b2ap3_thumbnail_shutterstock_337113344.jpgA will is an invaluable resource in ensuring that the assets that comprise your estate will go to the individuals and institutions you wish to benefit after your passing. If there is no will, California’s default rules – the laws of intestate succession – will determine what individuals (family members of increasing remoteness) and will inherit your estate and in what proportions they will inherit.

In some instances, it may be preferable to rely on intestate succession, thereby avoiding the cost and delay of probating a will in probate court. For many people, however, a will brings both precision and peace of mind in the distribution of wealth, property, and heirlooms after death. A will is powerful and a flexible estate planning instrument that is capable of even regulating many distributions over a long time in lieu of a one-time bulk sum. The intra-will device that allows for this is what is known as a “testamentary trust.” If you have young children or relatives, a testamentary trust is something well-worth considering as work in consultation with an estate planning attorney to draft your will.

Planning for the Future of Young Children with a Testamentary Trust

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b2ap3_thumbnail_shutterstock_1025098705.jpgIt is already so difficult to lose a loved one. When, after the grieving, remembrances, and respects paid, the loved one’s will does not seem to square with his or her stated intentions and wishes with regard to the probate estate, the sense of loss is joined by one of grievance and injustice. While some wills and trusts, though surprising in their dispensation of assets, are perfectly valid, others may be rightly contested on legal grounds for lacking validity. The purpose of this article is to set out the reasons which may render a will invalid upon formal contest in California.

 

Seven Reasons to Contest a Will in California

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b2ap3_thumbnail_Untitled-design-37.jpgToo many individuals associate estate planning with death and in doing so turn away from what is truly valuable instrument of asset protection and financial management. A great place to begin learning about and utilizing estate planning is what is known as a “living trust.” This estate planning resource can allow you to both protect assets from taxation and entanglement in government programs and transfer your estate to your loved ones when the time is right and through a mechanism that bypasses the time and expense of probate. To begin benefiting from estate planning, whether through a living trust, will, or other resource, rely on an experienced Fremont estate planning attorney.

Asset Protection is One Function of a Living Trust

Unlike a will, which becomes effective only upon your death, a living trust is effective while you are living (thus the name “living trust”). For many, a primary reason to create a living trust is to protect assets from taxes and government health care programs such as Medicare and Medicaid. This form of lawful asset protection is accomplished when legal title is transferred from you (the “Grantor”) to a “trustee.” The trustee holds the assets in trust for those who have selected to benefit from them (the “beneficiaries”).  Importantly, the law even allows for you to be the trustee of your own living trust, which allows you to retain full control of the assets held in the trust. While you are living, whether as both grantor and trustee or merely grantor, the transfer of title from yourself as an individual to a separate trustee or to yourself as trustee facilitates the protection of trust assets from taxes and government health care programs like Medicaid and Medicare. Such asset protection, naturally, allows you to bequeath more to your loved ones and other intended beneficiaries at the time of your death.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_shutterstock_632562152.jpgIf you have saved money and acquired assets, you likely know firsthand the work it takes to do so. To make that work matter as much as it can for as long as it can, you need to engage in intelligent, active estate planning. Broadly speaking, wills and trusts are the core components of estate planning, with your will taking effect upon your death and a trust taking place, depending on its type, before or after your death. A living trust, which can go into effect during your lifetime, may be designed to protect assets from taxation and government healthcare programs such as Medicaid and Medicare—thus allowing you to better protect assets for future generations. To create a living trust in California, contact an experienced Fremont estate planning attorney.

A Revocable Living Trust May Be Altered During Your Lifetime

There are two types of living trusts: 1) a revocable living trust, and 2) an irrevocable living trust. With regard to each, if you are the designer of the trust (i.e. the protector of the assets), the legal term for your role is “grantor.” As the grantor of a revocable living trust, you have the power of revocation (another legal term, for change or alteration). The power of revocation allows you, even after creating the trust and filling it with initial assets, to change the trust’s beneficiaries (those you intend to benefit from the assets of the trust) as well as add or remove assets at your discretion. As such, the flexibility inherent in a revocable living trust functions as a tool of asset management to be utilized while you are alive—looking out for the best interests of family and other loved ones in real time as life happens.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_Untitled-design-8.jpgIt can be traumatic when the loss of a loved one is coupled with shock and surprise over a will that descends the contents of an estate in a way that appears inconsistent with the intentions of the deceased testator. If this scenario has taken the unfortunate turn from hypothetical to real in the wake of the loss of your parent, spouse, child, or other close relative, you may have the option to formally contest the validity of the will in question. In doing so, work closely with an experienced Fremont wills and trusts attorney.

A Will Must Comply With Applicable State Laws to be Valid

Wills and trusts are serious business. As such, a will must comply with all formalities imposed by state law in order to be regarded as valid. For example, the will must be signed by the person whose estate it concerns (the “Testator”). In addition, the Testator’s signing of the will occur in the presence and hearing of two valid witnesses. In most cases, in order to be a valid witness of a will, one must not be a beneficiary of the will. 

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