Making your adult child co-owner of your bank account seems like a sensible thing to do. After all, they're responsible and you can trust them to take care of your financial affairs and decisions should you become incapacitated. It's also a good way to avoid probate. However, when you talk to a probate attorney in Orange County, you'll find the decision has more risks than benefits.

Co-Ownership of Bank Accounts: What it Means for You and Your Adult Child

Co-ownership is attractive to many elderly parents who are single. There's great relief in knowing that, if you are incapacitated, your adult child has the financial power to pay bills and manage the joint account.

Many parents don't realize that joint account holders have the right to use" their" account as they wish. They can pay their own bills and expenses and you have no authority to stop them.

For example, in a month's time, you're having hip replacement surgery and you've designated some of the money to pay the medical expenses. Unfortunately, money is missing every time you check the account.

Despite repeatedly talking to your child, they continue to be compulsive spenders and you have no legal means to stop them. 

The Pros and Cons of Adding an Adult Child as a Co-Owner on Your Bank Account

There are negative unintended consequences, yes, but there are some advantages to joint bank account ownership.

No probate or estate administration tax.It's easy to add a joint holder.The adult child assists in account management and ensures the parent's finances are protected from scammers and their own poor financial decisions.Funds are immediately accessible to cover funeral and other death-related costs.Use the account without permissionCo-ownership trumps a will. If your will states the proceeds must be split between your three children, but one of them is the joint owner, all proceeds go to her.
As the sole owner, she's under no legal obligation to share the proceeds with her siblings.Creditors can be paid from the accountEx-spouses are entitled to a share of the money because it's listed as a marital asset.It's exceptionally difficult to remove a co-owner.Co-ownership could render either party ineligible for certain benefits, for example, disability benefits.

Risks of Co-Ownership: Protecting Yourself from Financial Harm

Co-owning a bank account with an adult child exposes both of you to risks as you each take on the financial obligations of the other. 

One way to keep on top of spending is to set up mobile notifications so both of you are aware of the other's transactions.

When it looks like spending is getting out of hand, you can arrange a meeting to address the problem. It's a good idea to get an estate attorney who specializes in wills and trusts involved. They'll act as mediators and ensure that the outcome is recorded in a legal document.

Liability Concerns: What Happens if Your Adult Child Owes Money?

When you make an adult child a co-owner of your bank account, you share everything. They automatically have unrestricted access to money. It also means that you take on their debt and financial obligations, such as child support.

Your co-owners creditors are well within their rights to claim payment from the co-owned account. Your child's ex-spouse is also entitled to claim child support from the account if your child has fallen behind on payments.

Estate Planning Implications: How Co-Ownership Affects Inheritance

A co-owned bank account is separate from your estate and while this avoids probate, it also means that it isn't included in your will As a result, the entire bank account is transferred to the co-owner. Often, the co-owner will share the proceedings with their siblings. But there are others who keep the full amount. It's accidental disinheritance.

You could have a meeting with all of your children to discuss options. For example, the co-owner retains the bank account but doesn't inherit any other part of your estate to the same value as the cash in the account. After that, the remaining estate is shared equally among all your children.

The co-owner might prefer to inherit items from the estate and will negotiate shares in the account. Whichever alternative your children choose, make sure you have an Orange County estate planning attorney draw up agreement documents that are beyond legal challenges.

Talking to Your Adult Child: How to Have a Conversation About Money Matters

Your financial planning is one of the most important subjects to discuss with your kids about. They must know if you have enough for a comfortable and lengthy retirement, health insurance, and an emergency fund.

You should discuss your estate and what you mean to do with it when you die. For instance, 70% is to be shared equally between them, 10% is to go to an animal shelter, 10% to nieces and nephews, and 10% is to be held in trust for 10 years, after which it is to be shared among the children.

Now is the time for your children to ask questions about your estate plan and bring up their concerns. It's also the time to emphasize the importance of honoring your wishes. It may be helpful to have an attorney who specializes in wills and trusts at the meeting.

Why Adding an Adult Child as a Co-Owner on Your Bank Account is Not a Good Idea

The points discussed show that the disadvantages heavily outweigh the potential advantages of making an adult child a co-owner of your bank account. You risk losing everything when your child's creditors come knocking or they're involved in a serious traffic collision and are severely injured. The money in your co-owned bank account may be siphoned off to pay for their care.

You could become embroiled in complex legal matters, such as your child's messy divorce settlement. 

Alternatives to Co-Ownership - Parker Law Offices Can Help You Decide!

You can enjoy the benefits of co-owned accounts without the risks by giving your child power of attorney (POA). This enables them to manage your finances and make financial decisions on your behalf. 

Your lawyer will look into the viability of Transfer on Death, which enables you to name your child a transfer-on-death beneficiary. The account is immediately turned over to your child, which avoids probate.

Our Orange County estate planning attorneys will explain how a revocable living trust affects the probate process. Contact us via our online form or call us at 949-867-4818 at Parker Law Offices to book a consultation with our team!

Estate planning isn't only something that takes care of your family after you die. You can set up a revocable or revocable living trust that protects your assets before your death and benefits your family afterward. A trust attorney in Orange County will give you all the advice you need to create a revocable trust that enables you to preserve your wealth.

Revocable trusts aren't just for the rich. Everyone with a family, no matter how small, can create a revocable trust. This is because there are many benefits that apply to all income levels. For example, a trust isn't part of your estate and doesn't go through the probate process. The assets in a trust are available far more quickly and avoid probate costs.

What is a Revocable Trust?

A revocable trust is relatively fluid, you can change the terms at any time during your lifetime. You don't have this option if you have an irrevocable trust. Its fluidity allows you to draw income from the trust and use the trust assets. When you die, the assets are distributed as you have stipulated in the trust terms.

You could, for example, draw money from the assets in a trust to pay your medical expenses for a hip replacement.

Avoiding Probate: How a Revocable Trust Can Save Time and Money

When you die, your estate goes through a probate proceeding that authenticates your will and approves your executor. It can take a long time, sometimes a year or more, and probate expenses can mount up. The cost is taken out of the estate, reducing the assets distributed to your beneficiaries.

Trusts are separate from your estate so they don't go through probate. Furthermore, if you put assets in a trust in another state, you avoid probate estate proceedings in that state.

For example, if you have rental properties in California and Maine, they are also exempt from probate.

Maintaining Privacy: Keep Your Affairs Out of the Public Eye

A will is a public document, which means anyone can take a look, including creditors who want to know if there are sufficient assets to pay your debt. Due to the fact that a revocable trust is separate from your estate, it remains a private document.

For example, an unscrupulous gold digger who frequently reads obituaries and looks at promising wills could latch onto your daughter who inherited your entire estate. That can't happen with a revocable trust document.

Flexibility: How a Revocable Trust Can Be Changed to Meet Your Needs

One of the greatest advantages of a revocable trust is the ability to change it when necessary. It may become necessary if you are incapacitated in some way and can no longer take care of yourself or your financial affairs.

For example, you find out that you have a degenerative spinal condition and know you will need help in the future. You can include terms in the trust that dictate your wants and needs, including who will manage your assets and the way in which you want them managed.

Protecting Your Assets: Shielding Your Estate from Creditors and Lawsuits

We said above that a revocable trust is private and can't be accessed by just anyone. This provides essential protection for your family against creditors.

It also provides protection from potential lawsuits.

For example, your son is sued by his ex-wife for child support. The assets in the trust can't be touched, so your son's financial problems won't affect your daughter's share of the trust property.

Minimizing Tax Liability: Maximizing the Value of Your Estate

Revocable trusts are taxed in an entirely different way from irrevocable trusts. In an irrevocable trust, assets belong to the trust, which means the trust creator and beneficiaries don't owe any income tax. However, in a revocable trust, you retain ownership of the assets and, as a result, you must submit income tax returns.

Furthermore, your estate's total (gross) value determines the income taxes due.  The revocable trust is yours and will be subject to estate taxes. However, a probate attorney in Orange County can help you with tax planning, which could result in estate tax savings or even no tax at all. This is achieved by maximizing estate tax exemptions.

For example, gifting the maximum amount allowed to your family. The gift is exempt from estate tax.

Planning for Incapacity: Ensuring Your Care is Handled as You Want

One of the biggest benefits of a revocable living trust is the control you maintain when you're incapacitated. The living trust specifies the way in which you want financial decisions and payments handled when you can no longer do so yourself. This is usually managed by your successor trustee.

It completely bypasses the need for a conservatorship, which is when the court appoints someone to manage your money.

However, you want to plan for more than your money matters. You can also dictate how you want your healthcare and personal affairs managed after incapacitating life events, such as a stroke.

Passing Your Estate to Your Heirs? Hire Parker Law Offices to Get the Job Done!

Parker Law Offices specializes in every aspect of estate planning from probate to wills and trusts. We're one of the premiere Orange County estate planning attorney law firms. We will help you create a basic trust plan and go on to help you set up a revocable living trust for your adult and minor children.

We also help with larger estate plans that include biological children as well as step-children who aren't automatic beneficiaries.

You can rely on our expertise, professionalism, and confidentiality when drawing up your trust agreement. Contact our team at Parker Law Offices by completing the form on our website. Alternatively, you can call 949-867-4818 to book a consultation today!

Retirement accounts are part of your estate and must be included in your estate plan to ensure it goes to your chosen beneficiaries after you've passed on. Talk to your probate attorney in Orange County about how best to divide your retirement account among your descendants.

One way to keep it in the family is to use per stirpesPer stirpes ensures that your grandchildren inherit a fair portion of the estate if their mother, which is your daughter, dies before you. In other words, the children inherit their mother's share.

Without per stirpes, your daughter's share of the inheritance is divided among your surviving children which is her siblings, increasing the amount they stand to inherit. Your grandchildren don't see a cent of your retirement account.

The Basics of Naming Beneficiaries on Retirement Accounts

You need to be sure about who you want to inherit your retirement account. This is because the named beneficiary will benefit despite what you say in your will. For example, you weren't married when you opened your retirement account and named your cousin John the beneficiary.

However, in your will, you state that you want your daughter, Betty, to inherit the account. If you forgot to update the beneficiary, or you mistakenly thought that your will superseded the designated retirement account beneficiary, John will still get the money.

Think about contingency beneficiaries. They benefit when none of your primary beneficiaries is around to inherit undistributed estate assets. For example, you bequeath your car to your niece but she passes away before you. If you named your niece's daughter as a contingent beneficiary then she gets the car.

It may sound confusing, but an Orange County estate planning attorney will help you make sense of it all.

Your Spouse is Your Default Beneficiary

Most married couples name each other as beneficiaries, which makes sense. Your spouse has plenty of choices when deciding how best to use the account. For example, they can keep the account where it is and let it grow, they can liquidate a portion or all of it, or they can roll it into their retirement account.

Note that if you live in a community property state, your spouse is entitled to claim 50% of the account, regardless of who is the designated beneficiary.

Your Spouse is Not Your Default Beneficiary

If your beneficiary is your daughter and you die while she is still a minor, she has the option to take the required minimum distribution (RMD) based on her life expectancy as determined by the Single Life Table.

Your daughter's designated guardian can help her make the choice, but it's an even better idea to consult the attorney who helped you with your estate planning.

If the beneficiary isn't part of the family, they must withdraw all the assets from the account before December 31, on the 10th anniversary year of your death. Other beneficiaries must take annual life expectancy payments until December 31, on the 10th anniversary of your death.

Your Beneficiary is a Trust

There are many advantages to naming a trust as your beneficiary, including the increased control you have over distributing your assets.

When you create trust, you must name someone trustworthy as the administrator. They manage the trust on behalf of your beneficiaries. Trusts can be tricky to set up. This is why you should engage a specialist trust attorney in Orange County.

You Named a Charity as a Beneficiary

You can name your favorite charity/ies as a beneficiary, but it's recommended that you only do so once your closest descendants are taken care of.

Can Your Estate Be a Beneficiary?

Yes, it can, but it's not recommended. Retirement accounts don't go through probate. It's one of the things that makes them so attractive. When your account becomes part of your estate, it's subject to probate, just like everything else in your entire estate.

What Does Per Stirpes Mean?

Per stirpes is a way to include your grandchildren as beneficiaries on your retirement account. The legal term demonstrates a lineal distribution process should the primary beneficiary pass away before the testator.

Specifically, it follows a line of lineal descendants; from the testator to their child to grandchild and to great-grandchild.

Per stirpes doesn't apply to spouses, siblings, or parents, it's lineal children only. Clearly State It's Per Stirpes. You must say that the distribution is per stirpes, otherwise, your assets will be distributed per capita.

For example: "I leave my daughter, Berta King, half or 50% of my estate. If Berta King predeceases me, her inheritance must be distributed to Berta King's descendants, per stirpes."

The Problem with Not Including Per Stirpes on Beneficiary Forms

If you don't state that the distribution is per stirpes, your estate is likely to be distributed per capitaPer capita or by the heads distribution of property divides assets equally between all direct descendants, with no provision for grandchildren.

Example 1: James and Charlotte

Per capita

Mom and Dad have two children, James and Charlotte. James and Charlotte each have three children. James and Charlotte are the beneficiaries of Mom's retirement account. James dies before Mom. Charlotte gets 100% of the account. 

Or ...

Mom and Dad have three children, James, Charlotte, and Angela, and the siblings have three children each. The retirement account is divided equally between the three siblings: 33.33% each. James dies before Mom. His 33.33% is returned to the estate and divided among his sisters, who now get 50% each.

Per stirpes

Mom and Dad have two children, James and Charlotte. James and Charlotte have three children each. James and Charlotte are beneficiaries of Mom's retirement account. James dies before Mom. Charlotte still gets her 50%. James' 50% is divided among his three children. Each gets ⅓ of 50%.

Example 2: Why Per Stirpes Matters for Large Families

Per stirpes works better for small families than big ones. Per capita is better for big families. It's related to the perception of fairness.

Per stirpes

Mom and Dad have three children, James, Charlotte, and Angela. James and Charlotte have two children each. Angela has five children.

Mom and Dad have a horse riding business, which they want to keep in the family. Rather than dividing 1500 shares equally between the three children, they decide to skip a generation and leave the shares to the grandchildren.

James' children split 500 shares between them, 250 each. Charlotte's children also split 500 shares between them, 250 each. Angela's children have to split 500 shares five ways. They each get 100 shares. 

In a per capita arrangement, 1500 shares would have been split evenly between nine grandchildren who get the same amount.

Other Considerations When Naming Beneficiaries on Retirement Accounts

Think about your financial dependents and how they'll cope after your death. For example, you might have an irresponsible brother who has never been independent. You might also have a daughter who has special needs and won't ever be able to support herself independently.

You can choose to leave most of your assets in trust for your daughter so she always has the care she needs, and leave only a small portion to your brother, forcing him to make his own way.

When you die, your estate faces estate tax, gift tax, income tax, and property tax. Your estate planning and probate attorney will help you distribute your assets in a way that avoids as much tax as possible.

When to Update Beneficiary Forms and Why is this Important?

Life is fluid. Your circumstances this year will be different in two years' time. For example, you downscaled your house and your granddaughter was born. Your son got divorced and married a mother of two. 

In this example, you should update your beneficiary designation forms after each major change. Even if you don't have major life changes, it's still a good idea to take a look at your beneficiary forms every two years or so.

A beneficiary might have moved to a different state or gotten married and changed their name. The changes must be made in the beneficiary forms to ensure your retirement accounts go to the right person.

Your Orange County estate planning attorney will help you with the updates because any mistakes you make will stand if you die before you get around to updating the form again. Note, named beneficiaries to trump the wishes stated in your will. If you want to make a change, you must do it on the form.

Benefits of Hiring a Trust Attorney for Per Stirpes in Orange County

Estate planning is not as simple as one thinks. Especially as you mature and accumulate the trappings of a comfortable life. One of the things you should think about is whether you want to leave your family their inheritance directly, or in trusts.

Trusts aren't always the best choice. If this is the case in your situation, your trust attorney in Orange County will advise you on asset distribution, especially per stirpes and per capita methodsThis enables you you can make an informed decision to bequeath assets in a way that matters to you.

Professional Legal Advice and Guidance

Estate planning attorneys, including those who specialize in trusts or probate, are well-versed in the finer details of wills, trusts, and guardianship decisions. They'll show you how to structure your estate to avoid probate and pay the least amount of tax.

Experience with Estate Planning Laws

Estate planning and trust attorneys know how to use the law in a way that is most beneficial to you and your beneficiaries. 

Know the Best Options for Your Situation

If you start estate planning early, and you stick with the same firm, your attorney gets to know you and provides personalized advice. Your attorney also gets to know your family, which gives them further insights into which aspects of estate planning will suit you.

Avoid Common Mistakes When Naming Beneficiaries with the Help of an Orange County Estate Planning Attorney

We all make mistakes. Sometimes the consequences are negligible, but sometimes they're significant. With an expert estate planning lawyer by your side, you can avoid the most common mistakes, including the following:

Not Being Specific About Beneficiaries

Be specific if you name your favorite cousin in your will. Use her full name and be clear about what it is that you're leaving her. Don't leave it open to interpretation. 

This is especially important where stepchildren are concerned. Stepchildren aren't natural beneficiaries, like adopted and biological children. You may love them like your own, but unless you specifically enter their full names and designate their share in assets, they could be left out entirely.

Not Naming Contingent Beneficiaries

Contingent beneficiaries are the people or entities (like a charity) that will inherit an asset should your primary beneficiary have passed away. It's important to name as many contingent beneficiaries as necessary for your estate.

Not Naming All Your Children

Don't name one of your children as the beneficiary on all your retirement accounts and policies. You may think they'll share with their siblings, but don't take it for granted. There might be an unrelated spat between the two of them, which leads to decisions made in anger, or spite. They may be regretted and amended, but it's best to avoid the situation in the first place.

Moreover, a named beneficiary isn't obliged to share assets. If there are tenuous relationships between your children, this is where they'll suffer. In some cases, this could result in contestation and even more animosity.

Not Being Specific About the Manner of Distribution

You must very clearly state if you want assets distributed per stirpes. If you aren't clear then your estate will be distributed in the default manner, which is typically per capita.

Not Choosing Responsible Beneficiaries

Almost every family has one person who recklessly spends money. Name that person the beneficiary of your retirement account and all your hard-earned money will be frittered away.

It's better to put the money in a trust for that person and then appoint a responsible trustee who will administer money or assets in a judicious manner.

Choosing a Beneficiary Who is a Minor or Has Special Needs

Getting your estate planning attorney's input here is important because it's tricky ground. You can leave your retirement accounts to a minor, but not directly. A trust is suitable in this instance.

You might not be doing your nephew with special needs a favor by naming him on the beneficiary form. Many people with special needs get government benefits, but your gift could put them in a situation where they no longer qualify for benefits. Even a marginal change can worsen their circumstances. Your estate planning lawyer will set up a trust instead.

Choosing Your Pet

There are plenty of stories of millionaires who left their entire fortune to their cats. You might think that's a good idea because you're not fond of your family or you don't have any family left, but it's not.

Instead, make provision for them in your will or a living trust. Just appoint a fellow animal lover as your pet's trustee.

Not Talking to Your Family About Your Wishes

Your family may make certain assumptions about your will. If your son assumes he's going to inherit the family business, but you want to leave it to your daughter because she's more business savvy, you need to discuss it with both of them.

Special circumstances aside, talking to your family about your estate plan is generally a good idea. There's no need to go into detail but a frank discussion will go a long way to providing your family with peace of mind.

Protect Your Legacy for Future Generations with an Experienced Trust Attorney in Orange County

It's never too early to develop an estate plan. One of our estate planning attorneys in Orange County will help you keep your plan up to date over the years and ensure that it remains clear about your wishes, especially if you want to go with per stirpes distribution to ensure your grandchildren aren't left out of your will.

To book a consultation and get your estate planning going, fill out our online form or contact us at 949-867-4818 at Parker Law Offices today!

As you make plans for your estate assets, you may be wondering whether your estate will be subject to probate. A trust attorney in Orange County can help you set up a trust and find other solutions that allow your loved ones to avoid or streamline the probate process.

Probate can be a long, expensive procedure, and avoiding it can make things easier for your loved ones. Below, we'll discuss estates that are exempt from probate and how you can qualify for a probate alternative.

How Does Probate Work?

Probate is a legal process that allows the court to review a deceased person's estate and determine how to divide it among beneficiaries. It occurs whether or not a person has a will.

If the deceased person has a will, the probate court will assess it and determine if it is valid. If so, they will formally assign an executor for the decedent's estate, and that person will divide the estate assets accordingly.

When a person dies without a will, a California probate court will step in and make decisions about how to distribute their assets.

Some probate cases last for over a year, particularly if the case is complicated or if family members dispute the outcome. Probate issues can prove to be both frustrating and expensive—which is why it is worth it to plan ahead to avoid the court if at all possible.

Creating an estate plan with an Orange county probate lawyer can save your loved ones time and money—allowing them the opportunity to grieve in peace after your death.

Is Probate a Mandatory Process?

Probate is required for most estates, but not all. In certain circumstances, California residents can petition for a simpler alternative to the formal probate process.

Many people seek this option because it can save them valuable time and money. Instead of dealing with legal issues and lengthy cases, you can submit an affidavit that will allow you to take legal ownership of your inherited assets.

A probate attorney in Orange County can help you identify ways to simplify your estate so your loved ones can inherit your property quickly and painlessly. Instead of hiring probate lawyers, they will be able to grieve and settle your affairs in peace.

How Can You Avoid Probate?

Simply creating an estate plan doesn't allow you to avoid Orange County probate court, although it's a good start. Wills and other documents do not exempt you from the process.

The court makes an exception for surviving spouses, small estates, property in trusts, and anything that falls outside of probate jurisdiction.

Through careful estate planning and working with an Orange County probate attorney, you can avoid probate altogether. Your attorney can also help you prepare the paperwork and settle legal matters as they arise.

Surviving Spousal Property Petitions

Spouses and domestic partners can often skip probate and instead automatically inherit personal property. With items like furniture, clothing, and other personal effects, there's no need to submit any paperwork.

Real property that is owned with the right of survivorship will also transfer automatically to the surviving spouse. If there's a need to retitle the property, the spouse can submit an affidavit to complete the transfer.

For property without the right of survivorship, a spouse can submit a spousal property petition. Though this route does require some paperwork, it is still much faster than probate court. There's no limit to the value of the property that can be transferred this way, and it can be used for everything from real estate to stocks.

Small Estate Probate

In Orange County, CA, small estate probate procedures can expedite the process and make things much easier. Instead of going to court and hiring an attorney, beneficiaries can submit an affidavit for the transfer of property or real estate.

As of April 2022, a small estate is an estate that is worth less than $184,500. The court adjusts this cutoff for inflation every three years.

This limit may seem low. However, when calculating your assets to see whether you qualify for this option, you can exclude:

By excluding these assets, it is much easier to qualify for small estate probate procedures. Your probate attorney in Orange County can set up a trust for you and find other ways to ensure your estate qualifies for this path.


Trusts are a useful estate planning tool, and they have many benefits, including avoiding Orange Country probate. Trusts allow for automatic transfer of property ownership to the beneficiaries listed and they can be personalized to fit your unique financial and legal needs.

All assets contained in a trust are private, unlike property that is transferred via the will. Trusts also protect your assets from lawsuits, like personal injury cases where the claimant demands payment for damages. They also protect assets from creditor claims.

Probate attorneys may recommend a trust as the best option for your estate.

Designating a Beneficiary

Many financial accounts allow you to designate a beneficiary through the bank, and all of these accounts are exempt from probate.

Retirement accounts, bank accounts, life insurance policies, and other accounts can automatically transfer to beneficiaries upon the owner's death with no need for involvement from probate courts.

Hiring a Probate Attorney

At Parker Law Offices, we can take care of all your estate planning needs. Our senior attorney specializes in creating solid estate plans that allow for a seamless transfer of assets to beneficiaries.

We also help clients through the probate process and help them determine if they qualify for alternatives. With the help of a probate law firm, you can get a much better outcome, save money, and potentially reduce your estate taxes.To schedule your free consultation with a skilled probate attorney in Orange County, fill out our online form or contact us at 949-867-4818 at Parker Law Offices today!

Preparing for the future is one of the most important ways you can care for your loved ones. Creating a solid, valid will makes your final wishes clear and can save them serious time that would otherwise be spent trying to clear up your affairs. If you want to save your loved ones time and stress, consider working with a probate attorney in Orange County

Probate is notorious for taking a long time and resulting in high legal fees. If you set up your estate to avoid probate, your family will have an easier time settling your affairs and making funeral plans.

Here is how you can handle probate concerns with your will. 

What is a Probate?

Probate is a legal process that allows the court to oversee the management of a deceased person's estate. This includes the distribution of assets, payment of debts, and more. Depending on the size of the estate, what it includes, and its overall complexity—the process can take years. 

It has many steps, from first authenticating the will to locating the assets and determining their value. There are options if you wish to avoid this expensive and complex task, such as putting your assets into a trust fund or using retirement and bank accounts to hold your assets. 

Probate laws vary by state and area, which is why it's important to find a local California attorney to handle your case. 

What is a Will?

A will is an estate planning document that records a person's final wishes. It may include everything from burial instructions to gifting property to friends and loved ones. It may even include charitable donations. It can also designate guardianships for your minor children in the case of your death, assign power of attorney to a trusted person, and more.

Wills are designed to provide solid, legally valid instructions for the court and your loved ones to follow. Lawyers can help you draft a will that reflects your intentions clearly and effectively. Involving a lawyer reduces the chances of disputes or confusion later down the line.

A will isn't the only document you need for estate planning, but it's a good start and an essential component for most people.

When Probating a Will is Necessary

If you are new to estate planning and related topics, you may be wondering if probate is always necessary. The answer is that probate is often necessary before heirs can receive their inheritances or access the deceased's accounts to pay off bills.  

Local probate lawyers are generally the best people to answer your unique questions on this topic, but here we'll discuss a few common scenarios.  In most situations, a will must go through probate in order to assess its validity and assign an executor. 

The executor of a will is responsible for making sure that its terms are carried out. This person will often want to hire a probate attorney to make sure everything goes smoothly and that they are interpreting the will correctly.

Assets are Owned Under the Decedent’s Sole Name

Assets owned solely by the decedent will need to go through probate before they can be retitled in the beneficiaries' names. If there are no joint owners and there's no stated beneficiary for payable-on-death accounts, then probate is the solution. 

However, many states offer exceptions for small estates that are under a certain threshold. These can skip probate and instead go through a streamlined alternative. For example, if a house was owned solely by a father, it would need to go to probate before his children can have their names put on the deed.

Assets are Owned as a Tenant in Common

When property titles are shared among multiple people, distributing that property in a will or other estate plan can be tough. Probate steps in to handle this particular issue—the probate process will transfer a property share from the decedent to his heirs. 

However, it's possible to plan ahead for this situation. Placing a property share into a living trust, for example, allows the beneficiaries to skip probate and simply transition into ownership. 

No Designated Beneficiaries

In some situations, people create estate plans and either fail to name beneficiaries, or all their beneficiaries are deceased. 

This is most common when it comes to payable-on-death accounts, such as bank accounts, retirement accounts, and life insurance policies. Account owners are required to name beneficiaries. The probate court will distribute these accounts to the rightful beneficiaries according to local inheritance law.

The Decedent Didn’t Have a Last Will and Testament

When someone dies without a will or other estate planning documents, they are considered intestate. Without any legal documents to follow, the case will go directly to probate court. 

In court, a judge will divide the estate according to local law. The law tends to prioritize spouses and family members, and may not always reflect the wishes of the deceased person. 

Some people choose not to create a will for privacy reasons or to avoid probate. Wills are a matter of public record, and not all families want to publish details about their finances. Instead, they work with a trust attorney in Orange County to create a trust that will distribute their assets to beneficiaries smoothly and without probate.

Prepare Your Will with a Trusted Probate Attorney in Orange County

As you plan for the future, don't neglect estate planning. Working with a trusted attorney means you can plan for your unique financial situation and ensure that your assets are distributed as you want them. 

Creating a will is one of the most important steps you can take. A lawyer who specializes in estates will guide you through the process so you can avoid common pitfalls and make sure your will is clear and easy to carry out. 

Parker Law Offices is your go-to law firm for all estate planning matters. To schedule a free consultation with our probate attorney in Orange County, contact us at 949-867-4818 at Parker Law Offices today!

A probate is a legal process that can be expensive and tedious. It is designed to facilitate the transfer of a deceased person's assets. Many people aim to avoid probate altogether, while others hire a probate attorney in Orange County to help them navigate the process smoothly.

Probate lawyers can help you understand what this process looks like, how it will affect your loved ones, and whether or not you can avoid it.

Here's more information on how probate works and how the court processes wills.

An Overview of Probate

In order for a deceased person's estate to transfer legal ownership, it needs to go to probate court. This legal process allows beneficiaries to gain the legal title of real estate property and other assets.

When a person has an estate plan that includes a will and other documents, the court will use those to guide the probate case. The executor is expected to file the will with a probate court.

The court will make sure it is a valid will, then officially appoint the executor. This step is important because it gives the executor the legal authority needed to carry out their duties. In some cases, family members may challenge the will if they think it does not reflect the decedent's wishes.

Probate cases also settle the matter of any debts. If an estate doesn't go to a probate court, creditors may consider the beneficiaries responsible for those debts and seek repayment from them. Probate court proceedings are a matter of public record, which means that the details of your estate also become public—some clients wish to avoid this.

Crucially, probate also includes fees that can substantially affect the size of the estate you pass on to your loved ones. Many people hope to avoid probate and lawyer fees by skipping this step altogether.

If you are concerned about the process or want to make things easier for your beneficiaries, consider meeting with an Orange County probate lawyer. A legal professional can share more information about the probate process and potential legal issues that can arise.

What Does Probate Look Like When there's No Will?

When there is no will, probate courts step in to hash out the distribution and transfer of belongings. They will apply local inheritance law to determine how to distribute assets.

Since there is no will to guide the process, it may not reflect the wishes of a deceased person. Challenging the ruling in court may require you to spend more time remedying the legal situation.

In this situation, it's a good idea to get in touch with a probate law firm. During your initial consultation, you can discuss the details of your legal needs and they will inform you of the potential outcomes.

Does Every Will Go Through Probate?

Though most will go through the California probate process, not all of them do. In certain circumstances, estate assets can be exempt from the probate process. An experienced probate attorney can point out potential time-saving options that will help you skip probate court.

Spousal property petitions allow a surviving spouse to legally obtain ownership of property that has a formal title document. This is useful for real estate, vehicles, bank accounts, and other assets. Petitions tend to be faster and easier to complete than probate cases.

Small estate affidavits allow beneficiaries to collect property quickly. This shortcut is available in California for estates under $184, 500, but excludes real estate. If the real estate is worth less than $61, 500, you can file a separate affidavit specific to the real property.

As you work on estate planning, your lawyer can point out options that will allow your friends and family members to inherit your assets as smoothly as possible.

Can You Avoid Probate?

For many people, probate is an inconvenient process that prevents them from accessing their inheritance in a timely manner. If your goal is to avoid it, careful estate planning is your best option. Working with outstanding lawyers can save your beneficiaries money and ensure that your wealth is passed on without

Orange County probate lawyers can help you negotiate all the potential probate issues that can arise, from creditor claims to interpreting legal documents. They can handle all your probate needs smoothly and efficiently.

Assets contained in life insurance policies and retirement accounts are exempted from probate, as well as properties owned by joint tenancy. During your estate planning, you can aim to put as many assets as possible into accounts that won't require probate.

It's possible to do independent research on how to avoid probate, but a legal expert can help you determine which ones are most realistic for California residents.

Using a Trust to Avoid Probate

One of the best ways to avoid probate court is by using a trust to transfer the decedent's estate assets to beneficiaries. Assets kept in a trust are automatically transferred to the beneficiaries upon the trust creator's death. This means there's no need to deal with probate law and any of its inconveniences.

Trusts are complex documents, and they also offer plenty of flexibility. A revocable living trust is a popular way to pass on assets without running into legal issues.

A trust attorney in Orange County can assess your financial situation and help you create a trust that matches your unique financial needs. It's possible to add multiple beneficiaries, create stipulations to protect the family's wealth, and more.

Hire Orange County Probate Attorneys

Estate planning is a complex task, but it's worth the effort to ensure that you have your final affairs settled.

If avoiding probate is your goal, there are several options you can pursue with the help of an Orange County probate attorney. An attorney will prevent you from making costly mistakes related to this important legal issue.

When you need to hire a probate attorney in Orange County, you can count on Parker Law Offices. We will guide you through the legal process and keep you informed as the case develops.

For a free consultation with a legal expert familiar with Orange County probate court, 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.

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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