When planning for your estate, California law affords several options. Your estate plan may call for a will or a living trust or both. Because these options are fundamentally different, it’s important to understand their functions under California law. The distinctions will help when deciding which approach best meets your goals.
This is your legacy and you should feel secure about how it is handled after you are gone. You can trust the San Luis Obispo estate planning attorneys at the Law Offices of Andrew Cohen to help create the right plan for you.
A Will is a legal document stating how a person wants their estate to be handled after they have passed away. A will includes instructions on how property should be distributed. However, they are very limited and require probate court administration.
California wills have formal and legal authority but its power is limited. Beneficiaries can be named for owned assets. Guardians for children can be nominated. Executors can be appointed. A will can list specific details about how to handle memorial services with instructions regarding burials or cremations and funeral preferences. But all of this will require probate and the court system, a very long time, high costs, and cannot do all that a trust can provide.
If you only have a few assets, a will may be enough. In a lot of cases, assets can get more complex with physical property, pensions, and retirement plans. More and varied assets make for a more complicated estate plan that may require more than just a simple will. Who your beneficiaries are is another major consideration.
A trust is an effective tool to transfer property to named beneficiaries. Trusts operate privately and independently from probate. Trusts can be revocable or irrevocable. A grantor can change revocable trusts at any time during their lifetime. If a trust is irrevocable, it typically cannot be changed.
Any assets placed in the trust are managed by a trustee. The creator of the trust can serve as a trustee, or someone else can serve as a trustee. At different times, one person can be the trustee and another the beneficiary. This serves as a safety net. If you become incapacitated during your lifetime, the trustee can make important decisions. Trustees also implement the instructions you left before your incapacitation or after your death.
In California, you can combine a living trust and a will, using the individual documents to address separate issues. Wills can name a guardian and executor, and a trust frees up the transfer of assets without probate’s interference.
The combination also helps secure your estate if you have young children. Guardians are designated by the will, or, often in a separate document, and trust provides future financial security for the children.
Estate planning can be complicated. The San Luis Obispo planning attorneys at the Law Offices of Andrew Cohen can help navigate the process—from deciding the best option, through the preparation, to the last signature.