If you are a client, you have likely heard me say it a dozen times, “we never know what the tax laws will be at the time of your death – they are changing all the time.” As it happens, a new bill has been proposed in the California Senate that would impose a California gift, estate and generation-skipping tax (GST) beginning on January 1, 2021.
Shocking to most people, your retirement accounts can be seized once they pass to your loved ones. During your lifetime, your retirement funds have asset protection, meaning they can’t be taken in a lawsuit. Unfortunately, as soon as retirement accounts are inherited, the protection evaporates. This means your hard earned money can legally be snatched by strangers and the courts.
Receiving a health diagnosis or learning that you need to undergo major surgery can cause substantial disruption in your day-to-day life. During this time, the last thing you may want to think about is estate planning.
Should You Choose a Will or a Trust
A recent study states that over half of all Americans die "intestate", meaning without a will. That's not completely true – California (and most other states) has "intestate laws" defining how your property will be distributed. So, you do have a will, but not necessarily one you'd like. Either you choose how your estate is divided or the State of California will choose for you.
The choice, obviously, should be yours. That means every person should have an estate plan. Attorney Heather Johnston founded Sapphire Law Group to deliver a level of elder law and other services equal to any major firm, but in a way that is convenient, efficient and, most of all, personal.
What is a Will?
A will is a legal document that defines who (beneficiaries) receives your property (estate), and in what amounts, after you die and who's in charge of the transfer (executor). If you have minor children, it can also define who'll raise them for you (guardians). Wills can even specify funeral arrangements.
There is a legal process (probate) that certifies your will is final and binding. This, by the way, makes your will a matter of public record. If anyone doesn't like the will, they can ask the court to invalidate it (contest).
What is a Trust?
A trust (also called a "living trust") is a legal relationship defined by a document (instrument) defining how one person or business (trustee) holds and handles the property of another (donor, grantor, settler, trustor) on behalf of others (beneficiaries). In California, the trustee can be the donor and/or one of the beneficiaries or the trustor can pick a relative, a friend or a trust company to act for them.
Upon your death, the trust passes immediately to the beneficiaries without probate. Trust transfers can, therefore, remain entirely private. A trust can also deal with incapacity – assuring that your wishes are carried out even if you're still around but can't make those wishes known. A trust can't specify guardianship for children, but a trust instrument isn’t at all easy to contest.
Is a Will or Trust Better for You?
Since every individual's situation is different, every estate plan is different. Consult an experienced living trust lawyer to see exactly how best to safeguard your family and property. In Folsom, California, that living trust attorney should be Sapphire Law Group. With Sapphire as your lawyer for wills and trusts, probate, trust administration or estate planning, you get more than just the documents, you get a partner and the peace of mind your family deserves.
We know it’s hard. Thinking about someone else raising your children stops us all in our tracks. But you must.
Common reasons that someone may decide to create a trust include privacy, tax benefits, avoiding probate, and caring for family members with special needs. Estate planning also lets you dictate how your assets will pass on to future generations after your death.
Ordinary possessions like homes, jewelry collections, bank accounts, cars, furniture — basically anything you can own — are also under the purview of your estate, meaning estate planning is something that profoundly impacts virtually everyone, not just the “country club” crowd.