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California Living Trust: Using It May Avoid Probate

Two of the benefits of a California revocable living trust are continuity of management and avoidance of probate. These benefits are generally available only as to assets that are held in the name of the California living trust. Often, when property is left out of your living trust, it may have to be probated before heirs can obtain legal title and ownership. This blog post deals with title transfers.

Generally, you should transfer title to your assets from your individual name to:

“[Your name], Trustee, [your surname] Family Living Trust dated [the date the Trust is signed]”

So, title may look like this example: “Mitchell A. Port, Trustee, Port Family Living Trust dated February 2, 2009”

Title to your assets should be transferred to your California living trust – in most cases – for the types of property listed below. Various issues related to the type of property transferred into your California living trust are mentioned as well. You ought to address transferring the following assets:

1. Automobiles
2. Bank, Savings and Other Cash Accounts
3. Bonds, T-Bills, Commodities
4. Life Insurance; Pension, Profit Sharing, Retirement Plans

  • Life Insurance
  • Retirement [IRA] Accounts
  • Keogh, Pension, Profit Sharing Benefits
  • Current Retirement Benefits

5. Notes

  • Secured by Real Property
  • Secured by Personal Property
  • Unsecured

6. Partnerships and LLCs

  • Limited Partnerships and LLCs
  • General

7. Real Property

  • Reassessment
  • Loan Acceleration
  • Title Insurance
  • Homeowner’s Exemption
  • Homeowner’s Insurance
  • Purchases of Real Property
  • Sales of Real Property

8. Stock

  • Marketable Securities
  • Mutual Funds; Margin and Ready Asset Accounts
  • Closely Held Corporations

9. Prepare this list of information addressing the items below that would be useful in case of death or a health emergency and add it to your California estate planning book or some place easily locatable:

A. Bank Accounts and Safe-Deposit Boxes

  • All bank names – account numbers – personal contact, if available – location of safe-deposit box – contents of box – location of box key;

B. Credit Cards

  • Issuers – account numbers – expiration dates – special information (airline mileage points, balances owed);

C. Insurance

  • Home, car, life, health, long-term care: issuers – account numbers – agents – premium due dates;

D. Health Care

  • Contact information for physicians – current medications and dosages – Medicare claim number – Medigap policy number;

E. Taxes

  • Accountant information – location of past filings;

F. Investment And Retirement Accounts

  • Names of brokerage or plan administrators – account numbers – PIN numbers – Names of bankers or brokers;

G. House

  • Amount of mortgage payment or rent – due date – location of deeds and property titles – contact information for service people;

H. Miscellaneous

  • (i) Driver’s license number and expiration date; (ii) vehicle registration information; (iii) any items in storage and storage company phone number; (iv) contact information for neighbors and friends; (v) e-mail accounts, websites, and passwords; (vi) the combination to any safe in your home; and (vii) a list of the automatic payments from and deposits to bank accounts.

Consult with a California estate planning attorney. Call Mitchell A. Port at (310) 526-3433.

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