Skip to main content


California Living Trust creation: should you do it yourself?

Estate planning: Do-it-yourself versus seeking experienced legal advice

If you are considering a DIY California Living Trust creation service or software, please read this article before doing anything.

It is only in the last 13 years or so that the first online service for the creation of legal documents appeared. Since that time various websites and software have popped up all over the web. There is a lot of money to be made for these businesses that can use legal boilerplate to mass produce legal documents to the public. But the question remains, is it a good idea to utilize a California Estate Planning creation kit or website?

The main distinctions between an attorney and a DIY website

Drafted by an Attorney

There is a huge distinction between do it yourself estate planning and an estate plan created by an attorney. The California estate planning lawyers at the Law Offices of Jack B. Friedell have drafted over a thousand estate plans. In doing so, we have dealt with a wide range of clients with countless nuances pertaining to family, health and finances. The knowledge and wisdom that this experience brings is priceless.

No DIY website or software can come close to providing its users with the same education. However, that does not stop the websites and software creators from making claims that with just a little effort you can educate yourself on the main points of a solid estate plan. Of course, these same sites back that claim up with a disclaimer to any liability that the company’s do-it-yourself software may cause. Don’t be fooled; there is a reason these sites are riddled with disclaimers.

How much time did your attorney take with you?

This is an important question to consider. The reason this is important is because there are various associations out there where you pay a membership fee to have access to a network of attorneys. By paying the association dues you receive a huge discount on the cost of legal services. But here is the problem. The attorney you are speaking with (typically over the phone) will spend on average about 20 minutes with you. For some people this might be a sufficient amount of time. However, unless you are a turn key family with no desire to do anything other than avoid probate chances are you need to have an in depth conversation with your estate planning attorney to really get to the heart of matter. Unfortunately, that is not what you will receive for your discounted membership price. Instead, you will get a cookie cutter estate plan that was put together over a 20 minute phone call.

Poignant Questions

When you first visit the Law Offices of Jack B. Friedell for a free consultation of your California Estate Planning needs you will notice that we do not rush our clients. Instead, we sit down with our clients and educate them on the estate planning process. We talk over the various documents in a typical estate plan such as a Living Trust, a Will, a Power of Attorney, and an Advance Health Care Directive. We highlight key areas of each, uniting our client’s desires and needs with the specific document that incorporates that desire and need.

Further, for clients with sizable estates looking to avoid estate taxes or for clients seeking to provide for a new spouse, we offer valuable solutions in the form of more advanced estate planning tools such as AB or QTIP trusts, Irrevocable Life Insurance Trusts, Qualified Personal Residence Trusts and Qualified Terminable Interest Property Trusts.

In contrast, DIY trust and will creation websites and software ask the same specific questions to every individual. Any follow up questions are pre-programmed into the software. There is no personal touch whereby an experienced attorney guides you through the various nuances of your specific estate plan based on your specific desire and needs.

The reality is, most people don’t know the right questions to ask when it comes to formulating an estate plan. Even worse, most people don’t know the consequences of choosing a do it yourself estate plan compared to having an attorney prepare your plan. The number one consequence is the high cost of correcting any errors or having your estate go through the probate process because your trust was not properly funded.

Do you really save that much money?

Consider this: in California your home is valued at the fair market value and not the net value (FMV minus your mortgage). The threshold for probate in California is $150,000. That means any homeowner with a home valued at $150,000 or more will have their estate probated when both spouses die if the home is not in a California living trust. An estate worth $150,000 will pay $5,500 in probate fees alone. Therefore, doesn’t it make sense to pay the few hundred dollars more now for a proper California estate plan than roll the dice and hope your DIY living trust you prepared through a kit or website was done correctly?

And for those California residents who only have a Will, please note that a Will does not avoid probate in California. A Will is a road map for the court on how you want your assets distributed upon your death. All California estates with or without a Will must pass through probate if the estate is valued over $150,000. Therefore, if all you have is a Will and you have assets above $150,000, you need to consider creating a living trust.

The bottom line is this: paying an attorney between $1,000 to $3,000 for a rock solid estate plan is pennies on the dollar compared to doing it incorrectly and having your entire estate probated. A typical probate will consumer about 4-6% of your total estate in court costs, legal fees, appraisal fees, CPA fees, etc…That means for an estate valued at $1,000,000, the total fees associated with having to go through probate could be between $40,000-$60,000.

Help With Funding Your Trust

A trust is only as good as the assets that are inside the trust. Failure to properly fund your trust can cause all sorts of problems, with the most painful being that your estate is forced to go through a costly California probate. At the Law Offices of Jack B. Friedell, we help guide our clients through the funding of their trust. We will even talk to the various financial institutions on our clients behalf if necessary. We go the extra mile for our clients. No do it yourself estate plan will provide this level of service to make sure your trust is properly funded.

Free Follow-Up Consultation

Finally, another difference between the Law Offices of Jack B. Friedell and the various DIY Will and Trust companies is that we offer a lifetime free follow-up consultation. Once we have worked with you to create your estate plan we welcome our clients to call with future questions. We also offer periodical free consultations to see if your documents align with your current needs. Estate planning for us is not a onetime affair but a lifelong relationship. No online trust creation service offers this type of personal attention and level of care.

Finally, if cost is an issue please ask us about our estate planning payment plans.

Familiarize yourself with the ins and outs of estate planning here.

The authors, publisher and host are not providing legal, accounting, or specific advice to your situation.

Making changes to your Revocable Living Trust in California

If you are a previous client of the Law Offices of Jack B. Friedell or just interested in finding out if your California Revocable Living Trust meets your needs and desires, give us a call today for a free consultation. We will look over all your estate planning documents and give you feedback on the strengths and weaknesses of your current estate plan.

Amending or Restating your California Living Trust

For our younger clients, one of the primary reasons they do not establish a California Living Trust is because they believe they will end of making changes to the Trust sometime in the next few years. One example is they assume that the guardian they choose or successor trustee will change as their kids get older. Therefore, they hold off on putting a Trust in place, and consequently, they leave their estate and family exposed to unnecessary fees and costs associated with not having a living trust.

However, making changes to a living trust is relatively easy depending on what needs to be changed. There are two ways to make changes to your existing Living Trust. One is through an amendment to the Trust and the other is done by restating your Trust. An amendment usually entails a one or two page addition or revision of your existing Trust and costs around $100-$500 depending on the level of difficulty and preparation time. On the other hand, a Restatement to a Living Trust actually supersedes your existing Trust and becomes the controlling document. If you are interested in a price quote for a restatement to your California Living Trust please give us a call today.

Amendment to the Trust

Making changes to a Revocable Living Trust in California is very simple. Most changes, such as to a beneficiary or a Trustee, can be made via an amendment to the Trust. The amendment updates a provision and now supersedes the old provision. An amendment does not take much time and will typically be billed according to the attorney’s hourly rate. Preparing an amendment and having the client come in for a signing typically takes about one to two hours.

Restatement of Trust

Another way to make a change to a Living Trust is to restate the Trust. A Restatement of Trust in California is the process by which an entirely new Trust document is created. This takes place when there are more substantial changes to make to a Trust, such as incorporating new language into the Trust, adding additional or subtracting existing beneficiaries, changing the percentages that a beneficiary will receive, and other more comprehensive changes.


The advantage to an Amendment or Restatement of Trust is the name and date of the original Trust continues to exist, precluding the need to change title to any existing assets already in the Trust. In contrast, if you chose to create a new Trust, all assets would need to re-titled and placed into the new Trust creating a lot of needless additional work. Your best bet is to simply amend or restate your existing Trust.

Bottom Line

The bottom line is you should not delay in establishing a Living Trust in California. Making needed changes to your Trust is simple and the consequences of not having a Trust are substantial, specifically for those with children and/or a home. A Trust will dictate who receives the assets from your estate and when. A Trust will also bypass the probate process which can cost your beneficiaries $20,000 or more, depending on the size of your estate.

For more on making changes to your Revocable Living Trust, please contact an experienced California Living Trust attorney today.

The authors, publisher and host are not providing legal, accounting, or specific advice to your situation.

How to avoid litigation as a Successor Trustee

Trust Litigation and the Successor Trustee

Attention all Successor Trustees. Do you want to avoid litigation and steer clear of personal liability? If you answered yes, please keep reading.

First, let’s talk about how a Successor Trustee becomes THE Trustee.

A Successor Trustee will become the acting Trustee when the Trustor dies, becomes incapacitated or simply resigns as the Trustee of their Trust. Once a Successor Trustee becomes the acting Trustee, it is important that he/she understand their role as a fiduciary of the Trust property or “Trust Res”.

The Two Most Common Reasons for Trust Litigation

If a dispute is going to arise leading to litigation during a trust administration it will be due to either: (1) a negligent trustee, or (2) an unhappy beneficiary. Either of these will typically manifest because a Trustee violates the terms of the trust or fails to perform some duty.

Typical issues involving trust litigation include:

  • Litigation involving the validity of the Trust (similar to a will contest for incapacity, undue influence, duress, etc…), or
  • The Trustee’s Breach of a Fiduciary Duty*

*Fiduciary duties of the Trustee include:

Duty of Care, Duty to Administer the Trust, Duty of Loyalty, Duty of Impartiality, Duty to Avoid Conflicts of Interest, Duty to Control and Preserve the Trust Assets, Duty to Make the Trust Productive, and Duty to Avoid Commingling of Funds. Failure to abide by any of these duties can expose the Trustee to personal liability.

Duty of Care: a Trustee must exercise the degree of care, skill and prudence that a reasonably careful person would use in dealing with her own property. A Trustee’s personal weaknesses will not reduce the minimum degree of skill required. And if a Trustee has a special skill, the skill required to be used will be increased to that higher level.

Duty to Administer the Trust: Basically, this is the duty of the Trustee to administer the Trust according to the terms of the Trust.

Duty of Loyalty: The Trustee is under a duty to place the beneficiaries’ interests before his/ her own and administer the trust solely for the benefit of the beneficiaries. Therefore, the Trustee must not use the Trust assets to enter into any transaction that would be harmful to the beneficiaries’ interests, especially if the transaction involves self dealing.

Duty of Impartiality: A Trustee has a duty to act with impartiality towards ALL beneficiaries.

Duty to Avoid Conflicts of Interest: A Trustee needs to avoid entering into a transaction where the Trustee’s interest is contrary to the interest of the beneficiary or the Settlor of the Trust.

Duty to Control and Preserve the Trust Assets: The Trustee must keep control of the Trust res according to the terms of the Trust. In addition, the Trustee must enforce all rights or claims of the trust against third parties.

Duty to Make the Trust Productive: The Trustee must invest the Trust property in order to make the Trust property productive. This duty also includes selling unproductive assets and using the income from the unproductive asset in a productive way.

Duty to Avoid Commingling of Funds: The Trustee should not mix (commingle) his or her own money with money in the Trust.

So there you have most of the basic duties. Essentially, the Trustee is the fiduciary of the Trust assets.  The bottom line is the Trustee is on the hook for any decision that would undermine or jeopardize the assets in the Trust or the original intentions of the Settlor of the Trust. That is a huge responsibility.

Because of the potential for personal liability, it is wise for a Trustee charged with the administration of a trust to seek out legal advice. As mentioned above, a Trustee can be held personally liable for not fulfilling his or her fiduciary duties.

This means that if you accept the appointment to serve as a Trustee, you will be held responsible for understanding and implementing the terms of the Trust. If a Trustee improperly spends Trust assets, the Trustee can be personally on the hook to the Trust beneficiaries for any loss to the estate. Also, if the estate lacks the needed assets to pay expenses, the Trustee can be held personally liable, even if it was due to negligence.

The attorneys at the Law Offices of Jack B. Friedell are help to help Successor Trustees navigate the trust administration process.  If you are a Successor Trustee, and you desire to avoid any potential conflicts with the trust administration, please give an experienced California Trust Administration Attorney a call today.

The authors, publisher and host are not providing legal, accounting, or specific advice to your situation.

Don’t forget to fund your Living Trust!

Funding Your Living Trust in California

Creating a Living Trust in California is great but there is one additional step that needs to be taken in order to make sure your assets are protected from the dreaded Probate Court.: you need to fund the Trust!

Imagine your Living Trust as a large box. Everything in the box is protected from probate. However, everything left out of the box is vulnerable to a potential probate. Therefore, in order to protect your assets you need to place them in your Trust. Placing your assets in your Trust is termed, “funding the Trust”.

But who controls the Trust assets?

Once your assets are placed into your Trust, the Trustee of the Trust will have all the powers that you had when the assets were in your name. That is why the Trustee of your Trust is typically you, the Trustor or Settlor of the Trust.

Funding the Trust

Funding a Living Trust in California is an easy enough process, although it can be time consuming. What is needed is for the title of your assets to be changed from your name to the name of the Trust. We normally will transfer your Real Estate into your trust. We also provide you with an Assignment of Personal Property which will place your personal property that you currently own and will own in the future into your Trust. You will also receive a worksheet to make specific personal property gifts. Lastly, we will also provide you with a detailed guide on how to place your remaining assets into your Trust.

Note: not all assets should be placed in the Trust. It is important to know which assets to place in the Trust and which assets to leave out.

Assets to leave out of your Living Trust

Some assets, such as life insurance, retirement accounts and IRAs, may have adverse tax consequences if placed in your Trust. Therefore, it is important to discuss with an experienced California Living Trust attorney what assets to place in your Trust and what assets to leave out. At the Law Offices of Jack B. Friedell, we take the time to explain the advantages and disadvantages of placing specific assets into your trust. We offer you California estate planning legal advice to ensure your specific goals are being met.

Note: since not all of your assets should be placed into your Living Trust, it is imperative that we also create a Durable Power of Attorney for you. A California Durable Power of Attorney will allow your agent to access all of your assets outside of your Living Trust.

A couple “safety nets”

If you have a Living Trust but fail to properly fund the Trust, we also provide you with a “pour over will” and a Declaration of Trust to make sure that all your assets end up in the Trust.

A “pour over will” is simply a Last Will and Testament that can grab up to $150,000 of assets not in your Trust and “pour” those assets into your Trust. Then, once the assets are part of your Trust, the provisions in your Trust will dictate how the assets are distributed.

A Declaration of Trust is a final line of defense that we create for you in the event that the assets outside of the Trust exceed $150,000. The Declaration of Trust simply acknowledges to the Probate Court that you intended all your assets to be placed in your Trust.

We are here to help

There really is no better time to get your estate plan in order. Please contact an experienced trust and estate lawyer in California today!

Stop by our estate planning 101 section to learn more about why you need an estate plan.

The authors, publisher and host are not providing legal, accounting, or specific advice to your situation.

Will, Trust and Estate Planning in Carlsbad, California

The Need for a Living Trust in Carlsbad, California

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, as of 2012, Carlsbad boasts a total population of over 109,000. And just looking at the amount of growth occurring right now and Carlsbad probably has a current population of over 120,000 in 2014.

A 2010 national survey noted that only 18 percent of the population had a Trust (living trust or other trust agreement)— that is down from 31 percent in 2007. And only 35 percent of the population had a Will in 2009. That leaves some 65 percent of the population without either a Will or a Trust.

We assume, with the more sophisticated and knowledgeable families in Carlsbad, California, that a higher percentage of Carlsbad residents have a Living Trust or Will in place. But even if we take more conservative numbers and use 2007’s 31 percent, that still leaves a large percentage of Carlsbad residents exposed to a potential costly and time consuming California probate.

In Carlsbad, the median home value is $659,000. In California, an estate will have to go through the probate process, even if you have a Will, if the value of the estate exceeds $150,000. That means if your home is valued above $150,000 F.M.V. (not net value) your estate will go through probate, with or without a Will. And probate is costly, with most probates ranging from five to six percent of the total value of the estate when factoring in attorney fees, CPA fees, appraisal fees, etc…

The majority of residents need to consider Will, Trust and Estate Planning in Carlsbad, California. And without a doubt, virtually every homeowner in Carlsbad needs a Living Trust, because property in a Trust avoids probate.

Sixty five percent of Carlsbad residents own their own home.  A large majority of homeowners do not have a Living Trust or a Family Trust. Therefore, using the high number above of thirty one percent of residents having a trust, there is still a huge need for another thirty four percent of residents to create a Living Trust or Family Trust in Carlsbad.

A large majority of our clients list the lack of discretionary income as the main reason for delaying on the creation of a trust in Carlsbad. However, at the Law Offices of Jack B. Friedell, our team of experienced Carlsbad Will and Trust Attorneys work together with our clients in creating an affordable estate plan. We also offer a monthly installment plan so we can work with you to create your estate plan and you can pay for it over a period of twelve months.

There really is no better time to get your estate plan in order. Please contact an experienced trust and estate lawyer in Carlsbad today!

Stop by our estate planning 101 section to learn more about why you need an estate plan.

The authors, publisher and host are not providing legal, accounting, or specific advice to your situation.

Six reasons a Living Trust is superior to a Will in California.

Estate Planning 101: Living Trust versus a Will in California

Most people believe that a Will is all that is needed in order to pass on the assets in their estate. However, what most people fail to realize is that a Will is not going to be a sufficient California Estate Planning tool. That is because a Will comes up short in several key respects when compared to a Living Trust (also known as a Revocable Trust or Inter Vivos Trust).

Six reasons a Living Trust is superior to a Will in California.

1. A Trust avoids probate whereas a Will still goes through probate court.

A Will is simply a road map for the Probate Court to follow. A Will does not avoid probate; it simply directs the Probate Court judge on how you want your assets distributed upon your death. The judge will follow your wishes in your Will but your estate will still be on the hook for all probate related fees (such as attorney fees, CPA fees, appraisal fees, etc…). The total fees for the probate of an estate in California can be as high as 5-6% of the total value of the estate.

However, a Living Trust, set up by an experienced California Trust Attorney, avoids the entire probate process. That means the bulk of the assets will pass without any fees to the intended beneficiaries. It also means that there is no court involvement. Therefore, the value of a Living Trust is that it avoids probate fees and probate court. The small cost involved in setting up a properly funded Living Trust compared to the total savings a Trust provides by avoiding Probate is substantial.

2. A Trust can hold beneficiary assets whereas assets pass at age 18 with a Will

A Trust can be designed so that the assets pass to beneficiaries at a desired age. For example, a Trust can have language in it that gives 25% to a child upon completion of college, another 25% upon reaching age 25, with the remaining 50% at age 30. This allows a beneficiary to receive their inheritance in small chunks instead of in a bulk sum. Perhaps the beneficiary will have blown through the initial 25% and will be more disciplined in how they spend the next 25%.

However, with a Will, the beneficiary receives everything at age 18. That means a financially inexperienced teenager will receive their entire portion of the estate at 18. This can cause a lot of problems, including the beneficiary blowing through their entire inheritance.

3. California Trust Administration vs. California Probate

A typical California Trust Administration can take around three to nine months. That is assuming the Trust was created by an experienced California Trust Lawyer (some trust administrations can take a lot longer depending on the quality of the trust).

A typical California Probate can take anywhere from nine to eighteen months. Some more complicated probates can take years.

The bottom line is that the beneficiaries will receive their assets much quicker via a Trust than a Will.

4. A Living Trust is private whereas a Will is public

A Will is open to the public. In fact, notice of the decedent’s passing must be given to every beneficiary named in the Will and to every beneficiary who would have received had the deceased died intestate (without a Will). Further, anyone can access the probate court documents. There is absolutely no privacy with a California Probate.

A Trust is completely private. Notice of the decedent’s passing is given only to the heirs of the Living Trust. There is no court supervision, no court interaction and no public disclosure.

5. A Living Trust is harder to contest than a Will

Since a Will is open to the public and since notice is given to all named beneficiaries and to every beneficiary who would have received had the deceased died intestate, there is a much greater chance for a Contest by any potential heir who was left out of the Will.

However, due to the private nature of a Trust, there are very few parties involved. Therefore, there is less likelihood that anyone will Contest the Living Trust.

It is highly beneficial to avoid a California Will or Trust Contest because of the high cost associated with a Contest. Often, the cost of defending the Will or Trust Contest comes straight out of the assets of the estate, depleting the estate’s assets.

6. A Trust avoids court involvement at incapacity

In California, if a person becomes incapacitated, typically a member of the family petitions the Probate Court for a Conservatorship. This applies whether the incapacitated person has a Will or not. Then the Court decides who the appropriate Conservator will be.

A properly created Living Trust will list a Successor Trustee (as well as one or two backups). The Successor Trustee will take over for the Trustor upon the Trustor’s incapacity. There is no court involvement and the Trustor gets to choose the person and not the court.

One final note: a Will is still necessary when creating an estate plan. The Trust will hold all of the assets in the estate. However, every good Trust needs a “Pour Over Will” to grab any assets outside of the Trust and “pour” the assets back into the Living Trust. An experienced California estate planning lawyer will almost always recommend a Will to compliment a Living Trust.

In summary, the small price involved in setting up a California Revocable Trust far outweighs the time and money saved by avoiding probate. For questions on the above content or for any other legal advice dealing with California Living Trusts, an experienced North County San Diego will and trust attorney can help. Please contact the Law Offices of Jack B. Friedell today.

The authors, publisher and host are not providing legal, accounting, or specific advice to your situation. 

Assets to include in a living trust

When creating an estate plan it is important to have a breakdown of the client’s assets. The following article lists the most common assets that a client owns, with a brief description of each asset. By identifying the assets a client owns, we can better assist our clients in creating an estate plan that meets our clients’ needs and goals.


Estate Planning 101: The most common assets are:

Real Property

Real property includes any and all land owned by the client. Some common examples of real property are single family homes, condominiums, town homes, vacation homes, rental properties, farmland, and commercial property. Titling the property in the name of the living trust protects the real property asset from having to go through probate. Of course, whether the beneficiary then decides to then add any of these properties to the listings of Montana ranches for sale out there, for example, is their decision, but at least they then stand to gain from the sale.

Personal Property

Personal property encompasses various movable assets including art, furniture, clothing, and jewelry. A detailed list of a client’s personal property is not necessary. However, clients may wish certain valuable items to be distributed to particular beneficiaries. For example, a grandma may wish for her wedding ring to pass to her granddaughter. An assignment of personal property can be added to an estate plan in order to declare the Trustor’s intention that all of the Trustor’s personal property be included in the living trust.

Intangible or Intellectual Property

Intangible property includes trademarks, patents, and copyrights. It is a good idea to have your intellectual property properly valued through the use of a valuation expert.


We recommend valuable cars, including motor homes, be put into the living trust. However, for typical automobiles under $50,000, a pour over will can grab the asset upon your death and place it into the trust.

Bank Accounts

Making a list of all of your bank accounts and the total assets in each is a great way to help your estate planning attorney. Some of the bank accounts may need to name the trust as the beneficiary. However, maintaining a personal or joint account for a smaller bank account that is used for day to day items tends to make life easier.

Stocks, Mutual Funds, and Bonds

Most clients own stock and/or mutual funds. You may also own bonds, such as municipal bonds or U.S. Treasury Bonds. Your estate planning lawyer will need to know what company you use to invest with.

Life Insurance

Your living trust attorney would need to know what type of life insurance policy you own and what the face amount of the policy is. The most common types of life insurance are term, whole, and universal life. Typically, the Trustor’s spouse is named as the beneficiary with the trust named as the contingent beneficiary.


Your trust lawyer will want to know if you receive a fixed payment from an annuity and what company or organization the annuity is through.

Retirement Accounts

Your estate planning lawyer will need to know what company your retirement accounts are currently with. Retirement accounts include traditional IRAs, Roth IRAs, pensions, and 401(k)s. Typically, the Trustor’s spouse is named as the beneficiary with the trust named as the contingent beneficiary.


Your trust lawyer will need to know if you have an interest in a business, such as a sole proprietorship, a corporation, or a limited liability company.

For questions on the above content or for any other legal advice dealing with California living trusts, an experienced California trust lawyer can help. Please contact the Law Offices of Jack B. Friedell today.

The authors, publisher and host are not providing legal, accounting, or specific advice to your situation.

Estate Planning 101: What does a typical estate plan include?

Estate Planning FAQ: What an Estate Plan from the Law Offices of Jack B. Friedell Includes.

Brought to you by the Law Offices of Jack B. Friedell.

Not all estate plans are equal. A typical California estate plan drafted by the Law Offices of Jack B. Friedell will include:

Living Trust
Last Will and Testament (pour over will)
Durable Power of Attorney
Advance Healthcare Directive
Assignment of Personal Property
Certificate of Trust
Declaration of Trust
Quitclaim Deed
Estate Organizer

A living trust in California will help keep your assets with your beneficiaries and away from the probate court.

A Will, also known as a pour over will, lets everyone know that you intend for all your assets to pour into your living trust.

A power of attorney will allow your agent to manage your financial affairs if you become incapacitated. Most importantly, it will allow your spouse to continue to make gifts or to move assets around to ensure that you qualify for medicare or Medi-Cal.

Your advance health care directive, or living will, takes care of your end of life decisions so those you love do not have to make the hard end of life decisions for you.

An assignment of personal property lets the world know that you intend for all your non-titled assets to flow into your trust.

A declaration of trust declares to the world that you intend that all your assets are to be trust assets. This is a great tool to protect your estate from a potential probate and bring property or assets into your trust that were left out during your life.

A quitclaim deed is simply a form that your estate planning attorney fills out on your behalf to place any real property into your trust.

Finally, an estate plan organizer keeps all your pertinent files together so that your trustee can locate everyone and everything necessary to properly administer your estate. Plus, funding instructions are included to make sure all your assets are properly titled and place into your trust.

For questions on the above content or for any other legal advice dealing with estate planning in California, a California estate planning lawyer can help. Please contact the Law Offices of Jack B. Friedell today.

The authors, publisher and host are not providing legal, accounting, or specific advice to your situation.

Original estate planning documents

Does your trustee or executor know where your original estate planning documents are? Keep your contact information up to date.

Written by the Law Offices of Jack B. Friedell.

We recently took over the practice of another attorney. One of the problems we are faced with is contacting old clients whose information has not been kept current.

It is a common practice for attorneys to hold their clients original documents. Often clients will give their drafting attorney the original estate planning documents because the attorney has a fireproof safe or some other way to keep the documents safe. But an important factor would be keeping the attorney abreast of any new living arrangements and contact information.

I am not placing blame on anyone but if I had given my attorney important information for safekeeping, such as my original estate planning documents, I would do my best to make sure my attorney could find me if necessary.The problem usually arises when the client has forgotten that they left the documents with their drafting attorney. A lot of time passes and the client believes they have their originals, probably in their safety deposit box. Little do they know they might be setting their beneficiaries up for disaster because no one knows where the originals are and the grantor or settlor has died.

Now, it may be that the client has passed on their attorney’s information to their trustee or executor, and the client did not believe it was necessary to keep the attorney in the loop in regards to a new address and/or phone number. However, my suggestion (not legal advice, just a suggestion) would be that if you move or change your phone number you will want to make sure the attorney who is holding your original documents knows your new information. And you might even go an extra step and give yourself an annual reminder to check in with the attorney to make sure all is well and that no new legislation has passed that might be relevant to your estate. That way, in case something serious happens, such as the attorney passing away or a new law passing, you can be notified.

For questions on the above content or for any other legal advice dealing with California estate planning documents, a California estate planning attorney can help. Please contact the Law Offices of Jack B. Friedell today.

The authors, publisher and host are not providing legal, accounting, or specific advice to your situation.

Why you should establish an estate plan today.

Taking the first step in establishing an estate plan

Written by the Law Offices of Jack B. Friedell

Most people we come in contact with believe that an estate plan is important. When we ask them why, they typically don’t know why but heard somewhere that it was important. Then the conversation will end and move on to other topics such as sports.

A lot of people find it difficult to talk about estate planning. One reason is due to their lack of knowledge about estate planning. Another reason is that people don’t like to think about the things estate planning involves: death, taxes, end of life planning, etc…

Here are just a few of the areas that estate planning covers:

  • Revocable trust– also known as an inter vivos trust or living trust. All your assets are placed into your trust so that your estate can avoid a costly probate upon your death. The minimal price it costs to set up a trust is small compared to the cost of having your estate go through probate. A trust also ensures privacy, where as a probate is public and available to anyone.
  • Power of attorney – who will handle your finances in the event that you cannot manage them yourself? If you do not have a power of attorney set up and you become incapacitated, then the court will assign a conservator who will have power of attorney. Having a plan in place ensures that you decide who will handle your financial affairs.
  • Pour over will – A pour over will in California will provide directions that all your assets are to be placed into your trust upon your death. Basically, any asset not included or funded in your trust will “pour” into your trust upon your death.
  • Advance healthcare directive – An advanced directive, also known as a living will, allows doctors, family and friends to know your health care wishes so that if you are incapacitated there is a plan in place. You make the decisions ahead of time so that your family and friends are spared the pain of having to make potentially life ending decisions if you cannot. This includes directions on what to do if you are in a vegetative state. As many as 30,000 persons are kept alive in comatose and permanently vegetative states.
  • Finally, any good California estate planning attorney will help you transfer title to real property into your trust. A quitclaim deed is used to transfer your real property into your trust. If you have refinanced your home recently your home may have been taken out of your trust. It is important that your property is transferred back into your trust because the title company seldom does this. You will want to make sure what is probably your biggest asset is protected from probate.

Hopefully you can see the importance of having an estate plan in place. If you still have questions you can read more about estate planning on our estate planning 101 section.  If you are single but you own a lot of assets, you might want to consider an estate plan. If you are married, then an estate plan should be at the top of your to-do list. If you own a home in California, then a properly funded living trust will help your estate avoid probate. Take the first step today and educate yourself on the importance of an estate plan.

For questions on the above content or for any other legal advice dealing with estate planning documents in California, an estate planning attorney in Carlsbad, California can help. Please contact the Law Offices of Jack B. Friedell today.

The authors, publisher and host are not providing legal, accounting, or specific advice to your situation.