Our Wills and Trusts Services, also known as Estate Planning Services, relate to putting in writing: (1) who (called beneficiaries) will get your assets when you die; (2) who will care for your minor children when you die; (3) who will manage your assets when you are incapable of doing so for yourself; (4) how you should be treated in a hospital or other medical facility if you are not capable of communicating your wishes, including decisions relating to life-sustaining treatment; and (5) who will make health care decisions for you if you are incapable of making such decisions for yourself. Some of the tools used in Estate Planning are discussed below. We provide these tools separately or as an estate planning package that includes all four of the below-referenced tools.
A will is a legal document that indicates how you wish your property to be disposed of after your death, who will be appointed to ensure all of your debts are paid off and your assets are transferred to the individuals named in the will, and who will take care of and make decisions for your minor children.
Generally, in order to create a valid will in California, the person creating the will (testator) must: (1) be at least 18 years of age; (2) be of sound mind; (3) have testamentary intent, meaning the testator must have the present intent to make a particular document their will; (3) sign the will, or have the will signed on their behalf under their direction and in their presence; and (4) ensure the will is signed by at least two individuals who were present at the same time the testator signed the will and witnessed the signing of the will, or who witnessed the testator’s acknowledgement of signing the will, and who understand the document they are signing is the testator’s will.
If you die intestate (i.e., without a will), each state has its own rules on who will obtain your assets, no matter what your wishes may have been (See the article entitled “Intestate Succession” in our Articles & Info section for more information on California rules regarding inheritance). It is thus very important to consider planning your estate so you can ensure your assets will be distributed as you wish.
Please contact a Wills and Trusts attorney at the Law Offices of Jason J. Schwartz at our Woodland Hills office to discuss how we can help you prepare a will and/or discuss our other Wills and Trusts Services.
One of the more popular estate planning tools is the living trust. A living trust is a legal document that indicates how your real and personal property will be allocated when you die. It is created by you, the trustor/grantor/settlor, during your lifetime (hence the name “living” or “inter vivos” trust) and can be managed by you during your lifetime. A living trust is created by drafting the declaration of trust. Alternatively, a trust may be created upon the death of a settlor. Trusts created upon the death of a settlor are typically created in a will, or some document incorporated by reference into a will, and are called “testamentary” trusts. Regardless of how the living trust is created, after it is created you must then fund the trust by re-titling your property into the name of the trust.
If you created a revocable living trust, then you can change your mind at any time and revoke the trust during your lifetime. You can also revise such a revocable living trust, with what is called “an amendment”, at any time to indicate how you want your assets divided or to make any other changes you want to the revocable living trust. When you die, a successor trustee that you selected when you created the trust will transfer the property to those (beneficiaries) indicated in the trust.
One major advantage of a living trust is that you do not have to go through probate. Probate is an expensive court proceeding that certain individuals must go through (See “Our San Fernando Valley Probate Attorney Services section for a further explanation of probate) in order to transfer their property when they have a will, or when they die without a will. There are statutory fees that must be paid to attorneys and those responsible for distributing the property (i.e., executors/administrators) in the probate process. However, the executors/administrators have the right to waive their compensation.
Another advantage of a living trust is that distribution of property at your death is private, whereas probate proceedings are public. Additionally, distribution of your property at your death with a living trust is relatively quick with a non-complex trust, taking no more than a few months (especially if all debts are quickly identified and paid and nobody contests the trust or the trustee accounting report), although preliminary distribution of certain property can be made within weeks. In contrast, probate proceedings can take anywhere up to a year or more to complete.
Please contact a Trusts attorney at the Law Offices of Jason J. Schwartz at our Woodland Hills office today to discuss how we may incorporate a Revocable Living Trust into your estate plan.
Advanced Health Care Directive
An Advanced Health Care Directive (AHCD) refers to written instructions about your health care. A directive can appoint an individual, called an attorney-in-fact, for your health care (such an appointment is also referred to as a Power of Attorney for Health Care). The attorney-in-fact will make health care decisions for you based upon your wishes that are communicated to them. The attorney-in-fact is typically a trusted person, such as a family member (e.g., spouse, child, or partner).
An AHCD can also include instructions that let your physician, family and friends know about your preferences for health care when you are not able to make those preferences known (such instructions are also referred to as a Living Will). The AHCD can include what medical treatment you want, or want to avoid, whether you wish to donate any organs and any other wishes you have regarding your health care.
An AHCD can be prepared separately or can be included in our Estate Planning Package. Please contact an Estate Planning attorney at the Law Offices of Jason J. Schwartz at our Woodland Hills office to discuss preparation of your AHCD so your family will not have to guess about how you wish to be treated when you become ill and are not able to make such decisions for yourself.
Durable Power of Attorney for Finances
This document allows you to select someone to be your agent to manage your property and personal affairs in your place. This may be necessary when you are unable to do so for yourself, such as in cases where you are mentally incapacitated. The Power of Attorney may be special, limited to only certain activities, or may be general, and directed to a broad range of activities. Virtually any transaction that you could do yourself can be done by your agent, including, for example, the ability to acquire, transfer or manage real property and stocks; to access, open, modify, and terminate bank accounts; to access safe deposit boxes; to purchase, or make changes to, insurance policies; to file a claim and litigate a case against another person or entity; to file income taxes; and to make gifts.
Please contact an Estate Planning attorney at the Law Offices of Jason J. Schwartz at our Woodland Hills office for more information on how we can help you plan for your, and your family’s, future. We serve a variety of other areas, including Agoura Hills, Alhambra, Burbank, Calabasas, Canoga Park, Eagle Rock, Encino, Glendale, La Cañada Flintridge, Los Angeles, Mission Hills, Monterey Park, North Hollywood, Northridge, Pasadena, Reseda , San Fernando , Santa Clarita, Sherman Oaks, Tarzana, Thousand Oaks, Valley Village, Van Nuys, Warner Center, Winnetka, and West Hills. Even if your city is not listed, please don’t hesitate to contact us to see if we can help.