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Modern Estate Planning Blog

Elder Law & Special Needs Planning

Wills vs Trusts in Sacramento – Which Do You Need?

May 9, 2012

Estate planning with an attorney in Northern California is an important step to making sure that your assets will be distributed the way you would like after your death. There are a number of options available, as any estate planning lawyer can tell you. Do you need a will? A trust? Is it possible that you don’t need either?

It’s the very rare person in California who doesn’t need to do any estate planning at all. You may think that because you don’t have a massive estate that the distribution process would be simple and straightforward. Unfortunately, that is not often the case. Instead, your estate, no matter how large or small, will have to go through the probate process and will be distributed according to CA state law.

Generally speaking, your assets will go to your nearest living relative, which could be a spouse, parent, or child. This is, of course, after the probate process has taken place, and any number of court and attorney’s fees have been deducted. If no living relatives can be found, it’s likely that all of your assets will become property of the state to do with as it pleases.

Consideration for a Will

If you’re trying to determine the benefits of wills vs trusts, here are some good things to keep in mind.

  • Wills are often sufficient for those leaving behind less than $150,000 in assets
  • If you want to leave something to a friend, non-registered domestic partner, or organization you support, a will gives you this opportunity
  • A will allows you to choose who will carry out your wishes regarding your estate (the executor of the will)
  • If you have dependent children, a will can provide you the opportunity to name their guardians in the event  of your death, rather than leaving that choice solely to the courts
  • Keep in mind that a will doesn’t keep your estate out of probate, so those costs and the time involved will still apply
  • When your estate goes through probate, all the matters become part of the public record

Considerations for a Trust

  • Those who own a home should generally consider a trust, as should those whose assets are worth more than $150,000
  • Like a will, the trust can usually be revoked or modified while you are still living
  • Unlike a will, however, a trust allows your beneficiaries to skip the probate process
  • Trusts are held private and the details of them are not made part of the public record

Working with a Fair Oaks Estate Planning Lawyer for Best Results

It’s highly recommended that individuals utilize the expertise of a Sacramento estate planning attorney when considering the wills vs trusts debate. This skilled professional will be able to steer you in the right direction, not to mention he or she will have experience using wills and trusts to reduce estate taxes, set up funds for surviving family members, and conduct charitable giving in a way that fits your values. By choosing an estate planning lawyer in Fair Oaks, you ensure you are working with someone who is familiar with state and local laws for even better protection.

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