Many trust and probate cases involve complex legal matters. Furthering the complexity, such cases also bring tension between family members. Our East Bay Area, California litigation law firm is dedicated to protecting the rights of our clients while working towards solutions that minimize costs associated with litigation. We take care to balance sensitivity to family difficulties faced by the parties, with the need for aggressive representation to protect our client’s rights.
When a person who has a will dies and the estate is greater than $100,000, probate may be necessary. Estates that are governed by living trusts, and estates consisting of joint tenancy assets or pay-on-death accounts are not subject to probate. The first step is to determine if a probate is necessary.
A good estate plan can protect your assets, provide for your family and give you peace of mind. Failure to properly plan could cost your estate thousands of dollars that would have otherwise been passed onto your heirs. At a minimum, an estate plan should include a will, power of attorney, and health care directive. Depending on your situation and needs, a number of other estate vehicles can be developed to achieve specific goals.
A will serves many purposes. It names a trusted person to handle the transfer of the estate and directs the transfer. It can appoint a guardian, should children or vulnerable adults be left behind. Narrative text can express feelings and final communications. Finally, you can avoid any confusion or disputes by clarifying the status of a former spouse or step-children. Even if you have a trust, you still need a will.
To avoid probate, a trust may be created that will not be considered part of the estate when you pass away. Most estates must be probated in order to determine the validity of a will and proper distribution of assets. It is important to hire an experienced trust lawyer to help you create a plan that avoids probate.
In the event a person becomes unable to handle financial and legal matters, the durable power of attorney designates a representative (18 years of age or older) to handle these affairs on their behalf. If you do not draft a durable power of attorney and become incapacitated, the court will appoint a conservator to handle your affairs. Conservatorships are expensive, and runs the risk of a stranger making important decisions on your behalf.