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Santa Ana Estate Planning & Probate Blog

What is a living will?

If you are a California resident who believes that estate planning should be a major part of your life, you may have heard about living wills and wondered what they are and how they differ from regular wills. Actually, as FindLaw explains, a living will is not a will at all. Whereas a regular will allows you to state who you want to receive your assets and various pieces of your property upon your death, a living will allows you to state your medical treatment preferences if you are terminally ill or suffer an injury or illness that leaves you in a permanent vegetative state.

Your living will contains instructions to your doctors and other health care providers regarding the following:

  • Medical treatments, techniques and procedures you want, even if they may hasten your death
  • Medical treatments, techniques and procedures you do not want, even if they may prolong your life
  • Your preferences regarding organ donation after you die

A living trust to simplify probate procedures

Going through probate court in California is often a complicated process involving the intents and requirements of multiple parties, such as the state, trustees and the decedent. As such, many families make every effort to simplify and accelerate these inheritance procedures before entering into court, or to avoid probate entirely. Estate planning might prove an integral part of such an attempt— a process that often involves the establishment of trusts. 

In its guide to wills and trusts, the American Bar Association recommends the use of trusts in various situations. In particular, they recommend an inter vivos trust to help trustees care for an individual while he or she is still alive. This type of trust, in correlation with other documents, might also be useful in reducing conflicts in probate over the allocation or reimbursement of resources expended on caregiving. 

What is a durable financial power of attorney?

If you are a California resident who is concerned about how your financial decisions will be made and who will make them in the event you are unable to make them yourself, you may wish to consider creating a durable financial power of attorney. As FindLaw explains, a financial power of attorney is a document you sign that grants someone else the authority to take care of your financial matters if and when you are in a position where you cannot do it yourself. This person usually is called your financial agent or your attorney-in-fact.

Examples of when a financial power of attorney could be a good answer to pressing financial questions include the following:

  • You are the victim of an accident that leaves you in a coma or otherwise unable to express your financial wishes.
  • You have a stoke that deprives you of your speech.
  • You fall and receive a brain injury that leaves you confused and unable to think clearly.
  • You simply do not want to be responsible for dealing with your own finances.

4 reasons why going through probate is good

When a person dies, the will may have to go through probate court to establish validity and proper distribution of assets. The length and cost of the process usually give it a bad name, encouraging people to avoid it.

However, probate is not always a bad option. It can be a good thing for many reasons besides obvious ones such as the lack of a will, so discuss with your attorney if probate makes sense for your estate plans.

Probating estates step by step

When a loved one dies, family members feel the weight of the loss in many ways, not the least of which is the emptiness in the home they once shared. Memories abound even months later when movers await. Estate executors oversee the process as family members decide on what to distribute, what to give away and what to sell. The process is not easy, but in California, the Law Offices of Roshni T. Desai has assisted many families in making probate proceedings more straightforward.

The Superior Court of Orange County has also attempted to clarify the process by introducing a step-by-step guide. If you find yourself in the position of executor, you will first file a petition for probate. In some cases, executors request the assistance of an experienced probate lawyer. Others who are more familiar with the process may choose to handle the proceedings themselves. You may decide which approach makes you most comfortable.

Mistakes commonly made in estate administration

If you are an executor over a California estate, you may feel pressure to cover all necessary steps, and you may, too, have concerns about whether you are doing everything the job entails correctly. Making mistakes in an executor role can prove extremely costly, and the decisions you make and the steps you do and do not take can have serious and considerable financial and tax implications. At the Law Offices of Roshni T. Desai, we have a firm understanding of the duties required of an executor, and we have helped many people in estate planning roles take necessary steps to protect their loved ones.

As important as understanding the steps you must take as an executor is recognizing what not to do, and one way to help yourself avoid making errors involves studying common mistakes made by others. According to Forbes, one of the single-biggest errors you can make as an executor involves making asset distributions prematurely. Odds are, there are certain liabilities and debts that have to come out of the estate before the rest of it is ready for distribution, and if you pay out high amounts before covering these debts, you can become personally liable for them.

Do-it-yourself probate, and the dreaded ‘gray areas’

America is a country of do-it-yourselfers – people who are handed a difficult task and say, “I don’t need help. I’ll figure this out myself.”

Being named executor of a will is such an opportunity. Anyone can do it. You don’t need an attorney. You will be all right – until you aren’t all right.

What does the probate process typically entail?

If a California loved one ever names you as an executor over his or her estate, you may find yourself involved in the probate process, which is a common, yet often-misunderstood, aspect of estate planning. Essentially, probate refers to the court-supervised process of proving the accuracy of a will, and there are typically a number of different steps involved in the procedure.

According to Entrepreneur, most typical, and relatively simple, probate processes take between about six and 18 months to complete, with the executor taking a number of steps to prove the will’s validity and see that its author’s wishes are carried out. During this time, the executor notifies any beneficiaries named in the will about what they are to receive, which gives named heirs a chance to challenge the will, or a certain aspect of it, should they choose to do so.

The holidays can be a good time to talk about estate planning

At the Law Offices of Roshni T. Desai, we understand that you want the best for your loved ones. For this reason, it is never a bad time to begin your estate planning or update an existing will or trust. However, estate planning might seem overwhelming if you are just starting to think about it. This holiday season, you and other Californians might find it useful to talk to your family members about estate planning while you are together celebrating.

Why the holidays? It would seem like an awkward time to talk about your will while everyone is gathered around the tree opening presents or enjoying a family dinner, right? Of course, you will want to set aside a special time to talk about estate planning, even during the holidays – but several factors make this a good opportunity to bring up important topics.

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.