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Wills, Trusts, and Estate Planning


Planning the Transfer of Property After Death

BACKGROUND

What exactly is estate planning?

Estate planning is the process of deciding who will get your property and how you would like it transferred after your death. It can also involve designating a guardian for young children or a representative to make financial and medical decisions for you if you become incapacitated.

Why would I want to avoid probate?

Probate is an official court proceeding in which the estate of the decedent is divided according to a will, if one exists, or state succession laws (California Probate Code §§ 6400 et seq.), if no will exists. It is also a lengthy process (approximately 9-14 months) and involves a lot of paperwork, time, and money ($435 for just the initial petition as of 7/2013; check the current fee schedule at http://saccourt.ca.gov/fees/docs/fee-schedule.pdf). In addition, the documents filed in a probate proceeding are a matter of public record (California Rule of Court 2.400), and some may wish to avoid public scrutiny of their financial situation.

What's the difference between a will and a living trust?

A will is a legal document that becomes effective upon your death and details how you want your property distributed. All property left in a will must go through probate court. A living trust, on the other hand, is in effect while you're still living; you transfer property into the trust, yet you still have control of the trust and can make changes or additions. Property distributed via living trust is generally not subject to probate.

What are some other options besides wills and trusts?

There are several alternatives to wills, and many people choose to have a combination of estate planning devices, such as a living trust, a "Payable on Delivery" (POD) bank account, in which funds automatically transfer to another in the case of death, or a "back-up" will. The resources in this guide provide information on these and other estate-planning tools.

You may also wish to consult these related Legal Research and Step-by-Step Guides:

SELF HELP

These books are highly regarded "plain English" explanations of the law, written by attorneys or other legal experts. They include basic legal discussion and procedures, forms with instructions, and models of other documents that may be required. Many of the books have CDs that supplement the text and provide interactive forms. You can find all of these titles, and more, in the Library's Self Help Collection.

(A) Trusts

Make Your Own Living Trust KF 734 .C58
Electronic Access: From any computer (Library or home) via the Legal Information Reference Center. Instructions are available on our website at www.saclaw.org/pages/nolo-ebooks.aspx.

Your Wills, Trusts, & Estates Explained Simply KF 750 .P54
Electronic Access: From any computer (Library or home) via the Legal Information Reference Center. Instructions are available on our website at www.saclaw.org/pages/nolo-ebooks.aspx.

The Trustee's Legal Companion KF 734 .H36
Electronic Access: From any computer (Library or home) via the Legal Information Reference Center. Instructions are available on our website at www.saclaw.org/pages/nolo-ebooks.aspx.

(B) Wills and Estate Planning

8 Ways to Avoid Probate KF 750 .Z9 A118
Electronic Access: From any computer (Library or home) via the Legal Information Reference Center. Instructions are available on our website www.saclaw.org/pages/nolo-ebooks.aspx.

All My Children Wear Fur Coats: How to Leave a Legacy for Your Pet KF 390 .P4 H69

Busy Family's Guide to Estate Planning KF 750 .Z9 H32
Electronic Access: From any computer (Library or home) via the Legal Information Reference Center. Instructions are available on our website at www.saclaw.org/pages/nolo-ebooks.aspx.
[Includes FORMS on an accompanying CD]

Estate Planning Basics KF 750 .Z9 C585 
Electronic Access: From any computer (Library or home) via the Legal Information Reference Center. Instructions are available on our website at www.saclaw.org/pages/nolo-ebooks.aspx.

Estate Planning for Blended Families KF 750 .Z9 B36
Electronic Access: From any computer (Library or home) via the Legal Information Reference Center. Instructions are available on our website at www.saclaw.org/pages/nolo-ebooks.aspx.

Estate Planning for Same-Sex Couples KF 750 .B87 (General Collection)
[Includes FORMS on an accompanying CD]

Get It Together: Organize Your Records So Your Family Won't Have To  KFC 750 .Z9 C85
Electronic Access: From any computer (Library or home) via the Legal Information Reference Center. Instructions are available on our website at www.saclaw.org/pages/nolo-ebooks.aspx.

Make Your Own California Will KFC 201 .Z9 G63

The Mom's Guide to Wills & Estate Planning KF 750 .Z9 H36
Electronic Access: From any computer (Library or home) via the Legal Information Reference Center. Instructions are available on our website at www.saclaw.org/pages/nolo-ebooks.aspx.

Plan Your Estate KF 750. Z9 C59
Electronic Access: From any computer (Library or home) via the Legal Information Reference Center. Instructions are available on our website at www.saclaw.org/pages/nolo-ebooks.aspx.

Quick & Legal Will Book KF 755 .C55
Electronic Access: From any computer (Library or home) via the Legal Information Reference Center. Instructions are available on our website at www.saclaw.org/pages/nolo-ebooks.aspx.
[Includes FORMS in the book and on an accompanying CD]

Quicken WillMaker Plus: Book and Software Kit KF 750 .Z9 Q85 
[Includes FORMS in the book and on an accompanying CD]

Saving the Family Cottage : a Guide to Succession Planning for Your Cottage, Cabin, Camp, or Vacation Home KF 750. Z9 H645
Electronic Access: From any computer (Library or home) via the Legal Information Reference Center. Instructions are available on our website at www.saclaw.org/pages/nolo-ebooks.aspx.

Your Digital Afterlife: when Facebook, Flickr and Twitter are your Estate, what's your Legacy? KF 390.5 .C6 C37 (General Collection)

LEGAL ENCYCLOPEDIAS and LAW SUMMARIES

California legal encyclopedias and law summaries provide a summary of California law on specific topics, including estate planning and probate. These materials include references to applicable statutes and cases. Attorneys and people representing themselves may find these resources useful.

Bogert's The Law of Trusts and Trustees: a Treatise Covering the Law Relating to Trusts and Allied Subjects Affecting Trust Creation and Administration, with Forms KF 730 .B65

California Jurisprudence (Cal. Jur.) 3d KFC 80 .C35 (Ready Reference)
Topics include "Wills," "Estates," and "Trusts."
Electronic Access: On the Law Library's computers, using WestlawNext.

Witkin's Summary of California Law, 10th Edition KFC 80 .W5 (Ready Reference)
Topics include "Disposition of Estate without Probate," "Making of Wills," and "Trusts."
Electronic Access: On the Law Library's computers, using WestlawNext.

PRACTICE GUIDES

Although practice guides are written for attorneys, people representing themselves may also find these resources useful. These materials provide more detailed information than the self-help books.

(A) Trusts

California Trust Administration KFC 188 .D46
Electronic Access: On the Law Library's computers, using OnLaw.
[Includes FORMS in the book and on an accompanying CD]

California Trust Practice KFC 188 .H37
[Includes FORMS in the book and on an accompanying CD]

Drafting California Irrevocable Trusts KFC 188 .D72 
Electronic Access: On the Law Library's computers, using OnLaw.
[Includes FORMS in the book and on an accompanying CD]

Drafting California Revocable Trusts KFC 188 .C62 
Electronic Access: On the Law Library's computers, using OnLaw.  
[Includes FORMS in the book and on an accompanying CD]

Funding a Revocable Trust: Here's How and When to Do It (Action Guide) KFC 194 .R48 
Electronic Access: On the Law Library's computers, using OnLaw.

Transferring Property Without Probate: Here's How and When to Do It. (Action Guide) KFC 195 .Q55
Electronic Access: On the Law Library's computers, using OnLaw.

(B) Wills and Estate Planning

California Wills & Trusts KFC 201 .A65 C35

California Will Drafting KFC 201 .C34 W5
Electronic Access:  On the Law Library's computers, using OnLaw.
[Includes FORMS in the book and on an accompanying CD]

California Estate Planning KFC 195 .A16 C3
Electronic Access: On the Law Library's computers, using OnLaw.

Complete Plans for Small and Mid-Size Estates KFC 195 .C65
Electronic Access: On the Law Library's computers, using OnLaw.
[Includes FORMS in the book and on an accompanying CD]

Estate Planning KFC 195 .A16 E8 
Electronic Access: On the Law Library's computers, using OnLaw.

Estate Planning for Special Assets KFC 195 .A16 E88
Electronic Access: On the Law Library's computers, using OnLaw.
[Includes FORMS in the book and on an accompanying CD]

FORMS

Formbooks contain samples and examples of documents and forms used in probate and estate planning. Some formbooks include copies of completed documents and forms to provide guidance for completing these papers.

California Wills & Trusts Forms KFC 201. A65 C351

California Legal Forms Transaction Guide KFC 68 .C32
Chapters 60 to 74, Wills and Trusts
Electronic Access: On the Law Library's computers, using the Matthew Bender CD.

California Transactions Forms: Estate Planning KFC 195 .A65 C35
Electronic Access: On the Law Library's computers, using WestlawNext.

WEB SITES

Avoiding Probate with Transfer-on-Death Accounts and Registrations.
www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/avoid-probate-transfer-on-death-accounts-29544.html

Do I Need a Living Trust? Pamphlet
www.calbar.ca.gov/Public/Pamphlets/LivingTrust.aspx
A concise overview on creating living trusts, published by the State Bar of California.

Do I Need a Will? Pamphlet
www.calbar.ca.gov/Public/Pamphlets/Will.aspx
A guide answering common questions regarding wills, property, and beneficiaries. Published by the State Bar of California.

Do I Need Estate Planning? Pamphlet
www.calbar.ca.gov/Public/Pamphlets/EstatePlanning.aspx
A guide explaining what estate planning is and what is included. Published by the State Bar of California.

Living Trusts
www.alameda.courts.ca.gov/Pages.aspx/Living-Trusts-and-Estate-Planning
Frequently-Asked-Questions answered by the Alameda County Superior Court Probate Division.

California Statutory Will Form
www.calbar.ca.gov/Public/SimpleWill.aspx
This web site includes a statutory will form, instructions, and questions and answers about the form created by the State Bar of California. The form is designed for single, married or divorced people with relatively small estates.

Managing Someone Else's Money: Help for Trustees Under a Revocable Living Trust
www.consumerfinance.gov/f/201310_cfpb_lay_fiduciary_guides_trustees.pdf
Booklet published by The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a United States Government web site. This guide helps family members and others understand their role as a trustee. It provides tips on making financial decisions for someone else as well as protecting assets from fraud and scams.

Senior Legal Hotline 444 North 3rd Street, #312, Sacramento Toll Free: (800) 222-1753, Sacramento County: (916) 551-2140, Fax: (916) 551-2197  www.seniorlegalhotline.org
Click on "Our Services." Services provided: Free legal assistance for Sacramento County residents age 60 and over on almost any civil issue, including estate planning and probate.

IF YOU HAVE QUESTIONS ABOUT THIS GUIDE, OR IF YOU NEED HELP FINDING OR USING THE MATERIALS LISTED, DON'T HESITATE TO ASK A REFERENCE LIBRARIAN.

Updated 12/13 jc