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Sacramento Estate Planning Attorney

Sacramento Estate Planning Blog

We can help clients avoid future problems with their wills

Admittedly, a will is not an exciting testamentary tool. Although movies and television programs sometimes sensationalize the reading of characters' wills to add drama and intrigue to family conflicts and to add wrinkles into complex storylines, in actuality a will is more or less a list of instructions for what a person wants to see happen with their belongings once they are dead. Even though most wills do not provide individuals with excitement, it is important for all Californians to consider the value wills provide to those who choose to execute them.

A will is a way to convey one's preferences regarding their possessions when the individual is no longer alive to communicate their desires. Without a will, a person's belongings will be distributed to individuals based on California's intestacy laws, which may not be to a person's liking. A will can also spell out how a minor child will be cared for in the event that their parents perish before the child achieves adulthood.

Can individuals in California manage their own trusts?

To answer the question posed in the title of this post, readers of this California estate planning blog must understand the different roles that individuals may play in the administration of the trust. The following paragraphs will discuss three main roles a person may take on with regard to a trust, but those with questions about trusts and trust administration are asked to discuss their inquiries with estate planning lawyers in their areas.

First, the person who creates a trust is called a grantor. This is the person who originally owned the property that was placed into the trust. They may also be called the settlor or trustor. A grantor may maintain control of their trust if they make themselves the trustee of the trust.

The requirements for executing a will in California

A will is a useful testamentary tool for outlining how a person would like their property disposed of upon their death. It can be used to serve other purposes as well, but if a will fails to satisfy the statutory requirements set forth by the California legislature, it may not be recognized as valid. This post will briefly discuss the requirements of California wills, but readers are reminded that they must seek their own legal counsel when preparing their wills, as this post does not give legal guidance.

First, wills can only be made by individuals who are at least 18 years of age. Additionally, that individual must be of sound mind when they prepare their will for execution. While it can be easy to prove that a person is at least 18 years old, it can be more difficult to understand what it means to be of sound mind.

Estate planning can protect your interests during your lifetime

No one knows when they will pass on from this life. A California resident may experience health and wellness for years before suffering life-ending injuries in an unexpected accident. Another person may languish in life with serious illnesses and ailments, overcoming death at various points throughout their treatment and living longer than any medical professional might expect.

Regardless of how a person meets their end, they should take steps to not only prepare for their deaths but also the end of their life with estate planning tools. While wills and certain forms of trusts are important for ensuring that a decedent's property is properly distributed upon their passing, other estate planning tools are available that can help a person live out the end of their days knowing that their wishes will be respected and accommodated.

Estate planning can protect your assets after your death

Californians make plans about practically everything. They may plan their weeks to accommodate their work, family and social commitments. They may make plans for their meals so that they know they will be able to feed their families even when they are incredibly busy. They may even plan when they will go to bed, so as to maximize the time they have available during the days and to provide themselves with proper rest.

One thing that most people do not want to plan for, however, is one of the few things they can count on occurring within their lifetimes: death. When a person dies they lose the ability to communicate about what they want done with their property and possessions. Without a plan, their important assets can pass through probate and wind up in the hands of people that the deceased party never intended to receive such items.

What is the purpose of a charitable trust?

This Sacramento estate planning legal blog has provided a number of posts on the various kinds of trusts that Californians may wish to create as they consider how their wealth and assets should be distributed upon their deaths. While many estate planners wish to leave their families and friends the money and goods they have amassed over the course of their lives others also wish to make charitable contributions to organizations that are important to them. The creation of charitable trusts can serve this purpose and this post will address some of the basics on these specialized trust tools.

There two types of charitable trusts that estate planners can create - charitable lead trusts (CLT) and charitable remainder trusts (CRT). When a CLT is created the charity or charities of the creators choosing receive income from the trust for an established number of years. When the period of years ends a named beneficiary that is not a charity receives the benefits of a trust.

How a living will can help your family

The last thing on anyone's mind as they go through their day to day activities is their own death. But as we know from the wise words of one of our founding fathers Benjamin Franklin, there are but two certainties in life, death and taxes, and it is important to recognize and address both.

An accident with injuries or an illness can strike any person at any time without any warning. Depending upon the severity of the injuries or illness, victims might find themselves incapacitated or in a coma and unable to speak or communicate with others. For this reason, it is not uncommon for Americans, including those from the Sacramento, California, area, to create a living will.

Even someone with a trust probably needs a will

Many people in the Sacramento area and other parts of California may already have a trust set up for the maintenance and distribution of their property both during their lives and following their deaths. These trusts, called inter vivos trusts, are popular among Californians because of the possibility of "avoiding probate" and because, for some, they carry important tax advantages.

However, it is important for people to remember that, even if they have created a trust through a lawyer or by some other means, they will likely need well-drafted thorough wills. These wills, called pour-over wills, serve the important purpose of making sure that, assuming is a person's intention, all property of the person goes in to his or her trust after death, leaving nothing subject to California's intestate laws.

Understand the importance of an executor

The last thing any of us want to think about is our death. But as we know, death is inevitable, and we never truly know when our time is up. Even those who are healthy and take all the necessary precautions to assure a healthy lifestyle could be stricken with a sudden accident, injury or illness without warning. With this in mind, it is very important to be proactive when making decisions regarding one's estate planning.

Estate planning includes not only the distribution of your assets and property upon your death, but also decisions regarding your living will. A living will is not an actual will, but is a document that informs medical professionals as well as your family how to handle serious medical decisions that must be made if a person becomes incapable of communicating with others.

What is a holographic will?

Although it may sound like an item out of a science fiction book or movie, holographic wills are a real thing, and they are valid in some states throughout the U.S., including the state of California. Ironically, holographic wills are the opposite of anything involving advanced technology; holographic wills, simply put, are wills that are handwritten and hand-signed and not formal typed documents. That does not mean, however, that they are any less legal in about half the states in America.

There are varying degrees at which such wills are legal. In California, all sections of the will must be written by hand and must be signed by the writer of the will. Failing to meet all the necessary requirements might invalidate the will.

My Sacramento law practice, Michael A. Sawamura, Attorney at Law, focuses on wills, trusts and estate planning law in addition to business law and corporate defense services. My clients include professionals, government employees, small businesses, blue-collar workers and national corporations.

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