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If you're starting to think about estate planning, you've likely seen do-it-yourself guides that contain the basics of creating wills and other estate planning documents. However, hiring an Orange County estate planning attorney has several benefits that should be considered as you begin your estate planning journey.

Law firms can provide much-needed guidance through the complex world of estate and probate law. DIY kits and guides may have the basics, but they don't have adequate information for most people's needs. In fact, creating an estate plan without legal guidance can lead to unforeseen issues and unexpected costs.

Professional estate planning services will result in a smooth transfer of assets to beneficiaries without the hassle and frustration of probate court.

Why is Estate Planning Worth Every Cent?

Estate planning is all about protecting your family and planning for the future. Effective planning is essential for anyone who hopes to support their beneficiaries after their death.

An estate plan is more than just a set of legal documents. The benefits lie in what those documents will do for your family and yourself. They allow you to outline your medical decisions, assign a durable power of attorney, and more.

If you use ineffective estate planning tools, your documents could end up useless. When it comes to financial planning, you need personalized advice from someone with knowledge about the process.

An Orange County estate planning attorney can even help with complex concerns like business succession planning. Asset protection is another common concern, and attorneys have ways to keep major assets like houses and savings accounts safe.

At our law firm, we strive to build a strong attorney-client relationship with every customer, since we find this provides the best results.

Reasons Estate Planning with a Professional Can Make a Difference

Working with a licensed estate planning lawyer can make a huge difference in the quality of your estate plan. Though it may seem like a hassle to find and hire a lawyer, having a job done right will put your mind at ease and ensure your loved ones benefit from your assets as much as possible.

The low cost of using a template to create your estate plan may seem cheaper than hiring a lawyer, but working with an experienced lawyer can help you save money on estate taxes and other hidden costs for your mistakes and unknown errors. An experienced lawyer can also inform you about options you may be unaware of that will fit your estate planning needs perfectly.

Estate planning lawyers have years of legal experience to draw upon, and they can answer important questions you have about property taxes and how to avoid probate.

Objectiveness

Creating an estate plan using DIY guides and templates can be difficult for a layperson. Without a legal background, it's difficult to be objective about your needs and the best solutions to any concerns you may have.

Experienced attorneys have extensive knowledge of local law, and they have also worked with many other clients

How Well Do You Know the Law?

Estate planning is a complicated task. DIY options can explain the basics to you and even provide tips and suggestions, but they cannot replace the knowledge of someone with a law degree.

Your guide won't have all the answers on trust administration for minor children or how to communicate your final wishes. Most of them cover wills and advance health care directive paperwork, but they frequently will not include all the ancillary documents that you may need.

If your current estate plan isn't vetted by a legal professional, we recommend making an appointment for legal services as soon as possible.

The Size of Your Estate

The estate planning process is easiest for small estates with no unusual circumstances involved. DIY templates and guides cater to people with few estate concerns. These templates aren't equipped to handle more complicated situations, such as large estates that may or may not be subject to estate taxes.

For high-net-worth individuals, it is worth the investment to protect your estate with an experienced attorney. Valuable estates can be quite complicated, and a free or cheap planning guide won't be sufficient for keeping your assets safe.

A trust lawyer can help you set up and manage a revocable living trust, family trust, or other tools. Using a revocable trust is a great way to keep family wealth safe and even allow you to control how it is distributed to beneficiaries.

If you have a large estate, it's important to invest in legal advice to prevent problems and legal fees later down the line.

The Legal Consequences

Before you choose to handle your estate plan on your own, it's important to consider the legal risks.

If your estate plan isn't valid, your estate may be sent to probate court instead. When that happens, a probate judge gets the final say on how your estate is distributed among your family members.

Estate laws vary from state to state, and you could end up with a DIY plan that doesn't apply in California. This is why it's so important to obtain local legal services. We have spent years serving Orange County, from Huntington Beach to Santa Ana, and our team provides regionally-specific advice and planning.

When you hire a wills and estate planning attorney near me, you'll get a clear, reliable explanation of what is included in your estate plan and how it will benefit your family.

DIY Estate Planning Cost

Though DIY estate planning has a low immediate cost, an ineffective estate plan can end up costing more in the long run.

If your estate plans are deemed invalid, your beneficiaries may have to pay for a probate attorney and other legal fees. Instead of being able to mourn and settle your affairs in peace, they will need to face a frustrating legal process and pay for probate lawyers.

Getting your estate plans done correctly in the first place will save you time, money, and energy. An estate planning lawyer will provide the advice you need and handle all of your concerns. Your attorney can help you make smart financial decisions that will benefit you and your family.

Get Your Estate Planning Done Properly with Us

Our law firm focuses on estate planning and has helped countless clients create secure plans for their futures. We're known for providing exceptional service throughout the Orange County area. Our legal team makes it easy to protect your family, and we'll walk you through the entire estate planning process.Schedule your free consultation with an Orange County estate planning attorney! We serve all of Orange County, from Buena Park to Laguna Beach, contact us at 949-867-4818 at Parker Law Offices today!

If you have a beneficiary with a substance abuse problem, you may be concerned about leaving money to them, but with the help of an Orange County estate planning attorney, you can add provisions to your estate plan to limit that beneficiary’s access to their inheritance.

Creating an estate plan gives you the chance to make important decisions about what happens to your assets after your death. It is also possible to provide a more practical provision that will protect the beneficiary from wasting their money by establishing a special trust that will fund only their necessities.

Reasons To Limit Access To Assets

If you’re aware that a beneficiary of yours has substance abuse issues, it’s in that person’s best interest for you to limit their access to funds. A sudden large distribution from a trust could quickly be spent on drugs, enabling your beneficiary's addiction and potentially allowing them to squander large amounts of money. 

Someone with substance abuse issues might not have the capacity to make wise decisions about money in other areas of life, either, and may not be equipped to handle your investments or other assets included in the trust. 

If you want to avoid this outcome, you have options other than leaving this person out of your will entirely. Instead, you can use a trust to limit their access to funds and prevent them from using their inheritance to fund their substance problems. That way, you can support your family members without letting them use your money on self-destructive behaviors. 

Using A Trust To Hold An Inheritance

When people think of estate planning, they typically think of wills before anything else. However, a trust can be very effective for passing assets on to your beneficiaries. 

For one, there are potential tax benefits, depending on the type of trust you use. Using a trust also allows for an immediate transfer of assets to your beneficiaries, which allows them to avoid probate, legal fees, and long waits. 

Trusts also give you, the grantor, the ability to set many stipulations and provisions that affect how assets are distributed to the beneficiaries. In this way, you can continue to protect your beneficiaries even after you pass away.

The use of a trust can also limit your beneficiaries’ access to their inheritances in order to protect the wealth. People facing substance abuse issues often don’t have the judgment to manage their funds wisely. 

Estate planning allows you to limit access to an inheritance until your beneficiary has a change in lifestyle, such as entering rehab or maintaining sobriety for an extended period of time. Putting an inheritance in a trust makes it easier to manage and grow your wealth while also protecting it from misuse.

Adding Provisions To Your Estate Plan

A provision in your trust can limit how assets are distributed to your beneficiaries. Provisions can require that beneficiaries complete certain tasks before they receive an inheritance, such as completing college. 

When you are dealing with someone who abuses substances, you can direct their inheritance into a special trust designed to protect them from themselves. This trust will keep the money safe and prevent your beneficiary from accessing cash and valuable assets. 

Provisions For Care And Necessities

Another approach you could take is to include a provision that will directly take care of the beneficiary’s primary needs directly. This entails giving instructions regarding their inheritance which would flow right into a special trust that will cover their care and basic needs. 

A probate attorney in Orange County can sit down with you and make sure that your trust will cover any essential bills your beneficiary needs. Instead of allowing your beneficiary to access cash and make those payments themselves, a trustee will make payments directly to third parties, such as a landlord, medical provider, or other institution.

This provision will prevent the beneficiary with substance abuse issues to squander the money or use it to harm themselves further. Some of the basic necessities that are often overlooked when one is suffering from substance abuse issues include paying basic utilities like rent, electric and water bills, as well as cell phone bills. 

Establishing trust with this provision will also make it easier for them to complete larger monthly payments such as car payments and insurance. If you are actively undergoing a rehab program or seeking mental health care, the provision will cover all medical bills and insurance for continuous care.

It’s important to note that the beneficiary does not have control of the funds meant to cover their needs and overall medical care. A person is named a trustee to pay the bills and other payments for the person’s benefit and care until they reach full recovery.

Incentives For Sobriety And Healing

You can include incentive provisions to their trust as well. This will allow distributions from the trust fund to reward sobriety or other positive behavior. Restrictive provisions can also end distributions in the event of a relapse. However, provisions need to be detailed and thorough, because it can be a challenge to determine if a person is abusing drugs or not. 

A legal professional with expertise in trusts can help you write a provision that is legally sound and gives your trustee a clear plan of action. Trust assets can then be disbursed or managed by a skilled trustee, who handles them according to the terms you specify when you set up the trust.

Appointing A Trustee

A trustee plays an important role in this type of trust. They will need to work closely with the beneficiary to track their drug use or recovery. The trustee may also need to perform special tasks, like administering drug or alcohol tests to check your beneficiary’s sobriety. 

Though it may be tempting to choose a family member to fill this role, some prefer to use an impartial third party, like a bank or a professional trustee. An experienced trustee can also potentially oversee investments and maintain assets; it all depends on your preference. 

However, when your beneficiary has a substance abuse problem, it’s important that the trustee is able to look at the situation honestly and limit the beneficiary’s access to funds when necessary.  Choosing a reliable trustee can give you peace of mind and ensure that your beneficiary is taken care of financially as much as possible.

Seek Out A Professional Estate Lawyer In Orange County

Our law offices can help you create an estate plan and add provisions that will protect your beneficiaries. We specialize in the estate planning of all kinds, and we can help you put limits on trust distributions. 
Hiring the right attorneys at Park Law Offices means ensuring people who need help with estate plans, trust administrations, probate matters, and other related matters are met with utmost professionalism and years of expertise. Contact us today to set up a consultation and learn more about estate planning services at Park Law Offices.

It’s never too early to start making plans for your estate. Choosing an Orange County estate planning attorney is the first step to creating a solid, reliable estate plan that will fulfill your wishes and obligations when you pass away.

If you have never hired an attorney before, the idea can be overwhelming. However, it’s worth the effort to find an expert to make sure that your plans will benefit your loved ones.

These guidelines can help you find the right attorney for your situation.

  1. Identify Your Needs

Before you start your search, it’s a good idea to make a list of your main estate planning needs. That will help you find an attorney who focuses in those areas. 

Common documents included in estate planning are your will, trust, guardianship declarations, powers of attorney, and more. However, if you have some specific concerns, it’s best to go into your search with those in mind.

Providing for a disabled beneficiary might require some additional planning beyond the basic estate plan process. If you have assets in multiple states, or even outside the US, it’s a good idea to look for someone who can help you handle that.

Your specific areas of concern can guide your search for a skilled and reliable attorney. 

  1. Learn the Basics of Estate Planning

To get the most out of your meetings with an attorney, consider doing some research about estate planning basics to get a better idea of your options. Information available online provides tremendous resources for learning about the law. 

Consider setting aside some time to learn what a pour-over will is, or about the different types of trusts available. You can also search for information that is relevant to your individual circumstances as well.

Learning these things ahead of time will make it easier to make important decisions when you set up your estate plan. You’ll also be able to have a more productive consultation with your attorney when you sit down with them.

  1. Find a Skilled Attorney

Estate planning can be a complex field with many legal intricacies. While many lawyers work in this field, not all make it their focus.

Someone who works in estate planning has the experience needed to prepare your documents and draft a plan that covers your main concerns. 

If you have even more specific needs, you can look for specialists within the estate planning field. If you’re concerned about avoiding probate fees, you can seek out an Orange County probate attorney.

If you have children who are still minors, you may want to find a lawyer who can help you create a trust with stipulations that will keep them financially secure until they reach adulthood. Other people may want to create a Medicare trust that will enable them to access health benefits. 

An attorney with years of experience can provide valuable insight into your unique financial situation and help you make informed decisions that will benefit your loved ones. 

  1. Schedule Consultations

Many attorneys and law firms offer free initial consultations for potential clients. Meeting with an attorney in person gives you the chance to go over your case briefly and determine whether you are a good fit for the services they provide. 

You may want to meet with multiple attorneys before committing to one. Just one meeting can help you get a sense of each attorney’s style, law experience, and even educational background. Feel free to ask important questions about each of their certifications and specializations. 

Another important part of consultations is finding someone you feel comfortable working with. While you can research an attorney ahead of time, you can’t know for sure what it’ll be like to talk to them until you meet in person. 

  1. Ask for Referrals

Recommendations and referrals can help you narrow down your list of attorneys to consider. 

Recommendations from family and friends can help you find a trustworthy attorney, while personal experiences can tell you a lot about an attorney and his or her methods. 

You can also ask for referrals from other legal professionals you trust. They may be able to direct you to the right people they have worked with and found to be dependable and effective.

The internet also hosts plenty of reviews of different law offices, and you can refer to these before choosing one to learn about the staff, parking situation, and other considerations. 

A well-respected lawyer is a valuable ally when it’s time to create an estate plan that will serve you and your family’s best interests. 

  1. Understand Their Fees

Before committing to an estate planning attorney, you should have a clear conversation about the fees they plan to charge. 

Lawyers generally have a retainer agreement that describes how they charge for their services. Different lawyers may have different fee structures, ranging from a flat fee to regular payments. There are lawyers who offer free consultations, but some may charge for the initial consultation. 

Your attorney should be transparent and communicative on all fronts, especially regarding payment. Asking about fee structures can help you screen people out and find a lawyer with a positive attitude and great communication skills, which are two very important traits.

  1. Ask About the Law Office Team

Most law offices have a whole team working to keep the business organized, usually including multiple attorneys or legal professionals. 

When you hire an attorney, it’s a good idea to make sure the entire legal team is professional and capable. Many legal assistants have the qualifications and experience necessary to keep the office running smoothly. 

Before you choose an attorney, ask how they divide legal responsibilities. Assistants and paralegals do important work, but you’ll want to make sure that your attorney will be handling the most challenging aspects of your estate planning.

Plan Your Estate with a Trusted Estate Planning Attorney

Our law office offers expert guidance from an experienced Orange County attorney. We can answer questions related to probate, estate planning, and trust administration.
To schedule a consultation and learn more about our services, you may request an appointment by visiting our website or you may contact us at Parker Law Offices today!

Estate planning is best known as a form of financial planning that determines where your assets will go after you pass away. However, there’s room for lots of other information in your estate plan, including instructions on how to care for your family. To understand this better, you’ll need help from an Orange County estate planning attorney.

When you invest time in your estate plan, you are investing in your loved ones and ensuring they are as comfortable as possible after your death.

Divide Your Assets

An estate plan allows you to clearly divide your assets among friends and family. 

Paying bills and tying up loose ends is one of the biggest practical concerns after someone’s death. If you make sure all your documents are legally sound, your loved ones can gain access to important bank accounts and other assets smoothly, allowing them to pay your debts and taxes.

You can use your will to leave specific items or assets to your loved ones. This is especially important if you plan to leave things to people outside your family because if you don’t specify otherwise, inheritance laws will divide your things among your immediate family.

However, a trust allows you to have more control over what happens to your assets after you die. A trustee can manage all the assets contained in your trust, investing them, disbursing payments to beneficiaries, and following your final instructions.

Plan for Your Children

If you have children, your estate plan should include some plans for them in the case of your death or both parents’ deaths. 

Guardianship designation is one of the most important aspects of an estate plan for anyone who has children under 18 years old. In your will, you can choose a close friend or relative that you want to be the guardian of your children if both parents pass away. 

Choosing a potential guardian should be a thoughtful decision, and it may be a good idea to discuss it with the person you are naming before adding them to your will. 

However, once you have selected this person, it ensures that your children will never have to sit through a court session that will determine their new guardian. 

Inheritance laws prioritize your children as having a right to any assets you own through the probate process. However, establishing a trust also has its benefits. It can help you bypass probate inheritance laws, expensive fees and even enjoy tax breaks, depending on the type of trust you choose. 

Provide for Your Family Members

If you pass away unexpectedly, family members who depend upon your support financially and in other ways could be left in a desperate situation. If you haven’t created a trust, this means your assets will go through the probate process, which usually takes at least a year (or even longer in many cases) to complete. A well-drafted estate plan allows you to continue to provide for your family members even after your death. 

If you don’t create a will or other estate plan documents, your assets will be subject to the probate court, where they will be subject to expensive legal fees and taxes, as well as the Probate Code rules and instructions as to who will receive your property and wealth.

The right estate plan can help you avoid probate court and ensure that your beneficiaries are able to access their inheritances right away.

The sooner they are able to access your assets, the better. They may need the money to cover your medical bills, funeral costs, and other expenses. They will also need to make plans to pay off your debts and taxes. And finally, they may personally benefit from receiving your assets.

Giving your family members access to your bank accounts and other assets upon your death also provides essential financial support as they grieve and settle your affairs.

Create a Trust

The trust is one of the most useful parts of an estate plan. It allows you to plan for your loved ones to inherit assets ranging from ownership of cars to bank accounts and real estate. Every trust is different, and a lawyer can help you establish one that is customized to your finances and plans for the future.

There are two main types of trusts, revocable and irrevocable. The former can be changed at any time, including the terms of the trust and beneficiaries. The latter cannot be changed after it has been created and signed. They require careful planning, but they also offer significant tax benefits.

One option is to pass assets directly on to your beneficiaries upon your death. Depending on the type of trust you have chosen, they may be able to avoid certain fees and taxes and the lengthy probate process. 

In addition, trusts also give you a lot of control over what will happen to your assets even after your death. It’s possible to include some strings attached to a person’s share of a trust, only giving them full access once they have reached a certain age for example.

This option is especially useful if you have young children or other beneficiaries who might not be ready to handle their full inheritance all at once.

Describe Your Final Wishes

If you have a specific vision for funeral arrangements and burial plans, you can outline these in your will as part of your estate plan. 

If you already have a burial plot or headstone, you can mention it in your will and provide instructions on how to find it. You can also leave instructions, such as whether or not you want to be cremated.

You can also write out your advanced directive, which makes clear your preferences for end-of-life care. This is where you can volunteer as an organ donor, and state whether or not you want to be resuscitated, 

If you are concerned about health issues and the possibility of becoming incapacitated, you may want to establish a power of attorney (POA). 

Your power of attorney will be able to make decisions on your behalf when you are unable to make them yourself. This person can take charge of your medical, financial, or legal decisions, and sometimes all three. 

This person will have major responsibilities so it’s essential to choose someone you trust.

Let Us Help You Plan for the Future

Parker Law Offices focuses on estate planning, and we can help you figure out the best way to plan for the future.

If you are concerned about lengthy probate timelines, fees and estate taxes, a probate attorney Orange County can answer your questions and provide you with practical options.

For a free consultation to learn more about your options for estate planning, along with more details about wills and trust, contact us at Parker Law Offices today at (949) 385-3130.

Financial planning is one of the most essential factors to consider for any couple and help from an Orange County estate planning attorney can set you on the right path. Documents like a will and trust allow you to explain your wishes and make plans for the future, including after your death. 

However, it is especially important for unmarried couples to plan ahead for the future, and most laws and regulations are still written with married couples in mind. 

Probate law, for example, dictates what happens to your estate after your death. When there are no estate planning documents in place to dictate your wishes, the law will pass on your property to your nearest family members rather than your partner.

Estate Planning to Ensure Your Decisions are Honored

Here are some of the most important ways you can plan ahead to make sure your partner can be involved in important decisions about your life and death. 

Understanding Probate Code

During probate, the legal system assesses a person’s will, trusts, and other documents. The goal is to pay off taxes and debts and then turn the estate over to the heirs. 

Laws governing a person’s estate and end-of-life care typically prioritize family members over partners. Your closest relatives, such as your siblings, parents, or children, will inherit from you or be called upon to make decisions for you, but your partner won’t be taken into account.

That means your family members will likely end up in charge of your affairs instead of your partner unless you plan otherwise. Ambiguity around these roles can increase the likelihood of litigation.

This is why estate planning is so important for unmarried couples. The law won’t automatically place your partner in a position to make important decisions about your health or your estate. Instead, you’ll have to file documents to make sure your partner has a say in these issues.

If you want to learn more about probate code and how it applies to you, an attorney can help you understand it and plan around it.

Creating a Will

When you think of estate planning, a will is probably the first document that comes to mind. While it’s not the only part of your estate, it serves an important purpose. 

In your will, you can state who gets your estate after your death. This includes real estate, property, assets, and valuables. 

You can also name your executor, who will manage your affairs after death, including paying bills, closing accounts, and more.

A will is also important because it allows you to name a potential guardian for your minor children in the case of your death. Otherwise, the court will decide who is the best candidate for guardianship. Though they do their best to make decisions, they may not choose the same person you’d choose.

Power of Attorney

Power of attorney (POA) is a role someone can play that allows them to handle legal, financial, and even health-related decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated. 

You can assign a partner to this role and grant them the ability to help if you’re unable to do things like pay bills on your own. Power of attorney can be limited in scope or it can encompass many kinds of important decisions. 

This prevents financial and legal issues that otherwise might arise while one of you is incapacitated. Your power of attorney will be able to pay your hospital bills, for example, or pay for a care home. 

Assigning a Healthcare Proxy

If either of you becomes incapacitated, the law will likely choose your closest family members to make legal decisions about your healthcare. However, you can plan ahead for this possibility. 

You can assign a healthcare proxy ahead of time, and this person will be able to make decisions about your care on your behalf. This designation can be permanent or temporary, depending on your needs.

Along with assigning a healthcare proxy, you can include an advance directive, which states your desires in certain circumstances. Examples include whether or not you wish to be resuscitated or remain on life support. 

If you want you and your partner want to have a say in each other’s healthcare decisions, then you should each have a health care directive.

Joint Ownership

If one person in your partnership owns the property where you both live, there’s no guarantee the other person will inherit it. The Probate Code rules will distribute wealth to lineal family members when determining who inherits the property. 

Joint ownership is an excellent way to make sure you both have a claim to the property. It’s important to agree to equal ownership of the house. If one person owns 70% and the other owns 30%, that won’t qualify as joint ownership.

When you own something jointly, and one owner dies, that person’s interest goes to the other person, who then becomes the sole owner. This is called the right of survivorship. 

This way, one person can continue to live there even if the other passes away, instead of the property going to probate court. 

Using a Trust

Trusts aren’t just for the very wealthy. They can be useful for a number of reasons, especially for unmarried partners. When you create a trust, you can name someone to manage your affairs.

For this purpose, a revocable trust may be a better choice than an irrevocable one. That way, you’ll be able to make changes to the trust at any time. You’ll be able to add and remove both beneficiaries and assets. You can name your partner as a trustee.

If you become incapacitated or die, your partner will be able to access the assets in the trust. Revocable trusts can function like a will, by allowing you to name beneficiaries and the terms of their inheritance.

Unmarried couples don’t have all of the same protections as married couples. Estate planning can help you fill in the gaps and ensure your property goes to your partner, along with other planning for other important issues.
An Orange County estate planning attorney has a good understanding of local law and how to address it in your personal life. For a free consultation, contact us at Parker Law Offices today.

Creating a will and estate plan takes time, but it’s one of the best things you can do to make things easier for your heirs, and legal assistance from an Orange County estate planning attorney is what you’ll need to secure your instructions.

However, estate planning isn’t a one-and-done activity for most people. Over the years, people buy and sell property, gain and lose family members, and deal with other major life changes. 

It’s possible for real property to slip through the cracks and get left out of the relevant trust documents, even when the deceased intended to include it in a trust. But what happens then? 

An estate planning lawyer in Orange County can help you file a Heggstad petition to transfer the relevant property into the trust without facing probate. Here’s how the petition works.

What Is a Heggstad Petition?

After a person dies, their estate must be distributed according to both the local law and the legal documents they have signed to plan their estate. 

It can be difficult to juggle several estate planning documents and keep them all updated. The creator of a trust may not transfer all of their property to the trust—sometimes omitting property or not remembering to transfer title to property back to the trust after a refinance.

When this happens, that property is normally destined to go to probate, where a judge will determine its fate.

A Heggstad Petition allows the beneficiaries to skip this costly, inconvenient process. Instead, it allows beneficiaries to transfer the property directly into the trust without going through a long court process. This petition is a useful option for beneficiaries who would otherwise need to deal with the delays and expenses associated with probate. 

To make use of the Heggstad petition, you must be able to prove that the decedent intended to include property in the trust. There are several reasons you may file this petition:

What Is the History of the Heggstad Petition?

The petition was named after a California Court case from 1993, which set the precedent for it.

In the case of Halvard L. Heggstad, he listed an asset on his schedule of assets but didn’t officially transfer it to his trust. When his family realized the error, they went to court and argued that the schedule of assets indicated that he meant to include it in his trust.

The court ruled in favor of the family because they were able to prove that Heggstad meant to include the property in the trust. Since then, it has become part of the California Probate Code. Now, other families can add potential assets to trusts even after the trustor has died.

When Should You File a Heggstad Petition? 

A Heggstad petition is generally more affordable than probate, and it also has the benefit of saving time. A trusted living trust attorney in Orange County can help you with this process—from start to finish.

Heggstad petitions are normally filed by a beneficiary or family member of the trust creator. If the trust is valid, and you think that the creator of the trust left out a property unintentionally, you should file a petition. 

Crucially, the Heggstad petition requires you to show that the decedent meant to include key property in the trust but accidentally left it out. Whether this was due to failing health, clerical errors, or another reason, you should be able to make a case for the intent if you plan to file a petition. 

There are several ways to show that the decedent intended to include a property in the trust. As in the original case, listing a property on a schedule of assets often counts as proof.

There are plenty of other ways to provide proof, and your Orange County trust administration attorney can help you find the best options for your case.

What Documents are Needed for a Heggstad Petition?

In order to file this petition, you’ll need to show some relevant documents to your attorney. There isn’t a strict list of requirements, but you should include as much relevant information as you can. These documents will help your attorney make a better case for your petition. 

First, you’ll need to provide some basic information about the beneficiaries and the decedent. If you move forward with filing the petition, you are required to notify all beneficiaries 30 days ahead of time.

You should have a copy of the trust, so the attorney can refer to the specific language it contains and interpret it. This affects the petition and how your attorney decides to move forward. The deed to the property or a description of it is also necessary.

Providing proof of intent is essential. The schedule of assets is an important document here because it can demonstrate the decedent’s plans to include property in the trust. If there are any other legal documents that show intent to include property, these are equally relevant. 

When Should Estate Plans Be Updated?

The best way to deal with an issue is by preventing it. If you have a will and trust as part of your estate plan, consider reviewing and updating them. A probate attorney in Orange County can help you adjust your estate plan for your ever-changing life. 

It’s best to review and update your estate plan as often as you can, to account for any marriages, divorces, or births in the family. Any major changes to property ownership or financial situation may also warrant an update to those documents.

An estate planning lawyer in Orange County would suggest that reviewing your documents every few years will help you identify any updates you need to make. Careful revision of documents will also prevent mistakes and inconsistencies between documents, so your loved ones can avoid court and legal expenses.

Estate planning is a complex endeavor, and it goes more smoothly with the help of an attorney who specializes in estate and probate law. 

To learn more about how we can help your family file a petition or resolve other estate issues, contact us at Parker Law Offices today.

If you have been named the executor or successor trustee of an estate, it's essential to contact an Orange County estate planning attorney who can discuss your obligations and the responsibilities involved in this role. Many feel overwhelmed as they are grieving the loss of their loved one yet also faced with the responsibility of handling the administration of the estate. 

The Steps to Distributing an Estate

Executors, also known as personal representatives in some cases, are faced with an extensive list of to-dos. Let's take a look at the steps to take when it's time to distribute someone's estate.

#1 Locate the Will

Ideally, this detail has been taken care of before the decedent's passing, and you have access to all the critical documents. If not, call their estate planning attorney in Orange County

If they do not have an attorney, consider where they may have kept important documents. For example, if they had a safe deposit box, you would be allowed access to search for the will. If you cannot locate the will, the deceased is said to have died intestate and the state will determine asset distribution.  

#2 File the Will

Once located, the executor needs to file the original with the probate courts, even if probate is not expected to occur. If the deceased had a revocable trust, the assets and property placed into the trust would not need to go through probate. 

Probate can be a long, drawn-out, and financially depleting ordeal. If beneficiaries end up arguing about the distribution of the estate, you can expect rising fees and decreasing assets. Sadly, inheritance disputes bring out the worst in family members. 

#3 Notify Businesses

The executor needs to notify several companies, including utility and credit card companies, the post office, banks, and the Social Security Administration if the deceased was receiving benefits. 

Executors also need to notify creditors. Depending on state laws, they can do this through the mail or publish a notice in the local paper or both. Creditors then must file any claims within a certain period. 

#4 Appraise Inventory and Assets

After the will has been located, the executor needs to perform a thorough inventory of the assets in the estate. Assets of value, such as jewelry or antiques, will need to be appraised. It's not uncommon for family members to enter the home and remove valuable or sentimental items, making the process of inventory vital to fair distribution. 

If items are removed and the person who took them refuses to return them, the court can demand their return. In addition, if an executor feels that some assets in the home are not secure, they have the legal ability to change the locks. 

#5 Open a Bank Account

The executor is required to obtain a Federal Tax ID number and open up an estate bank account. The accounts of the deceased are then transferred into this account. 

#6 Pay Creditors

Before distributing assets, creditors, bills, fees associated with administering the estate, and funeral costs need to be paid. The Executor also needs to file the final tax return, determine if any state or federal estate tax is due, and pay any taxes. Once paid, a release from the tax agency is required by the probate court.

If there is not enough money to cover these expenses, an executor may need to sell stocks or other assets. Before doing so, contact an estate planning lawyer in Orange County.  

Because of the extensive time factor and to give creditors time to come forward and request payment, the distribution of assets can occur many months after the decedent has passed on. 

#7 Determine if Probate Is Required

To determine if probate is necessary, an executor will need to figure out the value of the assets, if a trust is in effect and the type of trust. Because of the numerous rules and regulations regarding probate, it's essential to contact an Orange County estate planning lawyer to help you through this process. If any mistakes are made in the handling of the estate, an executor can be held liable. 

#8 Work With the Successor Trustee

In many cases, the successor trustee and the executor are the same person. However, if the deceased left a living trust and named a different person as successor trustee, the executor will need to work closely with this person who is in charge of trust assets.

Any assets that have been placed into the trust do not have to go through probate and can be distributed to the beneficiaries much sooner than property going through probate.

#9 Preserve the Assets

The executor is entrusted with the immense responsibility of preserving and managing the assets before they are distributed to the beneficiaries. This means that bills need to be paid, and investments and assets need to be secured. 

Part of this process may be ensuring the home mortgage and utilities are paid as well as the insurance premiums of all valuables. Finally, the executor must also collect any money owed to the estate and deposit it in the estate's bank account. 

#10 Distribute the Assets

Once bills and taxes are paid and the probate, if applicable, has closed, an executor can distribute the assets. If the beneficiaries are not satisfied with the distribution or suspect foul play by the executor, they can request an informal accounting by the executor or petition the court for mandatory accounting. 

Should this occur, it's important to consult with an Orange County estate planning attorney as soon as possible.

Enlist the Help of a Trusted Estate Lawyer 

As you can see, the person named executor holds tremendous responsibility. If you are in the process of developing an estate plan, be sure to choose this person wisely. Anything that is not in writing, such as personal and household items, will need to be distributed by the executor at their discretion. 

For this reason, the person must be impartial and fair. The right person in this position can make the difference between a smooth transition and a family dispute that dwindles away the assets intended for loved ones. At Parker Law Offices, we ensure that our clients have the documents in place that protect your family and your assets and help executors accomplish their duties. For a complimentary consultation, contact us at Parker Law Offices today.   

As an Orange County estate planning attorney, I've had numerous clients contact our law office, concerned about the effects of Proposition 19. To help people understand this sometimes confusing proposition, we've answered some of the most frequently asked questions, including how this new amendment will affect your property taxes as well as your beneficiaries.

What Is Proposition 19?

In November 2020, California voters narrowly approved Proposition 19. The Home Protection for Seniors, Severely Disabled, Families, and Victims of Wildfire or Natural Disasters Act is an amendment that produces two significant changes in property taxes.

For starters, it provides Californians over the age of 54, and others, a significant tax break when buying a new home. To retain their parent's low property taxes, beneficiaries will have to make the inherited property their principal residence.

Let's take a look at each of these impactful changes that are now in effect. 

How Much Do Homeowners Pay on Property Taxes in California?

In California, thanks to Proposition 13, properties are taxed based on their assessed value instead of the fair market value. This value is based on the purchase price, cost of improvements, and an increase of no more than 2% per year. With housing costs in California appreciating rapidly, many homeowners pay significantly lower taxes on their current residence than if they purchased the same home today.

California has one of the highest average property tax rates in the nation, with only nine states coming in higher. The average tax rate is 0.74%, with Orange County's effective property tax rate set at 0.68%.  

An estate planning attorney Orange County CA can let you know how your estate plan will be affected by the passing of this law.

Who Receives Property Tax Breaks? 

Californians who are 55 and older, have severe disabilities, or lost their home in a natural disaster such as a wildfire received property tax breaks with the passing of Proposition 19. Previously, homeowners could transfer their property tax assessments only once in their lifetime and only within their county or nine other participating counties in California. 

To transfer the taxable value of their existing home, their new home had to be of equal or lesser value.

Under those restraints, if a person wanted to downsize their home as they got older and move from Southern to Northern California to be with their son or daughter, they may have been faced with a significantly increased property tax burden. 

For example, a home that a Californian purchased for $200,000 thirty years ago is now worth $1 million. If such a person were to sell and purchase a home for more than $500,000, their property taxes would more than double. 

Under the new amendment, qualified homeowners may transfer their property tax assessments to a new home anywhere in the state and up to three times in their lifetime. The new replacement home may cost up to $1 million more than their existing home.  

Homeowners must purchase the new property within two years of the sale of their original home. 

In essence, it allows qualified individuals to purchase a new home anywhere in the state of California and retain their relatively low property taxes, if applicable.

How Are Beneficiaries Affected?

Before Proposition 19 passed, your estate planning attorney in Orange County may have advised you to speak with them to make changes to your estate plan while the more favorable rules were in effect. The restrictive new laws regarding the property taxes paid by beneficiaries have since gone into effect on February 16, 2021.

The new law mostly eliminated the parents' and grandparents' exclusion from property reassessment when passing on their property to their children and grandchildren under certain conditions. 

Before this date, parents could transfer their principal residence to their children without triggering a reassessment. As an example, if a parent left their home to their children, the beneficiaries could retain their parent's property tax rates and still use the property as a rental or vacation home.

The previous law also allowed children to inherit the property assessments of residential or commercial properties valued up to an additional $1 million.  

Under the new law, the inherited property must be the principal residence of the parents or grandparents and valued at no more than $1 million above the current assessed value. Additionally, the property must become the child's or grandchild's primary residence within one year of ownership for them to qualify for their parent's property tax rates. 

Otherwise, the property will be reassessed and, due to current property values, the property taxes could be significantly higher.

Ultimately, children inheriting property from their parents may decide to sell the property rather than face significant property taxes. For instance, if the parent's bought a rental property for $100,000 decades ago, and that property is now worth $1 million, the children will be faced with paying property taxes on the current value. 

Contact an Orange County estate planning lawyer to determine how this new law may affect you and your family. 

Preparing For the Future

Due to the recent changes, it's important to establish your estate plan or have your existing plan reviewed. In addition to changing California laws, some experts believe that the new administration may reduce the deficit by lowering the estate tax exclusion and increasing the tax rates on transferred properties. 

The current $11.7 million estate tax exemption and gift tax exemption may be reduced to $3.5 million for estates and $1 million for gifts. Additionally, the tax rate on transfers over those amounts may increase from a flat rate of 40% to adjusted rates based on the estate's value. 

While this change affects a small percentage of Americans, several other laws are being considered that will have far broader consequences. At Parker Law Offices, we're committed to helping you protect your family's estate. For a complimentary consultation, contact us at Parker Law Offices today.

Though we all lead different lives, one thing is for certain: we all die at some point. Despite this certainty, talking about death has become a taboo topic in society, especially when it involves finances. 

It also goes without saying that as responsible children, we want to carry out the wishes of our parents. This is going to be difficult to do once they pass, especially if they have never communicated their desires when they were still alive. It can be particularly painful if no wishes have been documented in a will or a trust.

This can cause family rifts and irreparable relationship damage. Relatives who have never been part of the decedent’s life often come forward (or “out of the woodwork”) to claim assets when a loved one passes away. You can avoid these problems in the future by communicating with your parents about their estate plans today.

A living trust is a surefire way to ensure that your parents’ wishes are fulfilled after they pass. If the decedent’s wealth is less than $166,250 a simple will might help avoid probate, but a living trust can allow you to skip the probate court entirely—which is a huge bonus in itself for lots of families. 

But in a society that considers death a taboo, how do you exactly bring up the subject of getting a living trust without seeming greedy?

  1. Be Careful of Your Language 

One of the most common causes of disputes within families is miscommunication. Your reason for bringing up the living trust with your parents is because you want to avoid misunderstandings later on and making sure that their wishes are carried out. Carelessly using words they may misinterpret is an easy way to sabotage what you’re setting out to do.

Instead of immediately talking about the living trust, convey first where you’re coming from. Tell them that you’ve seen siblings become permanently estranged due to differing interpretations of a parent’s will. You can also talk to your parents about how some people wound up incurring a fortune in estate taxes and probate costs because a parent only left behind a will. Then, you can mention how a living trust may help prevent those. 

  1. Involve Your Siblings at the Right Time

Your parents’ estate plans usually involve your siblings. It’s vital that you involve your siblings in the conversation. Just be careful not to gang up on your parents, as this may be taken negatively.

Involving your siblings in a conversation about your parents’ estate and the value of a living trust will provide your parents and siblings the confidence that you’re not just looking out for yourself. This is a key factor when it comes to avoiding miscommunication.

Most of the time, we talk to people about sensitive topics when we’re ready. But establishing a living trust for your parents isn’t about you, it’s about them and what they wish to happen with the assets and properties they worked hard to accumulate for decades.

If you don’t want to be misinterpreted, make sure that you talk to your parents when they are ready to talk about this sensitive topic. Instead of just springing the topic on them while you’re having a casual conversation, set up a meeting where they know what you will talk about. 

You and your siblings should tell your parents that you’re unclear about their wishes in terms of their estate and you wouldn’t want to misinterpret their wishes and mishandle their assets. Convey how you want to support their wishes and that you wish to give them space to convey such sentiments when they are ready. 

When they’re ready, bring up the topic of living trusts and how it can help your parents make sure their wishes are carried out.

  1. Focus On Your Parents’ Wants 

One of the advantages of a living trust is determining a trust grantor’s wishes while they are still alive. Bringing up the conversation with your parents means that you want to help them carry out what they want. 

Therefore, it’s crucial in this conversation that you focus solely on what they want and less about what anyone else’s desires. If you or any of your siblings are experiencing financial difficulties, acknowledge this and perhaps have the conversation at another time.

If a parent is aware of your financial difficulties, they can easily misinterpret the conversation as you wanting money due to the timing. This is the last thing you want to happen.

When talking to your parents about getting a living trust, be careful not to question their wishes. Though we’re curious and sometimes their wishes don’t make sense to us, you should avoid asking “why?” 

This probing question conveys mistrust of their judgement and can make them lose faith in you. Even if you don’t mean anything by it, tempering your curiosity could make the difference between them thinking you’re there to help and them thinking you’re there to get their money.

  1. Allow Yourself To Be Vulnerable

Any conversation involving finances, estate planning, or succession can be a difficult one. When parents have their children try to talk to them about it, they may feel like their ability to manage their finances is being questioned, or that their children are thinking about their death.

Such discussions are often emotional. If your parents talk to you about this, they will be making themselves vulnerable to you. Because of the parent-child relationship or perhaps because of their pride, parents may find it difficult to open up. 

A good way to approach parents and help them feel more at ease to talk to you about such a topic is by allowing yourself to be vulnerable first. Convey to them your reasons for bringing up the topic. Sincerely convey your worries to your parents. Chances are they can empathize with you and wouldn’t want any of your worries to come true either.

  1. Remember That Details Aren’t Everything

When talking to your parents about the possibility of getting a living trust, don’t get caught up in the details. Though details are important, they shouldn’t be brought up in every situation especially when your parents are reluctant. 

The topic of a living trust can be emotionally triggering for your parents; pushing for details may come across as insensitive or greedy even though you’re only concerned about making sure they get what they want.

If your parents are only willing to talk about the general concept of what they want to happen with their estate, leave it at that and don’t probe further. If they’re interested in a living trust but are uncomfortable talking to you about them, arrange a consultation with an estate planning lawyer in Orange County

Because of attorney-client privilege, they may be more comfortable talking to an Orange County estate planning attorney who can help arrange the living trust in confidence.

Enlist the Help of a Trusted Attorney

Another tactic you can use to talk to your parents about getting a living trust is by showing them this article. Let them read it and have a conversation about the benefits a living trust can give them. You can also enlist the help of an Orange County estate planning attorney to more thoroughly explain how a living trust can help them carry out their wishes.

There are plenty of advantages to using a living trust as a significant piece of your overall estate plan. In fact, any Orange County estate planning attorney who doesn’t at least mention this option is behind the times. Call Parker Law Offices now at (949) 385-3130 for your free consultation with an experienced lawyer who will make your estate planning experience easy to understand, and be able to help you make the decisions that will financially help your loved ones in the future in the best way possible.

If you choose to go it alone, the worst thing that could happen is if your trust fails. When this happens, your trust may be ineffective, unable to help you, your family, or your beneficiaries.

Before you can understand the points of failure in a living trust, it’s worth exploring how living trusts work.

Living Trust: Defined

A living trust isn’t too far off from a standard will, but it has many different advantages. Ultimately, trust, along with a will, can help you avoid significant costs and time lost during the probate court process.

Unlike various other trusts, living trusts allow you to manage them yourself so long as you are alive and able.

Trusts can be full of property, bank accounts, real estate, and more. While you are managing your trust, you can add assets, transfer ownership of assets, add or remove beneficiaries, change the trustee to manage your trust, restate or cancel it altogether.

Some of the most significant benefits of using a living trust are the following:

Ultimately, a living trust gives you more control of how your assets are managed, which should result in reduced expenses and saving money. Make sure you consult an Orange County estate planning lawyer to completely understand how a living trust fits into your estate plan.

The Biggest Point of Failure

While your estate planning attorney in Orange County may have various issues to discuss and overcome with you, there is really only one major point of failure that matters.

Essentially, the biggest way your living trust can fail is if It’s not properly funded.

What is Funding?

Funding a trust is just another way of saying you’re adding assets into the trust. This task typically involves retitling your assets into the name of the trust. 

Instead of you owning your house, for example, the trust technically owns the house while you live in it. You may also have to retitle or set up life insurance policies, bank accounts, or other elements of your estate to fit into your trust.

This is when the help of an experienced estate planning attorney in Orange County CA, really comes into play.

Once your living trust is funded with your assets, your trustee is able to manage those assets if you become incapacitated. This is important as the trustee can use your assets to help pay for medical expenses you incur while you are incapacitated.

A power of attorney (also referred to as “POA”) may provide similar powers to a person of your choosing; it also allows for a person of your choosing to manage funds in the trust. For example, a beneficiary who is a child may need funds to pay for tuition in school, student housing costs, etc. Power of Attorney, in the event of your becoming incapacitated, can allow for the child to be looked after from an appropriate financial perspective and taken care of through your instructions, enabled by powers included in and allowed by your trust.

Keep Gas In The Tank

A living trust isn’t much different than your car needing fuel. For your car, you stop by the gas station and fill up the tank. With a living trust, you properly fund it. If there is no gas, you’re stuck on the side of the road. In the same way, if your trust isn’t properly funded, it won’t be much help to you, your family, or your beneficiaries.

An insufficiently funded living trust could result in time spent dealing with the probate court. The end result is that it may end up taking much time, and costing your family much more both financially and emotionally to receive assets of yours according to the decisions rendered by a probate court judge.

The other part of your car’s fuel system that is often overlooked until it’s needed is the fuel gauge. This indicator lets you know how much gas is in the tank. Keeping your trust updated and accurate is very similar to keeping your eye on the fuel gauge.

A Word of Caution

While it might seem like a good idea to run out and start throwing property and titles into your living trust without advice from an attorney, that may not be the best option. The last thing you want to do is lose money on your assets because of fees or taxes. That could mean negating the benefit of the trust altogether.

One more thing to consider, is that advice should only come from an attorney. There are examples of many paralegals and even notary publics who offer estate planning to clients. These individuals are not certified by the state bar to practice law, and do not have malpractice insurance to protect their clients against problems resulting from errors in trusts and wills that they offer. The problems from incorrectly written trusts and wills can result in partial or even complete losses, which can be catastrophic for loved ones in need of your financial assistance in the future. 

Before you transfer things into the name of your trust, work with your attorney to see how the transfer takes place, and if there are any fees or issues you should consider.

Here are some of the most common areas that could prove problematic when you’re transferring assets into your trust. Mistakes here could result in the failure of your trust as well.

Real estate. Some homeowner associations (known as “HOAs”) require that you get their permission before transferring your home’s title. They may even charge fees. Some states may require a tax or treat your home as if you sold it when you transfer the title.

Personal Property. It’s often worth transferring the title of personal property into your trust. Things like cars, boats, motorcycles, etc., are great candidates. Transferring ownership might well result in fees.

Untitled Property. Property that doesn’t have an official title can still be transferred into the trust. Your estate planning lawyer in Orange County can help you understand this process. It is crucial that your property is described in enough depth so that no one can question it.

Retirement Accounts. Transferring your 401(k), IRA or qualified annuities often requires a process of withdrawing any funds in the account, opening a new account, and then putting the money back. The problem is that emptying a retirement account can come with considerable fees, not to mention having to count that money as income on your tax return.

Start Your Estate Plan Today

Regardless of how big or small your estate is, thinking about your future is a best practice of wealth management. A living trust offers benefits that you may not find anywhere else, but it does take work.

Before making any significant decisions, make sure to meet with an estate planning attorney in Orange County, CA. It’s time you protected your life’s work.

For the best estate planning team around, schedule your free initial consultation with us at Parker Law Offices. Contact us at (949) 385-3130.

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Wills & Trusts, Estate & Trust Administration, Probate, and Health Care Power of Attorney
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