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San Diego Trust & Estates Lawyer

“Estates and Trusts” is a label used a lot by lawyers, but not really understood much by many ordinary people. It’s taught as a required course in law school for a very good reason: just about every living person who owns more than the clothes on their back will eventually be interested in what happens to their material possessions—their “estate”—after they die. The assets will go somewhere, to someone, according to the laws that apply at the time. Those laws allow you to decide who gets what (with the exception of any taxes due, of course), but the state will make the decision for you if you don’t leave behind a statement of your intentions. Contact an experienced and successful trust and estate attorney in San Diego for a free legal consultation. In modern America, people with money and property also worry about what will happen to their assets if they have a long term illness and end up in hospitals or nursing homes. The more money, property and other assets you have, the more interested you are, and the more likely it is that the size of the estate will bring out hostilities between family members who feel they deserve more than you decided to leave them. All of which is an indirect way of saying that you need to develop a sound and enforceable plan for your estate, using the tools that have been provided for that. The primary tools are trusts and wills. If you put off the process of planning too long, you end up dying without a will, known as dying “intestate.” At that point, your property is distributed according to the state’s intestacy, which may or may not be what you really wanted to happen.

The Basics: What Everyone Needs to Know about Trusts and Estates

If you don’t have a valid will, your property will be divided up in accordance with the state’s intestacy laws. Most people have no idea what those laws provide. It’s probably worth finding out, if you don’t have a will. If you do have a will, your estate will go through probate, a formal proceeding that takes time and money. Many people now try to avoid or minimize the amount of property that goes through probate by using these devices:

  • Living trusts
  • Life insurance
  • Financial accounts, annuities, and other assets that allow you to specify who gets the asset upon death

Using Trusts & Estates to Influence Behavior

Both wills and trusts have long been used to influence the behavior of people, by making their right to get property under a will, or by making their interest in a trust contingent on acting in a specific way. Assume, for example, that you are concerned about a child’s education or drug use. You can specify that this child is entitled to a bequest left in the will only if, at the time of the distribution of the estate, that child is in or has graduated from at least a two-year college program. Or you can use a trust with directions to the trustee that distributions from the trust require, at the trustee’s