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A California Living Trust can Help You

Probate is the judicial process whereby a will is “proved” in a court of law and accepted as a valid public document that is the true last testament of the deceased, or whereby the estate is settled according to the laws of intestacy in the state of residence of the deceased at time of death in the absence of a legal will.

The granting of probate is the first step in the legal process of administering the estate of a deceased person, resolving all claims and distributing the deceased person’s property under a will. A probate court decides the legal validity of a testator’s (deceased person’s) will and grants its approval, also known as granting probate, to the executor. The probated will then becomes a legal instrument that may be enforced by the executor in the law courts if necessary. A probate also officially appoints the executor (or personal representative), generally named in the will, as having legal power to dispose of the testator’s assets in the manner specified in the testator’s will. However, through the probate process, a will may be contested.

California law acknowledges that full probate is unnecessary for small estates and offers simplified probate alternatives for estates valued at less than $166,250. If your estate is worth more than that, you can still avoid probate by setting up a California living trust. You do not need to hire a lawyer to establish your living trust; a California legal document assistant can prepare the living trust documents for you for a much lower price than a lawyer would charge.

A living trust document is a legal document that functions much like a will, except that it starts working while the grantor is still alive. It contains instructions about what to do with the grantor’s property before and after the grantor’s death, including, but not limited to, the following matters:

  • Who may access the money in the trust
  • Who is to receive the money
  • Instructions on who will make financial and health decisions about the grantor if he or she becomes incapacitated
  • Instructions on appointing a successor trustee if the original trustee dies or becomes disabled
  • After you set up the trust, you can transfer assets to it. If you transfer all your assets to the trust, your estate will not need to go through probate at all. It is possible for a married couple just to set up one trust and transfer both spouses’ assets into it.

You can avoid probate even if your estate is worth more than $166,250.  A living trust can save your heirs money on estate taxes.  You will have peace of mind about who will manage your finances if you become incapacitated.  Your family members will not have to deal with the stress and expense of planning for your long-term care; they can just follow your instructions.  You do need a living trust, but you do not need a lawyer to get one. It is only a matter of preparing the right legal documents. If you hire an estate planning lawyer just to create or restate your revocable trust, they will overcharge you. In California, legal document assistants have the authority to prepare court documents, including living trusts, without the involvement of a lawyer.

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