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Legal Representation In Burlingame, California

Frequently Asked Questions

You’ll find answers to common questions below.

What Is a Power of Attorney?

A Power of Attorney (POA) is a legal document allowing the agent(s) you name to act on your behalf in many actions when you are unable to do so yourself. These can include, but are not limited to:

  • Handling your finances
  • Accessing a safety deposit box
  • Making care decisions
  • Applying for government benefits
  • Making gifts to charities or other individuals
  • Filing your tax returns
  • Changing beneficiaries on retirement accounts
  • Disposing of real or personal property

What Is a Trust?

A trust is a legal entity that gives a fiduciary, known as the trustee, the power to hold and control assets for beneficiaries. The main purpose is to safeguard against others staking claim to these assets or to prevent beneficiaries from recklessly depleting them. Trusts may be used in various methods to help individuals dictate specific ways they want their assets to be distributed.

What Is an Estate?

An estate is the collective value of a decedent’s property and assets. It can also include some debts. An estate includes items like:

  • Real estate they own
  • Cash, checking, savings and investment accounts
  • Personal property
  • Ownership interests in businesses
  • Life insurance policies

What Is a Will?

A will is a legal document governing an estate’s distribution and settlement. It appoints personal representatives called executors and specifies items such as:

  • Beneficiaries and what they receive
  • Which funds should be used to pay taxes and other expenses
  • Final wishes for funerals, cremation or other disposition
  • Custody and guardianship of minor children

What Is the Difference Between a Will and a Living Trust?

There are several key differences between wills and living trusts, including but not limited to:

  • Trusts take effect immediately, while a will only goes into effect once you pass away.
  • Trustors — those who set up and fund the trust — can generally restrict access to the assets more readily than a will allows for.
  • Trusts can help you bypass the probate process upon your death, creating significant money savings and ensuring distributions remain outside the public record.
  • Trusts can include provisions for handling your affairs pre- and post-death, while a will only applies after your passing.

What Is Probate?

Probate is the legal process of validating a will, which allows executors to settle a decedent’s final affairs.

In California, probate generally falls into two categories — simplified or full. Simplified probate is suitable for smaller and less complicated estates to administer, while full probate is the standard solution for estates that don’t meet the qualifications for the simplified process.

What Happens When Someone Dies Without a Will?

“Intestate” is the legal term when someone dies without a valid will. A close relative can petition the courts to become the estate’s administrator to handle the deceased’s final affairs. California’s intestate laws generally determine who inherits the property and assets belonging to the decedent at the time of their death.

Can Probate Be Avoided?

Yes, several viable strategies for avoiding probate exist. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Establishing assets ownership with another individual as Joint Tenants with Rights of Survivorship (JT-WROS).
  • Creating a living trust.
  • Using Transfer-on-Death (TOD) and Payable-on-Death (POD) ownership on certain assets, such as bank and investment accounts.

Consulting with an experienced estate planning attorney is the best solution. These professionals have the expertise to review your individual circumstances and provide the most effective guidance.

Who Needs Estate Planning?

We recommend estate planning to almost everyone, regardless of their estate size. This process legally defines and creates a strategy for your assets and final wishes. Comprehensive planning can help resolve issues and protect your beneficiaries and generational wealth. For example, it can safeguard against invalid claims, minimize taxes due and specify custody for your children. Without a robust plan, these issues can fall to the courts to decide.

Contact Barulich Dugoni & Suttmann Law Group for More Information

Our team is available to answer any questions you have that we haven’t covered here. Please request your free consultation online or schedule one by calling 650-881-6923 to discuss your unique needs.