A Primer from Your San Diego Wills and Trusts Lawyer
Wills and trusts lawyers in San Diego handle so much more than just the creation of legal documents. One of the most important parts of the job is educating and guiding clients through their options, which often depend on the client’s unique financial and family needs. Commoditized, standardized, fill in the blank documents almost always fall short of meeting the needs of San Diego families.
Estate planning lawyers use all kinds of strategies to help clients
- provide for their own needs against the possibility that they will not be able to speak or act for themselves,
- protect their assets,
- provide for future generations
Guidance provided by estate planning attorneys can extend beyond the creation of legal documents and structures. Sometimes it can be about your retirement planning options or might include recommendations regarding life insurance and the best way to hold or pay for it.
All of that being said, when father and mothers in Poway or Pacific Beach think of trusts, they think of estate planning, wills and trusts lawyers. When grandparents in Otay Lakes or La Mesa think of wills, they think of estate planning, wills and trusts attorneys. Only an attorney can help utilize wills and trust to provide for your wishes to be followed, when you are unable to voice them yourself, and to protect your assets.
To that end, today’s blog article is a basic introduction to wills and trusts.
Trusts are a great tool for protecting an estate because they provide tax benefits, privacy, and the ability to minimize drawn-out and potentially expensive probate proceedings. A wills and trusts lawyer can help you create the trust. Trusts offer enormous flexibility in dictating how your assets can be, or should be, handled when you are unable to do so yourself. Your personal values and goals in providing for others should be reflected in the trust documents you create. Unrestricted support trusts and lump sum distribution wills and trust too often do harm. Each of us wants the life’s work to make a difference when we are gone. Most of my Clients don’t want to leave inheritances to their children or grandchildren in such a way as discourages hard work and achievement.
Trusts are a hybrid between business entities and contracts. Modern trusts trace their roots back to the English King, Henry VIII. Trusts can only affect and control what they own. Most people use their revocable living trusts like gloves. All that they own, they hold in their hands through the trust. When you create your trust, you will be able to choose whose hand should slide into that glove to manage your assets if you are not able to do so. During your lifetime, revocable trusts are invisible for tax purposes. This means that any income or loss created by assets within the trust must be reported on your own personal tax return. It is your income. Likewise, in California, the assets in a revocable living trust remain vulnerable as your assets if you are sued or owe taxes.
In addition to flexible revocable trusts there are many other available trust uses, like providing protection from your own potential future creditors and shifting growth to the outside of your taxable estate. There are many trust options available, so it’s best to really go through the options with an estate planning, wills and trust lawyer in San Diego in order to determine what makes the most sense for you and your family.
A will, on the other hand, acts as a set of instructions as to what you wish to have happen when you die. Wills nominate executors, but those nominated executors have no real power unless they are then appointed to that post by a court proceeding. This court proceeding, called probate, tightly scrutinizes and exposes to family and public scrutiny, all actions taken by the appointed executor.
Before living trusts became affordable and the probate process became so expensive and drawn out Wills were the way things were handled. To avoid the hassle of transferring assets during your lifetime – most trusts were contained within Wills and were given life, and supervised, by the court overseeing the probate. It is now rare for Californians to intentionally pass their assets through a Will. The costs of administering a will are too high, the process tends to make family members fight, and it takes so long.
Although Probate has become a process to be avoided, Wills still have a place. They are an excellent tool to use to name who you wish to have as the guardian for your children. Wills are also an excellent tool which can be used by older married couples to protect assets against a disabled spouse’s disability care costs.
The best way to move forward is to work with a wills and trusts lawyer to develop both a will and one or more trusts. Yes, there are a lot of choices, but a San Diego wills and trusts lawyer can simplify the entire process for you and offer expert advice to help you develop and implement a solid strategy for the future.
As an aside, wills and trusts are not the only important things you will want to discuss with your lawyer. Your estate plan should also include documents such as powers of attorney and advance medical directives to ensure that your choices for helpers are known should you become incapacitate or disabled. Again, a good San Diego wills and trusts lawyer is a great resource for getting things underway. Please call me for help getting started creating a will, trust or more involved estate plan to protect your family. Call (619) 281-1888