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Frequently Asked Questions About Trust and Estate Law

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Bay Area Estate Planning Attorneys Answer Your Questions

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As we go through life, questions naturally arise concerning how to protect our loved ones and possessions. The more time that passes, the more important these questions become. Unfortunately, many people fail to address these questions before it is too late. Departing this life without a plan in place could leave your loved ones vulnerable. To ensure this doesn't happen, you should consult with our Bay Area estate planning attorneys. Davidson Estate Law offers comprehensive estate planning services for our clients' convenience.

Because the future is unpredictable, it is best to prepare sooner rather than later. Fortunately, there are a few different ways to do so. Our Bay Area Estate planning attorneys help clients navigate trust and estate law. We offer services for crafting trust and will documents. We also help clients appoint various powers of attorney. We can also walk you through the probate and trust administration processes.

Before pursuing these services, you may have pressing questions you would like addressed. Below you will find a list of the most frequently asked questions we get concerning trust and estate law.

What Is Estate Planning?

Estate planning is a fancy term for drafting a plan for your loved ones and possessions. Any document which makes special provisions for anticipated scenarios falls under this term. For example, wills and trusts are documents that outline who will receive your possessions upon your death. Other documents make provisions for situations in which you cannot make rational decisions. Documents that appoint a power of attorney outline who can make decisions for you in this scenario.

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Why Do I Need an Estate Plan?

Many people believe that they do not need an estate plan. Often this is due to a misunderstanding concerning what estate plans are. If you have any assets, properties, accounts, or even dependents, then you should consider creating an estate plan. This is especially true for those who are elderly, or who may be anticipating health issues.

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Do I Need a Will?

A last will and testament is a well-known estate planning document. It allows you to determine what will become of your possessions after your death. You can also outline within this document who you wish to become the guardian of your dependents. Children, and even pets, are included here. In some cases, this document can even make provisions for what to do if you become mentally incapacitated.

Wills are subject to the courts, and as such, will go through probate. They also become a mater of public record as well.

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What Happens If You Die Without a Will in California?

If you care about the fate of your possessions and loved ones, then you should plan your estate. If you pass away without a will in place, then your estate will be subject to California's intestacy laws. This means that you will have lost your chance to decide how you want your estate divided, and who your estate beneficiaries will be. Instead, intestate laws will determine these questions.

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What Is Probate?

Probate is a court-sanctioned process that some estates are subject to. This process involves authenticating wills, and locating all items belonging to the estate. Wills allow you to appoint a representative who will, in concert with the courts, oversee this process. Without a will, the court will appoint an administrator to oversee probate.

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How Long Does Probate Take?

Probate can be a long and drawn-out process. This is especially true for large estates. This is because the courts are slow, and locating each asset of the estate takes time. As a general estimate, probate typically takes roughly 18 to 24 months to complete. Extenuating circumstances may affect this time frame. If the will is being contested, this issue must be resolved before probate can conclude.

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What Is the Difference Between a Will and a Trust?

For the most part, trusts are very similar to wills. These documents allow you to make decisions about how you will pass down possessions to your beneficiaries. However, there are different kinds of trusts that offer different benefits.

Unlike wills, living trusts allow you to avoid the probate process. They also do not become a matter of public record, which means they are more private than wills.

Knowing the differences between wills and trusts will help you plan your estate.

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What Are Trusts and What Benefits Do They Offer?

Trusts are estate planning documents that do not have to go through probate. This kind of document can be revocable or irrevocable.

Revocable trusts are documents that you can alter later. Irrevocable trusts require that you relinquish ownership of the assets within the trust. This means that irrevocable trusts cannot change at a later date. Both kinds of trusts have specific benefits and drawbacks. It is important to speak with a Bay Area estate planning attorney to decide which is best for you personally.

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What Do I Do After the Death of a Family Member?

There is, of course, much to do upon the death of a family member. In the context of estate planning, you should obtain a pronouncement of death and a death certificate. Then, determine if your family member outlined any directions for holding their funeral. Lastly, you will want to identify which processes are applicable to their estate plan. This could mean probate, or it could mean trust administration.

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How Much Does It Cost to Do Estate Planning?

It is difficult to approximate the cost of estate planning in general. This is because estate plans vary. Most estate plans will incorporate various kinds of documents to suit specific needs. The complexity and time spent on an estate plan will affect the overall costs.

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Should I Hire a Lawyer to Help Me Draft a Will or a Trust or Can I Do It Myself?

Our Bay Area estate planning attorneys recommend that you seek help when drafting a will or a trust. This is actually true of any estate planning document. The law and processes involved for executing these documents is precise and unforgiving. Any slight mistake may cost you and your loved ones dearly. It is best to avoid mistakes at the outset by recruiting a seasoned attorney to help.

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How Do I Choose an Estate Planning Attorney Near Me?

Many struggle with the question “how can I find the right estate planning attorney near me?” We believe that the best way to answer this question involves location, experience, and services offered. First, you will want to find a firm in your area. Such a firm will be familiar with the laws applicable to your estate planning needs. Next, you will want to narrow your search by services offered and experience. An established firm that offers comprehensive estate planning services will be your best bet.

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Have More Questions? Contact Our Bay Area Estate Planning Attorneys

Our attorneys at Davidson Estate Law can help with wills, trusts, trust administration, probate and other estate planning matters. To schedule your free in person consultation, you can contact us online or by phone at (510) 527-6774.

Contact our firm today if you need an estate planning attorney in Oakland, Berkeley, San Francisco, Walnut Creek, San Jose, or San Mateo. Our offices are located throughout the Bay Area.

Davidson Estate Law Is Here for You

At Davidson Estate Law, we focus on estate planning and we are here to listen to you and help you navigate the legal system.

Contact Us Today

Davidson Estate Law is committed to answering your questions about estate planning, trust administration, and probate issues in California.

We offer a free consultation and we’ll gladly discuss your needs and planning objectives with you at your convenience. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.