A lot of your friends and neighbors have a trust, but do you really need one for your family?"


Last updated 3/4/2019 at 2:33pm

FALLBROOK – You may have noticed a spike in the number of ads and flyers in your mailbox touting the virtues of getting a family trust. But is this the right way to go for you?

Local attorney James Alvord, who has written hundreds of trusts for residents in Fallbrook, Temecula, and throughout the North County over the past 28 years, said, “You have to ask yourself a simple question – do you own property in California? If the answer is “Yes”, that’s also the answer to the question of whether you need a trust.

Alvord explained that the state of California makes it extremely difficult, costly, and time consuming to transfer ownership of your home to your children, or anyone else, after you die absent a trust. A required court process is called probate, and nearly everyone dreads it. The probating of most estates takes an entire year, and often times even more, before a single dime is given to a single beneficiary.

Even if you have a will, a perfectly fine will, your family will be required to take the matter to court. They’ll probably need a lawyer to help them navigate the process – several hearings may be required and the final result, as determined by a judge who has never met you or your family, will most likely not reflect your wishes. And the cost to your family – thousands.

So, according to Alvord, if you own your own home – whether you have a mortgage on it, or even if it’s paid off – you should talk to a lawyer and create your own trust. Your children, he said, will thank you.

Of course trusts aren’t simply a single document. Alvord’s office offers a 10-point trust package making sure your wishes, and not the wishes of judges or other family members, will be followed in the event of your death or disability. Your directions regarding your health care and end of life decisions will also be memorialized to limit confusion or family disputes. Even your final arrangements may be addressed.

There may also be tax savings and improved estate planning as a result of having a family trust. But the biggest benefit, according to Alvord’s clients, is the peace of mind of knowing you won’t be leaving a giant mess behind for others to deal with. As the attorney said, “When it comes to your estate, like most things in life, it’s good to have a plan.”

Alvord explained that living trusts are called “living” because they are not set in stone, but rather they are flexible and can be easily changed or amended as long as the principals are still alive and competent. You still maintain complete control of your property and all other assets, able to change terms and conditions, and final distribution instructions at any time.

So, who doesn’t need a trust? According to Alvord, if you rent or have minimal assets to worry about, a trust is probably not for you. Also, if you really don’t care what happens after you’re gone, and you’re OK with strangers deciding how your estate will be divided up, a trust is not something you need to be concerned about.

Attorney Alvord is now offering a free, confidential consultation to talk over your particular


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