Numerous people die each year without leaving behind a solid plan to pass along their most important assets to family members. Families without an effective estate plan may turn to infighting and expensive legal battles. That is because your assets would go through probate and the court would decide how to pass these assets to your heirs. In other cases, parents with children may have their guardians decided by the court. Fortunately, you have options to avoid the tragic consequences associated with not having an estate plan. In California, you may choose a will and trust to ensure that your loved ones can live comfortably after you are gone.
At Davidson Estate Law, we can help you develop an estate plan for you and your family. As a family-owned estate law firm, we understand the importance of ensuring your loved ones can enjoy the fruits of your labor after death. With multiple offices in and around the San Francisco Bay Area, including Oakland and Berkeley, our attorneys help families with wills, trusts, estate administration, and probate.
In California, a trust-based estate plan is the most efficient means to transfer your assets when you are gone. A properly funded trust will pass your assets to whom you want, the way you want, and when you want. Most trusts go into effect as soon as they are finalized. Once the trust has been created, you transfer property into the trust, and you become the initial trustee until death. Property in a trust does not go through probate court, which means this option can be easier on some families.
However, there are different types of trusts in California. Common trusts in California include but are not limited to:
Revocable Living Trust. A revocable living trust, also called a “living trust”, is created while you are alive. You can alter the terms of a living trust or you can revoke the trust entirely. This type of trust provides excellent flexibility for families, and it can help avoid probate.
Irrevocable Trust. With an irrevocable trust, the terms are typically permanent. This means that you cannot take assets out of the trust after its creation. However, there are circumstances where it is possible to make modifications. This type of trust is useful for reducing taxes and protecting assets from creditors. You should speak with an estate planning attorney to discuss this option in more detail.
When the trust is ready to transfer assets to beneficiaries, it will go through the trust administration process. This is where matters relating to the transfer of assets and properties are settled.
There are other types of trusts that can help individuals and families. If you have questions about what other options might be available, then you should reach out to one of our trust administration attorneys. We are proud to serve families in Oakland, Berkeley, San Francisco, Walnut Creek, San Mateo, and the rest of the Bay Area.
Wills are another estate planning option in California that may provide multiple benefits, especially when used in conjunction with a living trust. For instance, wills can help you name a guardian if you have children. Other benefits of wills include:
You name the executor. The executor is the person responsible for carrying out the terms of your will after your death. You may name your executor while creating the will.
Leave financial instructions. If you are leaving debts behind, then you can specify how to pay your creditors. The executor would abide by the payment plan established in the will.
Set up a trust. You may set up a trust in your will to leave property for a beneficiary.
Help with assets. In addition to appointing a guardian, a will can also assign a guardian to handle assets for your minor children.
Simplify probate. Any assets that are not in your trust will have to go through probate. However, by using a pour-over will as part of your estate plan, your left out assets will be distributed to your trust, and thus go to the beneficiaries you have named.
Whether a trust, will, or both is right for your situation would depend on your specific circumstances.
Trust administration can be a complex process to deal with after a loved one passes away. In California, a trustee has multiple responsibilities, such as investing assets or dealing with creditors.
Fortunately, you can have your trust administered by another party, such as a financial institution, private fiduciary, or another qualified individual. This party can help with investments and issues related to the trust's assets. In addition, the trust administrator can help contact beneficiaries and handle tax duties. With the help of a trust administrator, you can focus on grieving the loss of a loved one instead of paperwork.
When a person passes away, their properties and other assets may go through probate, a court-monitored process that distributes properties and assets to creditors and beneficiaries. However, there are ways you can avoid the probate process. One such way is to put your properties and assets into a revocable trust.
There are benefits to trusts. Depending on the type of trust and other circumstances, the trust's beneficiaries may receive more property and assets than they would have without a trust. A revocable living trust can help you avoid the probate process and can help your wishes for your family come to fruition. Irrevocable trusts can protect assets from creditors.
You should discuss estate planning options with an experienced estate planning attorney, as he or she can help you determine the best options for passing along your assets.
Estate plans must be set up correctly to provide the maximum benefits. At Davidson Estate Law, there are multiple important components to our estate plans. These components include:
Financial Powers of Attorney: If you are incapacitated, then financial powers of attorney could delegate a competent agent to make certain financial decisions on your behalf. There are nuances to financial powers of attorney that you should discuss with an estate planning lawyer.
Pour-Over Wills: Pour-over wills can be used with a revocable living trust. As the name implies, a pour-over will allows you to pass property through the will and into your trust upon your death. There are advantages to using a pour-over will with a living trust, such as privacy and the ability to distribute assets that were not initially in your trust in accordance with your wishes.
Advanced Healthcare Directives: You can also use an advanced healthcare directive with your estate plan. With an advanced healthcare directive, you can appoint an agent to make healthcare decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated. You may also use this option to provide written instructions outlining your healthcare preferences and choices.
HIPAA Healthcare Privacy Documents. You will need to authorize an agent to have access to your healthcare information. The proper HIPAA release forms must be completed as part of an advanced directive.
You should never depart this life without an estate plan, as it creates uncertainty around what will happen to your most treasured assets. Setting up an estate plan for you and your loved ones makes it far more likely that your wishes for your family will be carried out. However, you should always speak with an experienced estate planning attorney to determine your best options.
Our attorneys at Davidson Estate Law can help with wills, trusts, trust administration, probate, and other estate planning matters. You may schedule a consultation with a Bay Area estate planning attorney at our firm by calling or by using our online case review form. Consultations are conducted in person.