Helping You Handle Probate and Trust Administrations after the Death of a Loved One 

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What is Probate?

Probate is California’s Court system for transferring assets without using a Trust.

Probate Questions for You:

  • Did your loved one die in California without a Trust or a Will?
  • Or did they have a Will and own large investments or California real estate?
  • Or did they have a Trust, but their home or investments were not in the Trust?
  • Do you need a Court Order to transfer their assets?
  • Do you need some direction on how to get started?

If you answered yes, you need a Probate Attorney.

Laura does not charge for the initial consultation, which can be by phone or video conference. At this meeting, she will ask for details about the family of the deceased, their Will or Trust (if any), and all the assets. Once she has the necessary information, she will be able to provide a quote for the legal fee and lay out a plan for handling the process through the County Court. Then you can decide if you wish to proceed.

Trust Administration Questions

– Do I really need an attorney when my loved one had a Living Trust?

Usually you do, because California has strong protections for beneficiaries of Trusts and the Trustee needs to comply with those laws before distributing any assets. Certain persons are entitled to copies of the Trust along with a specific legal notification regarding the terms of the Trust. And the Trustee is normally required to provide a formal legal accounting of every penny received and spent. Also, to prevent disputes, all beneficiaries should agree on the distribution plan in writing before they receive their gifts. A Trustee can be personally liable if they fail to follow the law. There are also a number of other considerations that an attorney can assist with, including how long to reserve funds for future expenses like taxes and debts, and making sure that tax basis gets stepped up on the assets, so beneficiaries will get income tax benefits.

– Isn’t using a Trust much faster and cheaper than a Probate?

Normally yes, unless there is a disgruntled family member who decides to sue the Trustee. Often it can take a few months or more to collect the assets in the Trustee’s name, reach agreement with the beneficiaries, and distribute the initial bulk of the assets. But it can often take 3 years -or more – to completely close out a Trust, depending on the situation.

– Don’t the Trust assets transfer automatically?

Nope. An experienced Trust attorney will prepare documents to simplify this process for the Trustee. It is still a tedious, detail-oriented task that can take months, depending on the company.

– Does a Trust save on estate taxes?

It depends on the Trust and the value of the assets.

– Can someone object to a Trust or remove a Trustee?

Yes, this often happens when a Trustee fails to share information about the Trust and what is happening with the process of administering the assets. Trustees are required to provide information to Trust beneficiaries upon request, and to prevent problems, Trustees should do so without waiting for a request.

– I am the named Trustee. What if I don’t want to serve?

You are not required to serve as anyone’s Trustee. It is a huge and liability-filled role that can be incredibly stressful. Laura can assist you in reviewing the Trust rules to determine who would serve if you resigned, or whether you could appoint a person of your choice. Sometimes we need to obtain a Court Order to do this and sometimes it can be done informally. Often families prefer to hand the complex role of Trustee over to a professional Trustee, also called a California licensed professional fiduciary (CLPF). Using a fiduciary will provide huge benefits, including room to grieve as a family, without the stress of taking time off work, postponing family vacations, managing all the Trust assets, paying the bills, dealing with taxes, working with an attorney, and handling every other small detail of the Trust administration over the next few years. If you are interested in this option, Laura can provide you with recommendations for excellent fiduciaries in the Bay Area.

– What if someone is disinherited in the Trust? Do they get a copy of it anyway?

It depends on whether they are protected by the California Trust Law. If the statute requires it, then yes. The closest living heirs will typically fall into this category.

Are you ready to make a plan with Laura for your loved one’s Trust Administration?

Currently, Laura offers consultations by video or phone. Email Laura below or give her a call at (925) 253-3100 to set up your initial consultation.

Use the Contact Form below to get started.

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