If you’re beginning the process of estate planning, you’ve probably run into a lot of unfamiliar terms and complicated descriptions. One of those might be the recommendation to create a living trust instead of simply writing a will.
If you’re considering a living trust for your estate, you should also consider hiring a living trust attorney or someone who is well-versed in how to set up a living trust properly and legally.
What a Living Trust Attorney Does
A living trust attorney is an attorney who specializes in probate law and understands the legal intricacies of creating a living trust. A living trust attorney should have experience drafting living trusts and writing wills, but the best living trust attorneys have experience with trust litigation.
What is a Living Trust?
A living trust is very different from a will and has many advantages over a will. Most people in California will need a living trust, but some can get away with just a will. However, they will have to be extra careful about following their attorneys’ instructions if they are just going to have a will.
One of the stressors of a loved one’s passing is needing to settle their estate and work through the probate court process. There is endless paperwork to fill out when someone passes away. With a living trust, you can minimize this stress for your family after your death by at least eliminating the need for court intervention.
The reason the living trust is labeled as such is because you can create it and manage it while you’re still living. As long as you are alive and have capacity, the living trust remains revocable. You can change it, terminate it, and add and remove assets.
Once you’ve created a living trust, your assets are transferred over to the trust, which you can then manage. Really all this means is that tile to most of your assets such as bank accounts and real property, are now held in your name as trustee of whatever your trust is called, rather than in your individual name.
Most living trusts are considered revocable, meaning you can change and update the trust as needed. If you choose to, you can create an irrevocable living trust, which cannot be changed once it has been signed and created. There are certain circumstances where an irrevocable trust makes sense, such as when you have a large enough estate that you are trying to reduce your tax liability. For most people now, with the exemption limit (the amount you can leave tax free) so high ($11.2MM), most people do not have taxable estates.
10 Reasons You Need a Living Trust Attorney
Creating a living trust is not a simple process, and frankly, I would never recommend someone attempt to create one without a living trust attorney. A living trust is a legal document that must follow the specifics set down both by the law and the terms and conditions you have imposed.
To make sure that you have a legally enforceable document, save your family the stress of probate court, and reduce your estate taxes, you will definitely want the help of a living trust attorney.
1. Create a Legally Enforceable Document
Educating yourself about the different aspects of estate planning is natural and a great first step in making decisions for your future. But it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to create a perfect, legally enforceable living trust for yourself. That’s a where a living trust attorney comes in.
2. Lower Emotional Stress
After your death, you don’t want your family to be left wondering what your desires were for your estate or having to go through the complicated and stressful process of probate court. When you hire a living trust attorney and create a living trust for your estate, you can significantly lower the emotional stress that your family will feel after your death by doing proper estate planning in advance.
3. Protect Minor Children or Developmentally-Disabled Adults
One of the many aspects you will include in your living trust is what will happen to any minor children or developmentally-disabled adults in your family who are under your care while you’re alive. After your death, your living trust can place those funds in restrictive or special needs trusts with provisions that pass on your values.
A living trust attorney will know exactly what language must be used and what paperwork must be submitted to make sure that minors and developmentally-disabled adults are protected after your death.
4. Reduce Estate Taxes for Family
After your death, your living trust will advise your family how to settle your estate, including which assets are to be passed on to which individuals, and which assets should be sold. One of the many benefits of a living trust is that it can help to reduce the estate taxes that must be paid by your family when they settle your estate.
When creating a living trust, a living trust attorney will make sure that any potential estate taxes are addressed and ideally avoided.
5. Minimize Family Drama
One of the major benefits of a living trust is that you can designate your beneficiaries and dictate how they can use the assets they inherit. This gives you control over who benefits from your assets. For example, you can set limits so that your child’s spouse whom you don’t like can never reach your child’s inheritance. You can also put limits on how your assets are used if your spouse remarries after your death.
The intricacies of family dynamics is unique to each family. A living trust is customizable to your needs and will reduce family drama if you work with an attorney you feel comfortable disclosing your family dynamics too. A living trust attorney can help you to navigate any family complications that you want to plan around in your living trust.
6. Avoid Probate
Another major benefit of creating a living trust is that your family can avoid probate court after your death. The way a living trust works is that during your lifetime, you transfer your assets to the trust. The trust, or the trustee, manages the trust’s assets. You can be the trustee of your own trust and you usually are at first. This means that you continue to manage your assets as you would in any other situation while they’re in the trust.
A living trust attorney can advise you on how to transfer your assets into trust managed accounts and draft all of the documents you need to have a functioning and legally enforceable living trust so that after your death, your family can avoid probate court.
7. Maintain Privacy
Why do you want to avoid probate court? There are a few reasons. Going to probate court means that you’ll need the assistance of a lawyer which is costly in California, the process is time-consuming and stressful, and all of your assets become part of the public record.
If you’re looking to maintain your privacy and not allow the value of your assets or your family drama to become part of the public record, a living trust attorney can help you do that. A living trust is a private document.
8. Protect You in the Event of Incapacity
Another unique aspect of a living trust is that since it begins while you’re still alive, it will include provisions in it for how you’d like your estate to be managed in the event that you’re incapacitated and can no longer manage your assets yourself.
A living trust attorney can help you to choose your successor trustee, or the person who will manage your trust after your death or if you become incapacitated. If you don’t have family or friends you trust, there are private professional fiduciaries that serve as trustee for a living. If you suspect any potential litigation with respect to your trust, it is generally cheaper to may a neutral third party to serve as trustee. They are more likely to do it right and it can minimize family division since the neutral trustee is the one saying no (if they must pursuant to the trust), rather than a family member.
10. Help Choosing Between Revocable and Irrevocable
When you create a living trust with the help a living trust attorney, you must decide if you’re going to create a revocable or irrevocable living trust. A revocable living trust can be changed during your lifetime while an irrevocable cannot.
A living trust attorney has a lot of experience and understanding of the intricacies of living trust documents and can help guide you to the right decisions based on your situation.
A living trust attorney can help to guide you through the process of creating a living trust swiftly and easily. If you’re interested in meeting with a trust attorney at Kam Law Firm, you can sign up for a free consultation today. A living trust attorney is also experienced in other areas of estate planning and is also often referred to as a will attorney. You can meet with the best will attorney in San Diego at the Kam Law Firm.