From the Desk of Trust and Estate Lawyer in San Diego (North Coast)
There are a multitude of reasons to have a living trust. I cannot begin to cover them all, but I will touch on the main three reasons to have a living trust very briefly here.
Reason #1: Protecting Property for Certain Beneficiaries
When most of us think about estate planning, we think about passing our property to our family and other loved ones after we die. However, sometimes our intended beneficiaries are unable to handle an inheritance. Minor children are the most common example of this. In California, for example, minor children are not allowed to own property. A judge would have to appoint a guardian to hold the property on behalf of inheriting children until they are legally old enough to own property (age 18). Even then, if you speak to parents of an 18 year old, they might cringe at the idea of their teenager receiving any large sum of money. An 18 year old with outright legal ownership of money might very well quit school, buy a sports car, and head to Hawaii. I could tell you many stories of young people inheriting money who have not made wise life choices.
Having a living trust alleviates this problem because you can either set up a lifetime asset protection trust for your child so that his or her inheritance is protected from creditors and/or divorcing spouses. Or, you can set up your trust so that your child receives distributions of the principal of the trust at appropriate ages and/or stages (e.g. at age 25, 30, and 35).
Reason #2: Managing Property upon Incapacity
If you can believe it, one major concern today is the idea of living too long! Many people worry about whether or not their parents can live in their own homes. Many worry about how their parents’ bills are being covered and about the safety of their money from other people. Unfortunately, in the case of parents who have not done adequate estate planning, the only option is to file an application with the probate court for a guardian. That’s a jaw-grinding experience, because it exposes personal and financial information to total strangers. Besides, it can be a humiliating indignity for a parent to be declared legally incompetent.
Don’t put yourself or your children through that painful experience.
A revocable living trust solves this problem. A revocable living trust allows your successor trustee to take control whenever you resign or are incapable of handling your affairs. There is typically no interruption in the management of assets, and there is no court supervision. Revocable living trusts also enjoy a greater level of acceptance throughout the legal and financial community, and California law provides a broad range of statutory powers regarding the management of trust property. While it is true that a living trust isn’t effective unless your property is in the trust, a durable power of attorney will enable your attorney-in-fact to transfer property into your trust if you cannot do it on your own. Of course, it is important that your planning documents are all coordinated and kept up to date. At KR Hess Law, San Diego Estate Planning, we work hard to make sure that your plan will work when your loved ones need it.
Reason #3: Avoiding Probate
When you die, property owned by your revocable living trust will not go through probate. That’s because the living trust itself spells out who gets to take ownership of the property. It’s very similar to 401(k) plans, life insurance, annuities, IRAs, and company retirement plans. Since those properties each have a designated beneficiary, those properties do not go through probate but, rather, pass directly to the beneficiaries (often with some tax advantages).
Jointly owned property with a right of survivorship does not go through probate either. It passes automatically to the surviving joint owner. Unfortunately, relying completely on joint tenancy laws is not advisable. It’s entirely possible that both joint tenants die at the same time or that the surviving tenant passes away without having specified who should inherit the property. A revocable living trust spells that out in advance.
Estate Planning can be Daunting
The process of planning your estate can be a daunting task. The good news is that you don’t have to do it alone, because we are a law firm dedicated to helping you develop and monitor a complete plan that achieves your desired results and minimizes the obligations of your loved ones.
If you’d like to learn more about what that means, call our office today to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session. We normally charge $750 for a Family Wealth Planning Session, but to give you an opportunity to consult with us and understand the estate planning process, I’ve made space for the next two people who mention this article to have a complete planning session at no charge. Call San Diego Trust Attorney, Kristina Hess today and ask for Sarah Kerr (858)794-1426 and she will get you on calendar right away.
A Living Trust allows you to control your property while you are alive, and care for your loved ones after you are gone.
Create a Legacy that Lasts.
Kristina Hess, Del Mar Trust and Estate Attorney