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A living trust can avoid probate, if your assets have been re-titled into the name of the trust. The probate process is used to pass assets from one generation to the next in cases where the person has no documents, or only has a Will covering assets for an estate in excess of $166,250. Probate takes a minimum of six months, and frequently longer. The cost of probate is two-fold—Court costs in California are now about $1,500. The attorney’s fees and executor’s fees are based on the size of the estate.

There is no magic number for how much money one has to have before a trust is the right decision. We usually look at whether the person owns a home or other real estate, or has significant savings, The trust gives you the ability to control not only who will receive assets from you, but also when. For example, if you want to leave money to a child or grandchild, 18 is the legal age when a child can inherit. However, this is typically not the best time for a child to receive a large sum of money. When you create a trust you can control when the child is able to receive the money,and what the money can be used for.
California has a rule that if the document was valid in the state where it was created, we will honor it in California. All 50 states recognize a living trust, although other countries do not. If you move out of state you should have your documents reviewed in the state where you reside permanently.
Some assets, like IRAs and 401K accounts, cannot be held by your trust. Those assets will pass to your heirs with a proper beneficiary designation and will not have to go through probate. You may name your trust as the beneficiary on an IRA or 401K, if you have minor children and want to control how the money is paid out to them.

The current annual exclusion (for 2020) for gifts is $16,000 per person per year, but if you give more than $16,000 in a single year, there is a reporting requirement that you report the gift to the IRS.  The gift will not be taxable: it just starts to count against the $12,060,000 lifetime gift exemption for a single adult, or $24,120,000 exemption for a married couple. For 95% of people, the exemption maximums are never reached, so they never have to pay gift taxes.

The answer depends on whether the money has already been taxed. The estate of the person leaving the inheritance may be subject to estate taxes, if the total amount given exceeds $12,060,000, as explained above. For the person receiving the inheritance, the money is usually not considered income. However, if the money that you receive is from an IRA or 401K, and the original owner did not pay tax on the money, you (the beneficiary) will pay tax as you take it out of the account. You should contact a financial planner or a tax professional to learn about ways that you can spread the tax by taking distributions over a longer period of time.

All business owners need to document an exit strategy for what happens to the business when they want to retire, or are forced to leave because of disability or death. This is called a Business Succession Plan. Of primary concern will be whether or not the business will continue or be sold, and if remaining assets will be dispersed. Also, it is wise to provide for income and liability protection for the departing owner. Like other estate plans, Business Succession Plans need to be reviewed on a regular basis to make sure they cover all relevant issues and concerns.

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Resources was last modified: October 11th, 2023 by Seasons Law, P.C.