Wills & Trusts FAQs
The following are answers to some of the questions most frequently encountered by the attorneys at Fullerton, Lemann, Schaefer & Dominick, LLP regarding wills, trusts and estate planning in San Bernardino and Riverside Counties and throughout the Inland Empire Region of Southern California. If you have other questions or require specific advice or assistance with the creation of a will or trust, contact Fullerton, Lemann, Schaefer & Dominick, LLP to speak with one of our attorneys.
Q. What is the difference between a will and a living will?
A. A living will is not a document which transfers your estate to your heirs when you die. A living will is a directive about how you want medical decisions to be made on your behalf if you are unable to make them, such as whether you want to be put on life support or to be resuscitated if you are in a coma. In California and other states, living wills are known as Advance Health Care Directives. A Durable Power of Attorney can also be executed giving another person the power to make financial decisions on your behalf if you are unable to communicate your desires.
Although not directly related to distributing your estate after death, Advance Health Care Directives and Durable Powers of Attorney are important components of a comprehensive estate plan and should be considered during estate planning.
Q. Do I need to have a will as part of my estate plan, or should I just use a trust?
A. While you will probably want to use a trust as the central document in your estate plan, the will is still an important component of an estate plan. With a will, you can be sure that your entire estate will be distributed in accordance with your wishes. Even if your intention is for your assets to be distributed as instructed in your trust, your trust only covers those assets which are titled in the name of the trust. A will may be used to transfer, or "pour over," any assets not otherwise distributed into the trust.
A will provides peace of mind for you and your family that they will be taken care of. Through a will, you can appoint a guardian to care for your minor children or manage the children's assets left to them in the will until they become 18.
If you die without a will, any property not otherwise distributed in accordance with a trust or other mechanism will pass to your heirs, your next of kin, or to the state, according to the laws of intestate succession, which may or may not be in accordance with your wishes.
Whether to use a will or a trust or some combination of the two is a matter to discuss with your attorney, based on your goals and objectives and the size and complexity of your estate.
Q. What benefits does a trust provide over a will?
A. A properly funded trust allows for the distribution of an estate without the time delays and costs associated with probate. A will still requires probate administration. For further information, see our Tips for Avoiding Probate page.