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!

Probate is known as a time-consuming legal procedure that slows down the inheritance process and can lead to large attorney fees. You may be wondering if there are alternatives that would be less expensive and have a faster timeline. A Laguna Niguel estate planning attorney can help you find alternatives to the traditional probate experience.

Whether you are creating an estate plan for yourself or handling a loved one's estate, professional legal services can help you learn more about this process and how to avoid probate court.

What is Probate?

The probate court assesses a deceased person's estate and determines how to divide the assets. Whether or not there is a will, the court can oversee the distribution of assets. On the other hand, if there is one, the probate court can declare it valid or reject it. Once they approve a will, they will appoint an executor to carry out its terms.

When someone dies without a will, they are considered intestate. In this situation, the court will use existing succession law to divide assets. The deceased's wishes are not taken into account, because there is no formal record of them.

If the family members disagree with the court about how the case was handled, they can open an estate litigation case to argue against it, lengthening the process as a result. Probate can potentially last many months, causing beneficiaries to rack up legal fees and cause significant delays in receiving inheritances.

It also ties up the property that is undergoing probate, meaning that beneficiaries will need to wait months before they can access it.

If you want to make sure your will is clear and legally valid, an Orange County wills and trusts lawyer can help. They can also assist you with related documents such as your advance directives, living will, and more.

Are there Probate Shortcuts?

California probate code includes some options that allow beneficiaries to skip or shorten the probate process in certain situations.

The surviving spouse in a marriage, for example, can often skip probate. Beneficiaries of a small estate may also be able to skip probate or avoid estate tax liability. We'll go into more detail about these options below.

However, if you are creating your estate planning documents, we recommend working with a trust attorney in Orange County. You will learn about ways to reduce your estate taxes, options for smooth transfer of assets, and

Surviving Spouse Shortcut

A surviving spouse can petition to bypass probate. When it comes to personal possessions like furniture, clothing, and similar items, no process is needed at all.

The right of survivorship applies when spouses own property jointly or through community property. It allows the survivor to take over full ownership of the property without going to court.

For property that is not owned jointly, there is the spousal property petition. There is no limit to the value of the property that can be transferred through this process.

If you want to make sure your estate plans make things easy for your spouse, it's important to see a will and trusts lawyer with in-depth knowledge of Orange County courts

Small Estate Probate

Small estates qualify for a streamlined alternative to probate that is far more convenient. These, as of April 2022, are estates that are under $184,500 in value.

However, it is possible to qualify even if your total assets are worth more than this. Your probate estate excludes many assets, such as the following:

Since you can exclude many assets from your estate this way, it's possible to qualify for small estate probate even if your actual estate surpasses the stated limit. An Orange County trust expert can help you learn more and decide if this approach works for you.


Another option is to create a trust to pass on assets seamlessly to your loved ones without going through probate. A living trust attorney can help you create a trust that suits your specific needs and those of your family.

Your trust estate is private, unlike a will, which becomes a part of the public record. Trusts also provide asset protection. When assets are transferred to a trust, the legal title will belong to the trustee. This protects your assets from personal injury cases, other lawsuits, and creditors.

It's also possible to name beneficiaries for certain assets, including bank accounts, retirement accounts, and life insurance policies. These assets will bypass probate and go directly to the beneficiaries.

How Can Estate Planning Make the Probate Process Faster?

When you work with an experienced estate planning attorney, you can identify options that will expedite the probate process or allow your heirs to bypass it completely.

Creating living trusts is a popular choice among those who have large or complex estates. Using a trust instead of a will can lower your overall estate value—potentially allowing it to qualify for a small estate probate procedure.

A revocable living trust is an excellent option for anyone who wants to maintain access to their assets. Once the owner passes away, the assets will automatically transfer to the beneficiaries according to the trust document. Every revocable trust is different, and you can add special stipulations to protect minor children, disabled heirs, and more.

An irrevocable trust cannot be changed, limiting its flexibility. However, this type of trust offers significant potential tax benefits. A trust and estate planning lawyer can draft a customized trust for you and help with trust administration as well.

Choosing the Right Trust and Estate Planning Attorney

If your goal is to skip probate and handle your estate legal matters as efficiently as possible, hire a trust attorney in Orange County. Our legal team provides professional service and can answer all of your questions about trust and estate litigation.

Set up a free consultation with a legal expert! We will discuss your options and explain what our law firm can do for you. We have been serving Orange County, CA for many years, from Buena Park to San Clemente. 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!

When a person passes away, their assets will generally be subject to probate, a process by which the court assesses their will and other estate documents. Working with a skilled trust attorney in Orange County makes it easy to set up your estate to avoid going through this long and expensive legal procedure.

Many of our clients want to avoid having their assets be a matter of public record, and there are options for doing so. In this article, we'll explore probate, probate records, and potential privacy concerns.

What is a Probate Record?

A probate record is a public record of what happened during a probate case. Probate is a legal process that takes place in a courtroom to handle a deceased person's estate. Since it's a court process, it must be publicly documented. 

All the relevant information and documents are available in a case file. However, case files aren't always readily available. Some courthouses digitize files frequently and quickly. While others take longer or don't make their records available online. 

To access these records, one will need the last name of the decedent and their date of death. In most cities, those who wish to see or get a copy of the records need to pay a fee.

What is Included in a Probate Record?

A probate record includes the legal documents that were involved in the probate case. At a minimum, this includes the will and other estate planning documents. Sometimes it also includes testamentary letters and an estate inventory. It generally includes personal information about the deceased and beneficiaries.

The documents in probate records all become public knowledge, which is important to consider as you make plans for your estate. For some families, that could cause complications or expose them to unwanted attention. An experienced attorney will be able to alert you to these issues and help you avoid them, when possible. 

Probate Records are Public

Like many other vital documents, estate records are available to the public. Even when they include private, personal information about the deceased and their heirs, they are open to the public.

Most wills go through probate court, and when they do, they become a part of public court records. Before that point, the court considers wills private documents. 

For families who value privacy most, this can be a cause for concern. They may want to find ways around probate court. Once a court case starts, it's almost impossible to keep records privately. Working with a Laguna Niguel estate planning attorney allows you to find workarounds that avoid probate and all the costs and invasions of privacy that it may entail. 

What Information Can You Access from Probate Records?

Probate records are detailed and include the documents submitted in court. This includes the will, administrative letters, testamentary letters, and even an inventory of the estate. This information is all public to anyone who wishes to find it.

It also includes information about the deceased person, a list of beneficiaries, and more. Sometimes the records also include personal information about the beneficiaries and executor. When a will is contested or there are other legal actions associated with it, there could be even more documents available in the probate record. 

Unfortunately, it's hard to make this information private once it's part of the public record. The court only seals these records on very rare occasions, and one example is when a judge thought the records might influence a jury and affect a court case.

A better course of action is to prevent the probate process, to begin with. An estate and trust lawyer can help you find solutions to privacy concerns and more.

Define Probate Court - Navigating Through the Legal Process

Probate court is a legal process that settles the estate of a person who has passed away. In many cases, it includes dividing that person's estate, paying off their debts, and carrying out their burial and other final wishes. 

Probate can get quite complicated, especially if the deceased had a large estate or complex finances. An experienced attorney can guide you through the process and advocate on your behalf, if necessary. If a case seems likely to be long and complex, it's a good idea to find a lawyer before the case even begins.

There are a few situations where you can avoid probate. Trusts are a popular way to avoid probate and put all the details of estates in the public record. Retirement accounts, bank accounts, and life insurance policies also tend to have named beneficiaries. 

When creating your estate plan, these are things to consider. Estate and trust attorneys know all the most pressing concerns you may be facing, and they can help you address them and make things easier for your loved ones in the future. That way, they can grieve your death without the added burden of practical concerns. 

Probate Court - Your Estate Executor

The executor is specifically mentioned in the probate record. In some instances, this person's name and contact information will be a part of the record as well. The beneficiaries will also be mentioned here, possibly also with contact information. 

This is intended to make it easier for the family to get in touch if they have questions or concerns about how their loved one's will is being handled. Some executors choose to work with a law firm to support their decisions and show that they are acting in the family's best interest.

Avoid Probate Court with Parker Law Offices!

Handling your estate planning ahead of time is one of the best ways you can protect your family from hours of legal strife. Parker Law Offices provides legal help and estate administration, so you can plan ahead and make the most of your estate.Our trust attorney Orange County will offer personalized advice so you can avoid probate or keep as much personal information hidden as possible. For a free consultation, so you can learn more about our services, 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!

The probate process is known for being long and tedious. However, some people go through probate without having a lawyer help them through the process. While it is possible to handle probate yourself, a skilled Laguna Niguel estate planning attorney can make the process faster, easier, and less stressful.

Below, we'll discuss what probate is and what it's like to handle your own case in court.

What is Probate?

Probate is a legal process that determines how to distribute assets to the beneficiaries after a person dies. During a probate case, the court will review the will and ensure that it is valid. The court names an executor, and that person is responsible for dividing the assets and carrying out the terms of the will.

Wills are sometimes challenged by the beneficiaries, which adds another step to the process. Family members may challenge the court rulings, arguing that they deserve more or deserve a particular asset. If this occurs, the court will assess the situation and settle it according to local probate law.

If there is no will, the court will use local inheritance laws to determine how they should divide assets among family members. For many families, these standardized laws don't fit their realities, which can cause conflict and lead to disputes.

Many factors can affect what probate looks like and how long the process takes. The larger and more complex the estate, the longer it will take to settle the case.

Is It Possible to Avoid Probate?

It is possible to avoid probate, but generally, this needs to be done ahead of time as part of the estate planning process.

Living trusts, for example, are a popular way to ensure the smooth transfer of assets upon the trust creator's death. This means that beneficiaries can access their inheritance as quickly as possible.

Putting assets into retirement accounts and life insurance policies can also serve as a kind of asset protection that allows you to skip probate. Surviving spouses can inherit property seamlessly without months or years of deliberation in court.

Small estate procedures are designed to let some people skip costly, time-consuming probate court. In California, estates with a value under $184,500 aren't subject to probate. Instead, beneficiaries can claim assets with an affidavit, which is simpler and cheaper to obtain.

Creating an advanced estate plan is often worth it for high-net-worth individuals. Tax planning will help you minimize estate tax and other fees. In this situation, working with a skilled estate planning attorney can save you significant amounts of money.

Business succession planning and other types of estate plans will make things much easier for your friends, family members, and business partners in the event of your death. Planning for the future is one of the best gifts you can give your loved ones.

Can You Handle Probate Alone?

It is possible to handle probate without an attorney. But, the reason most people hire a lawyer from a probate law firm is that they can rely on them to handle mishaps and legal issues with a high level of expertise.

Probate law also branches out into several related practice areas, including real estate law, trust litigation, and more. Your familiarity with probate may not be of much help when these issues come into play.

Handling your probate case requires a bit of time and effort. You'll need to fill out paperwork on your own, make time to appear at hearings and more. Since you're not as familiar with the law, you'll likely make some minor or major mistakes. Because the court system moves slowly, these problems can cost you valuable time.

If your family is waiting for their inheritance to handle the deceased person's affairs, for example, setbacks can be frustrating. Finding a professional law corporation in Laguna Niguel, CA can save you plenty of time and stress.

How Does Working with a Lawyer Make Probate Easier?

Probate law is complex and varies from state to state and even between cities, making it difficult to find a one-size-fits-all guide.

Estate planning lawyers serving Laguna Niguel can assist you in planning out your will and other legal documents. Careful planning can even help with avoiding probate altogether.


If you aren't familiar with the law, it can be tough to keep track of all the lengthy, complicated forms and information needed during probate. Making small errors in your paperwork can set your case back by weeks, sending you back to square one and causing frustration.

Probate administration is a complex task that may lead to more than a few late nights. When you are already grieving a loss, you may not have the time or energy to be your own probate attorney.


Any court case can take up a lot of your time and conflict with your schedule. Between scheduling hearings, making mistakes on forms, and other mishaps, handling probate on your own can start to feel like a second job.

Even with a lawyer's help, probate can take a year or even longer, depending on the situation. Without legal guidance from a probate attorney, it could drag on for even longer.

Tax Benefits

If your goal is to save money, you may be surprised at the little-known options you have to reduce taxes and fees. Attorneys can help you take full advantage of them.

Your estate planning lawyer can alert you to options that will help you save on taxes and other fees. For example, charitable trusts can help decrease your estate tax.

Make the Probate Process Easier with Parker Law Office

A trust attorney in Orange County can help you find the perfect way to handle your assets, including asset protection trusts, special needs trusts, and more. At Parker Law Offices, we specialize in probate and estate planning law. We provide legal services throughout Orange County, from Dana Point to Newport Beach.

Schedule a free consultation today! During the consultation, you'll speak to a Laguna Niguel estate planning attorney from our law firm and learn more about your legal options. We offer customized solutions for our Orange County clients.

To get started, fill out our online form or contact us at 949-867-4818 at Parker Law Offices today!

It takes several regular meetings with trust lawyers in Orange County or other legal professionals to plan assets and create a trust. But all of that is worth it when that living trust comes into action.

However, it's very possible to misplace the actual physical copy of a trust document. Section 15800 of the California Probate covers your rights to petition in court and receive the terms of the trust, remove a trustee, and more. As beneficiaries of living trusts, you have several rights that require fiduciary duties from the trustee and other professional agents.

What are your options when you aren't in possession of the trust documents? In this article, we'll go over the steps you can take to retrieve trust documents with the help of trust lawyers in Orange County, CA.

We provide this information for general information purposes, but we recommend getting in touch with a law firm for personalized advice and assistance.

Can Beneficiaries Obtain a Copy of the Estate Accounts? 

A revocable living trust is private and can be revoked at any time, which means that only the living trustors have the right to the full text of their trust. However, after their death, a revocable trust becomes an irrevocable trust, and the beneficiaries then have a right to a copy.

If you are the beneficiary of this type of trust, you are entitled to a copy of their documents after the death of your parent or a trustor.  However, if the trust has multiple trustors, things can become complicated, depending on the instructions in the trust.

As a direct beneficiary, you have the right to an accounting from the trustee because you are considered an equitable owner of the trust assets and accounts. Always remember that you can request to see a trust's bank statements and file a petition in court if your trustee does not supply them upon request.

However, there are some limits to your access to irrevocable trusts. Special needs trusts, for example, appoint a trustee who will manage the assets and provide regular disbursements that will not interfere with government benefits. Similar limits apply to charitable trusts.

A living trust attorney in Orange County can help you sort out the specifics and understand your rights as a beneficiary.

Here are some of the items that can be found in an estate trust:

What Steps Do I Take to Find My Missing Trust?

Living trusts are a valuable tool for distributing assets. As your parents create this legal document, they will work with living trust attorneys to set up plans for trust administration, inheritances for loved ones like yourself, and more. It may also include information about advance directives, power of attorney (POA), and burial plans.

Your parents are the only individuals who have access to their living trust while they are still alive. Until they pass away, their full estate plans are private.

Losing the only copy of the trust means that you'll need to take several extra steps to access your inheritance. Trust lawyers can step in and ensure that you receive trust property.

Parker Law Offices can help trustees and beneficiaries avoid probate by petitioning in court.

Section 17200 (B): What is the Court Capable Of?

The probate court may require you to submit a petition and undergo a lengthy legal process if you lose or misplace a copy of your parent’s trust. But it's possible to get legal services that will help you use the California Probate Code 850 Petition to receive your inheritance as originally intended.

The California Probate Code 850 Petition provides several options that you can pursue. Some examples include:

However, it can be tough to parse probate code on your own. An experienced lawyer can handle all of the legal issues related to your trust and inheritance. Parker Law Offices serves the entirety of Orange County, from Laguna Beach and Mission Viejo to Buena Park.

Tips on Safekeeping Trusts

If you're concerned about losing a trust and still have yours, it may be time to invest in proper storage for your legal documents.

The best lawyers recommend a fireproof, waterproof safe for storing essential papers. Regardless of any natural disasters, your trust will remain intact and easy to find without a search.

Another good idea is to maintain multiple copies. You can keep some copies with your attorney, in a safety deposit box, or another secure location.

Building a Trust-Based Estate Plan With Parker Law Offices

Petitioning the court in the US is a long, arduous process with multiple steps. The California courts estimate that each step can take more than a month, and the entire case can take anywhere from nine months to over a year, or even longer.

Hiring an experienced living trust attorney in Orange County will ensure that you can receive your inheritance through the court process in a timely manner, even when all the documents are not available. We can help you submit an 850 Heggstad Petition that will provide a court order, allowing you to claim the assets you are entitled to. Our team has experience with courts in Santa Ana and Costa Mesa.

Each individual case is different, and our law office thrives on handling each case. We establish an effective attorney-client relationship with thoughtful conversations. Our team can help you bypass having to present the actual estate planning documents, including the will or trust.

Frequently Asked Questions About Finding a Missing Trust

When you are missing a copy of a trust, you may be concerned about probate, accessing the assets contained in the trust, and more. We've answered some of the most common questions from clients.

Am I entitled to a copy of the trust as a beneficiary?

Once a trust becomes irrevocable, you are legally entitled to a copy of the trust documents from an attorney or successor trustee, if available.

Can you inherit assets without a trust or will?

Yes. Various sections of the California Probate Code allow for situations where you are entitled to receive assets even with a missing will or living trust.

Do wills and trusts serve the same purpose?

Legally, a living will and living trust serve different purposes. A living trust is a private document, which can be troublesome if it ever gets lost. Trusts are often far more specific and detailed than wills, although there is some overlap.

Trusts are vital for getting your inheritance smoothly and avoiding the probate process and potential estate taxes. When they do get lost, Parker Law Offices can provide solutions. Our experienced lawyer has years of experience working in the Orange County, California area.To schedule a free consultation with an Orange County living trust attorney, you may fill out our online form or contact us at Parker Law Offices today!

A trustee is someone who steps in and manages a trust after the death or incapacity of the trust creator.  If you need help with your duties as a trustee, look for an Orange County estate planning attorney who can help you understand the tasks at hand and how to manage them.

There are a lot of tasks associated with being a trustee and if you agree to take on this responsibility, you should be aware of what the job will require.

From gathering documents to checking tax liabilities, keep reading to learn about some of the most common and most important tasks a trustee will be called upon to perform.

1. Locate and Organize Assets

One of the main tasks of a trustee will be to locate and make a list of all trust assets. 

As you complete your work, you should also ensure that you keep thorough records for payments made. This will keep the trust assets traceable in case any funds are questioned or misplaced. 

2. Send Necessary Notices

Depending on the type of trust and assets, there may be a lot of notices to file with local authorities or service providers.

You may be required to do the following:

3. File Taxes

A trustee will also have the responsibility of filing a tax return and paying any necessary taxes on behalf of the deceased.

You will need the following:

The funds to pay for these taxes will be taken out of the trust assets, which makes it very important to keep an accurate account of the funds and where they go. This ensures proper administration and management of the trust funds.

4. Determine and Pay Existing Debts

In some cases, the deceased will have outstanding debts that must be paid before the rest of the trust can be distributed to the beneficiaries.

This might include bills owed toward the end of the deceased’s life, such as hospital bills or even funeral costs.

However, you also need to check for other debts such as loans or credit card bills that must be paid promptly.

5. Distribute the Estate

The distribution of the trust estate will depend entirely upon the intentions of the testator and the provisions contained in the trust document.

It will be your duty as the trustee to ensure that beneficiaries of the trust receive their rightful property according to the trust instructions.

You must remember to retain a thorough and accurate record of the distribution of assets. It is common for partial distributions to be made over the course of several years, which can become confusing if careful records are not kept.

Need Help Administering a Trust?

If you are unsure of where or how to start fulfilling your duties as a trustee, contact an experienced trust attorney in Orange County today. Our team will be happy to assist you with all of your queries and help you carry out your responsibilities as a trustee.

A study conducted by Merrill Lynch in 2019 found that almost half of all Americans over the age of 55 did not have a will. To top it off, for those that did have an estate plan, less than 20 percent had all of the recommended documents. Work with a reliable Orange County estate planning attorney to exclude yourself from the data mentioned above.

We don’t yet know if the effects of COVID-19 have prompted more people to update or create the necessary plans to ensure end-of-life care and diminished family burdens upon a loved one’s death. We do know that it should. 

Here are the basic elements of a secure estate plan that, with the help of an Orange County estate planning attorney, will allow you to provide for your family even after you’re gone.

What are the Basic Documents in an Estate Plan?

An estate plan, at its most basic level, preserves and protects your assets so that, upon your death, they can be easily transferred to your family and friends while minimizing tax obligations.

It also names who will care for your dependent children, as well as your pets, and who will be your advocate in health care and financial matters should you become incapacitated. 

Here are the three essential documents to consider when setting up your plan. 

  1. Will

This legally enforceable document defines your intentions as to how you would like your assets distributed upon your death. In addition to finances and property, this also includes items that may have considerable sentimental value. Are there family heirlooms that you would like to see go to a specific person? 

All assets that are of value, whether monetary or emotional, should be listed in order to avoid family discontent. Eight months after comedian Robin Williams died, his children and widow were still fighting in court over sentimental items.

If you have minor children, you will want to include a designation of guardian. This document recognizes who you have determined will care for your children should you and your spouse pass on. It may also go into effect should both of you become incapacitated and unable to care for your children. 

If you don’t make this important decision, the court will make it for you. 

Designating a caretaker for your furry loved ones is also a good idea. Too many family pets can end up in shelters if this important decision has not been made and documented in advance.

  1. Trust

There are several different types of trusts. These somewhat complex documents are the optimal way to protect and transfer assets. 

Keep in mind that the exact laws governing these trusts vary by state. For this reason, and their complex nature, it is highly recommended that you obtain a professional and experienced trust attorney in Orange County

There are three basic types of trusts.

These types of trusts are named as such because they are revocable, meaning they may be changed or revoked at any time, and they are living or created during your lifetime.

You can remain the trustee until your death, at which time it passes over to the successor trustee. Avoiding probate is the main reason these types of trusts are established.

Assets placed in this type of trust cannot be removed or amended. They are, in fact, effectively removed from your estate and you no longer retain ownership rights once the trust is established.

Because the assets are no longer yours, you will not be responsible for taxes associated with the assets, including income, inheritance, and estate. 

A testamentary trust is contained within a will and appoints a trustee to manage the assets of the deceased. It goes into effect immediately upon the death of the trustor.

This type of trust is usually created when a trustee is needed to manage the assets on behalf of the beneficiaries.  

  1. Powers of Attorney (POA)

A durable power of attorney allows you to appoint someone you trust to make financial and health care decisions for you should you become incapacitated.

In some states, the health care POA and the living will which outlines your wishes for life-sustaining treatments, make up the advanced health care directive. 

A financial POA authorizes this person to handle your finances and properties should you become unable to.

Once you’ve worked with an Orange County estate planning attorney and created your plan, you’ll want to store your documents in a safe place.

How Do You Keep Your Estate Plan Documents Safe? 

Your original estate plan should not be kept in your safe-deposit box. Why? Because some states seal this box until an estate is settled.

While this is a good place to keep a copy, your original documents should remain with your lawyer, or in a fireproof box at your office or in your home. Be sure to make these documents accessible to your estate’s executor. 

In alignment with our current digital age, you can also keep a virtual copy in a safe and secure location in the cloud. 

We also recommend giving a copy of certain documents to those that will need them in case you become incapacitated. This includes individuals that you’ve given power of attorney to. 

By creating and maintaining a comprehensive estate plan, you help your family avoid an expensive and stressful process during a time when they are already in mourning.

Talk to our Orange County estate planning attorneys who can help you create an estate plan that removes any concerns for both you and your loved ones.

Choose the Right Trust Attorney in Orange County

As you can imagine, creating a DIY estate plan is not recommended. The vast amount of state and federal regulations pertaining to these documents makes doing it yourself very risky. 

We help our clients prepare plans that allow their families to receive the legacy they’ve left for them, with the greatest tax savings and without lengthy court involvement.

We also assist with end of life health care wishes and ensure the needed documents are in place should a client become incapacitated. 

For a free consultation that will lead to peace of mind tomorrow, contact us at Parker Law Offices today.

This year’s COVID-19 pandemic has left many people wondering what would happen to their family should an unexpected illness arise, or the unthinkable occurs and a family member passes away. Therefore, it is important to prepare your plan with an Orange County estate planning attorney.

Unfortunately, there are many families that will be subject to the probate process, higher capital gains taxes, or guardianship disputes. However, all of this can be avoided if you make sure your estate plan is in proper order now. 

Developing your plan with a trust attorney in Orange County can help you avoid the common mistakes we see when people have opted to prepare their own plan or have an unfortunate experience with an unqualified estate planner. 

Before we take a look at the estate planning mistakes we see, and the ones you can avoid, let’s go over the basics.

What is an Estate Plan?

An estate plan is more than wills and trusts that designate who will receive your property and assets. While this is an important element that ensures reduced taxes and family discord, there are other aspects of the plan that are just as important.

Guardianship designations are often incorporated into an estate plan. This creates a legal document that determines who will care for your minor children should something happen to you and your spouse. 

Other elements of an estate plan direct what will happen should you become incapacitated. These include the Power of Attorney (POA) and End-of-Life Care. 

The Most Common Estate Planning Mistakes

Do-It-Yourself Options

While the World Wide Web has created vast resources and DIY options, from home improvement to being your own lawyer, just one mistake on a DIY prepared estate plan can lead to a contested plan.

As you’ll see, estate planning is highly specialized and regulated. Taking the DIY approach is setting you and your loved ones up for potential unnecessary hardships.

When Consumer Reports tested three will-writing software products with the help of a law professor, they concluded that all were inadequate unless a very simple plan was required.

Outdated Beneficiary Designations

Another mistake commonly seen is forgetting to name a contingent beneficiary. This determines the person who would become the beneficiary should the primary beneficiary pass away or decline the property.

If you have named multiple co-beneficiaries, understand that, if real estate is involved, they must agree on everything, including whether to sell and what price to accept.

If you believe this may lead to disagreements among family members, it may be best to consider putting the property into a trust which is then controlled by the trustee.

Additional beneficiary considerations include naming a minor as the direct beneficiary. While some states allow this, it is very difficult for someone under the age of 18 to receive these benefits.

If a trust has been created, the trustee can manage and allocate the money for your children until they are of legal age.  

No Plan

It’s hard to imagine in our current uncertain environment, but procrastination is a part of human nature, and planning for the end of life  is no different. 

After Jimi Hendrix died in 1970, at the age of 27 and without a will, the fight over his estate lasted for more than 30 years. According to USA Today, when Prince died in 2016, at the age of 57 and without a will, he left an estate worth approximately $200 million, and about half of that will be consumed by federal and state estate taxes.

Failure to Update Plan

As Heraclitus said back in the 5th century BC, “Change is the only constant in life.” Whether this change involves family relations, state or federal regulations, or the birth of a child, not updating an estate plan when appropriate is one of the most common mistakes we see.

If there has been a change in family members or relations, be sure that your estate plan reflects your current wishes.   

Some people are unaware that legal documents such as trusts, wills, and POA are driven by state law. If you have moved to a different state such as California, it’s recommended that you review your estate plan with an estate professional such as an Orange County estate planning attorney. 

Regulations are constantly being updated and revised. When the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 went into effect, the federal estate tax exemption was temporarily doubled. The new tax rules are set to expire come 2026 and will revert back to those established in 2017. Unless, of course, additional regulations come into play. 

Misunderstanding the Difference Between a Will and Various Types of Trusts

As you have probably surmised, estate planning can be a complicated process that requires a trust attorney in Orange County to keep up-to-date on the many rules and regulations pertaining to estate law. 

Clients come in requesting a will when often what they need are both a will and living revocable or irrevocable trust, or they have a marital trust in place when they and their family would be better served with a credit shelter trust.

There are actually numerous types of trusts including testamentary, Totten, spendthrift, special needs, and generation-skipping.

An example of one of the primary considerations is the difference between irrevocable and revocable trusts. While revocable trusts are often recommended due to their ability to be altered as life changes, they do not protect assets from creditors or Medicaid spend-down. 

Don’t  Forget Your Best Friend—Fido

Pets are a part of your family, too. In some cases, the best part. If you have a special trust set aside for them which can be used for their care, you decrease the risk that they will be placed into a shelter once you are unable to care for them.

If your state does not allow a pet trust, or your trust attorney in Orange County does not recommend one, you can designate someone to take over their care and provide them with financial support in your will. 

Failure to Update or Include Powers of Attorney (POA)

Many people fail to take into account the necessary directives that are needed before they die. These include end-of-life decisions and who is responsible should you become incapacitated.  

Designating a durable POA for health care as well as one for finances is recommended.

Choose the Right Trust Attorney in Orange County

While developing an estate plan may seem overwhelming, it doesn’t have to be. Our Orange County estate planning attorneys have extensive experience in customizing these plans.

In order to ensure your assets are preserved and passed on to the people you care about, choose the right trust attorney to help you in your estate planning process.

For a complimentary consultation, contact our team at Parker Law Offices today.

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Estate Planning Attorney in Orange County, CA
Wills & Trusts, Estate & Trust Administration, Probate, and Health Care Power of Attorney
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