El Dorado Hills, CA asked in Estate Planning for California

Q: What happens if living trust is outdated at time of death and there are no survivors to settle the estate?

Thirteen years ago my husband and I had our living trust, will and healthcare advanced directive done by an attorney. The attorney retired. My husband passed away three years ago of cancer. I became disabled. We lost all our assets due to not having work, no medical insurance and SSDI had not been approved yet. I now live on SSDI, own no real estate, I moved 400 miles away and rent a little one bedroom apartment above a garage, only have $25 in the bank, no other accounts, an old VW Beetle that needs major work and is only worth about $250. I own nothing of value. All I have is thriftshop furniture, clothes and a few nik naks. I am in debt for over $30,000 on credit cards and have an $850 lien on me. All the assets listed on the living trust are no longer valid. I have no children, no heirs. I am 55 years old and in bad health. What happens if I die and my living trust is outdated and I have no survivors to handle my burial wishes, the disposal of my stuff and the care of my cats?

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1 Lawyer Answer
David L. Crockett
David L. Crockett
  • Estate Planning Lawyer
  • Newport Beach, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: I am sorry to hear of your unfortunate situation. Your trust is a private contract and only controls the assets that you still own at your death. In that sense, your trust is not "outdated", but rather it has no assets to distribute or administer. Since your trust is revocable and not registered with any government agency nobody will notice or care about your trust when you pass on. Your trust could be revoked or amended but in you circumstances there wouldn't be any purpose really. You could amend the trust to name a successor trustee to handle your burial wishes, disposal of personal stuff and your cats. That trust amendment and the original trust should be given to the person you name as successor trustee.

If you do not have any successor trustee to handle your affairs when you die, there would be a Public Administrator in the county where your reside at your date of death who would handle your personal affairs if you don't have a successor trustee or an executor. I would suggest that you prepare a handwritten will which states your burial preferences and what to do with your personal stuff and your cats. The handwritten will must be handwritten in your own handwriting, must be done on plain paper that doesn't have any printing on it, must be dated and signed at the end by you. It should say at the beginning, "This is my Will".

David L. Crockett, attorney/CPA/Broker?/Martindale Hubbel AV preeminent rating

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