Benefits of a Living Trust

(Courtesy of Gary Whitehead)

I read a statistic mentioning only about 20% of Americans today have what is called a Revocable Living Trust, yet more than 35% of Americans have real estate and other holdings exceeding 1M dollars. Another statistic quoted more than 80 % of Americans today claim to understand the perils of what is called Probate actions.

Seriously? So I began an inquiry since my office also prepares Trusts and Wills and had a hard time believing that in today’s sophisticated legal climate, and especially in San Diego where practically a shack with indoor plumbing is valued in excess of 1M dollars, property owners today are avoiding this all important part of family estate planning. Whether the cost, the fear of mortality or just plain laziness, upon simple quizzing of my eviction and family law clients, many are not taking advantage of this basic estate planning too. And many have minor children too!

A simple Will, directs the Executor to distribute remaining assets to beneficiaries but when real estate is a part of this, a formal Probate action usually must precede any distributions and Probate procedures will take many months and cost many thousands of dollars. And any heirs disputing their inheritance will extend this process.

Other Features of a Properly Prepared Revocable Living Trust?

Any Successor(s) named should be reliable persons trustworthy to carry out your wishes. That appointee(s) should have sufficient intellect and strength of character. When minor children are involved, this is particularly critical as minors can not participate as beneficiaries. Remember too, a Revocable Living Trust is just that. It is revocable. The Trust can be amended or eliminated as the creator sees desires.

Any new Revocable Trust should include both a Medical and Financial Power of Attorney for the creator. Included as well is a more personal ‘statement of wishes’ for private desires or Last wishes, a Pour-over-will for personal property distributions such as cash, artwork and special items should be incorporated as well.

Who should Prepare this Valuable Aspect of Estate Planning?

Be very cautious of do-it-yourself programs. Some are great for those who understand terms and legalities. Remember that this is an extremely critical legal instrument that speaks your specific wishes about your assets and beneficiaries. For those with complicated needs or large Estates, an experienced Trust Attorney, though very expensive; really is the choice. Expect to pay many thousands of dollars, but for some, this really is the right choice. For most consumers today, a basic Revocable Trust and financial-medical Power of Attorney will suffice and an experienced Independent Paralegal service is an option.

Gary Whitehead can be reached at (858) 705-9270 daily. Email:

Gary Whitehead MBA, LDA* Notary

Notary Commission, 2281614 Exp 5/23

*Licensed Document Assistant, 201 Exp 05/24 San Diego County

Licensed Process Server # 3343 Exp 10/22