Riverside probate attorneys provide multifaceted assistance to people that are crafting their legacies. Ironically, the role of a probate lawyer can often involve the avoidance of the probate process altogether.
A Common Misconception
Many individuals think that estate planning boils down to the execution of a Last Will and Testament. They may understand the fact that trusts exist, but they are under the assumption that trusts are for very rich people, and wills are for everyone else. In fact, this is really not the case at all, but this is just one of the myths that circulate with regard to last wills.
It can seem as though a last will can facilitate simple, quick, straightforward asset transfers to the beneficiaries who are named in the document. There is an executor named in the will, and this individual has access to the assets that comprise the estate. This estate administrator simply distributes the assets to the heirs in accordance with the wishes of the deceased right after the funeral, right?
This may be the way that it is depicted on TV shows and the movies, but in the real world, the situation is considerably more complicated. While it is true that the executor will handle the estate administration tasks after the death of the testator, the Will must first be admitted to probate. The probate court supervises the administration of the estate every step of the way, and there are strict legal guidelines that must be followed.
Why does probate exist? There are several reasons, but one of them is the fact that the creditors of the individual that passed away must be given an opportunity to come forward seeking repayment before the assets in the estate are distributed among the heirs. This is fair enough, but this process takes time, and there are restrictions on the heirs receiving their inheritances while the estate is being probated by the court. Because of the rules that must be followed as well as the backlog in the probate courts, about the quickest a Will could be probated in Riverside County or San Bernardino County would be about eight months. In reality most probates in these counties take about a year and many take much longer. The longest probate administration in California history lasted eighteen years – and that was the probate of Marilyn Monroe’s estate.
Riverside probate attorneys can also be engaged to represent clients that may want to challenge the validity of a last will. The two most common groups to challenge a Will are lack of capacity and undue influence. In many instances, a Will contest is warranted. But in many others, the challenge can simply slow down the process to a snail’s pace as the rightful heirs to the estate battle against those persons challenging the validity of the Will.
In addition to the fact that probate can be quite time-consuming, it can also be costly. The red ink can include legal fees, the personal representative’s compensation, court costs, appraisal and liquidation charges, and other expenses. All of these debits cut into the inheritance that will eventually be distributed to the heirs that have been named in the Will.
Probate Avoidance Tool
One of our Riverside probate attorneys can be retained to help guide an estate through probate in the most efficient manner possible. If you were to come to our firm asking us to have a Will created for you, we could assist you with the drafting of the Will. We can also assist your family make the probate process less stressful and moving it through the process as quickly as possible. However, now that you understand all the pitfalls that we described above, you may want to explore other options.
A revocable living trust is an estate planning tool that can be the perfect alternative to a Will, and you do not have to be a multimillionaire to realize the benefits. At the top of the list of advantages is the ability to avoid the time-consuming, expensive process of probate.
The trustee is the individual that administers the trust after the passing of the creator of the trust (trustor, grantor, settlor or trust maker in legal parlance), and the named beneficiaries receive distributions from the trust. The trust administration process after your death is not subject to the probate process, so distributions could potentially begin shortly after the death of the grantor of the trust.
This is one advantage, but there are others. Many elders become unable to make sound decisions at some point in time due to mental incapacity. You can prepare for this eventuality by empowering a disability trustee to administer the trust while you are living if you become unable to handle your own affairs. It is also possible to include spendthrift protections if you are concerned about the money management capabilities of a beneficiary. And if the grantor is receiving Medi-Cal, a revocable living trust will avoid recovery by the State of California for the medical costs paid by Medi-Cal from the decedent’s assets.
Check Out Our Webinar Schedule!
Our Riverside probate attorneys are holding a series of informative webinars over the upcoming weeks, and you can click this link to see the schedule and reserve your seat.
Have a question? Ask Dennis.
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