Trusts & Estates
Legal services that Vaught & Boutris provides to its clients in the areas of trusts and estates include:
- Comprehensive estate planning, including:
- Revocable living trusts;
- Durable Powers of Attorney;
- Advance Healthcare Directives.
- Trust administration;
- Probate representation and litigation;
- Family limited partnerships;
- Prenuptial agreements;
- Life insurance trusts;
- Grantor retained annuity trusts and unitrusts;
- Asset protection trusts;
- Will disputes and contests;
- Trust litigation.
Estate planning is undertaken to ensure your loved ones are adequately provided for, minimize tax consequences, and specify your wishes for asset distribution after your death. The term "estate planning" is broad, and can include creation of a revocable living trust, a will, a durable power of attorney, health care directive, and supporting documents (such as schedules of assets, waivers of confidentiality for health care providers, and assignments of business interests). Some clients require only one or two of these documents, while others require all of them, as well as additional assistance with tax planning and asset protection. Good estate planning provides a roadmap not only for a client's death, but for his or her incapacity. The attorneys at Vaught & Boutris will work with you to ensure that you and your loved ones are protected and provided for with a thorough and personized estate plan.
Estate Planning: Trusts
Trusts, which are often created as part of your estate planning process, are legal agreements that set rules for property held for your beneficiaries. There are many different types of trusts, all with specific purposes. The most common type of trust is a revocable living trust. Many of our estate planning clients need only a revocable living trust and supporting estate planning documents (such as a pourover will, a durable power of attorney, and a health care directive). However, if you have a beneficiary with special needs, we may recommend a special needs trust. And for our higher wealth clients who may face taxation at death, we may recommend creation of an IRA trust, irrevocable life insurance trust, grantor retained annuity trust, or other forms of irrevocable trusts.
Estate Planning: Wills
A will, also known as a testament, is a legal document created by you that names the person who will manage your estate and explains how your property will be transferred upon your death. A will also nominates guardians for minor children. Depending upon the complexity of a client's estate, and upon the client's wishes for distribution of assets, some clients need only a will. Others will have a "pour-over will" in conjunction with a revocable trust.
- Wills Law
- Contesting a Will
- Revoking a Will
- Executors: Settling Assets
- Wills and Probate Attorneys
Estate and Gift Taxes
The estate tax and the gift tax are parts of the federal Unified Gift and Estate Tax system. The estate tax is a tax on the fair market value of your gross estate, or all the property you owned or had an interest in at the time of your death; there are a limited number of deductions that can be applied to reduce the gross estate’s value.
The gift tax applies to transfers of money or property while you are still alive. The amount at which taxation begins is regulated by an annual exclusion amount.
Probate is a legal process that validates a will. While it is usually straightforward, certain circumstances may arise that call into question the terms of a will. In the case of a will dispute in Oakland, a probate court hears arguments concerning its validity. If it is declared invalid, the court then decides how the assets it names will be distributed.
Trust administration refers to the execution and fulfillment of the terms of the trust by the trustee or trustees. It can be a complicated process and includes notifying beneficiaries, marshaling assets, settling debts and liabilities, transferring property titles, possibly filing federal estate tax returns, funding sub-trusts, and carrying out a variety of legal duties and obligations.
Trustees are subject to myriad legal duties, including:
- the duty to administer the trust according to its terms;
- the duty of loyalty to the beneficiaries;
- the duty to deal impartially with beneficiaries;
- the duty to avoid conflicts of interest;
- the duty to make trust property productive;
- the duty to take control of and preserve trust property;
- the duty to report to beneficaries;
- and more.
Non-professional trustees are generally not aware of the legal duties that come with being appointed trustee of a trust. Because this area of law is so complex, and because of the potential for personal liability of a trustee if certain duties are not carried out, it is wise to consult with an attorney if you have been appointed trustee of a trust. The attorneys at Vaught & Boutris would be happy to speak with you further if you have been appointed trustee of a trust.
Estate and Trust Litigation
The terms of a will or trust can be challenged in court for a variety of reasons. For example, there may be a dispute among beneficiaries; the instrument may be challenged as a product of fraud or undue influence; or a trustee’s decisions may be challenged as outside the scope of his powers, erroneous, biased, or a breach of trust.
With law offices in Oakland and Walnut Creek, Vaught & Boutris LLP provides estate and trust expertise throughout the San Francisco Bay Area, including Contra Costa County and Alameda County. We offer services for estate and asset protection planning, including wills, trusts, and probate; trust administration; and estate and trust litigation. To find out more about how we can help you, contact us online or call 510-430-1518 today.