You've worked hard for decades to make a good life for you and your family. You should be in no mood to see your hard earned assets, your family legacy, be squandered and tied up in court over the wrong paperwork.
The United States, and all fifty states, including California, have developed over centuries a formal way of passing assets from one generation to another. It's a complicated system, full of tradition, rules and process. Most of this originates from English law carried over long ago. It's not a perfect system, but it works, and its primary objective is to make sure your assets are passed down according to your wishes and not stolen by deceitful family members, thieving scammers or unscrupulous creditors.
In Charles Dicken's Bleak House, the case of Jarndyce and Jarndyce slogged through the probate court for years because the deceased owner of the estate left behind conflicting wills. He didn't make his wishes clear with sound documentation, so he left it to the court and the attorneys to bring clarity. But in the story, all the court and attorneys did was to enrich themselves from the estate through constant petitions, hearings and delays.
John Jarndyce, the beneficiary, explained that the never-ending case is nothing more than an issue about the wills and the trusts under the wills, but the lawyers have twisted it into such a state of bedevilment that the original merits of the case have long disappeared from the face of the earth.
California probate is not as bad as it was in England in 1827, but it is still an expensive and unpleasant experience to put your family through.
With so much at stake, why wouldn't you take charge and make the time and investment to set up an estate plan that will work to protect you and your family? Make your wishes clear with the right estate planning documents that are regularly updated to make sure your estate plan works when it needs to work.
Making sure your estate plan works and is current usually means working with a competent estate planning law firm. Many attorneys do estate planning as a side-hustle to their litigation, bankruptcy, real estate or criminal defense practice. You want guidance you can trust.
Even worse than working with an attorney who doesn't know what he or she is doing is writing your own DIY estate plan with Legal Zoom or the other "it's so easy and cheap anyone can do it" websites. We see these DIY estate plans all the time, and if we see them in time, before the writer of the DIY estate plan has died, we can fix the estate plan. But sometimes it's too late.
A few years back we were retained by a son whose father had just died. He needed us to help him with the trust administration. The son thought that his father had a trust and that his father had transferred all of his assets to the trust. In the process of confirming title to the assets, we discovered that his father had two trusts, with some assets in one trust and some in the other trust. And the trusts had conflicting terms - different beneficiaries and different successor trustees. The father had written the second trust on Legal Zoom not realizing many of his assets were still titled in the old trust. Uh oh - Jarndyce and Jarndyce?
Fortunately, the family members got along and we were able to guide them through the trust administration without too many problems. But it was way more complicated than it would have been if the father had sought out competent legal guidance.
Think about how much time you have invested in working, saving, and planning your investments. With all that lifetime effort, protecting what you have should not be an after-thought.
If you are ready to start the conversation about setting up your estate plan, click below and one of our kind and excellent attorneys will reach out to you. It won't be as difficult as you may think.