Law Offices of Roshni T. Desai
Long-term Planning For Orange County

Santa Ana Estate Planning & Probate Blog

What is a charitable trust?

If you are a reasonably wealthy California resident who desires to make a substantial contribution to your favorite charity, you may wish to consider creating a charitable trust. As Fidelity Investments explains, there are two different types of charitable trusts: charitable remainder trusts and charitable lead trusts. Both types split the assets you contribute between the charity and a noncharitable beneficiary of your choice.

A charitable trust can give you great flexibility and control over the assets you contribute to it. At the same time, it can help you fulfill your goals for philanthropy, estate planning and tax management. Which type of charitable trust is right for you depends on your estate planning and wealth preservation goals, as well as on what kind(s) of assets you want to donate.

What happens if I die without a will?

If you are a California resident who has not yet made a will, you may have wondered about who will get your property should you die in an accident before you have had the opportunity to make your wishes known. The California Probate Code makes extensive provision for cases of intestate succession. This means that should you die without having made a will, the State of California determines who receives your property and assets.

California is a community property state. By law, half of all assets acquired during the course of your marriage or domestic partnership belongs to your spouse. Your separate property is all property which you acquired before the commencement of your marriage or domestic partnership or received as a gift during the course of it.

Advice for handling probate from people who have been there

Being the executor of someone's estate can turn out to be a lengthy and incredibly complicated process. However, some people prefer to try to go it alone without the help of an attorney. They come out of the process a lot wiser (and perhaps with a lot more gray hairs).

Here are four tips from people who have been there so you do not have to make the same mistakes they did:

What are some good reasons to avoid probate?

In a recent post on our blog, we discussed how probate court is a normal aspect of the estate administration process, and why it does not always mean something bad. However, there is another side to probate that you and other California residents may find unpleasant. This usually occurs when there is an estate dispute.

The Balance has outlined several reasons it can be in your best interest to avoid a lengthy probate process:

  • Probate court can be costly. Keeping your involvement in probate court brief may prevent your costs from adding up.
  • When a will is tied up in probate, you and the other beneficiaries will not have immediate access to your inheritance. You would need to wait until the dispute is resolved before receiving the money or property left to you in the will.
  • Probate court is not a private matter. Your family’s financial details will become public record if the issue is taken to probate.
  • A dispute in probate court will involve the interference in your family’s affairs by a judge, something which you and your relatives may wish to avoid.

Is there more than one type of trust?

When you decide to create a trust to provide for your family after your death, you may be surprised to learn that there is more than one kind of trust. It is important to understand the differences among these trusts so you can set up the kind that will be best for your family.

If you intend to leave your children something large like your home, you may want to consider a qualified personal residence trust. CNN says that when you set up this kind of trust, you usually are still able to control this property until the time you have established to turn it over to your children. One important thing to understand about a QPRT is that you typically need to outlive the time period laid out in the trust, otherwise your estate will include the property's full market value.

Why you do not necessarily have to worry about probate

For many California residents who are dealing with estate planning issues, “probate” almost seems like a bad word. At the Law Offices of Roshni T. Desai, many of our clients are concerned about avoiding the problems surrounding the probate process. Whether you are writing your will or trust for your loved ones or sorting out the estate of a relative who has recently passed away, it can help to understand what exactly probate entails.

You may have heard horror stories about a will dispute tying up an inheritance for months or even years. When there is an issue with a will, the next step is for probate court to step in, so it is understandable that the mere mention of probate can cause anxiety. Why is probate not necessarily a scary thing? The Balance explains that probate is simply a legal procedure that is routinely employed after someone’s death, which determines where his or her property goes. If the person left a clearly detailed will, then the will’s executor will be identified and the court may take a few measures to ensure the will was executed properly.

Understanding a revocable living trust

People have many options when they begin to set up their estate plan in California. One of these is a revocable living trust.

According to the American Bar Association, a revocable living trust is an estate plan in place during your lifetime. You usually need a trustee who will ensure your property is distributed according to your wishes. This person can also oversee your trust if you are unable to because of health reasons. One of the benefits of this kind of estate plan is that you can change it as circumstances arise, and you can also use it to supervise your property. While your estate may not need to go to a probate court if you establish a trust, it is generally still subject to estate taxes. 

How to pick the right estate planning lawyer

An estate plan is more than just a plan to distribute your assets. A great estate plan will ensure that you receive preferred medical care in the future. It can also shield your assets from certain tax consequences, allowing your beneficiaries to receive the maximum inheritance possible. That is why it is important to choose the right attorney for the job. You will want a lawyer who understands the law and how it can benefit you. 

Years of experience

When should you call your attorney for estate matters?

California residents who are going through estate or probate-related issues for the first time will likely need a lot of guidance. These fields are both packed with tons of legal terminology and red tape, and one wrong move can end up costing you a lot of time or money. But when should you reach out for the help of a lawyer?

Forbes has an article detailing numerous different scenarios in which it's alright - or even encouraged - to contact a lawyer for help. Unsurprisingly, estate administration is specifically mentioned. In this particular instance, it's categorized as being such a complex legal field that there's a very slim chance of you actually being able to handle it in an "easy way". Many misleading infomercials, for example, will say that you can craft an estate plan online when this simply isn't true. In fact, handling things in this way will often just create more work for you and any lawyer you might hire later down the line.

How do trusts help your family?

California residents diving into estate planning for the first time may have a lot of questions. Why are things done the way they're done? What is the point behind many of the steps of estate planning? In this case, we at the Law Offices of Roshni T. Desai will explain the point of trusts and the benefits that they can have for your family well into the future.

Trusts can be vital for estate planning for many different reasons. Generally speaking, if you have a trust that's been crafted correctly, you can make future legal burdens much lighter for your family. Some are legal benefits. For example, an irrevocable trust will allow your relatives to experience a lighter load of potential tax burdens because it may not be part of a taxable estate. It will also let them avoid having to deal with probate, which is the official validation of a will. Probate can sometimes be a lengthy and stressful process, so this will certainly be a big concern off of their shoulders.