If your loved one in California has died without leaving a will, his or her estate, including all property, may be tied up by court processes. For example, family members may have to prove their relationship to the deceased person, which means another “hoop to jump through” before the estate can be settled.

On the other hand, if your loved one has died in California with a will or a trust, there are probably clearly written designations of beneficiaries of real estate, vehicles, bank accounts, life insurance and other property. If there are young or disabled children, the will or trust probably names guardians for them.

In cases involving multiple marriages and blended families, a properly drafted will or trust is especially important. Only through proper planning can the interests of the surviving spouse, minor children and adult children of prior marriages be reconciled and protected.

When a family member dies, however, probate may be necessary whether or not there is a valid will. In either case, you are well advised to seek an experienced lawyer to help you write a will or to facilitate administration of the estate of the deceased. Among other things, the lawyer will want to examine life insurance policy beneficiary designations as well as any existing prenuptial agreement and determine whether these are in agreement with the will. The Law Office of William A. Taylor is an office capable of providing such assistance.

Trusts have become increasingly popular as the preferred method by which my clients carry out their estate planning objectives. Some trusts are created through a will, to become effective only after the client’s death, and perhaps only in certain circumstances. However, most trusts are created by separate trust instruments (such as the typical revocable inter vivos trust, or “living trust”). Regardless of the method of trust creation, the range of possible uses and purposes of a trust is virtually unlimited. As examples, my clients have often asked me to assist them in creating trusts to meet specific needs and goals, such as the following:

  • Special Needs Trusts — to protect the eligibility of disabled adult beneficiaries to receive public benefits and services
  • Spendthrift Trusts — to protect the financial security of beneficiaries who may be vulnerable to exploitation or lack of judgment
  • Charitable Remainder Trusts — to gain valuable tax benefits through philanthropic giving, while providing lifetime income for a spouse or other family members

A trust allows someone, while still living, the opportunity to structure how wealth will be held and managed during the person’s lifetime, if he or she becomes incapacitated, or after death. Often a family member is a preferred trustee, but I can offer advice and recommendations as to when an outside professional fiduciary may be the best choice for trustee.

 

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