Trusts may be created in two main ways. The first is at the end of a person's life. When a person passes on their estate may pass automatically into a trust if they have executed the appropriate estate planning documents. However, a person can also create a trust while they are alive. An inter vivos trust, also known as a living trust, is created by a grantor and administered by a trustee for the benefit of a beneficiary.
Being asked to serve as the administrator of a loved one's estate is both an honor and an obligation imposed upon a California resident. Although a well-crafted estate plan that takes into consideration methods of avoiding probate and removing ambiguity from the plans testamentary documents is not necessarily hard to manage, knowing how to provide adequate oversight of the estate's distribution can be nerve-wracking. This post will discuss one of the most important aspects of serving as an estate administrator: exercising a fiduciary duty toward the estate.
One of the requirements of a valid will in California is that the creator of the testamentary document is of sound mind when they sign their name to the will and make it official. A person who lacks the mental capacity to understand the terms of their will likely would not have the soundness of mind required by law to execute it, and to this end, if a person does not have a will when they lose their capacity to create one they may not be able to prepare one to protect their estate.
An estate plan is intended to comprehensively dispose of a decedent's property, so that nothing is left over for the probate courts to claim and subject to the laws of distribution. In California and other jurisdictions, though, it is not uncommon for individuals to pass on without putting into place the wills, trusts and other testamentary documents necessary to ensure that the distribution of their wealth and assets is made clear. Because of this, the states of the nation have enacted intestate succession laws that designate how heirs may inherit from the decedents.
Most Californians imagine wills to be formal legal documents full of jargon and clauses that are typed on fancy paper and signed by serious witnesses. However, not all wills fall into this category. In California and other states throughout the nation, holographic wills are recognized as alternative testamentary documents to those that follow the formal requirements of will making.