Estate planning provides a number of tools and documents you can use to plan for the future, including the end of your life as well as what happens after your death. One of the most important steps in this process is meeting with an attorney who can help you determine the tools and documents best-suited for reaching your estate planning goals.
If you haven’t already begun estate planning, we recommend sitting down with a living trust and will attorney. Before you do so, here are a few things you might want to know.
What is a Living Trust?
Prior to consulting with a living trust attorney, it’s wise to know what a living trust actually entails. Basically, this is a document that allows you to name someone to be legally responsible for handling your property or assets. It’s known as a “living trust” because it’s established while you are alive; and, for as long as you remain alive and mentally competent, you can modify the terms of the trust, or dissolve it altogether. (This is true of revocable trusts; an irrevocable trust cannot be changed. Usually, your revocable trust will become an irrevocable trust when you die.)
When you work with a living trust attorney, you will need to name three basic groups:
- The creator of the trust (this is you!)
- The trustee (the person assigned with managing your assets)
- The beneficiaries (the people who you wish to receive those assets when you die)
Note that you can name yourself or your spouse as the trustee, ensuring that you maintain as much control as possible over how assets are managed. You can speak with your will and trust attorney for more information about trustee selection.
Choosing Between a Living Trust and Will Attorney
As you prepare to meet with your will and trust attorney, it’s also important to consider the reasons why a living trust might make more sense than a will.
To be sure, these two estate planning documents have some overlap. Both of them contain inheritance instructions… in other words, both of them answer the question of who gets what when you die.
However, a trust offers two advantages that a will does not.
- A living trust will help keep your estate from entering probate, which can be difficult and costly for your heirs to navigate.
- A living trust also ensures that the contents of your estate remain confidential.
So, does this mean having a living trust is always superior to having a will? Often, yes; always, no. If you have a very modest and uncomplicated estate, a will might work just fine. The best way to make this determination is by speaking with your team of living trust lawyers.
What Happens if I Have Neither?
If you die without a living trust or a will, your assets may all pass to your spouse or to your next closest heir; of course, this may or may not be what you truly want. And in some states, the court system may actually assign a legal manager to distribute your assets, which is almost certainly not what you want. We absolutely recommend meeting with a team of living trust lawyers to help put one of these core documents in place.
Contact Singh Law Firm
Ready to meet with a revocable living trust lawyer? At Singh Law Firm, you can learn everything you need to know about getting a living trust in California. We are experts in trust law, and have helped countless California families put their estates in order. Reach out to us to set up a consultation at your next convenience.