Wills, Trusts & Probate


WHY SHOULD I
HAVE A WILL OR
A TRUST?:

If you pass away without a will, your assets (called your "estate") will be distributed according to California law, even if the law does not follow your intentions. If you have a will, your estate will be distributed according to your intent as expressed in your will. If you pass away with or without a will, your estate will probably have to be probated. However, if you form a trust, your estate will be distributed by the "trustee" you appoint in the trust, and your estate will not have to go through probate.

 

HOW WILL A
TRUST AFFECT
OWNERSHIP OF
MY ASSETS?:

Mr. Lashlee prepares revocable trusts. A revocable trust may be changed in any manner during the lifetime of the "trustor" (the person who formed the trust). It has no effect on ownership of your assets during your lifetime. You may sell, give away, mortgage or do anything with your assets that you would have been able to do without the trust. Forming a revocable trust will not result in reassessment of your home or other real property.

 

SHOULD I HAVE MY
EXISTING TRUST
REVIEWED?:

You should have your trust reviewed if you have had major changes in your life or in the lives of any intended beneficiaries, you no longer own the assets with which you funded your trust, the distribution scheme in your trust no longer matches your intentions, you prepared the trust yourself or your trust is more than 10 years old. Your trust may need a simple written modification, if at all. In rare cases, an existing trust should be revoked and re-written.

 

FEES FOR WILLS
AND TRUSTS:

A simple will for one person is $350. Simple wills for husband and wife are $600. A simple trust for one person is $2,000. A simple trust for husband and wife is $2,500. The fee for a trust includes consultation with the clients, preparation and execution of the trust, pour-over wills (a safety-net if you leave any assets out of the trust by mistake), general powers of attorney, health care directives and up to three real property transfer deeds. The fee for modification of existing trusts varies based on the extent of the modification required. Consultations regarding wills and trusts are free up to one hour.

 

PROBATE:

Currently, with a few exceptions, any estate with a gross value (without deduction for mortgages or encumbrances) of $150,000 or more must be probated unless the estate is in a valid trust. In probate, the court oversees the administration of the distribution of the estate, either according to the will, or if no will, according to state law. It will take at least eight months to complete a probate, and probably much longer. While it is permissible for an interested party to handle a probate without a lawyer, most people don't have the time or experience to deal with the many requirements, rules, laws and forms. Even without an attorney, it is likely that a simple probate will cost $2,000 or more. If an attorney is involved, the fees are set by law and are a percentage of the gross value of the estate. An estate with only a modestly valued house will have attorney fees of $10,000 or more in probate. In addition, the personal representative of the estate is entitled to the same fee as the attorney. The total cost of $20,000 or more, plus the time and frustration of probate is a major reason to form a trust.