San Fernando Valley trust attorney

North LA County Trust Lawyer: Top 5 Mistakes to Avoid When You Make a Living Trust

A revocable living trust is an integral part of many estate plans. Its main purpose is to give you more control over how your estate is handled both before and after death while allowing your estate to avoid a lengthy probate process.

The idea of a revocable living trust is fairly simple: it becomes the owner of any assets you – the grantor – put into it. A trustee (typically also the grantor) is named to administer the trust and manage its assets. If at any time you feel the need to step down as trustee – maybe you can’t make it to the bank as easily anymore or just don’t feel like handling each aspect of your finances – the responsibility will turn to a successor trustee, who is someone you named in the trust to take over administration when you choose not to handle it anymore. The successor trustee can also take over in the event of your death, which will easily allow them to manage your assets that would otherwise be tied up in the probate courts until the estate is settled.

While this all sounds great, keep in mind that there are some mistakes that can come with setting up your trust which can ultimately be difficult to fix. Here are the top five mistakes you should avoid when making your revocable living trust:

Not including the right assets
As noted above, the main reason to create a revocable living trust is to avoid the probate process. As a rule, any asset that is solely held by a decedent has to go through probate, while any jointly held or trust-held asset does not have to go through the process. Putting a joint checking account in your trust may not make much sense, and neither would leaving out a house that is solely in your name.

Assuming you’ll be protected from estate taxes
Revocable living trusts do not protect estates from estate taxes. There are different kinds of irrevocable trusts available for that purpose, such as a credit shelter trust and marital life estate trust. These are much more complex trusts and require the experience of an LA County trust lawyer, which brings us to our next point…

Using a DIY trust maker
Many families have seen the effects of creating DIY trusts; namely, they don’t often work. Trusts must follow a strict set of guidelines that are set by the state and federal governments, and any trust that does not follow these guidelines is not worth the paper it’s printed on. An experienced LA County trust lawyer is the perfect resource for finding out if a revocable living trust is right for you and can craft it to meet your needs.

Creating a trust but not a will
Here’s an important note to keep in mind: a trust does not take the place of a will. In fact, a will (called a pour-over will when used in conjunction with a trust) is needed to control any assets that may not have made it into your trust. If you pass away without a will, then your estate will be distributed to beneficiaries as decided by the law – not necessarily the way you would want it.

Saving money now vs. saving money later
We get it – trusts can be expensive, especially compared to a very basic estate plan package. However, the extra cost today could end up saving your family and estate a serious price tag later when probate fees, time, and resources are all added up. A trust simplifies the process and is well worth the cost to whoever administers your estate once you’ve passed on.

If you want to learn more about creating a revocable living trust, or if you currently have a revocable living trust and would like to have it reviewed to ensure it still fits your needs, please give us a call at 818-334-2805 to set up a complimentary consultation.

San Fernando Valley estate planning attorneys

What is a Life Insurance Trust? | San Fernando Valley Estate Planning Attorneys

There are several different trusts available to achieve asset protection planning goals and to ensure you leave a legacy behind for your loved ones. One of the most common trusts to help achieve these goals is an irrevocable life insurance trust, also called ILIT. These trusts protect the benefits of your life insurance policies by keeping them separate from your taxable estate. Experienced San Fernando Valley estate planning attorneys recommend ILITs to their clients who own large life insurance policies that, in addition to other assets, may put those clients over the state or federal estate tax thresholds. ILITs also allow policy owners to choose who benefits from the life insurance proceeds and how those benefit payments are distributed.

But how do you know if an irrevocable life insurance trust is the right tool for you to protect your assets? The first step you should take is to speak with a San Fernando Valley estate planning attorney who can determine if this trust fits in with your goals. Here is some additional information that can help you get ready for that discussion:

An ILIT is an irrevocable trust, which means it cannot be changed or revoked by the Grantor (the person who makes the trust), and the Grantor must give up all ownership of the Trust assets. Once a life insurance policy is transferred to the ILIT, the Grantor no longer owns the policy and technically has no control over the policy or any beneficiary designations. However, the Grantor sets the terms of the trust, so they control how the life insurance distributions are made and to whom, as well as when those distributions are made to the beneficiaries.

The Grantor names a Trustee, usually a spouse or adult child, to oversee the trust and the life insurance policy. Keep in mind that the life insurance policy must be transferred to the ILIT at least three years before the death of the Grantor, otherwise the trust will not be valid.

An irrevocable life insurance trust is difficult to craft correctly and requires the knowledge of an experienced estate planning attorney to create. If the trust is created incorrectly, your estate may be responsible for paying estate taxes on your life insurance policies while your wishes for your beneficiaries may not be fulfilled.

If you are interested in learning more about irrevocable life insurance trusts, or if you’d like one of our experienced San Fernando Valley estate planning attorneys to review your existing irrevocable life insurance trust, please contact us at 818-334-2805 to set up a consultation.

Calabasas trust attorney

Calabasas Trust Attorney: 3 Questions to Ask Yourself When Choosing a Successor Trustee

As a Calabasas trust attorney, I help many seniors set up Revocable Living Trusts to avoid probate proceedings and to give clear instructions on how they want their assets and property handled after death. The Grantor creates a trust once it is signed and funded with assets or property; that means anything used to fund the trust is technically property of the Revocable Living Trust. The Grantor no longer owns the trust assets and property, though they do retain control over it if they are the Trustee of the trust.

This is the beauty of a Revocable Living Trust: it can survive the incapacitation and even death of the Grantor and Trustee because the trust owns the property and allows for various people to control it as Trustees. When the Grantor/Trustee passes away or becomes incapacitated, a Successor Trustee (who is already named in the trust to serve in that capacity) gains control over the Trust assets, though must still abide by the terms and conditions of the trust. But before you choose a Successor Trustee for your trust, you should ask yourself the following questions:

Who will want to handle my trust?

Typically, Successor Trustees are either the spouse or adult child of the Grantor/Trustee, but just because they’re family doesn’t mean that they want to handle the trust. A spouse may not be able to handle the work needed to be a Successor Trustee, and adult children may want to avoid conflicts with siblings or other family members or may even have a complicated personal situation and simply cannot take over the extra responsibility. Speak with your potential Successor Trustees to find out if they think they’ll be able to handle the job, and make sure to provide additional instructions in your trust on who should become Successor Trustee if the person named cannot or will not accept the position.

Should I name co-Trustees?

There are pros and cons to having co-Trustees. On one hand, it may be a good solution to ensure everyone feels they are being treated equally. On the other hand, it can lead to family conflicts and difficulties in administering the trust. In many cases, co-Trustees are named to serve as Successor Trustees, but one will usually relinquish power to the other in order to make things go smoothly. If you are considering naming co-Trustees, you should speak with an experienced Calabasas trust attorney to find out all of the potential pitfalls.

Will the Successor Trustee be strong enough to serve?

One thing that is often overlooked is the fact that a Successor Trustee will have to operate during difficult moments, such as when the Grantor becomes medically incapacitated or after the Grantor passes away. This is why many people ultimately settle on a professional trustee or Calabasas trust attorney to serve as Successor Trustee. This avoids any emotional issues and family conflicts, while allowing decisions to be made objectively. One potential drawback to having a professional Trustee or attorney serve as Successor Trustee is that they charge a fee for their services, which is usually a percentage of the total trust assets.

If you’d like more information about Revocable Living Trusts and Successor Trustees, or if you’d like to review your existing Revocable Living Trust with an experienced Calabasas trust attorney, please contact us at 818-334-2805 to set up a consultation.

Calabasas Trust Lawyers

Everything You Need to Know About Self-Settled Trusts | Calabasas Trust Lawyers

There are a lot of different estate planning and asset protection planning trusts out there: revocable living trusts, Medi-Cal asset protection trusts, and life insurance trusts are just a few of them. One type of trust that Calabasas trust lawyers find to be useful, though sometimes only in narrow circumstances, is a self-settled trust.

What is a self-settled trust?

A self-settled trust is used to protect financial assets, real estate, personal property, and business assets from future creditors. Like most other trusts, once these assets are transferred into a self-settled trust, they’re legally owned by the trust and not by you. A self-settled trust is an irrevocable trust, which is the key feature in making sure that future creditors cannot reach the assets that are in the trust.

What are the limitations of a self-settled trust?

As mentioned earlier, there are a few limitations to self-settled trusts. The biggest limitation is the fact that they cannot protect assets from past creditors, so any debts incurred before the trust is created are still liable to be paid out from trust assets. Self-settled trusts are also not allowed in a number of states, as many lawmakers were worried that these trusts could be used to wrongfully avoid creditors. Self-settled trusts are legal in the following states:

·       Alaska

·       Delaware

·       Hawaii

·       Mississippi

·       Missouri

·       Nevada

·       New Hampshire

·       Ohio

·       Rhode Island

·       South Dakota

·       Tennessee

·       Utah

·       Virginia

·       West Virginia

·       Wyoming

How do I create a self-settled trust?

If you live in one of the states that allow self-settled trusts and want to create one to avoid future creditors, your first step should be to speak with an attorney who has experience with drafting self-settled trusts. Once you’ve chosen an attorney to create your trust, you’ll have to provide the following information:

·       The creditors from whom you want to protect your assets. Many people choose self-settled trusts if they worry about possible accidents or injuries, work in high-risk professions with liabilities, or own a business.

·       The trustee of the trust. You cannot choose yourself as the trustee of your own self-settled trust, since that defeats the purpose of the assets no longer being in your control. You’ll need to choose someone you trust or a corporate trustee who can fulfill those duties.

·       The assets that will go into the trust. Typically, people will put financial assets and real estate property into their self-settled trust, but everyone’s individual situation is different. You should bring a list of all your assets when you meet with your attorney so you can better determine what assets will go into the trust.

If you’d like to learn more about self-settled trusts and how one can fit into your estate plan, or if you currently have a self-settled trust and would like to have it reviewed by one of our experienced Calabasas trust attorneys, please contact us at (818) 334-2805 to set up a consultation.Report

North LA County trust attorneys

North LA County Trust Attorneys: Will a Revocable Living Trust Protect My Assets?

Trusts are an excellent tool for estate planning and asset protection purposes. The most common type of trust is a Revocable Living Trust, which holds your assets and helps avoid the probate process when you pass away. However, Revocable Living Trusts do not help much when it comes to asset protection planning.

What Can I Do with a Revocable Living Trust?

As stated above, a Revocable Living Trust is an essential tool for avoiding probate. If you own enough assets to qualify for a full probate proceeding when you pass away, then you will most likely benefit from a Revocable Living Trust. Assets placed in the trust, such as a home and financial accounts, can pass to your beneficiaries without going through the probate process. This saves your loved ones time and money and provides a level of privacy for your personal affairs. A successor trustee of your choosing can also manage any finances you place in your Revocable Living Trust if you ever become incapacitated, or even if you just do not care to handle your own financial affairs anymore.

Will a Revocable Living Trust Protect My Assets?

Revocable Living Trusts do not protect assets from financial predators. If you owe money to creditors, then those creditors may take assets from your trust, even though the trust is technically the legal owner of the assets. Your Revocable Living Trust is not suitable for asset protection purposes because you are still considered the owner of the assets if you are the trustee because you have complete control over the trust. There are no restrictions on how you can spend the assets in the Revocable Living Trust, and you can revoke the trust at any time. Revoking the trust means the assets will revert to your direct ownership, putting them back under your control. In addition, all assets in the Revocable Living Trust are reported to the IRS for tax purposes under your Social Security number, meaning there is even less separation between you as an individual and the Revocable Living Trust. This is different from Irrevocable Trusts, which have their own tax identification numbers.

If you are interested in learning more about how certain Irrevocable Trusts can be used for asset protection purposes, or if you’d like to learn more about estate planning with a Revocable Living Trust, please contact our North LA County trust attorneys at 818-334-2805 to set up a consultation.

San Fernando Valley will and trust lawyer

Estate Planning and Divorce: What to Know | San Fernando Valley Will and Trust Lawyer

Estate planning offers legal protection for families and individuals through all of life’s transitions. Using tools such as wills, trusts, powers of attorney, and healthcare directives, estate planning helps individuals protect their wishes, safeguard their assets, and ensure provision and care for their loved ones following their death or incapacity.  

What Does My Estate Plan Have to Do with My Divorce?

 Your estate plan can be impacted greatly if it’s not updated after a divorce. For example, if your ex-spouse has been named as a beneficiary on your life insurance policy, he or she may still be able to collect the proceeds if you suddenly pass away without updating your documents. Your ex-spouse may also retain authority roles as your power of attorney or healthcare agent unless you revoke such power. As a single adult, you must also name the people you now want to act on your behalf or manage your affairs in an emergency once the role is no longer filled by your ex-spouse.

 Won’t a Divorce Automatically Stop My Ex-Spouse from Having Such Power?

 Again, not necessarily. In many states, a divorce does not nullify the beneficiaries named on accounts, nor will it prevent an ex-spouse from serving in authority roles where he or she may retain the ability to make life or death medical decisions or manage the ex-spouse’s money during incapacity. That is why you must update your documents after a divorce to be certain that your ex no longer has this power.

 What Documents Should I Update?

 While everyone’s estate plan is different, the following are the most common documents that should be updated after a divorce: 

·      Will

·      Trust

·      Power of Attorney

·      Healthcare Directive

·      Beneficiary Designations on Life Insurance Policies

·      Beneficiary Designations on Retirement Plans

·      Beneficiaries on any accounts with Transfer on Death Provisions

 Getting Help

 Each state has laws that dictate when documents can be updated or altered as you move through the divorce proceedings. It’s important to speak with an experienced San Fernando Valley will and trust lawyer before you make any changes, as any unapproved transfers or changes to your documents could be considered fraudulent. If you need help getting started, we are here to assist you with your planning. Contact our office by calling (818) 334-2805 to schedule an appointment.