Knowing the Essentials of Estate Planning in Orange County

The Basics of Estate Planning with OC Wills & Trust Attorneys

We know that nobody likes to dwell on all of the details that come with end-of-life planning. Because of this, we’ve made it our mission to serve the people of Orange County with professional, friendly, and compassionate legal services to make these crucial preparations easier to deal with. The last thing you want is for you or one of your loved ones to be in a situation where a proper estate plan was not in place, and then have to deal with the mess of sorting out assets and such. Some of our very own counsel members had been in that exact situation before working with us, so they are intimately familiar with that frustration! 

To help you get an idea of what our estate planning services entail, we’ve compiled a short list of the essentials, simply so you can get your feet wet and get familiarized with the process. We hope this is informative for you, and we encourage you to contact us if you have any questions regarding these processes! Let’s dive into it:

Understanding Probate

Probate is a term that you may have heard associated with the estate planning process, but may not know its exact function. “Probate” is the term that is used for the court-supervised process of authenticating an individual’s last will and testament and the distribution of assets. This process is notorious for being time-consuming, and can be very expensive, since it includes locating and verifying the value of the deceased’s assets, paying their final bills and expenses, and then dispersing the remaining assets.

There is a way to avoid this probate hassle altogether, however, and that is through the creation of what is called a Revocable Living Trust.

Revocable Living Trust

Having a revocable living trust makes it possible to avoid the headaches that go along with probate, often altogether. The main purpose of this trust is setting up who your assets will be transferred to automatically upon your death, whether it be a home, car, or any other valuable possession. With this valuable estate planning tool, you are essentially doing the work of the probate process without actually having to involve the probate process at all. The person or persons that you transfer assets to are called “designated beneficiaries.” 

For clarity’s sake, a “trust” is created by a grantor (that would be you or the loved one who is putting together their estate plan) by designating a trustee and a co-trustee that will be responsible for managing your assets. A revocable living trust is made when we appoint the grantor as trustee, allowing them to have control over their assets until the event of their death or incapacitation. This is considered a revocable trust because the grantor can revise the trust at any time during their life due to changing life circumstances. This strategy is very beneficial to individuals who are seeking to protect their assets both immediately and in the future. 

Last Will & Testament

Having a revocable living trust may seem like it eliminates the need to have a will in place at all, but that’s not necessarily true. Your “will” is the legal document that must be authenticated during the probate process that instructs how assets should be distributed after death. Revocable living trusts remove the absolute necessity for this document, but we will always draft a will that covers any of the assets you may have that weren’t included in the living trust. Using this method, called a “pour-over will,” ensures that you have control over all of your assets and how they are distributed. Think of it as an asset safety net that catches anything missed in the living trust. This document will save you time and m