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Trusts and Wills 101

You keep full control over the property and have the right to use and spend that property as if it had never been put into the trust.  

In most cases, the settlor, trustee, and beneficiary can be the same person (until that person dies or is deemed incompetent). Essentially, after you set up a Living Trust, you can be the settlor, the trustee and the beneficiary of the trust.

Revocable living trust in California

A revocable living trust in California, completed at LDA Document Services, is a legal trust document created by an individual that can be changed or amended over time. California revocable living trusts are used to avoid probate, to protect the privacy of the trust owner, the Trustee, and beneficiaries of the trust as well as minimize estate taxes.  

  • A revocable living trust is a legal document that states who you want to manage and distribute your assets if you’re unable to, and who receives those things when you pass away.

  • Creating your revocable living trust in California through LDA Document Services, helps communicate your wishes so your loved ones aren’t left guessing or dealing with the courts in probate.  

  • At LDA Document Services, a very common question we hear is, "Who owns the property in a revocable trust?"

    • The answer is that after the assets are assigned to the trust they belong to the trust itself, not the trustee.  

    • Those assets remain subject to the rules and instructions of the revocable trust contract. Most basically, a trust is a right in property, which is held in a fiduciary relationship by one party for the benefit of another.  

    • When we think of a revocable trust, we often think of it as a vehicle that holds all of our stuff.  The only person that may drive that vehicle is/are the Trustee/s.

For all your questions and creating a revocable living trust in California, get in touch with LDA Document Services.



Avoiding Probate

The cost of going to Probate Court can be tolling, and because of that, many people do whatever they can to avoid Probate Court.  There are many options in many states however, in California these are popular choices:

1. Living Trust – Use www.LDA Document  to help you create a Living Trust.  Did you know that in California, you may try to avoid probate for almost any asset you own like, real estate, bank accounts, vehicles and much more…  We can help you to create a Trust that names a trusted person to take over your estate, after you pass. We call this person a successor trustee.  After creating your Trust, you must transfer the assets you have into that Trust, for which you are the Trustee.

  • A simple way to thin about this is that you have bought a special vehicle that only you can drive until you are dead. After you have passed, only the person you name in advance, may drive that vehicle for you, and they must drive it according to a map that you drew, giving pieces of that vehicle out as they drive, until it is gone.

  • Your chosen driver, also known as the Successor Trustee will transfer everything, according to your wishes, from the name of your Trust, into the names of the beneficiaries, without Probate.

2. POD Bank Accounts – Payable on Death is another way to avoid Probate Court.  Creating a POD designation at your bank is another popular method and typically requires no special fees.  All of the money in these accounts remains at your disposal and the POD beneficiary can transfer any remaining funds into their account after your passing with a copy of a Death Certificate.

3. TOD Securities – Securities are important and they can also be kept out of Probate by using a Transfer on Death Registration, this is available in California for both stocks and bonds.

4. TOD Real Estate Deeds – According to California Probate Code § 5620, Transfer on Death Real Estate Deeds can be used to avoid Probate.  The beneficiary would have no right to any property until after your death and you retain full rights over the property until you pass.  Another common term for these deeds is Beneficiary Deeds.

5. TOD Vehicle Registration – The Transfer on Death Vehicle Registration is allowed in California, and processed through the DMV, or in some cases AAA. The vehicle in question will automatically transfer to the named person after your death, without the need for Probate Court.  However, there may be some documentation required by the DMV.

6. Property Joint Ownership – The “Right of Survivorship” clause may automatically protect a survivor after a passing, as the property would automatically transfer over to that surviving person.  Probate may be avoided in this situation, with the proper paperwork being provided to the County and Mortgage company.

Joint Tenancy and Community Property with Right of Survivorship are two California types of Joint Ownership.

  • In Community Property with Right of Survivorship, spouses and domestic partners are thought to own all property acquired during a marriage, unless there are legal steps taken to intentionally avoid this. If spouses or domestic partners hold title to assets as community property with the right of survivorship, then it may automatically pass to the survivor when one person passes.

  • Also, property held in Joint Tenancy may automatically pass to the survivor without the need for Probate Court. This process does work well when both partners hold equal shares in the property in question, real estate, bank accounts, vehicles, and other assets.

RECAP: How to Avoid Probate in California with LDA Document Services

1. List and name beneficiaries on each account that will allow it.

2. Establish a Trust into which you leave your property and assets that may be transferred at the time of death.

3. Set up accounts/property to be held jointly so that they are transferred to the other party on death. 

  • By establishing joint ownership of your property with right of survivorship, you may avoid probate as the title to that property is transferred to the surviving owner. 

    • Be sure to check with your state about the difference between ‘Tenancy by the Entireties’ and ‘Joint Tenancy with Rights of Survivorship’, which may apply only to married couples.

Probate may be required when a person passes away and leaves unassigned assets. For example, money in a bank account to which the deceased was the sole account holder.  In this situation, the financial institution may ask for a grant of probate before they will release the funds to the executor. Avoiding probate in California with LDA Document Services may be very affordable and simple.

As always, when in doubt, consult a qualified attorney. While we often work with attorneys, neither LDA Document Services nor any other service provider should not replace your attorney.

California Financial Power of Attorney

A California Financial Power of Attorney (“POA”) is a document that gives a third party, also known as your “Agent,” the legal authority to make certain financial decisions on your (the “Principal’s”) behalf.

A very common question is, “Can my Agent due illegal things, like go against my will? While it would certainly be illegal, and difficult, to act against the specific authorities that are written, there is always that possibility. That is why we may want to choose someone that we trust, an attorney, or someone that has taken out a bond, to insulate or mitigate against to costs associated with wrongdoings.

According to Probate Code §4100-§4310:  This form allows an individual to act in the place of someone else for financial needs only. The principal grants these powers to a trusted friend or relative called an agent. The agent can only act as the principal specifies and the agent has a fiduciary responsibility to act in the best interests of the principal. It should be noted that because it is considered “durable,” the powers granted to the agent continue even if the principal becomes incapacitated. LDA Document Services makes creating your legal documents easy, and affordable and the California Financial Power of Attorney is one of those legal documents.

What Does a California Financial Power of Attorney Do?

A Power of Attorney document allows one person, (an attorney-in-fact) the legal authority to act on behalf of another person (the principal) and make decisions when that person is unable to, be it real estate, business, or finance in California.

A principal can allow their attorney-in-fact to make any of their decisions (using a General Power of Attorney) or some of their decisions (using a Specific Power of Attorney).

The rules for Power of Attorney may be different from state to state, when you create a medical Power of Attorney in California through, the document is prepared according to the rules of your state.


General Information About a Power of Attorney

What is a Power of Attorney?

A Power of Attorney, also known as a POA, is a document where one person (the principal) appoints another person (the attorney-in-fact).  known as the agent.  In some states, it may be known as a mandatary and this person acts on their behalf with respect to matters like finance, real estate, and business.

What is an AIF, “Attorney-in-Fact”?

Depending on your state, when you (the principal) appoint an attorney-in-fact, agent, or mandatary, this person then possesses the power to acts on your behalf, making decisions regarding your affairs.

Who should I choose to be my AIF?  It can be anyone of your choosing, like a relative, friend, spouse or an attorney.

What are the requirements to be an AIF?

– Of legal age in that state

– Not having a pending bankruptcy

– There should be no conflict of interest, such as not being the owner, manager or employee of a retirement or nursing facility where you are living

– While there are no specific qualities or licenses required, your AIF should clearly be trustworthy, and able to handle the affairs you designate, diligently

– Knowledge and ability to keep financial records, financial management skills

It also may be acceptable for your AIF to be the same person you appoint to administer your Last Will and Testament or a beneficiary of that same Will.  However, if you anticipate trouble after your passing, you may wish to appoint an impartial party as your AIF, someone that does not benefit from your passing.

Financial Aspects

An AIF, attorney-in-fact can be given the power to make financial decisions in your place, like making payments or closing accounts for you in California.

For example, if you were diagnosed with an illness that required long-term hospitalization, you may allow your AIF, attorney-in-fact to cancel unneeded bills.

Your AIF can hold other financial powers that you designate, including the ability to control bank accounts, cash checks, or transfer money.

Legal Aspects

A Power of Attorney lets your AIF, attorney-in-fact handle legal matters for you. This means they may begin lawsuits, communicate with your attorney, file documents with the court, and more, depending on the right you have assigned to them.

For example, if you were in the middle of a business negotiation but needed to be away for business, you may grant your attorney-in-fact the power to handle negotiations and signing your paperwork.

You may restrict your attorney-in-fact’s powers and may want to restrict your attorney-in-fact’s ability to start lawsuits on your behalf.

Common reasons for a person to get a Power of Attorney in California?

– Traveling for an extended period of time and you have unfinished business, banking transactions, real estate proceedings

– You are getting older and want to be prepared for medical emergencies

– Preparing Estate or similar plans through and want to be prudent

– You have been diagnosed with a medical illness that will require a person to help you in the near future

It is because no one knows what the future will bring that many people try to prepare for these unforeseen circumstances.  It is because we cannot create a power of attorney after incapacitation that we may consider using to help prepare a state-specific Power of Attorney.

What are the different types of Power of Attorney Documents?

Principal = the person that is giving the power to another

AIF/attorney-in-fact = the person that will act to help the person in need

1. General POA

2. Specific POA

3. Durable POA

4. Springing POA

5. Under the General POA, the principal gives the AIF the right to act and make any of the decisions that you have designated in the document. This is typically a broad reaching document that may allow an AIF to act in a broad/wide reaching manner.

6. Under a Specific POA, the principal should act very specifically according to that document. A great example may be, I am moving, and I need my AIF to sign and pay my closing utility bills.  Another may be that I need my AIF to finish signing some real estate documents.  However, it should be noted that some states may require an additional document through a title/escrow office before completing certain real estate transactions.

7. Under a Durable POA, aka a Enduring POA, this POA remains in effect from the time it is created and endures even if the principal becomes incapacitated or is generally unable to make his own decisions.  This POA may remain in effect until the principal dies or revokes the POA. The document may be more common when the principal is capable but not available to make his own decisions.  may help you to prepare your Durable Power of Attorney in California, especially if you need to spend time focusing on your health care and need assistance with day-to-day affairs.

8. A Springing POA does just that, it springs into actions, either on a specific date or at the inception of a specific event. You may want to prepare for an upcoming major surgical procedure by allowing us to help you create your Springing POA.  Another reason for asking to help you create your Springing POA may be that you want your child to help you with legal matters, in the event that you become incapacitated.

The advance health care directive California is a legal document that explains how you want medical decisions to be made if you cannot make them. This directive lets your doctors and family know what kind of health care you want.  It also says who you want to make these decisions for you when you are not able to. The directive is a way of helping you plan ahead, to reflect on the type of care you want and importantly, what you do NOT want. It may help guide your doctors and family in following your decisions about your health care when you can’t verbalize them.

The advance directive does not apply to financial matters or anything outside the scope of health care. LDA Document Services has all the latest forms, as the laws around advance directives are different from state to state. With the help of LDA Document Services, you can create your directive as part of your California estate planning while you are healthy and thinking clearly. Don’t wait until you become too ill or are unable to make medical decisions for yourself.

For all your questions and creating advance health care directive in California, get in touch with LDA Document Services.

The Patient Self-Determination Act and the Advance Health Care Directive Californiaa

The 1990 Patient Self-Determination Act (PSDA) encourages people to decide in advance the types and extent of medical care they want, or don’t want, to accept, if they become incapacitated.

The PSDA requires hospitals, home health agencies, skilled nursing facilities, hospice programs, and Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) to give patients information on their state laws about their rights to make their own decisions about their medical care; find out if patients have already created and put on file an advance directive; honor the patient’s wishes as expressed through the directive; not to discriminate against patients with or without an advance directive.

While health care facilities can’t require patients to have an advance directive, it is clear why they encourage it.  Knowing that your doctors and family will need to follow your desired path may offer peace of mind.


Preparing for the unseen with an Advance Health Care Directive California

What happens if you experience a major accident or illness that leaves you unconscious or unable to communicate with others? How do you convey your wishes about your medical care to others?  Preparing an Advance Directive through LDA Document Services is an answer.  You are not required to use an attorney to prepare an advance directive.

Advance directive is the general term that refers to the various documents that could include a living will, instruction directive, health care proxy or health care power of attorney. A living will (or instruction directive) alerts medical professionals and your family to the treatments you want to receive or refuse.

You have the right to give instructions about your own health care. You also have the right to name someone else to make health care decisions for you. The Advance Directive lets you do either or both of these things. It also lets you express your wishes regarding donation of organs and the designation of your primary physician. You may complete or modify all or any part of your wishes.

Using LDA Document Services to plan in advance, you can get the medical care you desire while relieving loved ones of making major medical decisions during moments of grief or crisis. Advance directives may reduce confusion and disagreements about medical care.

At LDA Document Services, we want you to know that advance directives are not only for the elderly. Unexpected end-of-life situations can happen to anyone at any age. It’s important for everyone to prepare an advance directive, with or without an estate attorney.

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Making a Will and Trust

Having assets or children may make making a will and trust a must for you, especially when you do it through  The fate of one’s finances may be at risk, when you choose to avoid Estate Planning.  We encourage all consumers to contact an attorney if they are unsure of their situation and then contact and we can help you prepare your living will and trust.

What is a Will within an Estate Plan?

Creating and updating your will regularly may help you avoid trouble later on.  It may also help your beneficiaries when you have taken the time to properly prepare a will.

It is important to know that if there is no WILL, the sate that you reside in may decide how your assets are distributed.  When you take the time to draft a will, you may prevent undue problems through your proactive approach to estate planning.

What is in a typical will?

You choose, name, or identify:

– an executor that has agreed to carry out your wishes, also known as the provisions of the will.

– the beneficiaries that will inherit the assets you have left for them.

– guardians for any minors that may inherit the things you left for them.

– specific instructions about who will receive things and the method by which they may receive them.

Are there any assets that can be passed down outside of the will?

Yes, there are assets that may be passed down outside of the will.

Both investment accounts and IRA’s may be passed to a beneficiary by naming that beneficiary. However, there may be other things to consider we you choose this method.

What is a Trust within an Estate Plan?

A trust can be thought of as a fiduciary arrangement, used for minimizing estate taxes, that may allow a third party, also known as a ‘trustee’ to hold and distribute the assets according to the plan. Trusts typically avoid probate and thus, the beneficiaries may have access to those assets more quickly than otherwise.

Real Examples of the different types of Trusts:

The 2 most common that most people are aware of are the Revocable and the Irrevocable Trusts.

1. The Living Trust, which is also known as the Revocable Trust is the trust you are most likely to have heard about. This Trust may help the passing of assets outside of probate and still allows you to keep control of everything inside that Trust. Retaining control of your assets may allow you to direct everything along the path that had intended. That Trust will stay revocable until you pass, and then it becomes irrevocable, typically.

Especially important here is that the Revocable Trust may allow you to name yourself as the trustee. A common way to think of this is that the Trust is a large truck. Inside the truck is everything that you find valuable and want to leave to others. The only person designated as the driver is you, no one else would be allowed to drive.

2. Perhaps the most important factor with an Irrevocable Trust is that it is just that, unchangeable. However, this trust is typically free of estate taxes and probate and fairly uncommon.

Contact now to prepare your state-specific Trust.

At, we help you prepare your will.  A will is a legal document that tells others how you want your assets, both financial and material, distributed after your passing.

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