Estate planning is a method for preparing yourself and your family for what happens after your death. Estate planning also allows you to plan for unexpected incapacity. Planning ahead gives you a chance to specify who will inherit your property after your death while helping you to reduce the taxes your estate will have to pay. If you become temporarily or permanently incapacitated, your estate plan can provide the protection you and your family will need. Some clients are concerned about losing their privacy during estate planning, but our estate planning attorneys can help you with this issue.
Are you concerned with privacy?
It is not uncommon for clients to be concerned about the privacy of their affairs, including the nature and extent of their assets and the identity of their beneficiaries. There are steps that can be taken to keep this information private, while still creating the necessary estate plan and our estate planning attorneys can help. In fact, there are simple estate planning tools that can provide protection for your private information.
Trusts provide more privacy for your estate and your affairs
One method we suggest for protecting your privacy in estate planning is using a trust instead of a Will. A trust is a private document, unlike a Will which is considered a public document made available to anyone during the probate process. All someone has to do is visit the courthouse and request a copy. Furthermore, trusts have many other advantages over a will, like providing incapacity planning during your lifetime.
Wills are subject to public proceedings
What some people don’t realize is that Wills are subject to probate, unlike trusts. Probate is a public proceeding that begins with the filing of a petition in a California Superior Court in the county where the deceased was living at the time of his or her death. A hearing will be held by the court approximately thirty (30) days after the filing of the petition. Because it is a public proceeding, all of the provisions of the Will, including the names of the beneficiaries, whether any assets were left in a trust, the amounts left to each beneficiary, etc., will all become public knowledge. That means anyone can find out the exact value of the assets that you leave to each of your beneficiaries. The terms of a trust are only released to the beneficiaries, but not to the public.
Trusts protect your privacy during your lifetime as well
If you have any privacy concerns during your lifetime, with regard to your assets, you can use a trust to protect them as well. For instance, some clients desire to purchase real property but want to keep their ownership private from others. If you purchase the property outright, in your own name, then that ownership will be made public through the property tax records which can be accessed by the public through the county tax assessor’s office. Your name as the owner will also be discoverable through a search of the deed index.
However, if a trust is used to purchase the real property, then only the name of the trustee and the trust will be disclosed in relation to ownership of the property. Ultimately, if privacy is a crucial element of your estate planning, then you should consider using a trust. Our estate planning attorneys can help with drafting all of your estate planning instruments.
Creating a do-it-yourself estate plan may not be the answer
There are risks in using a do-it-yourself trust or other estate planning tool. The most common risk is not having the document witnessed properly, in compliance with the legal requirements in their state. Most states require two witness signatures for a will to be valid. Another problem clients often have is that names were misspelled or notations on the will were unclear, which requires intervention by the court. Some of the mistakes that are typically seen with a do it yourself will can lead to serious legal issues that cannot always be corrected quickly. If you do not seek the assistance of one of our estate planning attorneys, your tools may not provide the privacy you seek.
Join us for a free seminar today! If you have questions regarding estate planning, trust contests, or any other trust administration issues, please contact the Schomer Law Group either online or by calling us in Los Angeles at (310) 337-7696, and in Orange County at (562) 346-3209.
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