Trust and Estate Planning


What’s the purpose of estate planning? The short answer is that if a person dies in California with assets valued over $150,000, in order to transfer title, the estate has to go through a formal probate procedure, whether you have a will or not. This is typically a long, expensive, stressful, and emotional process for the family.

A will simply states who gets the decedent’s property and typically names an executor as the representative for the probate. While it may seem like a lot of money, the $150,000 threshold is easily reached if you own property. If a person dies with no will, then the state names the “intestate heirs”. A typical estate includes a home, stock, and cash accounts. Any assets, such as retirement or life insurance, pass outside probate because a beneficiary is named prior to death.

Assuming a person is single, the line of succession is as follows: first children; if none, then parents; if none, then siblings; if none, then nieces and nephews; if none, grandnieces and grandnephews; if none, then grandparents; if none, then cousins, etc.

Probate is a long, form-driven process. Nine months is the average length of time. It’s also a public record. After the initial petition is filed, it must be published in a newspaper for the purpose of alerting creditors of the estate. Anyone can access the court file. The biggest detriment to probate is the fees. Not only are there court filing fees, but also probate referee and publishing costs. It is much more cost effective to establish an estate plan now instead of paying probate costs.

The typical estate plan consists of an office conference with an attorney to discuss your specific situation and find out your options. The attorney is an experienced counselor who will help determine the right plan for you.

Please call 760-758-1565 or email aaston@trustandestatelawyer.net to set up a consultation today.