What happens if I die without a Will or a Trust?

Hi, my name is Marc Herbert and I’m the founder of Herbert Law Office. Every week I’ll be here answering questions that we hear most frequently. And one of the questions I’ve been hearing a lot lately is what happens if I die without a will or a trust? Well, what’s going to happen, most likely, is that your family will be thrown into probate court where a judge who never met you will decide what happens with your assets and your family.

That is California’s default plan. So if you don’t build your own estate plan with a will or a trust, not only will you end up in court, but you’ll also have your family exposed to all sorts of different taxes once they finally get out of probate court. So the results in probate court are going to differ depending on a couple of factors. One is your family structure. So many people think if you’re married, it’s not a problem. Everything just goes to your surviving spouse automatically. That’s not true under California law. Also, if you have a blended family, there are still rights for your children from prior relationships that should be addressed in an estate plan. If you’re a single person, whether you were never married or divorced or maybe widowed, there are special sets of laws for that situation as well. In addition, there can be children under 18 years old, disabled heirs, or some folks own more than one house or they own property out of state. Each of these situations have different rules that need to be handled, and it’s best handled through your own estate plan that you control. But the results in probate court also depend on title.

Sometimes people own sole and separate property, either as a single person or even as a married person. The problem, though, is if you’re married and you own property sole and separate property, your spouse will not automatically inherit 100% under California’s default plan. In fact, your spouse will end up with either half or maybe a third of the title or the value of the property with the rest of the property going to your child or children, even those children from prior relationships. If you own title as joint tenants. Well, the good news is you can avoid probate court. The bad news is there’s going to be taxes. And under that new Proposition 19 law, those taxes can be very significant. Finally, a lot of people, married people, own property as community property and think that their surviving spouse will not have to go to court and will not have to face any tax consequences. Well, the truth is that the surviving spouse will have to go to court. It’s a shortened probate process with community property, and there should be very low or maybe zero taxes for the surviving spouse. If title is held as community property. But in all of these situations, the best move is to create your own trust so that you can avoid probate court and unnecessary taxes, especially with your land.

The probate process right now in California usually takes anywhere from 2 to 3 years, usually involves costs of anywhere between 20,000 and $30,000. And basically you have no control over what happens with your family and your assets. By creating your own estate plan, your own trust, your own will, you can create a way to protect your family both from court and taxes within about 30 to 45 days for a lot less money than involved in court. And you have full and complete control over the entire process. At Herbert Law office, we offer a free consultation to discuss your specific situation, your specific family’s structure, the title of your specific assets, so we can talk about the best options for you. If you have any questions, feel free to click the link below to schedule a 15 minute phone appointment or just give us a call at 6612739007.

Take care and have a good day.