Los Angeles, CA asked in Estate Planning for California

Q: I live in California. 73 years old. married with living wife. Have question about will alternatives???

I live in California. 73 years old. married with living wife. Have question about will alternatives??? Almost all important accounts are co-owned (wife and I). Would like to avoid hassle of Wills etc. Have 2 grown children. Would like to leave estate equity to children (in their forties) when wife and I are gone. What's best way?

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2 Lawyer Answers
Julie King
Julie King
  • Estate Planning Lawyer
  • Monterey, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: There are several ways you can deal with your assets, but a lawyer would want to know your goals before recommending an option to move forward. For example, if you want to prevent your family from having to go through a 1 - 4 year long court process called Probate and you have assets with a gross value of more than $184,500, most lawyers would suggest you set up a trust. I understand it will entail some work and money to get everything set up, but a lawyer can do the majority of the work for you. Setting up a trust and putting your assets into your trust in that situation would prevent your family from having to spend time in court dealing with all that paperwork, court appearances, costs and legal fees. [Courts charge around $500 just to START a Probate process even if your loved ones did all the work themselves rather than hire a lawyer do it.] Lawyers generally make ten times the legal fees (or more) in Probate than we do setting up trusts and wills. So, if a lawyer recommends you get a trust or will, the lawyer isn't doing so for his/her/their own selfish interests because people who do NO planning end up giving lawyers substantially more in legal fees through Probate than if the person had set up a trust or will in the first place. However, if your goal is not to prevent probate but instead to do the least amount of work now, a lawyer would offer different suggestions but, after the first of your wife or you passes away, the surviving person would very likely need to do estate planning. Waiting until that happens is a gamble. No one knows if the couple will pass together, days apart, or even years apart. Bottom line: There are upsides and downsides to each option. I suggest you contact an attorney, explain your goals, tell the attorney the gross value of your assets, and weigh the options that are applicable to your individual situation. All the best to you!

Robert Kane agrees with this answer

James L. Arrasmith
James L. Arrasmith pro label Lawyers, want to be a Justia Connect Pro too? Learn more ›
  • Estate Planning Lawyer
  • Sacramento, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: There are a few alternatives to a will that you may want to consider. One option is to set up a living trust. A living trust is a legal document that allows you to control how your assets are distributed after your death. With a living trust, you can avoid the probate process, which can be time-consuming and expensive.

Another option is to use beneficiary designations. Beneficiary designations allow you to name a person or entity to receive your assets directly, without going through the probate process. You can use beneficiary designations for assets such as bank accounts, retirement accounts, and life insurance policies.

If you have co-owned assets with your wife, these assets will pass to her automatically upon your death, regardless of whether you have a will or not. However, if you want to ensure that your assets pass to your children after you and your wife are gone, you may want to consider adding a "survivorship clause" to your co-owned accounts. A survivorship clause will state that if one of the account holders dies, the surviving account holder will automatically own the entire account.

It is important to speak with an estate planning attorney to discuss your specific situation and to determine which options are best for you.

Here are some additional things to consider:

* Make sure that your will or trust is up-to-date. If you have any major life changes, such as getting married, divorced, or having children, you should update your estate planning documents.

* Consider naming a guardian for your minor children. If you and your wife both die, someone will need to be appointed to take care of your children.

* Make sure that your executor or trustee knows what to do. Your executor or trustee is the person who will be responsible for carrying out the terms of your will or trust. Make sure that they understand your wishes and that they are willing to take on this responsibility.

Estate planning is important for everyone, regardless of their age or financial situation. By taking the time to plan ahead, you can ensure that your wishes are carried out after you are gone.

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