Avoiding Probate: How Trusts Simplify Your Estate Distribution 

The Law Office of Kyle W. Jones offers comprehensive estate planning services in Bakersfield to help you prepare for the future. An estate plan will give you control over the distribution of your assets, ensuring that you can provide for your loved ones even after you pass away. As we help you navigate this process, you will need to make important decisions about your estate, including whether you want to incorporate a trust into your plan. We often recommend trusts to avoid probate, which is the legal process of authenticating a will and distributing assets to your designated beneficiaries.

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The probate process can be quite expensive and time-consuming, and your will becomes part of the public record. This can cause undue stress for grieving family members. With a trust, however, you can bypass probate and simplify the allocation of your assets. Let’s explore more about probate, using revocable trusts in estate planning, and the other considerations that you will need to make before finalizing your plan. 

The Probate Process

Every will is subject to probate. This court-supervised process ensures that the will is valid, identifies and values assets, and pays off any debts that are owed by the estate before any remaining assets can be administered to the named beneficiaries. Probate can be challenging for your loved ones for several reasons: 

    1. It’s a time-consuming process. Depending on the complexity of the estate, probate can take several months to a year to settle. If there are any disputes about the will, this procedure could take even longer, which can be difficult for loved ones. 
    2. There are privacy concerns. Every detail of your estate will become a matter of public record once it enters probate, causing potential privacy concerns. Anyone could find out the value of your estate and who your beneficiaries are, which can make it easier for outsiders to take advantage.
    3. Your estate will be subject to costly probate fees. The value of your estate can decrease significantly after the fees associated with probate are paid off. This means that your beneficiaries may receive much less than you anticipated, especially if the probate process is drawn out. 
  • Family members may dispute the will. At times, disputes over assets can arise during the probate process. Family members may argue how specific assets should be divided among loved ones. This can result in even more fees as the court and attorneys work to resolve disputes. 

Using a Trust for Estate Planning

Trusts are designed to help you avoid the probate process, which will streamline the distribution of your assets after you pass away. When you create a trust to secure your assets, you, the grantor, will name a trustee to manage those assets on behalf of the beneficiaries that you have designated. This person should be someone you trust, such as a spouse, business partner, long-time friend, or adult child. 

The main type of trust is called a revocable living trust. Here’s what you need to know about this important estate planning tool. 

Revocable Living Trusts

This type of trust is extremely popular because it offers much flexibility and control during the grantor’s lifetime. Once the trust is created, you can modify or terminate (revoke) it at any time. This makes it easy to manage assets within the trust as your circumstances change over the years. Upon your death, the trust then becomes irrevocable. Your assets will be distributed by the trustee according to the terms of the trust without needing to go through probate, making it a much faster procedure for your loved ones. Trusts are also private documents, so you won’t have to worry about outside individuals gaining access to your confidential estate and beneficiary information. This can be an important consideration for individuals with larger estates. 

At the Law Office of Kyle W. Jones, our Bakersfield estate planning attorney is prepared to go over the benefits of revocable trusts in detail with you. Our goal is to help you create a comprehensive estate plan that allows your family members to avoid the dreaded probate process as much as possible. 

Other Estate Planning Considerations

There are other factors that you will need to consider when you are creating your estate plan. These include:

    • Minor children: If you have minor children to support, you will also want to create what is known as a pour-over will. You will use this document to name a guardian or guardians for your young children should you and your spouse pass away before they reach adulthood. This document is also used to transfer remaining assets into your trust upon your death. However, you should note that they will need to go through the probate process first, so it’s important to update your trust frequently. 
    • Healthcare directives: Your estate plan should also include a living will. This is a document that outlines your medical wishes if you become incapacitated and are not expected to recover. You can designate the extent of medical intervention that you want regarding artificial nutrition, respiratory and cardiac support, surgeries, and other life-prolonging measures. 
    • Power of attorney: In your Power of Attorney documents, you will name someone who can act on your behalf if you are unable to make financial or medical decisions on your own. This person must be someone who you would trust to act in your best interests as they will have access to your finances and be able to manage your assets as if they were you. 
  • Special needs planning: If you have a child or other loved one with special needs who you know will need lifelong support, you will want to factor this into your estate plan. You can create a special needs trust to provide funds for them throughout the duration of their lifetime without interfering with their eligibility for government assistance programs. 

How Often Should You Update a Trust?

At the Law Office of Kyle W. Jones, we recommend reviewing your trust at least once every three to five years. You should do it more often if you’ve had a major life change, such as a divorce, marriage, adoption, birth, or death in the family. This will ensure that your estate is as up to date as possible so that all of your loved ones are accounted for.  

Contact an Estate Planning Attorney Today

Creating an estate plan is essential to ensure that your assets are distributed according to your final wishes. You don’t want to leave these important decisions up to the court or grieving family members. By working with a Bakersfield estate planning lawyer, you will have access to knowledgeable advice every step of the way. At the Law Office of Kyle W. Jones, we work hard to help our clients design comprehensive estate plans that meet their individual needs and goals. 

A trust can help you reduce the burden on your family during an emotional time. Learn more by contacting the Law Office of Kyle W. Jones in Bakersfield. We proudly serve all of Kern County, and we’re ready to help with all of your estate planning needs. Schedule your no-obligation consultation with our office today!  

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