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Orange County Estate Planning Blog

Understanding differences between wills and trusts

In casual conversation, many people use terms like "will" and "trust" interchangeably, possibly because they are unaware of the specific differences between these two types of documents. However, these two legal tools serve different and mutually important functions, and usually work together to provide protections for people's property and wishes once they pass away or are incapacitated.

While it takes years of studying and experience to fully understand the intricacies of many trust and estate planning laws, understanding the basic functions of wills and trusts is simple, and may illuminate just how valuable these tools are. Properly prepared wills and trusts work together to keep their creators' property and priorities protected from hefty taxation and other drains that may seriously diminish the value of an estate.

How to protect heirs with bad habits from themselves

You may love your children, but that doesn't mean you're necessarily blind to their faults.

If a child has a bad habit -- gambling, shopping, alcohol or drugs -- he or she can run through a lot of money very quickly. Maybe your heir is simply young and naive and you worry that he or she will be taken advantage of by others if you aren't around to stop it. It's natural to worry what will happen when you pass away and that child comes into his or her inheritance.

Leaving your estate to the dog is perfectly okay

Over a decade ago, the self-styled Queen of Mean, Leona Helmsley, made headlines for leaving her dog a good chunk of her fortune.

At the time, everyone rolled their eyes and declared it the final bitter act of a woman that relished in bitter acts. However, now, people are starting to see her actions as a sign of things to come. Today, putting the pet pooch -- along with the family cat, parrot and goldfish -- in your will isn't really thought of as that strange.

Estate battle heats up for family of Saints' owner

Tom Benson, widely considered the wealthiest man in Louisiana and the controlling owner of both the New Orleans Saints and the New Orleans Pelicans, died recently. Now the battle over his estate has begun.

Actually, the battle started long before he died -- but it may go into overtime now.

Don't put off your estate plan for too long

The estate planning process is one that you can think of in the same light as buying insurance. You hope that it doesn't have to be used too soon, but you are always thankful that you have the plan in place in case something does happen. When it comes to your estate plan, your loved ones are the people who are going to reap the benefits of your planning.

We understand that you might not feel fully prepared to handle the estate planning matters. You might think that it is going to be too difficult. The truth is that we are here to guide you through it all. We will discuss your goals with you and let you know what options you have that will help you to meet those goals.

Taking care of minor children poses a challenge for estates

Parents don't like to think about what will happen with their children if both parents pass away. As unpleasant as this thought is, it is necessary for anyone with minor children to take the time to make plans for if the unthinkable does happen. In fact, thinking about this now might help you to rest easier knowing that the children will be cared for appropriately.

Sometimes, parents will purchase a life insurance policy with the thought that the proceeds from the policy can care for the children if the parents pass away. If they name the children as the beneficiaries, the life insurance policy might not provide any help for the cost of raising the children.

Are you ready to fully use your living trust?

Living trusts are a popular estate planning tool, but also one that often is under-used once established. Much like buying a treadmill to get in shape or fresh groceries to prepare home-cooked meals, living trusts often seem very appealing while a person is window-shopping estate planning tools. But they can then fail to utilize all of the benefits that they can offer because the individual doesn't use them properly or often enough.

Living trusts not only offer a strong blend of flexibility and protections, they also allow the user to project their most effective, productive self. In order to fully take advantage of a living trust, one must not only establish it, but also review and amend it as necessary on a regular basis. If someone establishes a living trust to retain control over their estate at the expense of greater protections and then never really utilizes the flexibility, they may simply sacrifice additional benefits needlessly.

What are the steps involved in the probate process?

Probating an estate as an executor can range from being a minor difficulty to a full-blown multi-year struggle. Usually, estates with little in assets are easier to handle. It's the larger estates that become complicated and present the risk of running into serious legal trouble.

Regardless of the size of the estate you are probating, however, it's important that you review the following six steps to the probate process to ensure that you handle your executorship duties appropriately:

  • File the probate petition: Many executors hire a lawyer to help with this process as it might not be entirely straightforward.
  • Mail notice to all beneficiaries: Everyone named in the will should receive notice of the probate filing, the death and the upcoming probate hearing. Notice also needs to be publicly posted in a newspaper in the city where the decedent resided so that potential creditors are aware.
  • Attend the probate hearing: This hearing will occur a few weeks after filing for probate. It will confirm the veracity of the will and appoint a personal representative or executor when necessary. If there are no objections, the court will allow the process to proceed.
  • Take possession of the estate assets: At this point, the executor or personal representative will take over the decedent's estate assets and pay any and all necessary bills associated with the estate. The individual may also need to appraise and liquidate certain assets in order to pay debts and later distribute the assets to heirs.
  • Paying off remaining debts and taxes: The executor will use the estate proceeds to pay off debts and taxes, then file a report of having done so to the court.
  • Property transfer: As the final step, the remaining property of the estate will be transferred to beneficiaries named in the will.

The fate of much-loved French rocker's estate is in jeopardy

A French rock star, affectionately referred to by American fans as as the French Elvis, passed away a few months ago. Johnny Hallyday's loss has been felt strongly by millions of French fans and countless more fans throughout the world.

However, his death is not the worst part of this story. Unfortunately, since Hallyday's passing, his extended family which is located all over the globe has experienced disagreements over the fate of this superstar's estate.

Is it a mistake to only use a will in your estate planning?

California residents may want to consider using more than a will in their estate planning. Although your will is an essential component of your successful estate plan -- and although a will is enough in numerous circumstances -- most situations can benefit from more than just a will. A complete estate plan requires multiple documents, particularly an advanced medical directive and a power of attorney.

The vital point that many estate planners miss when making a plan for the day they die is that they can set up estate planning tools that go into effect before they die -- in the event of incapacitation. This is where the advanced medical directive and power of attorney come in.

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