Dedicated Attorney Helping Arroyo Grande Clients With Wills and Trusts

Wills and trusts are useful tools that can help ensure that your property is distributed to your chosen loved ones according to your desires. So it’s important to retain an attorney like Douglas M. Buchanan Attorney at Law, who can help you validate your will and trust documents, choose a suitable executor, help you avoid excessive taxation, and align your will with all statutory requirements.


First thing’s first—it’s key to fully understand the basic concepts involved in estate planning:


What is a Trust?

A trust is a written document that lets a property owner (known as the “donor”) assign one person (called a “trustee”) hold the legal title to property intended for another person (known as the “beneficiary”). With the help of an experienced estate attorney, you can specify the terms of your trust precisely, controlling when and how distributions may be made.


What is a Will?

A will is a written document that creates a trust that is distributed after you, the donor, pass on. It lets you dictate who will inherit your assets, how much they will each receive, and who will be in charge of distributing your assets according to your wishes. You can also use your will to name a guardian for your minor child.


Along with your will, you should also create durable powers of attorney for both your financial and medical decisions in case you become unable to manage your own affairs. This will help alleviate confusion and stress on your loved ones, and help them avoid conservator petitions and medical directive disputes.


What is a Living Trust?

As a donor, you can form a living trust during your lifetime and take on the role of the trustee in order to control access to the property until you pass on. A living trust has many benefits: it provides orderly distribution of your property; it can be flexible enough for you to change at any point in your lifetime; and it can help your heirs avoid probate (which can be expensive, confusing and time-consuming). It’s helpful to have an attorney to advise you on your living trust based on your unique needs.


What is a Special Needs Trust?

A special needs trust lets you leave money or property to a loved one with a disability in a way that lets them keep receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid benefits. With a special needs trust, you assign a trustee to retain complete control over spending funds on your disabled loved one’s behalf instead of distributing those funds directly. So your loved one stays eligible for SSI and Medicaid benefits while being able to have a wide variety of goods and services provided to them.


Other Estate Planning Options

If you’re married with a large estate (worth over eleven million dollars), you should think about taking steps that can protect your heirs from excessive tax liabilities when they receive their inheritance. For example, you can establish a credit shelter trust (also know as an “A/B trust” or “bypass trust”) or a Family Limited Trust in order to eliminate or reduce federal estate taxes.


If you’re a single person, you might choose to take advantage of options like a life insurance trust to protect the proceeds of your policy from estate taxes, or create a gifting program. With Doug, you get an experienced legal pro who’s attentive to your unique situation and ready to prepare documents according to your specific desires and concerns. Because your will or trust is central to your estate plan, Doug puts extra value on fully understanding your financial and family situation in order to collaborate with you to create a legacy strategy that works.


Wills & Trusts FAQ

What’s the difference between a will and a trust?
The main difference is that a will goes into effect only after you die, while a trust takes effect as soon as you create it.


What are the duties of the executor of a will?
Generally the executor is responsible for settling the estate, ensuring the directions of the will are followed, and protecting the rights of the beneficiaries.


Can the appointment of an executor be contested?
Yes. An heir of the estate has the right to contest an executor’s appointment if the heir believes that naming the particular executor is invalid or if there’s concern about the executor’s ability to perform his or her duties.


Douglas M. Buchanan Attorney at Law leverages over two decades of experience helping Arroyo Grande clients create solid, customized wills and trusts that ensure the future of their families. Call our office at (805) 541-6440 to schedule an initial consultation.