Wills & Trusts
Orange County Wills, Trusts, & Living Trusts Lawyer
Creating a Will or Trust in Orange County, CA - (714) 384-6053
For most individuals, estate planning involves drafting a will so that your assets and property are distributed to the right people after you pass away. However, many people do not realize creating a will does not ensure their estate will avoid probate court in California.
At Mortensen & Reinheimer, PC, our ultimate goal is to help you and your loved ones avoid probate and trust litigation whenever possible. The first step in that process is understanding the difference between wills and living trusts. With 50+ years of combined experience, our trust and wills lawyers can help you assess your legal options and successfully navigate the process ahead.
What is a Will?
A will is a legal document detailing what an individual wants to happen after they die. This includes their final wishes regarding their remains as well as how they want their money, assets, and property to be distributed.
Facts About Wills:
- Wills are often beneficial for those who have money and property valued less than $150,000.
- Wills still require the probate process.
- Wills can only take effect after the individual creating the document passes.
- After the individual passes away, the document will have to be verified as the true will before a probate judge.
- The assets listed on the document have to be distributed through estate and trust litigation.
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.
Can You Leave Property Without a Will?
Certain kinds of assets can be transferred directly to named beneficiaries by other means. These can be handled by living trusts and other alternative legal documents and procedures.
Some of the assets eligible for transfer include:
- Life insurance benefits
- Pay on death assets
- Retirement plans, including IRA and 401(k)
- Trustee bank accounts
- Transfer on death securities accounts
Orange County Living Trust Attorney
Much like a will, a living or revocable trust also documents how you want your affairs handled after you pass away. The major difference between a will and a living trust is that living trusts do not require probate. Additionally, a living trust will take effect as soon as it is created.
Facts About Living Trusts:
- Trusts are placed in the control of a person or other entity, such as a company, known as "trustee."
- Trustees are in charge of handling the property according to the wishes of the trustor in trust administration proceedings, with duties to uphold as required by statutory law.
- Trustors can identify beneficiaries to benefit from the trust at specific times or in specific situations.
- Living trusts can take effect during the trustor's lifetime and extend for years after their death.
- A trust allows a trustor to ensure their estate is distributed according to their wishes by a designated trustee, rather than by an impersonal probate judge.
There are various types of trusts that can be created, depending upon each trustor's unique situation and needs. Our Orange County living trust lawyers can go over these types of trusts in further detail.
Developing an Irrevocable Trust in Orange County
In addition to living trusts, there are also irrevocable trusts, which cannot be altered during your lifetime. While these trusts cannot be altered, they do provide stronger protections against future liability and estate taxes.
Facts About Irrevocable Trusts:
- Irrevocable trusts can effectively protect your assets by removing the assets within from your possession, and therefor your estate
- The trustee for an irrevocable trust cannot be you, a close family member, or an agent who otherwise acts on your behalf
- Trustees of irrevocable trusts have the sole discretion to act in the best interests of the trust's beneficiaries and the trust settlor's best wishes
- Common types of irrevocable trusts include charitable trusts, life insurance trusts, special needs trusts, and asset protection trusts
What is Trust Administration?
Trust Administration refers to the management and distribution of trust property by a legally designated person, usually referred to as a trustee. This is to be done in the best interests of the beneficiaries of the trust estate and in accordance with the trustor’s wishes. When property, especially but not exclusively real estate, is to be transferred from a deceased loved one’s trust to his or her beneficiaries, the property must be temporarily put under the control of a successor trustee before being distributed according to trust guidelines. As long as the trust is not successfully contested, the successor trustee has all the powers given to him or her by that trust.
The Duties of a Trustee
California state law puts trustees under obligation to perform certain duties and bar them from taking any actions not deemed in the best interests of the trust. A line of successor trustees are designated in the trust. They are only given the power to act if the first-named trustee or trustees either pass away or become incapacitated.
Trustees are expected to administer the property under their care in accordance with the trust and in conformity to state law. They must properly notify all beneficiaries and are obligated to manage the trust estate in a financially responsible manner. They must also avoid creating any conflict of interest or benefiting in any way from their position as a temporary property holder. They must also pay the taxes on the property, settle all relevant debts, and keep detailed financial records. If they violate the terms of the trust or any of their duties as a trustee, their acts could be declared non-binding and can be removed by the beneficiaries. Additionally, beneficiaries also have the right to request and receive from the trustee, a properly constructed financial disclosure statement.
Work with Seasoned Orange County Trust Attorneys Today
Contact the offices of Mortensen & Reinheimer, PC at your earliest convenience to speak with our wills and trusts lawyers and find out what we can do for you. Our professional corporation is dedicated to helping clients avoid probate and draft detailed wills and living trusts so their estate is in order prior to their passing. No matter your age or health, our estate planning attorneys encourage you to take advantage of our skill and knowledge.
We are in the business of helping families just like yours plan for the future in the most sensible and beneficial ways possible, and we are proud to have been successful in that effort. Read the testimonials of our previous clients to understand what it's like to work with our Orange County estate planning attorneys.
“Noah is so knowledgeable, informative and very caring.”- Roxanne B.
“I'm extremely happy with the advice and resultant estate plans provided.”- Annette F.
“Ms. Reinheimer's excellence in these areas is clearly apparent.”- Susan B.
We handle each case on a one-on-one basis and explore all possible options with you.
We strive for excellence. Our knowledgeable and courteous staff work hard so that you don't have to.
With 50 years of combined experience, we've handled cases of all types and can confidently help you.