Probate, Estate Planning and Trust Law
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San Fernando Valley Probate & Estate Administration Law Blog

Determining a trustee's liability

Being party to a trust in Woodland Hills can be a nerve-wracking proposition given that your interest in it are wholly impacted by the actions of another. While you of course want to trust that the settlor of the trust chose a trustee that he or she believed and had faith in, the idea of the trustee working with absolute impunity may seem unsettling to you. Several in your position have come to us here at The Law Offices of Alice A. Salvo with the same concerns, wanting to know what standard of accountability a trustee is held to and what liability he or she assumes in he or she fails in his or her duties. 

The trustee of your trust is expected to take all reasonable care in executing the purpose of the trust as set forth by the settlor in the trust instrument. He or she is liable to you and other beneficiaries if he or she does not meet that fiduciary duty. The details of that liability are given in Section 16440 of the California Probate Code. It states that in the event of a breach of trust, a trustee is liable to you (as a beneficiary) for: 

  • Any loss or depreciation of value of the trust estate occurring as a result of his or her actions (including interest)
  • Any profit the trust estate would have earned without his or her breach of duty 
  • Any profits he or she made individually from his or her actions

Why choose cotrustees?

When sitting down to consider your estate planning options in Woodland Hills, you might want to keep the idea of managing your assets through a trust towards the front of your mind. This will hopefully ensure their wise management for the benefit of your beneficiaries (or yourself, should you become incapacitated). One question then looms: Who should you choose to be your trustee? You can always go with a bank or legal firm, yet such a decision will likely cost more than having a family member or trusted friend fill the role. It is for this reason why many choose to keep their trustees in the family. Yet when doing so, some say it might be wiser to name a team of co-trustees. 

Why would you name cotrustees? The most obvious advantage is that it eliminates ideas of favoritism. Spreading the responsibility of managing your assets between your children or between them and your spouse allows all of them to have a say in how those assets are utilized. The California Probate Code ensures such, as it says in Section 15620 that any powers vested in cotrustees can only be exercised by unanimous action. 

3 aspects of probate you may need to know

After a loved one dies, you certainly know that many tasks will need attention. However, you may find yourself among numerous other Woodland Hills residents who feel some confusion when it comes to settling the estate of a deceased individual. Though certain terms may seem familiar to you, knowing how to apply those terms and what the processes associated with them entail could seem like foreign concepts.

In particular, probate could have you feeling a bit anxious due to your lack of information on the process. Luckily, these proceedings do not have to cause you undue stress and can help ensure that your loved one's estate closes properly.

Living wills versus last wills

California residents may at some point end up having to deal with either writing a will of their own, or handling someone else's will. In these situations, it's good to know the difference between the different types of wills. In this segment, we take a look at living wills and last wills.

According to the Free Dictionary, a living will is also known as an advance directive. This will comes into play while a person is still alive. It is written by the person in question while in their right mind. In a living will, a person determines what shall be done in the case of permanent unconsciousness, comatose states, or a state of permanent illness. For example, if someone does not want to be on continued life support after being declared vegetative, a living will is where they would put the instructions for dealing with that situation.

Admitting a second will to probate

Many come to see us here at The Law Offices of Alice A. Salvo seeking assistance with probate cases in Los Angeles County because, even though such proceedings can be complicated and drawn-out, they are often necessary in order to effectively distribute a decedent's assets as he or she intended. If you have recently completed the probate process, you are likely glad that it is over. Imagine what you might face if you had to go through it a second time? 

Is that possible? What if, for instance, when you finally get around to cleaning out your loved one's old storage shed, you come across another will hidden amongst other documents. No language existed in the will referenced in the probate case mentioning this will or expressly revoking its terms. Could this new will be probated as well? According to the California Probate Code, the answer is yes. 

How to handle estate planning in blended families

Estate planning can be complicated in any situation, but familes that have been blended through marriage and divorce can create additional obstacles to overcome. If you are attempting to build an estate plan in California with a blended family, you may have run across some confusing issues. We at the Law Offices of Alice A. Salvo are experienced in handling this or any other type of planning and can assist you as you create the perfect plan for your family.

According to Forbes.com, one of the biggest problems that parents in blended families face is the question of where their money and property will go after they pass away. This can include much more than a house, vehicles and savings accounts. Experts say that many people also need to determine where their insurance policies, retirement accounts, stocks, bonds and other funds will be designated once they are gone. While you may be happy to let your spouse have complete control over the assets once you pass, there may be some situations in which you are more comfortable with another person or entity being in charge. 

Widow and bank at odds over management of trust

Helping someone through their final days in Woodland Hills can be a monumental task. The difficulty of such an endeavor may be what makes it understandable why so many seem to favor those that they are closest to during their twilight years in their estate planning. However, others who might otherwise be party to an estate may view their interests as being impacted by the actions of those who were consistently around a decedent until his or her end. That impact may could lead to accusations of undue influence.

Such is the claim being made by a Florida woman seeking to wrest control of the trusts set up by her late estranged husband from the bank currently serving as trustee. While the trust provides her with an annual $800,000 income, outsiders may view her as essentially being disinherited along with her daughter and the decedent’s other children (all of whom with which he had no relationship towards the end of his life).

How do you formally accept the role of a trustee?

Taking on the role of being a trustee to an instrument or account created by a family member, friend or colleague in Woodland Hills is a large responsibility, and certainly one that should not be taken lightly. You may do well to consider the matter for a time before actually accepting the role. While some (including even possibly the settlor) may question your apprehension in immediately assuming the responsibility, your prudence may ultimately help ensure that the trust is handled properly. The question, however, is whether or not the law automatically assigns you this responsibility.

The guidelines and requirements for assuming the role of a trustee can be found in Section 15600 of the California Trust Code. In this section, it states that in order to accept a trust (and, by extension, the job of trustee), you must either sign a written acceptance of the responsibility or the trust instrument itself. Even if, however, you do not sign anything designating yourself as the trustee, it is assumed that you have accepted such a role if you knowingly begin to exercise the powers assigned to the trustee in the trust instrument.

Planning ahead may reduce shock of long-term care costs

When in the prime of your life, you may have a difficult time imagining a scenario in which you can no longer care for yourself. However, this type of predicament affects numerous individuals, especially those of retirement age. While you may still have a number of years before you reach that point in your life, you may wish to begin considering how you would pay for long-term care.

Most individuals over the age of 65 will need some sort of long-term care. Therefore, a high chance exists that you will also need such care. Depending on the type of care and how you receive it, your care expenses could become overwhelming. Do you have the ability to afford it?

Do you require a special needs trust?

Determining what is going to happen to your family after you pass on can be a difficult thought, one that may be even more complicated if you have a child who will likely require lifelong assistance. If you are unsure about whether or not you will require a special needs trust, there are a few things you need to know. We at the Law Offices of Alice A. Salvo can help you determine which types of planning are right for you and how to best care for your loved ones in California.