Living trusts are a trend in estate planning which allows for assets in your name to be held for your benefit while you are alive. In many cases a living trust will help your family avoid the messy and time-consuming probate procedures in your state once you have passed away and the time comes to address inheritance issues. Prior to the living trust, many people simply wrote a will, which would often be out of date by the time they actually passed away, and would cause issues for the inheritance as the estate was decided after death. In California, a living trust can be an excellent way to benefit your family and avoid probate while keeping your assets secure in both life and death.
Value of Trust Assets
In California, probate can be avoided with a living trust if all of the non-trust assets remaining at the time of death total less than $100,000 in value. If the non-trust assets are valued at more than $100,000, both the trust and the non-trust assets will be probated and the values of everything assessed, inventoried and documented. If you wish to use a living trust to avoid probate, you should make sure that your assets in your will total less than $100,000 to keep them below this threshold and out of probate.
A trustee is the person selected to administer the trust. They are not necessarily the person who is the beneficiary of the assets placed in the trust, but can be a family member, child or trusted friend. It is beneficial if the person you choose as your trustee has some knowledge of accounting and legal practices, but it is certainly not required. If you wish, you may designate a trust company or other legal entity to administer and maintain the trust for you. This will also help as you will not have the potential of your trustee deceasing before you, which would cause issues with administration of the trust.
Will and Assets
You will still need some sort of will if you have a living trust. Essentially the will serves to push assets which were not previously transferred to the trust while you were alive over to the ownership of the trust once you are deceased. In this way you have essentially granted your trust as the sole beneficiary of your estate, and the assets previously placed there or those placed there by your will are covered by the same protections you intended when you set up the trust.