Being involved in a probate case can be a stressful experience. While you are dealing with the loss of a loved one, this impersonal legal process can make managing their final expenses and assets difficult. When there are disagreements between heirs, this already complicated situation can become even harder for the surviving family to handle. Fortunately, there are steps you can take today towards planning for a conflict-free California probate.
One common mistake that people can make when it comes to their estate is not having a will in place. Your will, or last will and testament, is a legally-binding document which allows you to make your final wishes known. In addition to directing where you want your assets to go, this critical device permits you to name an executor to oversee the process. You may also express your preferences as to who should be a guardian for your minor children. Having your will ready will help your family and other loved ones avoid having disagreements over your estate and other important decisions.
Another way to plan for your estate is by creating a California trust. A trust is a legal device which can hold assets for the benefit of named beneficiaries. Property which is transferred into a trust is no longer legally owned by the individual transferring the assets. Trust assets can pass to beneficiaries and bypass probate. Additionally, a trust can be a good option if you are concerned about how your beneficiaries will use their payments. This is because, unlike a will, trust can set limits on how the recipients use their trust disbursements. By leaving most of your assets in a trust, the allocation of the remainder of your estate will be less of an issue for your heirs during probate.
Sometimes heirs and trust beneficiaries will contest wills and trusts on the basis that the person creating them lacked mental capacity. This kind of challenge can lead to significant conflict within families. Another claim may be that the creator was under the undue influence of another person at the time the document was made. One way to establish that you had the capacity to make these decisions is to be examined by your physician and undergo any recommended testing near the time you create the will or trust. To head off undue influence allegations, you could sit down with your loved ones and explain your decisions or give a sworn statement that the directives in your testamentary documents were made by your own free will.
Estate planning can be complicated, and sometimes it can be difficult to anticipate every situation which could create conflict down the road. By working with an experienced estate planning attorney, you can evaluate your circumstances, identify potential issues, and develop solutions before probate becomes necessary. At the Law Offices of Alice A. Salvo, our attorneys have experience helping our clients plan for peaceful resolution of their estates. Contact us today to schedule your free consultation.