Is there a way to streamline the distribution of finances after death and also keep the information private? Yes, one important element of estate planning is the revocable trust. California residents who undergo trust preparation now can avoid lengthy probate of wills and having their will become part of the public record.
A revocable trust offers flexibility, since revocable means capable of being canceled. If a person anticipates changing his or her mind about their estate or having their circumstances change between the time a trust is created and when it will be used, the revocable trust is a more flexible option than a will. The revocable trust also sidesteps the probate process that wills must undergo, which can take many months in the court system. A successor trustee will be appointed upon the death of the original trustee, and financial decisions can be made immediately.
When a will enters the court system for probate, the will becomes part of the public record since the court process is public. For individuals who want a little more discretion around the disbursement of their assets after death, a revocable trust is a more private option. An individual who creates a revocable trust generally puts all their assets into the trust and creates a simple will that gives any remaining assets to the trust as well in case a detail is forgotten.
There are many details that have to be taken into consideration when creating the trust, such as formally transferring all property into the name of the trust. But it is arguable that it is better to make the changes now when one has more time and energy to make the decisions. This way the estate distribution process is more simple later. In California, individuals who are looking for assistance with trust preparation have the right to consult with a lawyer to ensure that the trust they create is valid and legally binding.
Source: madison.com, “Revocable Trusts: What You Need to Know“, Dan Caplinger, June 23, 2017