When an individual or a couple in California is looking at managing their assets, there are a variety of tools to consider. A will is one of the most well known, but it may not be able to offer all of the benefits that you want. For that reason, when doing your estate planning, it is important to consider other tools as well.
One is a revocable living trust. Like a will, it is used to distribute your assets to your heirs. You can use it to apportion those assets however you see fit, and you can change it anytime you want to for as long as you live. It also has some advantages over a will.
One advantage is that it allows your estate to be settled quickly. With a will, the money and property that you leave to heirs have to go through a probate process, which can be very extensive. That process can cost a lot of money for related paperwork, executors, and so on. It can also draw unwanted publicity, and may even involve court-supervised distribution of the estate in some cases.
You can avoid all that with a living trust, which doesn't require the probate process. Of course, the "escape hatch" from the probate process for living trusts vary from state to state. Some states may place limits based on the overall financial value of the estate, or of the value of the estate minus any real estate.
The appointment of a trustee is another advantage of living trusts. Having a trustee means that you have someone in place whom you trust to manage your assets if you become incapacitated. Of course, it is best to explore the details of these options with a qualified California estate-planning attorney.
Source: Time, "Why This Estate Planning Tool Beats Just Having a Will" Kerri Anne Renzulli, Oct. 06, 2014