Judith advises and guides clients through the estate planning and estate administration process with experience, skills, and personal attention.
Whether you are creating a new estate plan, updating your existing plan, handling a Probate or Trust Administration, or have questions regarding the process, Judith is here to help.
Everyone needs a plan.
The purpose of an estate plan is to state your wishes for the disposition of your assets on your death, and designate the individuals you entrust to carry out your wishes. It is also to plan for management of your finances and health care during your life in the event you are not able to do so.
A Will is a legal document that provides for distribution of assets in your name to designated beneficiaries on your death. A will also specifies the person (Executor) you wish to administer the estate on death. A court proceeding (Probate) is necessary to administer a Will, and have the assets in your name distributed to your beneficiaries.
Advance Health Care Directive
An Advance Health Care Directive is a legal document that designates another person to make health care decisions for you and to clearly state your wishes regarding end-of-life decisions.
A Living Trust provides for management of assets during your lifetime, and directs how assets are to be distributed on your death. It also designates the individuals/entities who will manage the trust estate in the event of your incapacity, and administer the Trust on your death.
The Trust is established by a written agreement between the creator of the Trust (Settlor) and the person designated to manage the Trust (Trustee). On creating the Trust, the Settlor and Trustee are usually the same person. The Settlor is the primary beneficiary of the Trust, and retains full control over their assets during their lifetime, with the ability to amend and revoke the Trust.
The Trust takes effect when executed, though assets must be transferred into the Trust for the Trust to be effective over those assets.
A Will is still necessary to designate the Trust as beneficiary for any assets still held in decedent’s name.
As part of your estate plan, you may support organizations whose interests are aligned with yours by establishing a plan for Charitable Giving. The gifts can be made while you are living or after your death.
When a person dies, there are various steps to take to administer the estate, whether it is a Probate or Trust Administration.
Probate is the Court-supervised process of moving assets from the name of a deceased individual to their heirs or beneficiaries.
In a Probate proceeding, an executor (if there is a will) or an administrator (if there is no will) is appointed by the court as personal representative to collect the assets, pay the debts and expenses, and distribute the remainder of the estate to the beneficiaries.
The Probate process can be lengthy and expensive. The attorney and executor compensation is established by California statute and based on the value of the estate.
Non-Probate Estate Administration
There are situations where an experienced attorney is helpful to facilitate transfer of title to assets that are jointly held, or held as community property.
A Trust document states the terms and conditions for management of assets held in the Trust. There are certain requirements that a Trustee must follow to comply with state and federal law, and to meet the requirements set forth in the Trust.
Trustees have the responsibility to make sure the Trust is implemented properly. The process of implementing the trust includes communicating with heirs and beneficiaries, making distributions, filing necessary accountings and tax returns. This process is what is known as Trust Administration.
If a person had a Living Trust, and transferred their assets into the Trust, then no Probate is necessary to transfer those assets to their beneficiaries on death.
Even when there is no Probate required, trust administration is still necessary.
Engaging an experienced attorney to advise a Trustee in the fulfillment of their duties and to obtain correct advice at the outset will minimize issues in the administration process.