Pleasanton Wills And Trusts Lawyer
A comprehensive estate plan is composed of several different elements that work together to protect your assets during your lifetime and distribute your property after you pass away. Two key components of an effective estate plan are wills and trusts. While both of these documents may be incorporated into an estate plan, they delineate very different aspects of life.
There are many options at your disposal when it comes to estate planning, so much so that it can feel quite overwhelming. Understanding how wills and trusts are used to protect and hand down your property is the first step to creating an estate plan that you are happy with. If you are ready to start planning for yours and your loved one’s future, consider speaking with an experienced John Park Law estate planning attorney today at 925-320-7077.
What Is a Will?
A Last Will and Testament (will) is a document that details how you would like your assets to be distributed following your death and, if applicable, how your minor children will be cared for in your absence. Wills can also be used to describe any final arrangements (cremation/burial, etc.) that you wish to be carried out. Without a will, these decisions will be made by the court or state officials and can lead to contention among loved ones if there is disagreement regarding the handling of your affairs.
There are several different types of wills, such as:
- Testamentary wills
- Holographic wills
- Oral wills
- Pour-over wills
- Mutual wills
Legally speaking, wills are relatively straightforward documents that go into effect once you pass away. Moreover, they sometimes can streamline the distribution process and allow your inheritors to access your assets faster and easier, without contention. Wills that are written and witnessed (i.e. testamentary wills) are considered ideal and must follow strict state guidelines when creating to be enforceable.
It is important to bear in mind that wills do not avoid probate. Even though wills specify beneficiaries, the assets in question must still pass through the probate process before they can be fully distributed to the named beneficiaries. However, even though a will does not avoid probate, it is better to have a will than no will. If you do not have a will, the State of California has a will for you called intestate succession, which dictates who will receive your assets and in what proportion they are to receive your assets.
What Is a Trust?
At first glance, it can be difficult to differentiate between a will and trust, but there are key differences between the two. Trusts come in different forms and are typically considered more complicated than wills. While a will discusses an individual’s entire estate, a trust is generally used to protect specific assets. Additionally, a trust is effective immediately upon creation. This means that once you create a trust and transfer assets into it, those assets are protected from probate.
In the same way that there are different types of wills, there are also multiple forms of trusts that can be created. Broadly speaking, we can look at two categories of trusts:
- Revocable trusts
- Irrevocable trusts
Because trusts are used to protect specific assets, they are commonly favored by individuals who own property, hold life insurance with minor children, or have a blended family with assets. Trusts allow you to specify how a particular asset will be distributed, giving trust-holders greater control of their property, instead of leaving that decision to the State.
Wills Vs. Trusts: Which Is Better?
Simply put, it depends on your assets and specific situation. Both are used to create a comprehensive estate plan and carry-out specific benefits. To determine how these documents can work for you, it is important to holistically consider your goals, assets, and needs early on. Failing to implement these documents in advance can lead to serious issues down the line.
A key benefit of trusts is that they minimize or avoid probate altogether. This can be a major advantage for many people, justifying the added complexity of trust creation. Essentially, the process of handing down assets using a trust remains private, whereas passing down property through a will becomes a public process through probate.
How Can a John Park Law Estate Planning Attorney Help?
Whether you are creating a will or a trust, certain legal protocol must be followed in order for these documents to be considered enforceable. For this reason, seeking assistance from an estate planning attorney is imperative.
John Park Law is a leading California law firm dedicated to helping individuals create an estate plan that protects their assets to the fullest extent. Planning wills and trusts well in advance can help alleviate the emotional and financial stress of lengthy court proceedings following your passing. Call us at 925-320-7077 to start crafting your estate plan today.