Why you need an estate plan
A will is fundamental
If you die without a will, the state of California will choose the guardian for your minor children, and your assets will be distributed according to intestate laws.
If you die without a trust, and you have over $100,000 in assets, the California courts will administer the distribution of your estate in a process called Probate.
Probate is Expensive:
Probate fees are calculated by a state mandated formula, and they range from 1-4 percent of your total estate. As an example, the probate fees for an estate worth $750,000 (including outstanding loans) will be $36,000. This is a significant amount of money that will not be passed to your heirs. Moreover, if your estate does not have liquid assets, your family may have to sell property to pay the probate fees.
Probate is Slow:
Probate normally takes 1-2 years to complete. Therefore, when you die, your spouse, children and other beneficiaries must wait before they receive assets from your estate. This process can take even longer with court delays or family disputes.
Probate Lacks Privacy:
Probate is a public procedure. Therefore, all of your financial and personal records become public documents. Anybody can walk into the Probate Clerk’s office, and access all of your personal and financial information. Strangers can find out that your spouse or children are about to inherit your property, and this could be dangerous information in the hands of the wrong person.
Advantages of a Trust
If you have a trust, you control the way your assets are managed and disposed of, either at death or during incapacity.
- No probate
- No conservatorship for your minor children
- Potential to avoid creditor claims
- Avoid or reduce estate taxes
For general estate planning information, check out what the California State Bar has to say about Estate Planning.