Claremont Wills and Trusts Attorney
Plan For Your Family’s Future with Wills and Trusts
Planning for your financial future starts now. Your choices today will determine what happens to your loved ones should you die or otherwise become incapacitated. The more careful you are with your decisions now, the better prepared your family will be. Proper estate planning can protect your assets from creditors, divorces, and other unforeseen events, and ensure that your assets are distributed according to your wishes after you pass away. A well-executed will can also limit your probate hurdles and expenses, ensuring that your loved ones receive the maximum amount of your estate with minimum hassle. Preparing for the security of your finances and your family after your incapacity or death means peace of mind. A dedicated California wills and trusts lawyer at Blasser Law can help you build a secure financial future for you and the ones you love.
What is a Will?
A will, or “last will and testament,” is a legal document that tells a probate court your official plans for your assets upon your death. Your will dictates not only to whom your assets will be distributed, but it can also be used to set specific requirements for the receipt of your property. For example, you can encourage your children to further their education or dictate that they will only receive certain assets or monies when they reach a certain age.
In order for a will to be valid, California law sets certain legal requirements:
- The testator (author) must be at least 18 years old.
- The will must be either:
- Handwritten, dated and signed by the testator (a “holographic will”); OR
- Typed (or prepared by someone else) and, in the presence of at least two witnesses, the testator must either sign or affirm the testator’s signature. The witnesses must both sign as well and cannot be beneficiaries.
Legal wills, including holographic wills, do not require special words. Wills just need to be a clear dictation of the testator’s intentions for their property and otherwise satisfy the legal requirements. A seasoned California estate planning lawyer can make sure that your will is valid from top to bottom and that your desires are met upon your passing.
Intestacy: When There Is No Will
If you do not have a valid will, or if certain parts of your will are invalidated for one reason or another, California law dictates specific rules as to what happens to your assets. The law refers to someone who dies without a will as “intestate,” and the rules of “intestacy” apply. In California, property is distributed first to your spouse, then to children, parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, and even to the spouse’s living relatives. There are specific rules that determine how the assets and total value are split depending on which of your relatives survive you. If you have no relatives living, your property goes to the state.
If you want to have control over the distribution of your assets, it is vital to prepare a valid will with the help of a knowledgeable estate planning attorney. Do not let the state decide what happens to your valuables after you pass; decide for yourself.
What is a Trust?
A revocable living trust is a legal device that allows you to manage your property during your lifetime and dictate the distribution of your property after your death. By creating a trust, you can establish a protected fund that will distribute proceeds at certain intervals or upon certain conditions. The assets are “protected” in that, depending on the type of trust, they can be kept away from your creditors and come with certain tax benefits. Trusts can be established to, for example, pay for your children’s education, cover medical or nursing expenses for children or elderly relatives, or even distribute money to charity.
Types of Trusts
There are various types of trusts that serve different functions. These include living trusts, insurance trusts, special needs trusts, revocable trusts and irrevocable trusts. Different trust types have different pros and cons. Revocable trusts, for example, can be changed by you at any time, but they are considered personal assets and thus creditors can reach them. Irrevocable trusts cannot be changed once you invoke them, meaning you do not have control over that property anymore, but they are protected from creditors and will not be taxed as part of your estate. A knowledgeable wills and trusts attorney can help you decide which type of trust is the best vehicle for your plans for your assets, and ensure that the trust is properly formed and enforced.