If you are just starting the process of planning for how your assets will be handled and distributed after your death, your attorney may recommend any combination of estate planning tools to help you meet your goals. Two of the most common tools used in California are wills and revocable trusts. In this blog post, we will discuss how wills and trusts differ, and why your attorney may recommend one over the other as your primary dispositive document.
A valid Will in California identifies who should inherit assets passing through the Will (referred to as “probate assets”), and who should oversee the process of winding down your estate. If you have minor children, some practitioners identify who would serve as a guardian until your children reach 18, however, we recommend a separate Guardianship Nomination form so that it may be easily accessible and used in the event of incapacity, as well as death. In California, if your assets consist of real property valued at over $50,000 and other property (including real property) over $150,000, that pass through your Will, it will be necessary to go through a probate court proceeding in order to settle the estate. In California, the probate process will take at least two years and will be costly.
When they are validly executed and properly funded, trusts can eliminate the need for time-consuming and potentially costly probate court proceedings. The trust agreement identifies one or more trustees who are empowered and charged with honoring your wishes for distribution of assets either shortly after your death, or over a longer period of time. Trusts can also be used for estate tax planning, to make charitable bequests, to protect inheritances for children from future creditors, including future divorcing spouses, and more.
The Best Estate Planning Documents for You Depend on Your Situation and Goals
Your attorney will ask you questions about your assets, liabilities, family, and about your goals and wishes before recommending specific legal documents and devices to help you meet those goals. Estate planning is not a “one-size-fits-all” process, so it is important that your documents be tailored to your specific circumstances.
A carefully prepared estate plan will ensure your health and financial wishes are known should you become incapacitated and that, after death, your wealth remains secure until it passes to your beneficiaries. A properly prepared plan saves money on court costs, taxes, and fees, and reduces the risk of familial strife.
We will work with you and your loved ones to build an effective and strong estate plan for you and your family to fit your unique needs. Our services alleviate wealth concerns and help you to enjoy life and focus on what really matters, your family. Contact us today to get started!