Marin Attorney Tells How to Steer Clear of Estate Planning Icebergs

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Hidden hazards can spell disaster during the administration of a Trust after the death of the trustor. Engaging a team of experts can head off disaster.

An Antarctic iceberg photographed by estate planning attorney Julia P. Wald.

The administration of a Trust after the death of a Trustor, or person who created the Trust, is much like navigating a ship through a sea of icebergs,

In her latest newsletter, Marin Estate and Trust Attorney Julia P. Wald warns readers about the hidden hazards involved in the administration of a Trust. To make her point, Wald compares the threat icebergs in Antarctica pose to ships with probate and trust pitfalls. Wald warns that even in cases where everything looks calm and majestic on the surface, great problems may lie just out of sight for family members.

“The administration of a Trust after the death of a Trustor, or person who created the Trust, is much like navigating a ship through a sea of icebergs,” Wald says. “Most Trust Agreements allow the Trustee to hire an experienced crew of professionals, such as attorneys, accountants, and real estate agents, to assist the Trustee in navigating such dangerous waters; however, some Trustees choose to go in it alone, pretending the possibility of iceberg hazards do not exist for them—and the results can be disastrous.”

According to Wald, failure to consult with an attorney at a Trustor's death can result in costs far in excess of fees paid to an attorney who is promptly consulted. “Just like a ship’s captain would not venture into icy waters without knowing what lies beneath the surface, a Trustee should not attempt to undertake a Trust administration without assistance,” says Wald.

Trusts can be administered without court involvement, but they still require proper handling. Trustees also owe fiduciary duties to the Trust beneficiaries.

Often times a Trustee believes that since no estate or gift taxes are due, no work is required when the Trustor passes. Unfortunately, this is not true. Under California law, the size of the deceased Trustor's estate generally has no bearing on the responsibilities of the Trustee.

Even a surviving spouse needs help from a professional crew. They must act in order to take advantage of the estate tax savings opportunities and inheritance protection afforded in the Trust. The surviving spouse may also owe fiduciary duties to the remainder beneficiaries of the Trust.

“Contacting a professional before your death can even save money since a properly created living trust will let your family avoid state-controlled probate fees which are $4,000 for a $100,000 and higher for larger estates,” says Wald.

Wald’s free estate planning newsletter is available online at http://waldlawyers.com/pages/estateplanningnews.html. For more information about any of the estate planning services offered by the Law Offices of Julia P. Wald, call (415) 482-7555 or visit the practice on the web at waldlawyers.com.

About the Law Offices of Julia P. Wald
The Law Offices of Julia P. Wald is a law firm that specializes in San Francisco Bay Area estate planning, probate and trusts, and conservatorship. Julia P. Ward has been named top attorney in Northern California by Super Lawyers for six years, most recently in 2009 and 2010. They feature accredited San Rafael attorneys who have experience in many aspects of estate planning, in addition to wills in Marin County and San Francisco Bay Area living trusts.

As a San Francisco Bay Area Estate and Trust attorney, Wald is a member of the California State Bar and has been certified by the California Board of Certification as a Certified Specialist in Probate, Estate Planning, and Trust law since 1990. She has been practicing estate planning law in the San Francisco Bay Area for 25 years. The Law Offices of Julia P. Wald serves the communities of Marin County, San Francisco and the San Francisco Bay Area.

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Julia Wald
The Law Offices of Julia P. Wald
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