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Wills and Trusts in California: The Basics

Estate planning is a process by which individuals plan for the disposition of their assets, and it is a necessary process for every person who wants to control what happens to his or her estate both before and after death. Wills and trusts are often integral parts of this process. Below is an overview of how wills and trusts work in California.

Wills

A will lays out an individual’s final wishes. After the maker of a will (called a testator) dies, the court enforces the terms of his or her will. While most people think of property distribution when they think of wills, these legal documents actually serve a number of purposes, including:

  • Wills can be used to name an estate executor
  • Wills can address the payment of taxes and debts
  • Wills can appoint guardians of children and property

However, when an individual fails to prepare a will during the estate planning process, it falls upon the court to makes decisions of the kind described above. And when making such decisions, courts must comply with inflexible statutory mandates. Therefore, wills and other estate planning devices are especially important for people who wish to limit the court’s involvement in their legal affairs after death.

California also recognizes a legal document called an advance health care directive. Also known as a living will, this document allows an individual to formalize his or her medical treatment preferences in the event of incapacitation. These documents typically address issues such as:

  • The use of artificial nutrition
  • Tissue donations
  • Organ donations
  • The use of artificial hydration
  • The use of shock therapy
  • Surgical procedures
  • The use of artificial breathing machines
  • Surgical procedures

Trusts

As noted above, trusts are another important part of the estate planning process. A trust is a fiduciary relationship in which an outside party, known as a trustee, holds title to property or assets for the benefit of a third party. Trusts are great way to make sure that friends and family members are cared for following one’s death. Some of the benefits of trusts include:

  • Probate avoidance – Once assets have been placed into a trust, they are distributed with little court intervention.
  • Prevention of waste – Since trusts direct the manner and timing of asset distribution, they allow individuals to make sure their assets aren’t wasted by irresponsible beneficiaries.

California Estate Planning Attorneys

If you’re in the market for a will or trust, you should seek the assistance of an experienced California estate planning attorney. At the Law Office of Rodney Gould, you can rest assured that you’ll receive responsive, individualized counsel for all your estate planning needs. By choosing the Law Office of Rodney Gould, not only will you stabilize your future, but you can rest assured that we’ll make the estate planning experience as easy and pleasant as possible. You can connect with us by calling us or by filling out one of the contact forms on our website.

Posted in: Estate Planning