For unmarried life partners, careful estate planning is essential. The law doesn’t offer them the same protections as it does for married couples, in terms of inheritance and end-of-life care. A Laguna Niguel estate planning attorney can help you prepare legal documents that ensure your partner is provided for in the event of your death. 

Estate planning for life partners can provide you with peace of mind and the assurance that you and your partner have your affairs in order.

Why is Estate Planning Important for Unmarried Couples?

It’s increasingly common for life partners to cohabitate and share finances without being married. For these couples, estate planning is especially important. 

Inheritance laws prioritize a person’s legal spouse and family. That means that even long-term unmarried couples won’t inherit from each other without any legal documentation specifying the inheritance. 

If the two of you cohabitate, this can present problems if a homeowner dies before the other partner. The homeowner’s beneficiaries, typically the closest living family, will have the legal right to evict the surviving partner and sell or use the house for their own purposes unless estate documents instruct otherwise.

Another concern is end-of-life care. Instead of being able to make decisions on behalf of your partner, their family will have the final say on issues like life support. However, power of attorney (POA) documents can designate you and your partner as responsible for each other’s end-of-life and other medical decisions in case of an emergency.

With the right legal documents and a meeting with a knowledgeable attorney, you can ensure that your partner has legal priority when it matters most.

How Can You Pass On Property to a Life Partner?

Estate planning provides several options for passing your assets on to a partner you aren’t married to. There are several legal documents useful to determine who will receive your assets.

Creating a will, for example, can help protect your partner and ensure they inherit items from your estate. A valid and well-written will can make your final wishes clear and distribute assets among your loved ones. 

Some people favor trusts for their privacy and the ability to add specific instructions before beneficiaries can receive their inheritances. Trusts are complex legal documents and a trust attorney Orange County can help determine if they are right for you.

You can protect your loved ones by keeping the money safely held in the trust if necessary, which is helpful if you have children, disabled loved ones, or those who need to protect their money from divorce proceedings or litigation. 

Another option is a life estate document. This is focused specifically on property ownership, making it an excellent option if homeownership is one of your main estate planning concerns. 

When you are making plans for your estate as part of an unmarried partnership, it’s important to consider all your options and choose the ones that fit your needs best.

What is a Life Estate?

A life estate document allows a property owner to assign lifetime occupancy of their property over to another person. It’s possible to use a life estate for any kind of real estate, not just homes. It’s an effective way to designate someone as your beneficiary through a will or trust.

It can ensure that a surviving partner will inherit the house after the sole owner’s death. It provides that person with a stable permanent residence but doesn’t grant them the typical rights we associate with ownership. The sole owner will still be legally and financially responsible for the home. 

A life estate is a form of ownership that allows the life estate holder to remain occupying the property until their death, while ownership of the property is held by other named beneficiaries. After the life estate holder’s death, complete ownership immediately transfers to the designated beneficiaries. 

To establish a life estate interest, you’ll need to specify in your trust that the occupant retains the use of the property until death. You will also need to name the intended future beneficiary of the property. While the life estate tenant enjoys full use of the property, the remaining beneficiary does have some say in what happens to the property.

The occupant will need approval from the remainder beneficiary before making major decisions about the property, such as selling it or taking out a mortgage. Either of those decisions would impact the remainder beneficiary, which is why their consent is needed. 

A life estate generally cannot be revoked or changed without the beneficiary’s consent. This makes it a fairly permanent decision, and one that shouldn’t be made lightly. 

How Does a Life Estate Interest Benefit Your Partner?

A life estate interest allows you to direct the inheritance process by specifying that your partner is the designated beneficiary of your property, even though the two of you aren’t married. This is a necessary part of estate planning for unmarried couples

Life estate has many other benefits for your partner. By including the provision in your estate plan, you prevent the need for the property to go through probate, which is a long and expensive court process to determine who will inherit from you.  It often delays the transfer of property and adds red tape to the inheritance process.

A life estate is a stable arrangement for the surviving partner, giving them the right to stay in the residence until their death.

Plan Your Life Estate and Protect Your Life Partner

A life estate is a lasting decision and has many benefits for long-term couples who don’t intend to get married. We can help you understand the ins and outs of a life estate before you commit to one.

Set up a consultation with our estate planning attorney, contact us at 949-867-4818 at Parker Law Offices today!

Writing a will allows you to make decisions about what will happen to your possessions after you pass away.  A well-written will finalized by a Laguna Niguel estate planning attorney can divide your assets among loved ones, provide instructions for your funeral, and much more. 

Your will is a document that can express all your final wishes, especially related to your belongings and finances, which means it can get complicated. Getting services from a reliable Laguna Niguel estate planning attorney can guide you through the process of writing your own will. 

Getting Started

Your will is a document that expresses your final wishes. It’s often used to divide your assets among family and friends, but you can include other information in it as well.

In your will, you can name an executor who will be responsible for ensuring that your wishes are carried out. Most people choose a close friend or trustworthy family member. 

An often-overlooked potential function of your will is to name a guardian for your children in case both parents become incapacitated. Putting this information in your will can prevent the court from assigning a guardian according to their criteria. 

You can leave specific items to specific people in your will. It’s also a place for you to write out instructions on how to pay off any of your debts, taxes, and other unfinished business.

Using a Template

If you have never written a will before, it can be tough to get started. Fortunately, there are plenty of templates you can use as a guideline.

You can find will templates in books or websites specifically dedicated to the subject. These resources are generally carefully researched and include a wealth of information.

There’s also available software that can make it easy to generate a will that covers all your main concerns. You’ll need to pay a fee, but you can use the same software to create wills for everyone in your household.

In addition to software, you can find will templates online. However, it’s easy to stumble across inaccurate information online. 

When using will templates, consider having a lawyer go over your will to make sure it communicates what you want it to.

What to Include In Your Will?

Your will should include basic information about you—so that it’s clear who the will belongs to. You’ll also need to state that it is your will and contains your final wishes. 

Your will can also include your final wishes in regards to your burial and funeral service. You can also provide practical information about a burial plot and headstone, or how to pay for them if you don’t already have them.

You can also list your beneficiaries, such as family, friends, and even charities. 

If you want to leave something to a non-spouse partner or a friend that you aren’t related to, it’s especially important to list that person in your will. State laws prioritize family members when dividing up inheritances unless you make other plans in your will. 

What Not to Mention In Your Will?

There are limits to what you should include in your will, for privacy reasons. It’s important to remember that your will is going to be available as part of the public record after the court processes it. That means you should avoid including personal or sensitive information in your will.

Instead of putting sensitive information in your will, you can put it in a memorandum. To make the memo legally binding, you can refer to it in your will. 

If you’re concerned about some of your assets being lost or overlooked, you may want to provide an itemized list of assets. You can also list the people you want to inherit specific items if you feel so inclined. This is the kind of information that can go in a memo if you are concerned about privacy. 

Some assets can’t be transferred via a will. Bank accounts, insurance policies, and other assets will often require you to specify a beneficiary with their institution instead.

When you have highly specific instructions for your assets, or if you own real estate, it may be a good idea to look into a trust instead. 

It’s hard to put stipulations on inheritances through a will, but you can go into more detail in a trust. Trusts also have unique tax advantages, depending on the type. A trust attorney Orange County can help you create one that meets your unique needs.

Putting Your Will Into Legal Effect

Since a will is a legal document, you’ll need to do a few things to make sure your will is considered legally valid. 

The first step is easy.  You will need to sign your own will to show that you approve of everything outlined within. 

After that, you’ll also need to have two witnesses sign your will. It’s not necessary to share the details of your will with the witnesses, but you do need to tell them that they are signing your will. 

Getting your will notarized is another step that is technically optional, but legal experts highly encourage it. A notary can provide a self-proving affidavit, which proves that the will is genuine and makes it easier to carry out.

Check Your Will With a Professional

Once you’ve created your will, it’s a good idea to meet with a legal professional with experience in estate planning and probate law. Even if you have already drafted a complete will, a lawyer can provide valuable input. 

If you have a complex financial situation, there may be laws or concerns that a will template can’t account for. The only way to get personalized advice concerning your finances is to work with a lawyer with experience in creating wills and estate planning. 

Additionally, laws change quickly. Your book or software may not be up to date, but a good lawyer can inform you of the latest updates to local laws. 

Parker Law Offices can help you create an estate plan that provides for your loved ones and covers all your bases. We understand how important it is to know that you are prepared for the worst. 

To schedule a consultation for creating a will and other estate planning documents, contact us at Parker Law Offices today at (949) 385-3130.

Estate planning gives you the opportunity to direct exactly how you want to distribute your assets after your death, with the help of documents like a trust, and assistance from a reliable Laguna Niguel estate planning attorney.

Trusts allow you to efficiently pass on assets to your heirs, avoiding time spent in court and often saving taxes. Once you have a trust set up, however, you may need to review it and make changes to it over time. As your life changes, so should your trust. 

What does reviewing a trust entail, and how can you change it? In this article, we’ll go into some of the reasons you may want to change a trust, and how to do so with the help of a trust attorney Orange County location.

What are Revocable vs. Irrevocable Trusts? 

There are many kinds of trusts used for the purpose of estate planning. They all have different advantages and disadvantages.

When it comes to revising your trust, there are two main categories to keep in mind such as revocable and irrevocable trusts. 

An irrevocable trust cannot be changed, and the terms are set from the time it is signed. These trusts have some tax advantages, which is why some people choose them even though they must stay the same forever. 

Revocable trusts, however, can be changed whenever the owner desires to do so. There are many good reasons to change the terms of a trust, such as adding or removing beneficiaries, changing the assets contained in it, and even adding conditions to how it should be used.

Why Is It Important to Review Trusts?

Trusts are one of the most important tools in your estate plan. They allow you to control what happens to your assets after your death, and they can distribute those assets among beneficiaries, with or without stipulations attached.

However, your feelings or your life situation can change over time. As a result of that, you may change your mind about who you want to include as a beneficiary, or what you want to leave to them. You may even want to add a property to the trust or take it out.

Your trust contains instructions on how to distribute your property. For example, you may want to add new stipulations to your trust after learning about a relative’s spending habits, substance abuse, or criminal matters. You may want to remove stipulations if the reason for having them no longer applies. 

Reviewing a trust is basic maintenance for this essential legal document. If you don’t review it, you may not realize that it doesn’t reflect your current wishes. For a trust to serve its purpose, you should review it often and alter it as needed.

When Should You Review Your Trust?

If you have a trust, it’s good practice to look over the document occasionally. There are plenty of reasons you may want to review the trust and see if you have cause to alter its terms.

If you want to make sure your trust is always as relevant as possible, you may want to keep a schedule that lists your assets. An experienced trust attorney in Orange County may suggest doing so every three to five years—to stay on top of the many changes in your life.

You may not notice how much your life changes in just a few years, so this is one way to keep your trust relevant. 

If there is a sudden and dramatic change to your life, though, you don’t need to wait to review or change the trust. If you gain new family members, lose family members, or have a changed financial situation, take a look as soon as possible. The sooner you identify potential changes, the better. 

Here are some of the most common reasons you may want to review a trust:

Any of these changes would give you good reason to look over the current text of your trust and make necessary adjustments.

The more accurate your trust is to your current life, the less likely  your beneficiaries will spend time in Probate Court. 

How Do You Change Your Trust? 

If you have a revocable trust, you can change or even revoke it at any time. In the process, you’ll have to either edit the legal document or else remove it completely and create a brand new trust.

To change a trust, you’ll need help from your Laguna Hills trust attorney to create an amendment or a new document that restates the trust content including the changes. Whichever one you choose, you’ll need to update the text of the original trust. An attorney can help you settle on clear, precise language. 

Once you’ve completed the new text for your trust, you can notarize it and keep it safely stored with your other estate planning documents.

How Do You Revoke a Trust?

Revoking a trust means that the legal document and it’s disposition will cease to exist entirely. If you revoke a trust, it won’t have any influence over how your assets are handled after you die. 

Why would someone revoke a trust? If you find yourself needing to make tons of changes to a trust, it may be easier to start out with a completely new trust.

For example, someone who has made some major life changes would need to create an entirely new document. Another person may want to choose a new trustee to manage the trust. 

To revoke a trust, you must take all of your assets out of it. In practice, this means changing the ownership of deeds and other paperwork back to your own name. This process may take some time. 

After you have finished moving your assets out of that trust, you’ll need a document declaring that you revoke the trust. An attorney can help you write a document that is thorough, clear, and in accordance with local laws.

Once you have the trust revocation document, you must sign and notarize it, and in some cases, file it in court. At this point, you can create and file your brand new trust.

Estate planning is an important task that allows you to distribute the money among family, friends, and even charities. A legal professional like a Laguna Hills estate planning attorney will take care of the legal aspects and ensure your wishes are carried out the way you planned.

Schedule a free initial appointment with us, contact our team at Parker Law Offices today.

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