Estate planning is very important. In the absence of property estate planning tools, the intestacy laws will specify who inherits your property. So the property that you have worked hard to  acquire during your lifetime might end up in the hands of someone whom you do not like and  the one that you prefer to inherit will be deprived of the property. Speak to an Oakland estate planning attorney from the Thomas Hogan Law Office to know how intestacy laws will decide the fate of your property and what can be done to ensure that the people whom you prefer to  give your property to after your passing will indeed get the property upon your demise. These rules differ from place to place in many details and have changed a lot over the years. But the general idea everywhere the same: close relatives are preferred over those who are not so close. There is no state in the U.S. where the law would favor your Aunt Minnie over your son or your mother. The system also prefers descendants to ancestors: your mother’s right to inherit would usually be secondary to your daughter’s. By definition, intestacy laws apply to people who do not leave behind a will. But even those who do are subject to some restrictions. Generally, it is not possible (or at least not easy) to cut a wife or husband off entirely. But for the most part, property owners in the United States enjoy the privilege of the fourth way, which we call freedom of testation. This is the dead hand’s right to decide how property will be handled after a person dies. This is, in theory, the basic principle of American law. But the law does require a certain amount of formality—execution of a will, or some equivalent.

Wills

A will is “ambulatory,” as the phrase goes. It is a formal, legal document; but it has no bite, no validity, as long as the testator stays alive. He or she can change it, or get rid of it, without notice, and with very little fuss or bother. There are two main ways to revoke a will. The first is to make out a later will. Usually, the later will has a clause that specifically revokes all the earlier ones. This is standard: “I hereby revoke any and all wills heretofore made,” or words to that effect. But even if these words are left out, if the later will disposes of everything the testator has to dispose of, then the earlier wills are as dead as if they had been specifically revoked. The second method of revoking a will is even simpler. You can revoke a will by killing it physically. A will is revoked, according to the California Probate Code, by being canceled, torn, burned, destroyed or obliterated either by the testator himself or by somebody else in “the testator’s presence and by the testator’s direction.” The destruction, however, has to be deliberate: if the house burns down and the will burns with it, it has not been revoked, and if you can prove what was in the will, you can still have it probated. If you want to make a will or revoke your will, contact an Oakland estate planning attorney from the Thomas Hogan Law Office.

Trusts

The trust is an ancient device, but it has changed a lot over the years. It has adapted itself to modern life. It survived the passage of centuries because, like another ancient and surviving device, the mortgage, it fills a modern need. Laypeople perhaps vaguely aware of the doctrine of precedent, often think that the law is in love with its past, and that much of the law is obsolete, hoary, and crusted with barnacles. But the exact reverse is true. Law is totally unsentimental. It has no nostalgia, no reverence for the past. It prunes away ruthlessly whatever is useless or unpopular. The trust, however, is useful; enormously so. Consequently, it survived. It is probably more common today than it has ever been. Many trusts are irrevocable. Once the trust is set up and the assets transferred, it is a completed gift. The settlor cannot change her mind. She cannot get the money back. It no longer belongs to her. Since dead people have no minds to change, trusts set up in a will are by definition irrevocable. But living settlors have a choice. They can make their trusts revocable or irrevocable, as they see fit. And vast numbers of trusts are, in fact, revocable trusts. Many elderly people put some or all of their assets in “living trusts,” reserving the right to change their mind about any of the provisions of the trust, or to get rid of the whole thing altogether and take the money back. Such provisions are not the least bit unusual. If you are considering a trust as a method of effective estate planning, contact an Oakland estate planning attorney from the Thomas Hogan Law Office.

Probate

Probate is a time consuming and costly process. Your beneficiaries will receive the legal title of your estate only after when has been through probate. Even when there is a will, the validity of the will must be determined by the probate court. If a person dies intestate, the probate court will decide how the person’s assets are to be distributed to his or her heirs. In the absence of a will, the state law will determine the share of each heir. When an estate foes through probate, the beneficiaries must pay probate fees. You can legally reduce or completely avoid the cost of probate. Probate can also take a long time. Speak to an estate planning attorney from the Thomas Hogan Law Office to know your options.

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