The Importance of Making a Plan

by • January 3, 2014 • 2014, Expert Advice, January 2014, Money Matters, People & Profiles

When I sat down to interview Donald Hunsberger, one of the first questions I asked him was what kind of person he would like to see walking into his office. He didn’t have to think much before answering: A healthy married couple in their mid-thirties, busy raising children, building their careers with the possibility of creating their own businesses, and fairly hopeful about the many years stretched out before them. It took me a minute to realize he was describing me.

Average clients of an estate and business planning lawyer like Don Hunsberger are older; they’re confronting the reality of looming retirement or even death, and they’re looking to make their wishes legal. In short, they’re more aware of their mortality. My husband and me? We’re too busy meeting the demands of hungry mouths, challenging jobs and a height-of-the-market mortgage, and it’s not like we have the Grim Reaper hovering. But the irony is that we are the ones with the most at stake: Children. Time. An increasingly convoluted legal system that isn’t here to look after our wishes.

The team at Hunsberger Law: Valerie Barrett, Lauren Malacarne, Don Hunsberger, Elaine Watrous and Genene Dunn.

The team at Hunsberger Law: Valerie Barrett, Lauren Malacarne, Don Hunsberger, Elaine Watrous and Genene Dunn.

As Don says, the most tragic thing to see is not the older person who lived a long life and died without everything quite in order; the most tragic thing is to see children left parentless in the court system, no clear directions for the estate they should inherit, with extended family bickering over who will care for them.

Don Hunsberger and the team at Hunsberger Law work to make sure no individual, family or business owner is left without clarity about next steps, whether in the case of retirement, business liquidation or succession, or death. Hunsberger Law guides and represents families, individuals and business owners throughout Southern California in all areas of estate planning, probate, trust administration, business planning and charitable giving.

Don, a grandfather of four, will tell you that today’s planning is tomorrow’s protection. That’s why he and his team provide quality estate and business planning services that carefully reflect and help realize client goals, and safeguard their property. Your estate and business plan would be truly unique because it would be based upon your specific situation. The Hunsberger goal is to maximize your net worth, reduce your taxation, and avoid costly court interference.

For estate planning, Hunsberger Law advises concerning wills, trusts, estate administration, advance health care directives and durable powers of attorney. For businesses, Hunsberger Law can assist with the creation and maintenance of corporations, LLCs and partnerships, legal and regulatory compliance, risk management and contract law.

Hunsberger Law is a values-based firm, which is a claim that Don Hunsberger doesn’t make lightly. Don grew up in a small farm community in Indiana. His father was a World War II veteran and a committed Boy Scout leader, a tradition that Don carries on with great dedication (Don is himself an Eagle Scout and is father to two Eagle Scouts and two Gold Girl Scouts). After earning his Masters in Finance and Doctorate in Law, Don moved with his wife, Cathie, to California where they have raised four children. As a professor of law and business management, Don is also a seventh generation teacher.

Don’s values drive his community involvement as much as they do his work. He currently sits on a professional advisory committee for CHOC Children’s Hospital and the Board of Directors for the St. Thomas More Society (a group of Christian attorneys). For the last decade he has been a board member at Kairos Prison Ministries where he and several other volunteers work with prison residents. Don’s values set the tone at his own practice, which serves as many average working families and business owners as it does financially elite clients.

Why would it be important to have a values-based firm working on your estate and business matters? From Don’s point of view, the most important move you can make for the benefit of your family is to plan; and sometimes planning effectively takes some soul bearing. Personal factors will influence the plan – what if a member of the family has a substance abuse problem? What if you have specific values of your own? You need legal guidance from someone who has the background to understand the sensitive and important factors that matter to you, and who will work to the standard of his own values to ensure that you get what you want and need.

Don with three of his own reasons to plan.

Don with three of his own reasons to plan.

How do you know you need to call Hunsberger Law? Well, if you’re a parent and you’ve never legally documented your wishes for your child’s care should something happen to you, this is the time. But even if you’ve already done that, this new year may be a great time to revisit old documents – a will, an insurance policy, a power of attorney – that haven’t been updated for a long time. If you’re facing a major life change like retirement, relocation, marriage or divorce, or health complications; if you’re a trustee and need assistance you can rely on; or if you’ve never taken any planning steps, it’s a good time to talk to Don and the team at Hunsberger Law.

Estate planning offers protection from probate and lawsuits, and keeps assets as safe as possible. In the case of a small or medium-sized business, short and long-term planning provides a roadmap in case of the owner’s death or incapacitation, which can help protect the business from the IRS as well as the claims of creditors.

“There isn’t anyone who doesn’t need to plan,” says Don, who over many years has seen the benefits of planning and the detriments of not planning. “There are, of course, enormous financial benefits to planning, but less recognized are the benefits to relationships. In planning, you protect your property, but more importantly you make a path clear for your loved ones to walk without a lot of unanswered questions to cause discord. To me, that’s the best reason to plan, and it’s why I do what I do.” M

Hunsberger Law is a full-service estate and business planning legal firm, with estate planning attorneys and a full time accountant on staff. Connect with Don Hunsberger today by calling (714) 663-8000 or visiting


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