Valerie K. deMartino
4326 Atlantic Avenue
Long Beach, CA  90807

ph: (562) 628-0287
fax: (562) 394-9504
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"Frequently Asked Questions about
Estate Planning in California"
by Valerie K. deMartino

If I do not have a will, will my estate go to the State? No. It will go to the persons outlined in the Probate Code as your intestate heirs.

Is there a difference between my taxable estate and my probate estate? Yes. Your taxable estate includes assets which may not be included in your probate estate because they passed by joint tenancy with right of survivorship.

What assets should go into my trust? All of them except IRAs and pension plans.

Will my trust need a separate tax ID number? No. You can use your Social Security number because all the income goes to you and is reported on your tax return. The trust will not need its own tax identification number until the first settlor passes away.

Who should be the trustee? Your spouse or a close family member who is younger than you and has some financial sense is usually the best bet. Alternate choices would be your oldest or most capable child or a financial institution or professional. Financial institutions and professionals will charge for their services as trustee.

If I have a trust, do I also need a will? Yes you still need a will in case some asset is not titled in the name of your trust. The will is called a "pour over will" and basically says "I give everything to my trust."

Does a bank have to be involved? No. Not unless you want one to be your trustee. They usually charge around 2% of the value of the trust assets per year as their fee.

Will my property taxes go up due to Prop 13 if I put real estate into my Trust? No. There is a property tax exemption for transfers to a living trust.

Will the trust have to file a separate income tax return? No. All income is reported on your individual tax return.

Is my estate too small for a living trust? No. While estate tax savings will not be realized unless your estate exceeds the unified credit amount for the year of your death (see schedule above), there are other reasons for a trust, such as avoidance of probate, early distribution of assets to your heirs, less cost at your death, and if you become incapacitated your trustee can take over financial matters without a conservatorship (as discussed above).

What other documents might I need to be properly prepared? A Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care or Advance Health Care Directive is generally recommended because the trustee cannot act for you in personal, non-financial matters.

LEGAL NOTICE: This site is designed to acquaint you with Valerie deMartino and the services she can offer. It is NOT intended to provide legal advise or create an attorney client relationship. The information on this site is intended for education and discussion only. You should consult a professional about your particular facts, circumstances and goals. Ms. deMartino is licensed to practice law only in the State of California and cannot advise you on the laws of other states. This website is not intended to be advertising and is not intended to solicit anyone desiring representation based upon viewing this website in a state or other jurisdiction where it does not comply with local laws and ethical rules.