Living Trust Attorney


1. The role of a Living Trust Attorney

What is a living trust?

A living trust, is a legal instrument that places your assets into a trust during your lifetime. Under this arrangement, you would serve as both persons establishing the trust (trust maker) and the trustee (supervisor of the trust). While the trust maker is alive and capable of making decisions, the assets placed in trust are still accessible, and the trust arrangement can be altered to adapt to changing circumstances. For example, assets may be accessed, and investments made to increase the wealth of the trust or convert it to liquid assets. When trust assets are tied into investment accounts the trust may designate that a certain investment strategy may be followed in order to maximize wealth and avoid undue risk.

One of the benefits of a living trust involves the ability of the trust maker to appoint a successor trustee who will assume trustee duties upon the trust maker’s incapacity or death. The successor trustee would then be bound to the instructions established by the trust maker when establishing the trust. For example, the trust maker may instruct that assets are to be liquidated or paid to beneficiaries on a schedule to preserve assets for future use. In cases in which living relatives will require support after your death or incapacity a living trust can provide a safety net in unexpected circumstances, minimizing the financial impact to loved ones.  

Living trust lawyers are often asked what benefits does a living trust offer when compared to a traditional will.  In order to understand the benefits that these two instruments differ is an important starting point. A living trust differs from a will in that the assets in a living trust may be managed to suit beneficiaries while you are still alive. Whereas a will only outlines how your assets will be distributed upon your death. After your death, an executor, named in the will, oversees this process while the estate is being handled by a probate court. For obvious reasons, a living trust offers greater flexibility and can be distributed according to your directions without court supervision (probate), thus providing significant time and cost savings to beneficiaries. Perhaps the most significant reason, rests in the fact that by having the opportunity to appoint a successor trustee the trust maker is able to avoid the uncertainty found in the practice of using probate court appointed executors that may not have been the decedent’s first choice.  

Unlike a will, a living trust can also provide substantial protections for yourself and beneficiaries in the event you suffer from mental or physical incapacity.  For example, a living trust lawyer can include provisions that protect the trust maker’s assets if the trust maker becomes mentally or physically incapacitated. By establishing a successor trustee to manage  the trust property in the event of incapacity, loved one’s can avoid the process of obtaining approval from the court to act as a guardian and conservator for the trust maker. The successor trustee would then be able to pay the trust maker’s bills, and arrange for the support during the period of incapacity without court involvement.  

What does a living trust attorney do?

A living trust attorney in Orange County can provide legal advice regarding establishing and administering a living trust. Additionally a living trust attorney, provides the trust maker with a clear overview of the living trust’s legal, financial and tax implications. In this capacity, living trust attorneys function as both a legal advisor and a financial planner providing advice as to the proper way in which the trust should be structured and how to maximize its benefits to the trust maker and beneficiaries.     

Living trust attorneys also manage the necessary paperwork required to administer and carry out the trust. For example, mortgage lenders may not lend money to a trust and may require that the property may be taken out of the trust prior to being used as security. Further, deeds to real estate held in the trust must be prepared and recorded. Also, bank accounts, investment accounts must be transferred and designated as trust assets. Lastly, moving assets such investment accounts can carry tax implications. Therefore, it is important to consult a living trust attorney as to the best way to minimize your tax liability in this situation.

A living trust can provide significant benefits from an estate planning perspective. However, if the trust is not established properly or fails to consider long-term legal and financial hazards any benefits may be washed away. Therefore retaining an attorney experienced in establishing and managing living trusts is crucial for short term and long term estate planning.  

A living trust attorney in orange county can provide an evaluation as to whether a living trust is an appropriate estate planning tool. Like any other estate planning strategy, a living trust’s practicality depends on individual circumstances and estate planning goals.