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For Immediate Release
Date: Friday, June 9, 2023
Contact: Abby Fay, abigail.fay@sfgov.org


***Press Release***

Assessor-Recorder Joaquín Torres Celebrates Success of Free and Affordable Estate Planning Program and Announces Next Phase

Building off the Office of the Assessor-Recorder’s partnership with Housing and Economic Rights Advocates (HERA), through which 100 low-and moderate-income San Franciscans have worked with HERA to receive free and affordable estate planning services, today Assessor-Recorder Joaquín Torres is announcing that an additional 100 free or low-cost estate plans are now available for residents and families. Estate plans protect family wealth, provide a strategic plan for their health and property, and safeguard families from probate fees and potential loss of property.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – Today, San Francisco Assessor-Recorder Joaquín Torres announced the next phase of the Estate Planning Program in partnership with the nonprofit organization Housing and Economic Rights Advocates (HERA). Building off the program’s initial success, an additional 100 free or low-cost estate plans will be provided to low-income and moderate-income households in San Francisco.

“Our Estate Planning Program is centered on the belief that all San Franciscans should be able to build intergenerational wealth and secure their futures. Estate plans are a key part of this process through protecting your assets, whether it’s a house, apartment, business, or other types of property,” said Assessor-Recorder Joaquín Torres. “Ensuring that the families who call our city home can stay here for generations to come is essential in preserving the neighborhood and community integrity that define San Francisco. While the conversations that occur during estate planning around values, wishes and intentions aren’t necessarily easy or comfortable, they ultimately can go a long way towards building and strengthening families, preparing for the future, and making sure one’s legacy is felt for decades to come.”

“This partnership between Assessor-Recorder Torres and HERA is making it equitable for residents to protect their hard-earned futures while building intergenerational wealth,” said Mayor London Breed. “The Estate Planning Program will provide residents with an affordable way to access critical services to navigate this complex process through informative counseling sessions and workshops. Programs like this help build on our City’s efforts to ensure families and future generations have the opportunity to thrive and succeed."

Since first launching in February 2022, 100 San Franciscans have worked with HERA to receive free or low-cost estate plans through the Estate Planning Program. Of the participants:

  • Over 75% identify as very low or low-income households, with the rest identifying as middle-income,
  • 95% are homeowners,
  • 45% identify as Asian Pacific Islander,
  • 17% as Black or African American,
  • 19% as Latino,
  • 15% as Caucasian, and
  • 4% as other.


Throughout the last 16 months, the Office of the Assessor-Recorder (Assessor’s Office) and HERA have partnered with nonprofit organizations, neighborhood collaboratives, faith-based groups, merchant associations, the San Francisco Public Library, and other City leaders to host workshops, webinars, and informational sessions to raise awareness within the community around the importance of the services offered through our Estate Planning Program in relation to protecting and building intergenerational wealth.

“I’m excited about Assessor Torres’ workshop series for the Estate Planning Program,” said Supervisor Shamann Walton of District 10. “Over 50% of the participants so far, have been from District 10 and they are now on their way to building a plan to protect and build intergenerational wealth within their families. I look forward to seeing more residents participating.”

"Making sure the family home stays in the family is one of HERA's key strategies for creating intergenerational family wealth for low- and moderate-income households in California,” said Maeve Brown, Executive Director of HERA. “We are thrilled to partner with Assessor-Recorder Torres to bring these legal services for free or a well-below market cost to San Francisco households. I’d also like to thank all the staff attorneys at HERA, particularly Kendra Bowen, for working with the Assessor’s Office to serve clients and host many estate planning workshops, in effort to educate the public on the benefits of estate planning, despite the difficult decisions that may need to be considered as part of the process.”

Moving forward, the Assessor’s Office and HERA will continue to work with community stakeholders to enroll clients in the Estate Planning Program, with a particular focus on the southeast and other neighborhoods of San Francisco where there is a combination of high homeownership rates, lower-income communities, and communities of color. Neighborhoods include but are not limited to, the Bayview, Visitacion Valley, Portola, Excelsior, Outer Mission, Ingleside, and Western Addition.

Through this program, families save thousands of dollars through free or low-cost estate plans which typically cost between $3,000-$3,500. Without an estate plan, a family’s assets will go through probate that requires intervention by the courts. This process is not only lengthy (minimum nine months), but it can cost tens of thousands of dollars. For example, a family would have to pay up to $46,000 in probate and legal fees for an estate valued at $1,000,000. For families that cannot afford these costs, inheriting families may have no choice but to sell the family home or other assets to pay probate costs. Preparing an estate plan ensures a family’s assets remain intact for the beneficiary or the next generation.

Estate plans are free for low-income households and $400 for moderate-income households. Eligibility is based on a household’s gross income before taxes per California Housing and Community Development income levels.

“I learned about the Estate Planning Program from a flyer at the San Francisco Public Library in the Bayview. After being connected with HERA through the Assessor’s Office, I now have the documents in place to protect not only my assets like the home I have co-owned with a close friend in the Bayview for 22 years, but also a healthcare directive to make sure that my wishes are followed should anything ever happen,” said Ana V., an Estate Planning Program participant. I have peace of mind knowing that the home that we worked hard to buy will go to our loved ones and help support them in the future. There is not enough public awareness about protecting yourself and your home through estate planning. I’m hopeful that through the Assessor’s Office and HERA, more San Franciscans will learn about this issue and participate in this program as well.”

“For generations, estate planning existed as a tool only accessible to those with the knowledge and resources. Wealthy individuals and families have leveraged and continue to leverage estate plans to sustain their wealth while marginalized populations, historically people of color with low incomes, are excluded from that opportunity,” said Dr. Saidah Leatutufu-Burch, Dream Keeper Initiative Director, San Francisco Human Rights Commission. “This program acknowledges that all San Franciscans, regardless of race and income level, are worthy and deserving of equitable asset protection. The San Francisco Human Rights Commission and Dream Keeper Initiative commends Assessor-Recorder Torres and Housing and Economic Rights Advocates for recognizing wealth preservation as a fundamental human right.”

“Affordability is a primary concern for so many San Franciscans and especially for low-and middle-income communities. Programs like this one are critical in helping families protect their hard-fought assets and provide for the next generation so they can continue to live and work in our City. I’m excited to see the Assessor’s Office bringing this program and awareness around estate planning to our communities and members, who work around the clock in service to our city,” said Olga Miranda, President, SEIU Local 87.

“As a first-generation immigrant and low to moderate-income family, we have had to work very hard to build up assets in this country. Thanks to the City and County of San Francisco’s Down Payment Assistance Loan Program, we were able to purchase our first home with limited assets in San Francisco. Watching our daughter grow up, we have been thinking about estate planning to protect our assets and her future, but the attorneys are expensive, and we didn’t know of any City programs to help with this,” said Thomas and Crystal, Estate Planning Program participants. “Now we feel grateful and lucky that we can also benefit from the Estate Plan program offered by the Assessor’s Office to help us save thousands of dollars in estate planning costs and avoid the lengthy and costly probate process later. Thank you as well to the experienced staff at HERA who are so patient in explaining and guiding us through the proper paperwork.”

“This program is helping our seniors, particularly our low-income and monolingual seniors, have peace of mind knowing that their wishes, assets, and families’ financial futures are protected. Through partnering with a breadth of community stakeholders and hosting educational presentations in multiple languages, the Assessor’s Office and HERA are diligent in ensuring that they are reaching the San Franciscans who need this program the most,” said Anni Chung, Executive Director, Self-Help for the Elderly. It’s fantastic that this program can continue for another round of participants, helping more families in San Francisco build intergenerational wealth regardless of whether they can afford to pay an attorney for estate planning services.”

The Assessor’s Office seeks to advance the principles of antiracism, equity, integrity, and excellence in service to our diverse constituents and communities. The Estate Planning Program is part of a broader ecosystem of work spearheaded by Assessor-Recorder Torres to promote financial literacy amongst San Franciscans through the Family Wealth Series, Assessor in the Neighborhood Series, and presentations to community members regarding the basics of property assessment, taxes, and exemptions.

To sign up for estate plans, please contact HERA at (510) 271-8443 extension 300 or e-mail HERA at inquiries@heraca.org. For additional outreach, please visit www.heraca.org

To watch a video on the program and presentations on estate planning, please visit here.


Pub Date: 
Friday, June 9, 2023

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