Law Office of Suzanne P. Nicholl, PC
Personalized Probate and Estate Services
619-894-8552 Call today for a free consultation

San Diego Probate & Estate Administration Law Blog

A trust helps make an estate plan simple and accurate

Dying without a will means you have no control over your estate, and it has to go through the court process, passing on to your heirs in accordance with state laws. Even with a will, it can take time and money to show that the will is valid and start to move assets around -- especially if the heirs have any sort of dispute about the validity of the document. Though a will lays out some of your wishes, it does not really give you control.

As a result, more and more people are turning to trusts. They give greater control, making it so that the estate plan accurately reflects what the deceased wanted and making the process simpler for the heirs.

The trouble with selling your home as part of your estate plan

In some cases, parents do not want to leave their homes to their children. They feel like it would just be a burden for the kids to have to decide if they want to keep it or sell it -- not to mention going through with the sale and splitting up the money. It can even lead to estate disputes.

One option, of course, is to sell the house in advance. This way, the parents have to do all of the work on the front end, and they can just leave the money to the kids. This is far easier to divide than real estate.

Tell your children why you decided to use a trust

If you decide to use a trust for your assets, it can prevent the children from using those assets in the way that they want. For instance, a trust could stipulate that the child does not get any money until age 30 or that the money has to be used to pay for college tuition.

The reason that parents do this is often to keep children from spending all of the money too quickly or in a manner they do not approve of. They want to have some control over their children's lives. This may be simply to protect the kids -- understanding that an 18-year-old may make regrettable decisions that a 30-year-old would avoid, for instance.

I'm worried my kids will blow all I leave them. What can I do?

Parents typically love all their children equally, but this doesn't blind them to their weaknesses. When it's time to sit down with your estate planning attorney and devise your estate plan, you need to be fully transparent about your proposed heirs' abilities to manage any inheritance you may leave them.

This is a delicate issue, as what parents may perceive as their children's poor financial decisions could simply be radically different lifestyle views. For the sake of argument, let's say that you have an adult child who has demonstrated throughout their lifetime that they are hopelessly inept when it comes to financial management.

Why children may want to help their parents with funeral planning

Funeral planning is a simple necessity, but it can be hard to bring up. It feels a bit awkward to talk about something that many of us spend so much time trying not to think about.

However, this is a very critical part of the estate planning process. It's important for children to get over that initial hurdle, broach the subject and then help their parents do their funeral planning. Ultimately, the decisions belong to the parents, but talking about it with the kids helps for a lot of reasons, including:

  • It helps to reduce the chances that a sudden funeral will put a significant financial burden on the heirs.
  • It makes sure that the children actually know exactly what their parents want and desire.
  • It helps the children determine how best to meet those needs.
  • It gives children and parents time to talk about the plan so that any disagreements or discussions can happen in advance. This makes it less likely that there will be a dispute after the fact.
  • It also reduces the odds of disputes because the children really do know what the parents wanted and no one can contest it.
  • It gives the entire family a sense of security and peace of mind.
  • It allows people to plan everything slowly and carefully, so that it is perfect, rather than trying to plan it in a rush at the last minute.

Estate plans and the role of sibling rivalry

If you think that your estate plan just needs to address your assets, it's time to dig a bit deeper. To create an effective plan, you not only need to pass your assets on to your heirs, but you need to do it in a way that minimizes conflict. You want them to have strong family ties for the rest of their lives, after all, and you want to avoid litigation and estate disputes if possible.

One thing to bear in mind as you do this is the role of sibling rivalry. Many of those same conflicts that you saw when they were kids are just going to keep on impacting their relationships now that they are adults.

Picking the wrong estate executor is a serious mistake

People make a lot of mistakes when creating wills and estate plans. Some don't make a will at all. Others forget about tax implications. Still others don't think about the sentimental value of certain items and create conflict between siblings.

One of the biggest mistakes you can make, though, is simply picking the wrong person to be the executor for your estate. This person has a big job. They need to take inventory of your assets, distribute copies of the will, pay taxes and handle other financial tasks with the estate. They also need to make sure that the assets get passed out to the right people in accordance with the will.

What can children buy with an educational trust?

You're thinking of setting up an educational trust for your grandchildren. You know that you can put age limits on it, preventing the children from using it until they turn 18. You also know that you can limit it so that the money can only go toward their education.

What exactly does that mean? How can they use the money you leave for them? They have to follow the rules that you set up for the trust, and those are up to you.

Does a life insurance policy go through probate?

When your estate goes through probate, it gets divided among your heirs and other beneficiaries. This process is long and complicated for some people, while it is relatively easy and straightforward for others.

What about a life insurance policy? It pays out when you pass away. Does this mean that it then becomes part of your estate and has to pass through probate, or does it get to skip that process?

What are the downsides to an incentive trust?

There are many positive reasons to use an incentive trust. You can encourage your heirs to be successful, for instance, and you can ensure that they only get the money when they are mature and responsible enough to handle it.

However, before deciding to use this kind of trust, you do want to consider the downsides. What are the potential negative impacts of the incentive trust?

Law Office of Suzanne P. Nicholl, PC
6165 Greenwich Dr.
Suite 340
San Diego, CA 92122

Phone: 619-894-8552
Fax: 858-373-5556
Map & Directions