If I have a trust, do I also need a will?

     The type of will that is used with a living trust is called a "pourover will," because its purpose is to pour (transfer) assets into the trust if the assets had not been transferred to the trust previously. A pourover will doesn't have the usual provisions that are found in a standard will and the only beneficiary is the living trust.

What are probate assets?

     Any asset that is in the decedent's name, and not in joint tenancy or in a trust. Assets that are not subject to probate include IRAs, 401Ks, and life insurance, assuming that a beneficiary has been named to receive the assets involved. However, these assets might be subject to probate if the beneficiary listed is the "estate" of the decedent or if no beneficiary is listed. Joint tenancy assets become the property of the surviving joint tenant, regardless of the provisions of the decedent's will or trust.

Do trust documents become public information when someone dies?

     California law requires that notice be given to trust beneficiaries and the decedent's heirs if all or part of the trust becomes irrevocable after the death. The trust might become public information is there is a court challenge to the trust, in which case a copy of the trust will be filed with the court.

Who should be chosen as the successor trustee?

     Many clients choose their children, either as co-trustees, or in a specific order of succession. This can be a good choice, particularly if the proposed trustee has some experience with accounting or taxes. The person chosen as trustee must be responsible and able to devote the necessary time to the trust administration and management.

Who receives my estate?

     The distribution plan for a trust can be the same as the distribution plan in a will. You can give your estate to your children, set up trusts for them if they are too young to receive an inheritance, make charitable gifts, or make gifts to beneficiaries outside of your family.

What is a special needs trust?

     The beneficiary of a special needs trust is usually receiving benefits from a government program for the indigent. Those benefits will stop if the beneficiary receives an inheritance because these programs have strict limits regarding the amount of income and assets that a beneficiary can receive. A special needs trust provides a source of money that is held by the living trust and paid in small amounts either to the beneficiary, or for his or her benefit. The trustee will not pay any amount to the beneficiary that would increase his or her income or assets beyond the limits set by the government program and cause the government benefits to stop.

Do I really need to read all of the pages of the trust before I sign it?

     Yes, although the trust may be lengthy, you are expected to be familiar with its basic provisions and you should ask your attorney for an explanation of any parts of the trust that you do not understand.





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