Wills, Trusts and Probate
In order to preserve an estate from unnecessary costs of court administration or long legal battles over the distribution of assets, clear and concise written directives should be in place as a part of an Estate Plan. Generally an Estate Plan consists of a Will or a Living Trust, and Durable Powers of Attorney for Financial and Medical Decisions. We have experienced and compassionate attorneys to help our clients with all of their estate planning needs, to assist with the care of an elderly person, or to provide the legal assistance necessary to transfer the assets of a loved one who has passed away. It is never too soon to plan for the orderly administration of an estate, but it could be too late. We urge our clients not to procrastinate to prepare an estate plan, a necessity of life.
Wills and Trusts
Wills & Trusts are written directives to distribute estate assets. If a person passes away without an estate plan, California law dictates how the estate will be distributed. Unfortunately, there are times when distribution according to California law is not as intended. Additionally, a Living Trust can be beneficial to avoid the expense of probate, avoid the need of a guardianship over a minor’s inheritance, and shelter assets against potential inheritance taxes. Our estate planning team is always available to counsel clients toward achieving an efficient and practical plan for distribution, probate avoidance and issues regarding inheritance taxes. Estate planning does not have to be difficult or expensive and we strive to meet our clients’ estate planning needs at a reasonable cost.
Powers of Attorney and Conservatorships
Whether a simple Will meets your objectives or you need a Living Trust to avoid probate and potential inheritance taxes, everyone should have in place a durable power of attorney for both financial decisions and medical decisions in the event of an incapacity. Without these documents, it may be necessary to apply for a court-appointed guardian in order to handle real estate matter, deal with insurance issues, the mortgage on the house and other creditors, even the household utilities. A durable power of attorney for medical decisions, sometimes referred to as a health care directive, is also of utmost necessity based on the laws which protect a patient’s privacy, even when it comes to disclosing medical information to a spouse.
Probate and Probate Avoidance
Probate is the court supervision over distribution of assets in an estate. Assets must go through this court process if the assets are passing through a Will, or not otherwise designated to transfer on death, and the value of the probate estate exceeds $150,000. The probate process is very costly, both in attorneys fees and court costs and generally takes between nine months to one year before the estate receives a court order for final distribution. Based on the costs associated with probate, many of our clients seek assistance with probate avoidance. Our estate planning attorneys can assist with estate evaluation, advise on how to avoid probate or assist with the probate process in the event probate is necessary.
Small Estate and Trust Administration
If the estate is valued at less than $150,000, this is considered a small estate in California. Depending on the nature of the assets, our estate attorneys will determine what process needs to be followed and complete the necessary paperwork to transfer those assets. It may be as simple as preparing a small estates affidavit for personal property, or if real estate is involved, a summary court proceeding will be necessary to transfer title. If the estate is held in trust, we can assist the trustee to avoid liability as to the beneficiaries and assist beneficiaries to protect their interests as well. Regardless of the size of the estate or the nature of estate assets, questions arise and we are here to help.