The Importance of Having a Living Trust in California

The basic purpose of a living trust is to ensure that an appointed trustee of your choosing gains all property or other assets upon your passing or incapacity. If the individual who is in control wants to change details of the trust, they can apply for a revocable living trust. In California, the probate code is not modeled after the Uniform Probate creating complicated process later. A living trust is used by many individuals in California to help their families bypass lengthy probate court proceedings.

Essential Facts About Living Trusts

Here are some vital facts to think about when preparing your living trust:

  • When creating a document, make sure to list who your trustee will be as well as any properties you would like to grant them .
  • If you create a living trust, you will still need to create a will document for any property and assets that are not being granted to your trustee.
  • You can fund a living trust through financial assets such as bank accounts, retirement funds, stocks and bonds. Each of these financial assets has a specific procedure to ensure your trustee is granted them. For example, you can change the legal title of your cars and real estate over to your trustee whereas clothes, jewelry and other valuable items don’t have a legal title. Retirement accounts and life insurance requires you to change over your beneficiary status to your trustee.
  • Have your official living trust document notarized.
  • It’s important to have a estate planning lawyer to help with lowering or eliminating taxes on your estate when your assets are transferred to your trustee.  

Questions About Living Trusts?

Our blog only covers some of the essential information about living trusts. There are more complicated  If you want more information about creating a living trusts, contact the trusted estate planning attorneys at Lowthorp Richards law office. Call (805) 804-3848 or fill out our online contact form.

5 Important Estate Planning Lessons You Should Know

According to research conducted by the University of Pennsylvania, only 29.3 percent of Americans have a healthcare directive specifying their end-of-life wishes. Perhaps even more stunning, a survey from Caring.com found that less than half of adults in the U.S. have prepared estate planning documents, such as wills or living trusts.

Here are five tips for estate planning that you should follow – and if you are one of the many Americans who has not made plans for your estate, you might want to take notes.

  1. Understand probate. Probate varies from state to state and comes with a variety of risks. Probate is expensive and can reduce the value of your estate (on average, by about 5 percent). Probate can take years to complete. And probate is a public process, meaning anyone who desires it can look into your personal financial matters.
  2. Always have a backup plan – before and after death. You should have multiple contingency plans to cover any unlikely scenarios, such as a trustee dying before the author of an estate plan. An estate attorney can help you set up these backup plans.
  3. Create a roadmap of your assets. It can be difficult for your family members to navigate the complex web of your finances once you pass on. By consolidating your accounts and leaving behind a roadmap, you will take some of the pressure off your family.
  4. Remember how taxes will affect your estate. The new tax code signed into law by President Donald Trump raised the estate and gift tax exemption from $5.5 million to $11 million. You should know how changes like this may affect your estate.
  5. Check on your plan regularly, especially after a major personal life event that could affect your assets. Otherwise, you may end up having to go through unnecessary probate actions that could cost you.

You can meet with one of our estate planning attorneys for a comprehensive analysis of your estate planning objectives

Your Will – And Other Important Estate Planning Documents

Your will is an important document that can ensure that your property will make it into the right hands once you pass away. Without a will, your property is at risk of being divided according to California’s rules of interstate succession. While these rules will mean that your property will be passed down, it is likely that this property division would be different from how you would have wanted the property divided. For a will to be effective, it must go through the probate process, which can be lengthy and pricey. Probate can be avoided, though (and often is), by combining a will with another important component of estate planning: the living trust.

A living trust is created during life and places property in the possession of a designated trustee. The trust agreement specifies how property is divided upon death as well as who should take over as a trustee, should the creator of the agreement become incapacitated. You may think of living trusts as a simpler, cheaper version of probate that does not require anyone to go to court.

There are two more important documents you must be aware of to ensure that your estate planning goes smoothly: general durable power of attorney and advance health care directive. General durable power of attorney grants another person control over your property and financial transactions, even after you have become incapacitated. It is important to choose carefully when granting someone general durable power of attorney, since that person will be the only one who can make decisions for you if you become incapacitated.

Advance health care directives, like powers of attorney, allow you to dictate specific medical decisions in the event that you:

  • Suffer an accident or condition that will lead to death in a short period of time
  • You become unconscious and it is not likely you will recover
  • The risks and burdens of treatment outweigh the benefits.

Our firm is located in Oxnard, California and has achieved the highest possible legal rating in the national attorney directory of Martindale-Hubbell. Our partners are members of the American Board of Trial Advocates. We represent clients in a variety of practice areas and have recovered multimillion dollar verdicts and settlements. If you need the guidance of an estate attorney in California, call Lowthorp Richards at (805) 804-3848 or fill out our online contact form.

Can I Make Sure My Assets Are Not Distributed Through the Probate Process?

Courtroom, Judge, male judge in black mirror backgroundThe probate process involves the court distributing a person’s assets upon death. It usually occurs in situations where a person does not have a will. However, just because a person has a will does not mean that their assets will definitely not be distributed through the probate process.

What to Do to Prevent Your Assets From Being Distributed Through the Probate Process

Here are a couple of tips to help you avoid having your assets distributed through the probate process:

  • Joint Ownership – Set up any real estate or other property you own so that you share ownership with the person, persons or entity that you want to be the beneficiary of the property or real estate after you die. Property or real estate that is jointly owned with a survivorship right will not be subject to the probate process.
  • Living Trust – There are both revocable and irrevocable living trusts. Revocable living trusts allow the creator of the trust to revoke it while he or she is still alive. Irrevocable trusts cannot be revoked once they are created. The way a living trust works is that you create the trust and you become the trustee of the trust, which means you fully control any assets, such as property, that you transfer to the trust while you are alive. After your death, a person who you chose to takeover as your successor trustee will distribute the property and other assets you transferred to the trust while you were alive to your chosen beneficiaries. This protects your assets from being distributed through probate.

Next month, we will examine how the transfer-on-death designation, creating a will and setting up a pay-on-death account can also enable you to avoid probate.

At Lowthorp Richards, our experienced probate attorneys have been successfully guiding people through the probate process, as well as other complex estate administration matters, for decades. We are dedicated to providing individuals and families in Ventura County, the Central Coast and throughout California with the highest caliber legal services possible. To learn more about estate administration or to set up a consultation, call Lowthorp Richards today.

When Is a No Contest Clause Ineffective in Probate Court?

The California Court of Appeal just handed down an opinion very strictly limiting the application of a no contest clause contained within trust to later trust amendments.

Peggy was battling cancer for 5 years, during which time her friends, Tracy and David, became the exclusive suppliers of medical cannabis upon which Peggy depended for treatment.  Anticipating her demise, Peggy placed Tracy in custody of all of her estate planning documents.  Soon after, Peggy complained that Tracy read the documents and confronted her about the disposition of her estate.  Shortly after, Peggy executed a trust amendment created in secret, and without advice or assistance of her longtime estate planning attorney, leaving all of her money to Tracy – to the exclusion of Peggy’s brother and godchildren, natural objects of her bounty, and beneficiaries under the estate plan in existence when placed in Tracy’s custody.  After Peggy’s demise, Tracy produced the trust amendment, and the beneficiaries went straight to court. Continue reading