Providing Answers To Your Estate Planning Questions

What Is The Purpose Of Estate Planning?

Estate planning is necessary to take care of your family, heirs and other loved ones after you are gone. Estate planning is taking steps to ensure your wishes regarding the distribution of your property and estate are carried out. Proper estate planning through the use of tools such as trusts can prevent depletion of your estate due to taxes and unnecessary expense. Estate planning is useful in that:

  • It helps family members and loved ones understand what steps to take regarding your property.
  • Documentation makes it clear what property, accounts and other assets you own.
  • Documents such as trusts, and Wills help eliminate disputes over your estate by letting everyone know who gets what.
  • Through Wills and trusts, you can arrange to take care of minor children or children with special needs.
  • It allows you to shield assets from taxation and expense.
  • Planning can prevent disputes and time-consuming and expensive probate court intervention and litigation from occurring.

As estate planning can be a complex undertaking, an experienced lawyer can help advise you concerning the right approach.

What Is The Difference Between A Trust And A Will?

In a Will, you can specify precisely how you wish to manage and distribute the assets contained in your estate. In a Will, you can list the personal property you own and instruct who should take possession of it after you pass away. A Will allows you to make such determinations rather than a court. It allows you to choose an executor to carry out the terms of the Will. You can waive the required bond so your executor can manage your affairs without paying for this unnecessary expense. Importantly, a Will allows you to name a guardian to look after your children. However, with certain assets like real property or bank accounts over $150,000.00, a Will must activated by the Probate Court unlike a Trust. In other words, a Will alone will not avoid Probate Court involvement upon your death.

A trust is a document allowing you to set aside assets and property for a specific purpose, and more importantly, avoid Probate Court intervention. The trust can specify how to hold such assets and make clear the conditions concerning distribution. Unlike a Will, a Trust is a private confidential document since the Trust document is not filed with the Court in order to activate it.

Why Do I Need A Will?

A Will is one of the most important estate planning tools in that it allows you to spell out how you wish to have your money and assets distributed after your death. The more detail your Will contains, the more efficiently the distribution will take place.

In a Will, you can name an executor whom you trust to handle your estate. In the event you have minor children or children with special needs, you can name a guardian to look after them. You can also provide direction concerning the handling of your funeral.

Under most circumstances, the presence of a Will reduces the costs of probating or settling an estate. In your Will, you can specify the nature of your estate, clarify which heir should inherit specific assets, and even identify the location of assets and accounts. Without such provisions, a court may instead make such decisions.

Most importantly, the existence of a Will can reduce the stress your loss may put on your family and loved ones. By telling your loved ones what your wishes are concerning your estate, there will be fewer chances of disagreements arising.

A seasoned California estate planning attorney can provide you guidance concerning legal formalities, and the sorts of provisions you should include in a Will. Such guidance may be necessary to make certain your Will is legally valid.

Do I Need A Will If I Already Have A Trust?

Under all circumstances, you will still need a Will. A Will and a trust both can play an important estate planning service, but those purposes are not necessarily interchangeable. A trust allows you to avoid having certain designated assets going through probate. But there are things that a Will accomplishes that a trust cannot do.

A trust only concerns property you transferred into the name of your Trust, so it will generally never contain everything that you own (for example, your automobile). It's important to have a Will to account for those assets not contained in the trust. The Will often times is used to transfer properties not registered as "trust assets" into your Trust after death.

You may wish to speak to a lawyer concerning your specific needs to determine whether you need both a Will and a trust.

Will I Need A Lawyer To Set Up My Estate Plan?

Because comprehensive estate planning is such an important step, you will want to take the necessary precautions to prevent mistakes from occurring. Incorrect wording of provisions or not meeting all of the legal requirements can mean your wishes regarding your estate will not be accomplished resulting in costly Probate Court intervention.

Many state laws govern how a Will or trust in California must appear. Though there may be forms on the internet for Wills, trusts and powers of attorney, there is no guarantee that such forms comply with state law. By relying upon such forms, you may end up drafting a Will or trust that a California court will find invalid.

It serves little purpose to put together an estate plan without taking into consideration your individual circumstances and understanding the law. An estate planning attorney can make certain everything is in order. Since they've helped so many others with their individual estate, attorneys also understand common mistakes that can prove costly.

Contact Us To Learn More

For answers to all of your questions, contact Michael A. Sawamura, Attorney at Law, in Sacramento by calling 916-248-4465 or sending me an email.