How Can a California Probate Lawyer Help Me?
A California probate lawyer can help you and your family plan for the day that you will no longer be around to help them financially. You may have considered writing your own will in order to avoid legal fees that you may feel are unnecessary. However, consulting an attorney who practices estate planning is the wisest decision that you can make in order to preserve your estate for your beneficiaries. If you simply write your own will, it may not hold up in court, it may be contested, and your estate will have to go through probate. These may not seem like major concerns now, but in the event of your death, your beneficiaries will have to undergo large amounts of unnecessary travail and hardship simply because you thought that skipping legal expenses would save your beneficiaries money in the long run. Nothing could be further from the truth. Consulting a probate lawyer will help your beneficiaries to receive a much larger portion of your estate, and to receive that portion much more quickly than if your estate had gone through probate. Most people do not like to consult lawyers, and feel that their bills are inflated, but in the case of your estate, you and your beneficiaries will reap the most benefit from the advice of a probate lawyer.
If you only have one beneficiary, your California probate lawyer may advise you to establish a joint tenancy. A joint tenancy is relatively inexpensive to create, and it will allow your property to pass immediately from you to your joint tenant immediately upon your death. Your estate will not go through probate, so it will retain all of the value that it had upon your demise. However, a joint tenancy will not protect your estate while you are still alive. If you establish a joint tenancy, and your joint tenant is involved in risky financial and/or legal proceedings, because they now own part of your property, you run the risk or losing part of your property in the legal process. In addition, if you want more than one person to receive some of your property in the event of your death, a joint tenancy will not provide for that. Finally, even if your joint tenant paid nothing, or a small percentage towards ownership or your property, a joint tenancy would establish ownership at 50-50, regardless of the actual proportions of ownership. A joint tenancy may work well for some people, but others may choose different options that keep their estate protected for the duration of their life. Some people establish joint tenancies without being aware of the drawbacks, and then later they and their beneficiaries face undue hardships because they did not first seek legal advice.
If you have a larger estate, with multiple beneficiaries, a California probate lawyer may advise you to establish a living trust. A living trust will ensure that your estate does not go through probate, which can take up to two years. It will also ensure that the value of your estate is not depleted due to probate fees, because having a living trust prevents your estate from going through probate. A living trust can be changed at any time, so that no one is accidentally disinherited. You maintain control of a living trust throughout your lifetime, and then when you die or become incapacitated, the successor trustee that you selected takes over the trust for you. If you choose to establish a living trust, you will have peace of mind knowing that your beneficiaries will receive their allocated assets almost immediately after you are gone. They are very hard to challenge in court, and they are relatively inexpensive to establish. A living trust can be ideal for a person with a larger estate and multiple beneficiaries.
As you can see, consulting a California probate lawyer will ensure that your estate is protected from probate fees. Probate fees can greatly deplete your estate, because they are based on the gross value of your estate, rather than the equity that you have. If the value of your house was assessed at $600,000 at the time of your death, but you only had $100,000 in equity, your estate would pay probate fees based on $600,000 rather than $100,000. That means that your estate would have to pay around $38,000 in fees, which is about one third of the equity that you invested in your house. With such huge probate fees, it is easy to see why the best decision is to consult a probate lawyer who can help your beneficiaries to avoid the probate process which will cost them large amounts of time and money. Whether you choose to establish a joint tenancy, a living trust, or another option, you will be able to sleep soundly, knowing that you have had a professional help you to make the right decision for your loved ones. An estate planning attorney has the knowledge and experience to help you to see the benefits and detriments of each type of estate plan. Only when you have been armed with knowledge should you feel comfortable making a decision that will affect the well being of everyone who is close to you. No matter how you decide to settle your estate, call a probate lawyer so that you can rest easy, knowing that you made the right decision.