San Diego Wills and Trusts Lawyer
Rarely does one know when they are going to die or become incapacitated. If you were to die or become incapacitated today, what would happen to your family, your business or your property? An experienced San Diego wills and trusts lawyer at Thorsen Legal can help you prepare.
What is a Will?
A will is a legal document which contains a person’s last wishes regarding the distribution of his or her property, or estate, after death. A will takes effect at your death. Once you die, you are referred to as the decedent, your property is referred to as your estate and the person you appointed in your will to handle and distribute your property to your heirs is called the estate administrator.
If you do not have a will in place at death, your assets will be distributed through a process called probate. The probate process can be lengthy and costly and overall a burden to your family. Probate can also result in your property going to a person you don’t want it to go to.
A will must be signed by two witnesses. Failure to adhere to the strict rules governing the legitimacy of a will, may invalidate your will. For this reason, it’s best to have an experienced trusts and estates lawyer assist you with your will preparation. Because a will doesn’t take effect until your death, it is not useful for planning for incapacity.
What is a Trust?
Unlike a will, a living trust (sometimes called an inter vivos trust or revocable trust) takes effect during your lifetime. Therefore, in addition to planning for death, a living trust can help you plan for incapacity.
To properly fund your trust, you must transfer or title assets in the name of the trust during your lifetime. Because the transfer of the assets happens during life, the transition of control post death is a smoother process.
Typically, during your lifetime, you will serve as your own trustee of the trust. This means that you manage the assets in the trust and the trust’s income / capital gains are taxed to you as an individual. After your death or incapacity, the person(s) or entity that you name as “successor trustee” takes over management of the property.
The trustee manages and distributes the assets of the trust in accordance with the directions that you provide. This means that you can keep assets from being distributed until your children or beneficiaries reach a certain age or only for certain purposes (such as the costs of education, buying a home, starting a business, a wedding, etc.). This allows you to have some degree of control over the spending of your money post-death.
Why Have an Estate Plan?
Estate planning is not just for the wealthy. If you have a family, if you own a home, if you have a business or any level of assets, you will likely benefit from estate planning.
If you don’t have an estate plan in place, you may have no control over who handles your assets after your death and how they are distributed. In fact, the government will handle the process through a probate proceeding. This could cost a lot of money and delay the distribution of your assets to the people who need them most.
Having a proper estate plan in place can allow you to:
- Choose who handles your property and affairs post death.
- Provide financial support for heirs or dependents in an expedient manner.
- Name the guardians of your children.
- Help your business continue to prosper with a proper business succession plan.
- Plan for if you become mentally or physically disabled.
- Declare your wishes regarding end of life medical treatment, burial and funeral.
- Influence how your children or heirs spend their inheritance.
- Protect your assets and reduce estate taxes.
- Donate to your favorite charity.
- Avoid probate.
Contact a San Diego Wills and Trusts Attorney
A San Diego wills and trusts lawyer at Thorsen Legal can assist clients with drafting wills and trusts, determining the beneficiaries of wills and trusts, estate administration and probate proceedings. Our estate attorneys can help determine the validity of a will, assist with administration of a trust, help with estate distributions, or draft your estate planning documents. If you need a will and trust attorney, contact us today at (512)-761-5197 for a free consultation.