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Wills, Trusts, & 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 8/2014; check the current fee schedule at 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 a 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.

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.

Your California Wills, Trusts, & Estates Explained Simply: Important Information You Need to Know for California Residents (Back to Basics) KFC 195 .A98

(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
[Includes FORMS on an accompanying CD] 
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.

Davenport's California Will and Estate Planning Legal Forms Booklet KFC110.Z9 R87
[Includes FORMS in the book and on the Internet.]
Electronic Access: Available at app.box.com/s/y8rin3x2ty46vci1qqah

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.

J.K. Lasser's New Rules for Estate, Retirement, and Tax Planning : Keep More Today, Leave More to Your Heirs Tomorrow KF 6585 .J55

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
[Includes FORMS in the book and on an accompanying CD]
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

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
[Includes FORMS in the book and on an accompanying CD]
Electronic Access: On the Law Library's computers, using OnLaw

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

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

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

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
[Includes FORMS in the book and on an accompanying CD]
Electronic Access: On the Law Library's computers, using OnLaw

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

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

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

California Department of Justice, Office of the Attorney General. Living Trust Mills. 
oag.ca.gov/consumers/general/living_trust_mills
Companies advertising "living trusts" sometimes misrepresent the advantages of living trusts. Seniors pay substantial sums of money to sales agents for living trusts, but sometimes, through fraud and deceit, the sales agents damage seniors' estate plans, and the security of their investments and life saving.

An attorney qualified in estate planning can help consumers decide if they need a living trust or other estate planning documents, or help them review an existing trust or will. To obtain a list of attorneys who are certified as estate planning specialists, and to receive other written information about estate planning and how to select an attorney, call the California State Bar's toll free number for seniors at 1-888-460-7364.

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. Also in Spanish.

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. Also in Spanish.

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. Also in Spanish.

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 Simple Will Statutory Form
www.calbar.ca.gov/Public/SimpleWill.aspx
This web site includes a simple 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.  

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), a U.S. Government web site.
www.consumerfinance.gov/blog/managing-someone-elses-money/
They released four easy-to-understand booklets to help financial caregivers and protect seniors against financial abuse. The Managing Someone Else's Money guides are for agents under powers of attorney, court-appointed guardians, trustees, and government fiduciaries (Social Security representative payees and VA fiduciaries). 

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 3/15 jc