California Estate Planning & Real Estate: Why Creating a Trust May Be Your Best Bet

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021

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How does real estate factor into estate planning in California? The answer is – in many ways. However, according to Vincent J. Russo, a California attorney whose practice consists of estate planning and probate litigation, creating a trust may be your best bet. Here’s why:

If you are going to put the property into a will, you don’t need to do anything in regards to the title as that will be addressed in the probate proceedings. However, if you did a proper estate plan and had real-estate, I would advise you to set up a trust. Now if you are a single person, it’s just a simple trust and I would advise you to set up a revocable living trust, sometimes called inter vivos trust, which doesn’t vest until you die so that you can actually change that up until the day that you die. So if you have real-estate, it is advisable to set up a trust in California and title the real-estate into the name of the trust so that way it could just seamlessly past to the intended beneficiary. That’s a term called funding the trust.

Why experience matters in creating a California trust

Russo says that, frequently you will get some lawyers who don’t know what they are doing and they won’t transfer title to the property, so when they set up a trust and the value of the trust wasn’t properly set up, that property will not pass absent probate. Then, those beneficiaries or the heirs will be forced to probate that estate if the property wasn’t transferred into the name of the trust. He explained:

Most people will prepare deeds. When I do a trust for somebody, I prepare the deeds for them and just have them sign off on them and then we record them so that way the property is in the name of the trust. For example, let’s say I’ve got a property and it is titled in my name and I want to set up a trust. If I let the title alone in my name, it’s not going to be in the trust, it’s not considered a part of the trust and I would need to probate it.

So, what I would do at the time of preparing the trust is prepare a deed, either a grant deed, a quit claim deed or a deed of some form, transferring title from me to the Russo Family Trust. Then, the Russo Family Trust would own the property at which point in time when I passed away, all they really need is the death certificate to get the property transferred to whoever I wanted it to go to.

Estate planning, which includes wills, trusts, health care directives and probate issues, is a complicated area of the law. If you would like to speak with an experienced California trusts lawyer about your situation, please click here.

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