By now most people have heard about the living trust as being a common component of an estate plan. By having a living trust, you can avoid a court supervised probate when you die (and the huge attorneys fees that go along with it). What many people don’t realize however is that even a relatively small estate will require a probate given that under current California law probate is required for estates as small as $166,000.
Whether you recently found out you were named as a successor trustee of a trust or an executor of someone’s will, you will probably need to meet with an estate administration lawyer for help. It is often a difficult and even thankless task; however, the person who selected you did so because they trusted that you would get the job done and get it done right. The guidance of an experienced lawyer can help make the process smooth and efficient and ensure the least amount of bumps along the way.
Premarital Agreements (prenups)
Marriage is probably one of the most important legal contracts that many people will ever enter into. Even so, most people do not address or plan for the possibility of what happens if the marriage doesn’t work out. Marriage is a spiritual union of two people in love and promising to stay together forever.
To ask your betrothed, “Oh and honey can you sign this just in case?” is arguably somewhat disingenuous. That said, if you don’t have a negotiated agreement that the two of you have decided the terms of, the State of California will decide the terms for you!
And often times, the law, in its application, flies in the face of fairness… fairness to the party who is bringing a lot of assets and income to the marriage as well as to the party who has very little! Yes, prenups can (and should) protect both parties. Why leave it to the state to decide what is fair?
Marital Agreements (postnups)
Sometimes in the estate planning process it is determined that a couple has unwittingly commingled their assets during their marriage, that is mixed their separate property with their community property. This can be tricky when one spouse dies and the surviving spouse is left to battle with the deceased spouse’s heirs with regard to the nature of his or her assets and determining what actually comprises the deceased spouse’s estate. This can be avoided by the husband and wife setting forth their intentions in a marital agreement during the estate planning process.