Only living people can “own” something. Once a person dies, ownership lapses, and the goods and assets pass into other hands. There are several ways in which society can deal with the property of a dead person. The state could confiscate the property and use it for whatever purpose it chooses. To mention a more likely possibility, legal rules could dictate what becomes of the property — who gets what, and in what proportion. Lastly, we could let the decedent decide and honor whatever requests or arrangements he or she might have made. In fact, our system has elements of all, though, the last two probably dominate. So what do you want for yourself? Would you like your decision or the law to dictate what happens to your property after your passing? Or would you like to decide what happens to your property after you die? If you want to be the one who makes the choice, contact a Modesto estate planning attorney from the Thomas Hogan Law Office.

Wills

In modern colloquial English, a will is a document that disposes of the maker’s property upon death. No longer are there separate documents for real property and personal property; the two are combined and while old-fashioned lawyers still pin on the label “Last Will and Testament,” nowadays most of us simply call it a “will.” The ordinary will, the most common kind, and the kind that is recognized as valid in every state, is a highly formal document. For one thing, it has to be in writing. The law takes very seriously the requirement that a will must be in writing. If a man gathers a roomful of friends and relatives, and announces clearly and distinctly that he wants his money to go half to his daughter and half to a home for abandoned cats and then drops dead on the spot, he has died intestate, and his expressed wishes make no difference. Oral wills are not valid in California and many other states. Nobody has to have a will; the state will be happy to distribute your property without one, using its intestacy laws. Still, it is a good idea for anybody with money to make out a will, unless one is absolutely sure the intestacy laws are good enough and that the right person will be appointed as your personal representative. Every will has to have the testator’s signature. And the testator has to intend the document to be his will. This is almost never a problem. If you want to make a valid will, meet a Modesto estate planning attorney from the Thomas Hogan Law Office and ask the attorney to draft you a will. The attorney will draw up the document; you sign it in front of witnesses, tell the witnesses that this is your will and ask them to witness it. As long as this little ceremony is carried out, nobody can question whether the document was a will and was meant to be a will, or that it was properly executed.

Trusts

A trust is a legal arrangement in which certain assets—land, money, stocks and bonds—are put in the hands of a trustee, who manages the assets and has control over them, but who exercises his powers in behalf of one or more beneficiaries. In theory, a trust does not have to be in writing; but in practice, it almost always is. When a person wants to create a trust, he or she will almost certainly go to a lawyer who will draft the trust. It can be a formidable document. It spells out the powers of the trustees, the terms of the trust, when it is to begin and end, who gets the money, how long the trust will last, and so on. To this extent, trusts are highly formal; but they do not need witnesses, and they do not need any particular ceremony, which a will of course requires. Trusts are flexible and malleable and can be used for all sorts of purposes. If you want to form a trust for estate planning purposes, speak to a Modesto estate planning attorney from the Thomas Hogan Law Office.

Probate

Your assets will pass on to your heirs only after they have been through probate. Probate is a legal process that involves filing of forms and papers in the probate court. It can be time consuming and costly. Your legal heirs must pay the probate fee. You can however ensure that your heirs do not have to go through the troubles of having your estate go through probate. There are many estate planning techniques you can use to keep your assets out of probate. Your assets will pass directly to your heirs after your death. You can transfer your assets to a trust created for the benefit of your heirs. Assets once transferred to a trust do not have to go through probate. You can also name your legal heirs as joint tenants with right of survivorship. The property will pass on to the joint tenants upon your passing without having to go through probate. Speak to the estate planning attorneys of the Thomas Hogan Law Office to know how you can avoid probate.


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