change documents to make the plan more workable.

    These meetings have another purpose: to ensure that your family knows what your plan is. Well before you reach the end stages of your life, your loved ones will know your expectations and will have gratitude for what you are doing for them. This eliminates the hard feelings that can come when your beneficiaries don’t learn about your plans until after you have passed – and gives you an opportunity to talk to your loved ones about what you are doing and why you are doing it.

    Because we work on a flat fee, you won’t have to spend our time together watching the clock or worrying about billable hours. Instead, you can focus on your feelings, hopes, and desires for your life and your legacy.

    Want More From Your Estate Plan Than Just a Set of Documents? Give Us a Call.

    There are many solid practical and financial reasons to choose a trust-based estate plan over a traditional will-based plan. Our law firm offers estate-based plans that go beyond the documents to examine how you want to live your life – and how you want to be remembered. For each client, our goal is to ensure that you have an emotional connection to your plan because of what it represents about who you are and what is important to you.

    Blacksburg Law offers flat-fee estate planning services to clients throughout the San Francisco Bay Area and California. We believe that estate planning shouldn’t just be transactional: it should be about figuring out what matters in your life and passing that wisdom on to your loved ones. To learn more or to schedule a consultation, give us a call at 415-508-5600 or fill out our online contact form.

    Path to a Plan

    Move from “What do I do?” to “Done!” in three easy steps

    Schedule a Consultation

    Call us or email to start a free, no-obligation conversation.


    Design Your Plan

    Develop the best set of instructions for your assets, responsibilities and legacy.


    Secure Your Vision

    Confidently review and finalize your plan with those you trust.


    Estate Planning Basics


    Download our Estate Planning Basics PDF Guide to get more information about what estate planning is, how it works, what you need to consider, and why Blacksburg Law is the right partner for you.

    Michael Blacksburg


    “I love working with individuals and families who look to define (or redefine) what it means to be a family member and how best to marshal the family resources for every family member’s benefit”


    Emma K.

    “We communicated by email, phone and Skype – without one single f2f meeting! Michael’s associate Louis was at the same professional level, and the signing of the final documents was as easy as was the whole process.”

    David G.

    “Blacksburg was a Boy Scout. Why is that relevant to an estate planning attorney? Because, years ater he got his Eagle badge, he’s still trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, and kind. It’s these personal qualities that separate him from other lawyers just as knowledgeable or technically adept.”

    Aman D.

    “Michael was a knowledgeable, professional and extremely patient attorney. He explained things in common English, so the process made sense, and got very specific when necessary. In all, he took a painful process and made it as pain-free as possible.”

    Let’s start the conversation

    Working with us starts with a conversation.