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Santa Ana Estate Planning & Probate Blog

The basics of testamentary trusts

When California residents create their estate plan, they may sometimes find it difficult to determine if they should set up a trust or use a will. In some situations, people may be able to use both of these options by establishing a testamentary trust.

A testamentary trust is usually created through a will. According to FindLaw, people can specify who will receive their assets and make changes to this plan up until their deaths. A testamentary trust typically takes effect once a person dies. Although most trusts do not need to go through probate, this is not always the case for testamentary trusts. This kind generally goes through probate and is considered an active trust once the probate process has finished.

What are oral and deathbed wills?

As we have discussed in recent posts, your will planning can be more complex than the straightforward end-of-life wishes you may be accustomed to hearing about. There are some types of wills that can be upheld in California probate court but may still not be a good idea because they can be easily contested.

Oral and deathbed wills are two of these, as HowStuffWorks explains. They are not as commonly used as they were in times past, but they may be valid in an emergency, if you don’t have a written and legally recognized will in place already.

Avoiding common estate planning mistakes

Estate planning is an important part of an individual's long-term goals for both personal and professional assets. Financial and legal experts too often see common mistakes in handling a person's or couple's affairs, leading to complicated probate and potentially litigious battles.

It's important to prioritize your long-term plans through careful, comprehensive estate planning. Take note from past issues and work to avoid common mistakes with a few helpful tips.

What is a holographic will, and is it valid in CA?

You know that you need to address your estate planning, but you’re a busy person. You might feel like you don’t have time to talk to a professional about writing your will. Can you write your own will, and will the court honor it after you pass away? You and other Californians should understand the potential complications that could arise if you write your own will.

A handwritten will is called a holographic will. According to FindLaw, holographic wills are valid in many states, including California. However, there are some requirements to holographic wills which, if you don’t meet them, may render the document invalid. As you can guess, a probate dispute might arise.

How do I choose the executor of my will?

Estate planning is vital if you wish to safeguard your interests while you are alive and protect the inheritance you wish to leave to your loved ones. Therefore, you know that it is important to wisely choose an executor or trustee – the person you designate to carry out your wishes with your will or trust. Since this is such an important decision, you and other Californians might benefit by knowing how to choose the best person for the job.

As FindLaw explains, you have your pick of whom to choose as your executor. Most often, executors or trustees are closely related to the principal (you), usually the spouse, adult child or sibling. However, it’s important to understand that you shouldn’t pick just anyone for the task. For example, while it might be more common to choose the eldest child as executor, your firstborn might be irresponsible with money, not get along with his or her siblings or be known to abuse alcohol or drugs. As you can imagine, this kind of personality might be disastrous serving as an executor.

4 reasons you should call a lawyer

Sometimes life brings up conflicts. These conflicts might be big or small. In the heat of the moment, an issue at hand might feel unmanageable. An emergency is always a good reason to dial 911. Car crashes, house fires and injuries are a justified reason to call. But what about legal emergencies? 

Make executor duties manageable

When people become the executor of an estate in California, they may be overwhelmed at the task ahead of them. There are a few ways people can make this task manageable for themselves and keep track of their duties.

When people first begin their duties as executor, they may find it helpful to speak to professionals. According to Bankrate, professionals can help someone understand the different forms he or she needs to fill out to begin the probate process, as well as provide advice about handling the deceased's financial affairs. It is also a good idea for people to locate the will as soon as possible so they understand how the deceased wants the estate to be settled. Additionally, people usually need to make sure they have a copy of the death certificate. Without this document, it may be difficult to perform administrative tasks, such as filing tax returns.

Can I revoke my power of attorney?

As we have discussed in previous posts on this blog, you have numerous options when it comes to designating a power of attorney. Like many other Californians, you may want a power of attorney to protect your financial, physical and medical rights if you are incapacitated. However, what if you later change your mind? Can you revoke your power of attorney?

Provided you are still able to make your own informed decisions, you should be able to nullify your power of attorney, as FindLaw explains. For example, imagine what could happen if you are several months into a cognitive disorder, such as Alzheimer’s disease, and you insist that your power of attorney be dissolved. If your wishes were followed, you might be vulnerable to financial abuse by scammers or people who are pretending to act in your best interests.

How is a trust terminated?

You may already know a lot about trusts. Perhaps you have a trust, or you are wondering if anything could ever happen to it. For the most part, your trust is safe if done correctly. So what events can terminate a trust? 

How can I choose the right trustee?

A trust is just one estate planning tool that can be highly beneficial when it comes to managing your assets after you’re gone. However, selecting the right trustee to manage your affairs is usually a daunting task, especially when you have a complex financial situation. AARP recommends the following tips when looking for a trustee to ensure your best interests are kept in mind throughout the process.

Look for Someone With Common Sense