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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.

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