What is a Will? A Will is a set of instructions of your last intentions for your property. It is a legal document that indicates who gets what, how and when after your death. A Will does not take effect until after the author's (referred to as the testator) death. Then, the Will must be probated, which means that a court will oversee the distribution of the assets after all debts are paid. In California, where probate fees are high, generally a Trust is used to distribute your assets instead of a Will. Working with an attorney to create a Trust is less expensive than the costs of probate in California.
What if I die without a Will? Dying without a Will is referred to as dying “intestate.” In California, if you own more than $150,000 in property, then the property you own in California must be probated. Also, note that any mortgages or liens on the property are ignored to determine the value of the property left. State law will determine who gets what from your estate. Similarly, if you own additional real estate in another state, another probate must be opened in that state. The bottom line is that your heirs get considerably less because of all the additional costs.
What is a Trust? A Trust is a legal document created with the primary purpose of specifying who gets what, when, and how much of your wealth, after your death. Strictly speaking, it is a separate legal entity which creates a fiduciary arrangement with a third party who will manage your wealth after your death or during your incapacity. The most common Trust is the Revocable Living Trust and it takes effect once you have signed it. In California, the Revocable Living Trust is the primary method of distributing your assets after your death when you want to avoid the costs of Probate and its public records. Other advantages include incapacity planning and quicker distribution of assets to the beneficiaries.
Can I revoke and/or revise my Trust? A Revocable Living Trust can be changed or revoked while you are alive and well. You can revise it and/or revoke it as often as you would like during your lifetime just so long as you are not incapacitated – this is a safeguard against the wrongdoing of those who might seek to take advantage of your incapacity.
Aren't there many kinds of Trusts? There are many different Trusts with numerous benefits in various situations. After we discuss your unique needs and desires, additional Trusts may be suggested for your consideration.