Probate and Trusts

 

Creating a thoughtful, complete estate plan is essential for the protection of your loved ones.  We are experienced with business and personal financial/estate planning and have helped many families retain the wealth they've accumulated through their hard work.

 

Estate Planning

Estate planning gives you the opportunity to pass your small or family business on to the next generation while minimizing or eliminating estate taxes.  No probate judge will know your final wishes.  By planning now, before you may think you need it, you can insure that what you want to happen with your estate is what will actually happen once you're gone.

 

Wills

A will and supporting documents such as trusts, durable power of attorney, and health care directives can ensure that your loved ones and favorite charities receive the property you intended for them.
 

A Will is a legal document that basically does four things:
 

  • It gives your instructions and wishes as to how your assets and property are to be distributed after you die. 
  • It names your beneficiaries, i.e., the people you want to benefit from your estate. 
  • It allows you to name an executor. 
  • It allows you to nominate a guardian to finish raising your children.  Even if you are a young adult with few assets, you should have a will if you have children.

If you die without having made a will, you have died "intestate".  In that case, the court will distribute your property according to California law (generally, to your spouse, or, if there is not one, to your children).
 

Trusts

An estate planning trust (sometimes referred to by the misleading phrase "living trust") is a will substitute.  It provides for the disposition of your estate without formal probate administration.
 

Whether to use a will or a trust is a matter to be separately considered.  Frankly, the so-called "evils of probate" have been over-sold, as have been estate planning trusts.  For many persons, a will is fully adequate, less expensive, and less cumbersome than a trust.
 

Even more, if your estate plan provides for an unequal division of assets among children, the legal fees triggered by trust litigation often can be far greater than the fees arising from a probate.
 

Probate

Probate is the legal process through which the court oversees the estate of a deceased person to make sure the debts are paid and the estate is properly distributed to the heirs.
 

I have handled a large number of probates, both simple and complex, as well as will contests and heirship disputes.  Knowledge of local rules and procedures is important, as are trial skills.  

 

There are many knowledgeable estate planning attorneys, but few can back this knowledge with trial abilities.

 

See the Articles link for my writings on this topic.