CALIFORNIA LIVING TRUSTS
What is a Living Trust? How do you create a Living Trust in California? How much should a Living Trust Cost? What process do our Living Trust Lawyers follow?
At CunninghamLegal, we offer unparalleled expertise in the creation of California Living Trusts, at affordable rates.
Why Do I Need a Living Trust?
A Living Trust lies at the heart of a modern Estate Plan, and you need to understand why.
Without a Living Trust created by a competent and expert Estate attorney, your loved ones face a complex, expensive, public, and often messy legal process known as probate.
Probate in California typically takes a year or more and requires many thousands of dollars. In larger estates, probate may cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Far too often, probate creates conflict among family members as they stand in front of a judge and argue their rights to your assets.
Can’t I Just Make Out a Will?
If you leave no document at all, not even a Will, you will be creating a disaster for your family. But even a properly written Last Will & Testament is not enough to move your accounts, properties, and other assets smoothly to the next generation.
Indeed, a Will is little more than a letter you write to a probate judge expressing your desires. Then it’s up to the judge to decide.
The invention of the Living Trust goes back many years, and Living Trusts have saved countless millions of heirs countless millions of hours and untold billions of dollars.
It is a proven strategy, and everyone should consider creating a revocable Living Trust.
A Special Kind of Box You Pass Along
Think of a Living Trust as a kind of legal “box” you create with the help of a lawyer. Into this box you place all your assets, and during your lifetime you are both the “trustee” or controller of the box, and the “beneficiary” of everything the box contains. If you’re married, both you and your spouse are typically equally trustees and beneficiaries.
When you die, a “successor trustee” named by you simply and efficiently gets handed the box. Often that’s a family member, but it could be a professional. The job of that trustee is to dole out the assets from the box to the new beneficiaries you named during your lifetime.
A Will is little more than a letter you write to a probate judge expressing your desires. Then it’s up to the judge to decide.
No judge required. No court dates. No court fees. No one or two years of probate. Your loved ones can immediately take control of your estate in exactly the manner you prescribed.
Because a Living Trust is “revocable,” you can change it as often as you like during your lifetime. There are other important documents you need to create as part of a complete Estate Plan, but the Living Trust makes everything work properly together.
Are All Living Trusts the Same?
All Living Trusts are definitely not the same.
Each needs to be crafted exactly for your situation. Do you have minor children? A disabled loved one? A blended family? Are you facing a divorce? Do you own a business? Might your assets trigger a Death Tax, also known as an Estate Tax?
All these questions and many more must be considered by your lawyer, and in many cases a Living Trust won’t be the right box at all for a given situation. You may need an irrevocable trust, an IRA Legacy Trust, or what we call a “dole-it-out” trust to take care of an irresponsible heir.
This is not a generic, cookie-cutter job. Certainly, no automated online or cut-and- paste process will work.
How Are Living Trusts Created?
Here at CunninghamLegal, we follow a highly defined process to create a California Living Trust as part of a complete Estate Plan. During that process, we make sure we’ve turned over every stone, followed up every clue, leveraged our experience, and crafted the best possible plan for everyone involved.
A good Living Trust means no court dates. No court fees. No one or two years of probate. Your loved ones can immediately take control of your estate.
It’s highly customized and it includes a lot of specific fail-safe mechanisms, designed just for you.
Here’s a quick summary of our approach. Nearly all of these steps can take place virtually:
- Education that starts with a webinar, workshop, or discussion. We think an educated client is an empowered client. We’re not going to overwhelm you, but we want you know how to identify the personal issues and questions important to your Living Trust and the rest of your Estate Plan. Who will make medical decisions for you if you get sick? Who’s going to be in charge of your money? Who’s going to be in charge of your kids? Your disabled dependents? Who will handle things after you are gone during the trust administration after you are gone?
- Detailed diagnostics: Who are you? Who depends on you? What are your assets? When you go to a doctor’s office, the staff will check your temperature, blood pressure, and medications list. In our office, we immediately set out to understand your family and asset structure, and of course, your hopes and dreams for the legacy you wish to leave for the next generation.
- First attorney meeting. Our goal in a first sit-down together, in-person or online, is often to identify any “pain points.” Usually, these are not just financial, but personal. The pain points can be highly emotional: estranged children, angry ex-spouses, troubled businesses, debts, addicted loved ones. Difficult, but vital to discuss so we get a plan that deals with your family’s actual challenges.
- Review and input of all data. Once we gather the data, senior paralegals input your information into our systems. This work includes around 400 to 500 data points.
- Review of inputs by an expert attorney. A lawyer always reviews the data at this point, to see if everything makes sense.
- Creation of draft documents, and a second meeting with your attorney. Now your custom documents are created with a combination of sophisticated software and manual work by your primary attorney using his or her understanding of your personal issues. Your primary attorney will then schedule a personal review with you to deliver the plan, discuss every important point, make sure you understand your plan, and ensure that your wishes have been followed.
- Client review & signing. After you’ve taken a little personal time to review your documents further, we will schedule a formal signing with a notary and witnesses—wherever convenient and safe.
- Archiving. Along with your own copy, CunninghamLegal will retain its own archival copy of your Living Trust & Estate plan should it ever be needed. Maintaining your records, along with the continuity of our practice, is a sacred trust.
- Funding. We can help you move your assets into your Living Trust, including helping you re-title your house, review your accounts, and discuss issues with financial institutions. Far too many Living Trusts go unfunded, or leave out critical assets to make them workable for loved ones.
- Continuing education. As a CunninghamLegal client, we will invite you to our ongoing webinars and workshops so you can keep up with Estate Planning issues, changes in the law, and innovative approaches. Few areas of the law change as quickly as estate law.
- Free ongoing reviews. Every Living Trust and Estate Plan needs to be reviewed as life situations change because of a birth, death, divorce, retirement, moving to a new state, changing jobs, etc. Regular reviews should be done at least every three years. At CunninghamLegal, we believe that free reviews are an ethical obligation, and we make sure to keep your trust relevant and effective by reaching out to you as the years pass.
How Much Does a Living Trust Cost?
Before you ask how much a Living Trust costs, please ask yourself questions like these: Is it possible that one of my heirs will face a divorce? Is my spouse capable of handling my business if I’m incapacitated or die? Does my spouse own real estate in their own name? Do I have a child who cannot handle their own money because of a disability, an addiction, or third parties with too much influence? Will my kids fight over my house?
Before you ask how much a Living Trust costs, please ask yourself questions like these: Is it possible that one of my heirs will face a divorce? Is my spouse capable of handling my business if I’m incapacitated or die?
Given all those factors, will my Living Trust be crafted properly to make life easier for the next generation, or will it accidentally create unnecessary problems and conflicts which could cost my heirs tens or hundreds of thousands in legal expenses, not to mention hundreds of lost hours in courtrooms?
At CunninghamLegal, we offer tremendous expertise in all issues of Estate Planning, including the most complex tax and financial questions. Our experience makes it simple for you to protect your loved ones and your legacy. We also believe that everyone needs access to great Estate Planning, so our rates are competitive.
Please contact us for an appointment.
James Cunningham Jr., Esq.