Orange County Probate and Estate Planning Blog

When Do I Need a Trust in California?

Posted by Charles Kausen | Apr 17, 2024 | 0 Comments

Trusts are just for "rich" folks, right? Nope! In fact, setting up a trust can be a smart move for anyone, no matter how big or small your stash of assets is. Let's break down some of the most common life events that prompt normal people to consider creating a California trust.

1. Buying a House

Congratulations on your new home! Whether it's your first step onto the property ladder or another addition to your real estate portfolio, owning a house is a big milestone. But here's the deal: in California, buying a home means your estate might not qualify for a small estate affidavit anymore. That's where a trust swoops in to save the day. Without one, your estate could end up in probate, which is like navigating a legal labyrinth. Nobody wants that headache, right?

Trusts help sidestep all that mess. When done correctly, your new home is not owned by you, at least individually.  Instead, you own your home as trustee of your trust.  When you pass away, your successor trustee then steps in and just transfers your assets wherever you have told them to.  No court date necessary!

2. Getting Married or Divorced

Love is in the air—or maybe it's not anymore. Whether you're tying the knot or untying it, it's time to think about trusts. Picture this: you've got stuff you owned before the big "I do," right? That's your separate property. With a separate property trust, you can help keep that stash safe and sound, no matter what happens in the relationship department. And if you're in wedded bliss, a marital trust is your go-to for safeguarding all that lovey-dovey shared stuff. But let's be real—even if things hit a rough patch, having a trust can be a lifesaver in protecting assets during a split.

3. Having Kids

Ah, the pitter-patter of tiny feet! Welcoming a little bundle of joy into the world is pure magic. But it's also a wake-up call to get your ducks in a row. Setting up a trust isn't just about securing their future if something happens to you—it's about sparing them from the probate headache down the road. After all, the last thing you want is for them to inherit a mess. 

Instead, your trustee will follow your directions: maybe pay for your kids' college, help them buy their first home, or just make payments if they are on the straight and narrow.  Your trust can give you peace of mind knowing that your kids are taken care of and won't be dealing with court while mourning.

4. Moving to a New State

New beginnings, new adventures! So, you've decided to shake things up and move to a whole new state. Exciting stuff! But before you start unpacking, take a second to think about your estate plan. Moving can throw a wrench into things, especially when it comes to probate. Also, without a trust, your assets scattered across state lines could even trigger multiple probates, compounding the nightmare! Trusts help keep your assets organized and out of probate's grasp, no matter where you roam.

5. Loss of a Loved One

Losing someone dear to you is awful.  But amidst the grief, there might be some unexpected assets popping up. And guess what? Those assets could end up causing you a world of probate-related pain if you're not careful. Don't worry, though—a trust can help you navigate those murky waters and keep your own estate out of probate's clutches.

Importantly, there is no need to wait until the assets actually become yours.  If something happens while you are waiting, your own loved ones still might need to jump through court-sized hoops to get the property, and it might even end up in the hands of someone you did not intend!

6. Starting A Business

You're a go-getter, aren't you? Starting your own business is a big move, and it's smart to have all your bases covered. That's where a trust comes in handy. Not only can it help you appoint someone to keep the business ship sailing smoothly if you're out of the picture, but it also ensures that your hard-earned ownership stakes go exactly where you want them. Plus, let's not forget about protecting yourself from any pesky liabilities that might come your way. Trusts are like the ultimate business sidekick, always looking out for your best interests.

If any of these or other events have you thinking about creating a trust, Finlay Law Group can help you get it done and get it done right.  Contact us for a free consultation today. 

Disclaimer: The above information is intended for information purposes alone and is not intended as legal advice. Please consult with counsel before taking any steps in reliance on any of the information contained herein. 

About the Author

Charles Kausen

Charles "Charley" Kausen graduated summa cum laude from the University of San Diego School of Law in 2022 after earning a psychology degree from University of California at Santa Barbara in 2012. During law school, Charley was an extern for Judge Janis Sammartino of the United States District Cou...


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