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A Few Commonly Asked Questions About Estate Planning

Many people understand the importance of creating a detailed estate plan but often aren’t sure where to start. Also, integrated estate planning often includes moving parts (taxes, contingencies, health care issues, etc.) that many people are not aware of. An experienced attorney can provide you with helpful insight into your particular estate planning needs. Gadi Zohar, Esq., in Palo Alto, California, has guided many clients, advising them in the creation of comprehensive estate plans.

You probably have some questions about estate planning, and we want to help. That’s why we have assembled this list of frequently asked questions (FAQs). Learn more from a reliable estate planning attorney:

Q: What happens if I die without a will or trust?

A: In California, like many states, if you die without a trust or a will, the state decides what becomes of your estate. In short, your assets such as investments, real property and possibly retirement accounts will go to your closest relatives, according to the state’s formula for determining who your closest relatives are. If you die with a will but no trust, you decide where your assets go, but the assets must still move through the cumbersome and expensive probate process. This is why, for most people, a living trust is key to passing your assets on most efficiently. Because with a living trust, you decide where your assets go and the more efficient trust administration process is usually done without court supervision. Also, a trust, unlike a will, covers what happens with your assets if you are living but incompetent.

Q: When should I update my estate plan?

A: It may be crucial to update your estate plan whenever life-related changes take place. Such life changes may include marriage, divorce, the birth of a child, a home purchase, death of a loved one such as your spouse, starting a business or becoming the recipient of a significant inheritance.

Q: How do I avoid the probate process?

A: The probate process can take a great amount of time and it is often costly. A “very fast” probate takes about a year. One way to avoid probate is by creating an estate plan that includes a living trust. A will goes through probate, but a trust does not. When you place your assets in a trust, they are overseen by a reliable person known as a “trustee.” A trust also allows for your assets to be managed for your benefit if you are living but incompetent.

Q: What does an executor do?

A: An executor is a trusted person who is designated in a will to administer the probate process. An executor’s duties include assisting with the sale of estate property, the distribution of assets, paying outstanding bills and taxes, and settling any ongoing disputes between the estate and third parties such as heirs or creditors. Because probate is a court-supervised process, an executor must file petitions with the court and manage the estate in a manner prescribed by the will, the probate court and local rules of court.

Q: What does a trustee do?

A: A trustee’s functions are similar to those of an executor. One important distinction, though, is that a trustee can act without court supervision. In most cases, a trustee performs substantially the same functions as an executor, but in a much more time and financially efficient manner. For example, selling a house through the probate process usually requires court approval. A trustee can usually sell a house out of a trust in substantially the same manner as a private sale.

Q: Why do I need an attorney to create an estate plan rather than doing it myself?

A: A skilled and experienced estate planning attorney can provide important and crucial insight into estate planning matters, which can be legally complicated. An attorney will look out for you and explain estate planning options while bringing up considerations particular to your needs. More often than not an experienced estate planning attorney will cover issues you never even considered – such as the property tax implications related to passing your home on to your loved ones. A knowledgeable attorney will guide you through myriad planning details, including naming guardians for your minor children, health care directives, powers of attorney and more.

Attorney Gadi Zohar has the experience to help you create a custom foundational estate plan. Attentive and personable, he will provide the insight you need.

Get Guidance on Your Estate Plan Today

These questions are just to start your thinking about creating a thorough plan and should not be taken as legal advice. An attentive and experienced estate planning attorney, Gadi Zohar, Esq., in Palo Alto, California can help determine what your individual plan should look like.

His clients hail from throughout the SF Bay Area. He will advocate for you at every step. Please contact us via this online form or call 650-449-6671.