Probate in California is unfortunately an expensive and time-consuming process. Probate refers to the court proceedings to administer the estate of a deceased person and distribute their assets to heirs and beneficiaries. Court costs and legal fees can be prohibitive. For this reason, many people who are beginning the estate planning process are interested in avoiding probate.
The inter vivos or living trust is the most popular strategy for avoiding probate in California. By using a carefully drafted revocable trust instead of a will as the primary estate planning document, the creator of the trust – called the trustor – can keep assets out of probate. This is because the trust, not the trustor, owns the assets. The assets are therefore not part of the trustor’s estate when they die. The assets are managed and distributed by a trustee chosen by the trustor.
Trusts do require some additional work during the trustor’s lifetime. The trustor must make sure to transfer their property to the trust and retitle assets in the name of the trust. The most carefully prepared trust document is useless if it is not funded. Fortunately this is usually not a difficult process, and an experienced estate planning attorney can assist the client in making sure all the steps are carried out properly.
At my law firm I have been helping people in Northern California prepare trusts for over 25 years. I carefully listen to my clients in order to understand their wishes, and I work hard to prepare an estate plan that will fulfill those wishes in light of each client’s unique financial and family situation. There is more information about the advantages of living trusts on my Trusts web page.