more than say who gets your baseball card collection; for example, you can leave instructions on who you want to raise your children, or who will represent you to clear up your affairs, or how you want to be interred.
A will is often the first step in a broader estate plan which may include powers of attorney, advance medical directives, and trusts.
A trust is a powerful tool to administer your estate both during your life and afterwards. Trusts can be very effective in legally avoiding excessive taxes as well as assuring continuity of your intent for the maintenance and distribution of your property. A trust can allow you to spread out payments over time to beneficiaries to allow you to control the flow of assets as if you were there or control how real property is held and used.
There are several types of trusts that you can utilize, based upon your needs, including revocable and irrevocable trusts, credit shelters, marital deduction and qualified terminable interest property (QTIP) trusts, multi-generational or generation-skipping trusts (GST), and charitable trusts. Quite often people will be the original trustee of their own revocable "living" trust (meaning they can change it or revoke it entirely during their life) which become irrevocable upon their death and the appointment of a "successor trustee."
One significant advantage of a trust is that there is no requirement that the decedent's estate go through probate like a will (even if a will is a part of the trust). The trustee, designated by the trust, administers the trust assets as stated in the trust and any incorporated will. The trustee acts as a continuation of the control of the person who made the trust (the trustor) according to the wishes expressed by the trustor in the trust instrument.
A simple (and common) example of how a trust transcends the scope of a will is that in California you cannot will money to a pet for its continued upkeep, but you can establish a trust funded for that purpose.
When a person, because of age or
illness or mental disability, is not
capable of looking after their own
interests, they may be assisted by a
conservator. A conservatorship can be
set up after a judge decides that a person
(called a "conservatee") cannot take care of
him/herself or his/her finances. A judge will
choose another person or organization
(called the "conservator") to be in charge of
the conservatee's care or finances, or both.
A conservator can be a family member,
friend, or professional.
A conservatorship may be of the person (making decisions about where the conservatee lives, managing their healthcare, clothing and recreation) or of their estate (making financial decisions, inventorying and protecting the property of the conservatee, keeping financial records and making periodic reports).
Will or Trust Contests
When heirs or potential heirs do not like how a will or trust is written or enforced, they have the legal option to contest the disposition of the estate. If you are contesting or defending in probate court you need an experienced lawyer who understand the intricacies of probate law as well as the litigation skills to successfully prosecute or defend the estate.
Wills and trusts often have a "no contest" or in terrorem (literally "in terror") clause; these are intended to dissuade (or put fear into) people who would otherwise contest them. Designed to protect the decedent's intent as expressed through the documents, they generally reduce a beneficiary's stake in an estate to nothng or a nominal amount if they mount a contest. However, not all "no contest" clauses are well drafted, which can allow a knowledgable attorney to circumvent them or show that they are not applicable to the current challenge. A contest nearly always involves a court battle, and many estate and probate attorneys handle only the document creation or uncontested administration of estates.
Bloomfield Law Group, Inc., is a full-service firm that can assist you from the beginning of forming an estate plan through drafting documents (including strong "no contest" clauses!) to defending that estate. While there are never any guarantees, and each case is different, if you have been unfairly treated in a will or trust, we may be able to assist you in gaining satisfaction even in the face of a "no contest" clause.
Bloomfield Law Group, Inc.
A Professional Corporation
Probate, Wills and Trusts
901 E Street, Suite 100, San Rafael CA 94901 415-454-2294 415-457-5348 Fax Info@njblaw.com
You can't take it with you, but you can decide what is done with everything you have accumulated during your life. You can also help preserve your money and property for those you leave behind from the grasp of the tax collector.
We often avoid preparing our wills even though we understand how important they are. While you may not want to think about death, it's important to draft - and update as necessary - a will to make certain that you decide how to apportion your assets, not a judge based upon general
legal principles. Your will can do much