Adult children almost always find discussing financial and estate planning with parents difficult, since they involve “two of our culture’s three big taboos–death and money”. A specific event or crisis may serve as the trigger for the discussion. If parents are considering a change in living arrangements, they may want to put together financial data to assess the economic feasibility of moving versus staying. If they are contemplating an assisted care facility, they probably will have to prepare a detailed financial statement as part of the application process. A parent’s illness may make a discussion about finances crucial, but it may be too late to get information from them. These matters are best decided when parents are in good health and clear about their wishes, rather than after a health crisis when they may be unable to make their preferences known. Contact a Pleasanton estate planning attorney of the Thomas Hogan Law Office if you need with estate planning for yourself or for your aged parents.

Trusts

A Pleasanton estate planning attorney can help you set up a living trust. A living trust has two primary virtues. First, it avoids the cost and delays of the probate process. When the settlor dies, trust assets do not get funneled through the probate court. Technically, they are not part of the estate. The settlor in legal theory has already given these assets away—to the trustee. The trustee will simply go on running the trust, smoothly, without interruption. All trusts set up during the settlor’s lifetime have this virtue, whether or not the settlor keeps the right to revoke or change them. The beauty of the revocable trust is that it really acts as a will, without the headaches of probate. Second, this trust—like other trusts—can also be used to get rid of the chore of managing your assets, if you have assets worth managing. Getting a professional to manage them is, for many people, another advantage of having a trust. Of course, it comes at a price. Banks and trust companies do not take on this work out of the goodness of their hearts. They are happy to help, but for a fee. Because the trust is a flourishing institution, there is a huge body of law about trusts. Much of it has to do with the powers and duties of trustees. The trustee is a “fiduciary,” subject to fairly strict rules about what can and cannot be done, and what should and should not be done. The beneficiaries, after all, may be minors, very elderly people, or those most shadowy and helpless people of all—unborn and contingent beneficiaries. The rules are supposed to make sure the trustee plays the game honestly, selflessly, and in the interests of the beneficiaries.

Wills

Consult a Pleasanton estate planning attorney if you want to prepare a valid will that will withstand challenges. Nowadays, the power to dispose of one’s property by will is widely accepted as one of the basic bundle of rights that accompanies the ownership of property. Just as a person can sell, give away, destroy, or otherwise dispose of his property while he is alive can also be accomplished by leaving instructions on who is to receive it after his death. There is an important exception to the principle of freedom to dispose of property by will. In general, a married person cannot give away all of his or her property by will, leaving nothing for a spouse. Marriage is seen as an economic partnership. While spouses are alive, they have a duty to support each other, a right to share property and income on divorce, and, in some cases, the right to share property owned by the other. The obligations of the economic partnership are not extinguished upon the death of a spouse. Modern law has the concept of an elective share in the property of a deceased spouse. If, for example, a husband’s will leaves all of his property to his children by a prior marriage, his mistress, and the S.P.C.A., his widow has a statutory right to claim a portion of the estate despite the will.

Probate

Your assets must go through probate before they can pass on to your heirs when you pass away. But if you transfer your assets when you are still alive, it will not be subject to probate. If you pass away without an estate, there is nothing left to probate. So, gift your assets when you are still alive. You can also create a trust for the benefit of a beneficiary – your family members, close friends, etc. and you can settle the asset (that you want to give that family member or close friend) to that trust. When an asset is put into a trust, it no longer forms part of the estate, and therefore shall not be subject to probate. Assets that are registered in joint tenancy with rights of survivorship do not form part of the estate of the deceased. They become the property of the joint owner. There are many ways in which you can legally prevent your estate from having to go through probate. Speak to an estate planning attorney from the Thomas Hogan Law Office to know your options.


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