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Galanti & Copenhaver, Inc.
Serving clients in Santa Rosa and San Francisco, California and greater Bay Area region

What You Need to Know About Living Trusts

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When it comes to estate planning in the state of California, creating a living trust may be in your best interest. In most cases, a living trust allows your estate to avoid having to pass through probate. Using this form of estate planning can also benefit you and your beneficiaries in many other ways.

Once you have decided to get started with estate planning, it is wise to hire an experienced estate planning attorney in California. The attorneys at Galanti and Copenhaver can assist you with the preparation of a living trust, as well as many other forms of estate planning. Our attorneys will meet with you to get a better understanding of your goals and what you wish to accomplish, and we will also help you create an estate plan that best suits your needs. To learn more, contact our office today to schedule a consultation.

What is a Living Trust?

Before you can decide if a living trust is something you should include in your estate plans, you must first understand what it is and how it used in the estate planning process. A living trust is created while you are alive, and is generally revocable, meaning that it can be modified or altered down the road if it becomes necessary. Many people opt for a living trust because it can be used to pass on property to your beneficiaries upon your death without the delays or costs often associated with probate.

When you create a living trust, the assets within the trust are no longer legally considered yours-they now belong to the trust. Though the trust will own the property, you can choose to be the trustee and manage it yourself. Upon your passing, the role of the trustee will go to whomever you named as the successor trustee. The successor trustee will have the responsibility of distributing the assets in the trust to the beneficiaries and handling any debts or creditor issues. This process is much faster than it would be if the estate had to pass through probate, which can take a year or even longer to resolve.

Things to Consider When Creating a Living Trust in California

If you have decided that a living trust is right for your estate plans, it is a good idea to speak with a knowledgeable estate planning attorney to get started. Before you begin, you will want to make a few preliminary decisions to make the process go smoother. One thing you will need to consider if you are married is whether you want to create a shared trust or an individual trust. A shared trust makes sense if you co-own most of your assets with your spouse, which is the case for many people. This makes it easier to create the trust because you will not need to divide up any property or assets.

Another thing to consider is what assets you want to be placed in the trust. Since one of the main reasons people opt for a living trust is to save money by avoiding probate, it is generally useful to put your most valuable assets in the living trust. More valuable assets often cost more to probate. You may want to consider including stocks, bonds, real estate, security accounts, and other valuables.

Next, you will want to choose someone to take on the role of the successor trustee. This will be the person responsible for paying off creditors and disbursing the assets of the trust to the beneficiaries, so choose someone you trust to handle this process according to the terms of the trust. Before you have the trust formally prepared, you should also decide who the beneficiaries to the trust will be, and how you want the assets of the trust to be divided upon your death.

Your attorney will guide you through the next steps in the preparation of the trust documents and will let you know if there are other steps you need to take. Typically, you will need to change any titles of trust assets to reflect that you now own that property as the trustee of the trust.

Including a living trust in your estate plan is one way to help your beneficiaries avoid the expense and delays often associated with taking an estate through probate. As you can continue to manage the trust while you are still alive, this is also a flexible estate planning option that can benefit many California residents. Contact us today at Galanti and Copenhaver at 707-867-0787 or fill out our online contact form to get started with your estate plans.

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