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Is a trust better than a will?

This is the most common question for estate planning attorneys. Most of us will say each client is different and you need to decide what’s right for you after you learn about each. This is true.  Some will say a will is always better which is likely true only for the attorney who wants to do a lot of probates in the future. Some will say a trust is always better which probably means they haven’t thought through all the issues. What’s better for YOU? Let’s keep this basic today and if you have questions ask me. TRUSTS: More expensive to create but avoids probate after death. Usually private after death. This is seen as a pro for most people but some people prefer the public oversight of the probate Court. More cumbersome to get assets into a trust during life
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Minute Orders

Not sure where the name derives but most Courts issue “minute orders” after the hearing. This is a written document that states who was in Court (i.e. which attorneys) and what the Judge ordered. It is not the actual Court Order as that document would need to be signed by a Judge. A minute order is not signed by the Judge. However, if you are not in Court and want to know what the Judge ruled on a matter the minute order would be the thing to look for. In some counties, like Sacramento, they are available on-line after the case is heard (typically a few hours later). Le me know if you have questions about minute orders or any other probate or estate planning topic.  -John
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Sign your estate plan

Every few months I go through my active files and send letters to the people that have been procrastinating about getting their estate plan done. I remind them that: AN UNSIGNED ESTATE PLAN PROVIDES NO PROTECTION! This is really true though. Your chosen guardian for your minor children is ineffective and you could be exposing your kids to a courthouse battle over who would have custody!  Your chosen executor and trustee is not chosen and instead the state order of priority will prevail; which may or may not be what you want. Your chosen beneficiaries might watch as the state decides who gets your money. There could be significant taxes incurred by not signing your estate plan. Lastly, you will go through PROBATE! All of this, and more, can be avoided by simply signing your estate plan.
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Is an under $150,000 probate petition always better?

There are many different probate options. Knowing which is right for YOUR CASE depends on the facts of YOUR CASE.  There is not a simple rule. There is no one size fits all.  Each case is unique.  For example, let’s say you have a piece of real property worth about $135,000 in Sacramento. That is your mom, or other loved one, died with this property in their name and no other assets. The first instinct of most people is to do a probate code 13150 succession to real property worth under $150,000 (this number was $100,000 until January 1, 2012). There are less attorney fees, less Court costs and it’s much faster than a full probate. However, is that best for every case? As you probably have guessed the answer is NO, of course not.  An under $150k succession is probably good for the
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