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Santa Ana Estate Planning & Probate Blog

Responsibilities of an estate administrator

Estate administrators in California have many responsibilities on their shoulders. It's also up to them to accomplish a number of different role-specific tasks. These duties and responsibilities can last for years, and are integral to the estate management after a loved one has passed away.

The American Bar Association lists off a few of the common duties of estate administrators. This includes:

  • Examining the decedent's check register and check book for signs of debt
  • Contacting any credit card companies that the decedent owned cards for
  • Searching personal belongings for signs of a creditor

How does probate work?

California residents who have lost a loved one will be dealing with a bundle of new terms that may be entirely new to them. The term probate could be one of these, and it's a crucial term to understanding how wills are processed and handled.

According to the California Courts, cases involving probate revolve around establishing the veracity of a will. These court cases will also determine how property will be transferred, and among which people said property will be divided between. This can mean beneficiaries, heirs, and others.

What is a trust?

In order to understand the fundamentals of a trust in California, you may want to consider the following illustration. Suppose you own a valuable diamond ring. You do not owe payments on the ring and there are no liens against it. It is not collateral for any loan. You own the ring outright, as is said. Under the law, you have a simple, undivided property interest in the ring. Since this ring is your property, you have title to it: you can wear it, store it, sell it or otherwise use it or dispose of it in any manner.

Now, suppose you decide that this ring is of such importance that it should be used only in a particular manner and by particular persons. To do this, you may wish to place the ring in a trust. Under California law, you can create a trust by transferring your property, to a person for safekeeping, called a trustee, to be enjoyed by other persons, called beneficiaries.

There are ways to avoid probate - a lot of ways, actually

Everyone knows that probate is inevitable and that it is annoying in several ways - costly, time-consuming, and subject to suspense and surprise.

Not everyone knows that there are easy ways to keep your life assets from going through the probate process.

Why estate planning is a must for blended families

If you are one of the many people in California who is looking to get married for the second, third or subsequent time, you should pay special attention to your future estate plans and the time to do this is ideally before you walk down the aisle not after. That said, it is also important to review these plans on a regular basis as life hands many changes that may necessitate adjustments to your plans.

What makes estate planning for blended families so essential? Fidelity Investments explains that when extended family members from different bloodlines are put together and faced with asset division, emotions can become unpleaseant. It is always best for you and your spouse to be clear about your wishes from the get go to avoid any surprises after one or both of you dies. At a minimum, you and your new spouse likely have special family heirlooms that your children or even grandchildren may hope to receive someday. A will or trust can help make sure these things stay in your original family.

Understanding the role of your will's executor

If you are one of the California residents who has made the choice to put an estate plan in place, you should be proud of yourself. This is a very important and responsible step and is one that can give you and your family members a lot of confidence by knowing that your estate will be properly handled after you die. A big part of making sure this happens is about being very clear and detailed in your will. Another component involves your wise selection of the executor of your will.

As explained by Fidelity, great care should be given when identifying your intended executor as even the closest family member or longtime friend may not necessarily have the skills needed to do the job. Talking frankly with the person you would like to do this is recommended.

How can a will or trust prevent family conflicts?

Family and money don't mix, which is why more people are recognizing the importance of estate planning, and in California, this is twice as imperative. In order to ensure that one's final wishes are properly carried out, seeking the advice of an experienced lawyer can make a real difference. Taking these steps can also avoid creating situations where a dispute over an estate breaks out amongst family members.

As the New York Times notes, putting together a living will is essential for managing things like end of life care, but with the expensive California probate system, a will is often not enough. In a will one's wishes are laid out, such as who will care for the children, naming an executor, and determining which people and charities will inherit the left over money. Many in the Golden State who have a significant amount of assets also use trusts to avoid having their families go through the arduous probate court.

Demystifying the probate process

In the wake of a loved one’s death, many people find the prospect of probate overwhelming. They may have heard the term, but do not really understand what the process entails.

Probate occurs after a person’s death. During this process, a court sorts through the deceased’s will, settles debts and distributes remaining assets to the beneficiaries. According to California law, estates valued over $150,000 in probate assets are generally required to go through the probate process. What are the main stages of probate?

Updating a will frequently is a good habit to get into

Before we address the main point of this blog post, we want to implore everyone out there to create a will. Many people don't ever create a will, and as a result their estate is thrown into chaos when they pass away. Having a will allows you to dictate how you want your property to be divvied up when you pass away, and it reduces the chance of unwanted litigation. It also protects your nest egg and all of the assets you have built up over your life.

Having said that: creating a will isn't the only step to proper estate planning. You also have to update your will and your estate plan frequently. Certain events throughout the course of your life could also necessitate an update to your will or estate plan, such as: