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Frequently Asked Questions

Estate Planning Lawyer in Orange County

  • What is an estate plan?
    An excellent estate plan provides security for your loved ones and gives you certainty that your property will be passed on to those whom you desire to receive it. Generally, an excellent estate plan will be comprised of a will/will substitute, trust, powers of attorney, and medical directives.
  • Who needs an estate plan?
    No estate is too large or too small to be eligible for an estate plan. No matter the size of your estate, you should have an estate plan so that you are prepared for the future with someone designated to manage your assets and/or make decisions in the event you are unable to do so yourself.
  • What is a trust?
    A trust is a legal document that acts much like a will by documenting how you want your affairs handled after you pass away. Trusts are placed in the control of a person or other entity, known as a "trustee," who is in charge of handling the property according to the wishes of the deceased. Please note, there are various types of trusts, each of which has its own requirements and benefits.
  • What powers does a trustee have?
    A trustee will have the duties designated in the trust, as well as the statutory duties that are required by law. There are several statutory duties applicable to trustees to ensure that they are carrying out the trust in the manner the trustor wished.
  • What is a power of attorney?
    A power of attorney is a legal document that gives another person the legal power to act on your behalf when you are unable to do so.
  • What is probate?
    Probate is the process of determining the rights and obligations of a person's legal matters and finances after they die, including debt resolution and the clearing of titles. This must all be accomplished before a single relative or heir can receive any part of the decedent's property.
  • How long is the probate process?
    The length of the probate process depends upon the complexity of the estate. One must take into account the required periods of time, such as a four-month creditor's claims period, as well as the availability of court dates, and any other problems that may arise along the way.
  • What is an executor/administrator?
    An executor is a personal representative named in the will by the deceased. The executor is responsible for carrying out the probate process, by protecting the deceased person's property and distributing it accordingly. There are certain situations in which the court must appoint a personal representative to carry out these duties, which is known as the administrator.
  • What does a will do?
    A will allows a person to state how they want their estate distributed, as well as to whom. It is a common misconception that those who pass with a will avoid the probate process. However, wills must still be distributed through the probate process, unlike non-probate transfers such as trusts.
  • What happens if you die without a will?
    When a person passes without a will or will substitute, their entire estate must pass through the probate process. The lack of will requires a decedent's estate to be distributed according to the intestacy statutes rather than being distributed according to their wishes.

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