Author: Hoffman & Forde

Silenced No More Act: New California law addresses workplace harassment and discrimination

Silenced No More Act: New California law addresses workplace harassment and discrimination

A new California law places additional limits on nondisclosure agreements (NDAs) and nondisparagement agreements that restrict employees’ ability to speak publicly about unlawful behavior in the workplace. Signed into law last October as SB 331, the Silenced No More Act went into effect on January 1, 2022, and expands on existing protections.


As workplace harassment and discrimination have received more attention in recent years, the widespread use of contractual agreements to prevent current and former workers from speaking out has also come under increased scrutiny. The agreements are often criticized for allowing companies to avoid negative attention and thus continue fostering unhealthy and unsafe work environments.

Two California laws passed in 2018 sought to combat such secrecy clauses:

SB 820

The STAND Act (SB 820) outlawed the use of NDAs in settlement agreements that prohibit parties from speaking about the factual basis of claims related to workplace sexual harassment and discrimination based on sex.

Legislators noted that many of Harvey Weinstein’s victims were bound by such NDAs, allowing his behavior to continue in secret.

SB 1300

Another 2018 law (SB 1300) made it unlawful for employers to force employees to sign a nondisparagement agreement that prohibited them from speaking publicly about discrimination and harassment in their workplace.

The law was aimed at current employees, who could no longer be made to sign this kind of agreement in order to receive a raise or bonus, or as a condition of employment or continued employment.

The Silenced No More Act

The Silenced No More Act keeps the same basic framework of SB 820 and SB 1300 but provides additional protections for current and former employees.

SB 820 only limited NDAs in settlement agreements where the claims were related to sex discrimination and sexual harassment. If an employee faced discrimination based on race, for example, companies were still allowed to enforce an NDA as part of a settlement.

The new law expands this protection to all forms of harassment and discrimination prohibited by the California Fair Employment and Housing Act. The protected classes defined in that law are race, religion, color, national origin, ancestry, physical disability, mental disability, medical condition, genetic information, familial status, sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression, age, sexual orientation, or veteran or military status.

While SB 1300 placed restrictions on the use of nondisparagement agreements for current employees, the Silenced No More Act extends this rule to severance agreements as well.

There is an exception, however, when the severance agreement is “negotiated,” meaning it was part of a claim brought in an outside setting such as a court and the claimant had the opportunity to be represented by an attorney.

The Silenced No More Act is not retroactive; it applies to agreements entered into on or after January 1, 2022.

What Does the New Law Mean for You?

Whether you are an employee or a business owner, the Silenced No More Act will have a significant effect on how workplace disputes are resolved. To determine how it could affect your case or business, contact us today for a consultation.

Estate Planning For Unmarried Couples: What’s Different?

Estate Planning For Married Couples

How is estate planning for unmarried couples different than if you’re married or even single? Here’s a look:

Estate Planning For Unmarried Couples vs. Married Couples

The significant difference is that marriage creates many legally recognized assumptions. For example, two assumptions are that your spouse will inherit your estate when you die and also make decisions on your behalf if you’re incapacitated. These assumptions essentially become the default estate plan without an explicit estate plan.

However, the situation is different when someone is unmarried and without children. The law will still try to make assumptions about what to do with the estate. But the results can become increasingly disconnected from the person’s actual wishes. That’s due to the laws of intestacy—state laws that determine what happens to a person’s assets if they die without a will.

The probate court goes through a set order of succession to find a relative who should inherit your estate. Your estate will go to the state if no such person can be found. The process in this situation can be quite complicated. Your assets, for example, could easily end up going to a distant cousin you never met, which may not be what you want.

This result can be especially unfortunate when the person who dies or is incapacitated is unmarried but does have a long-term partner. Even if the relationship is like a marriage in everything but name, the law may not recognize it. As a result, the partner can be left out as an estate is divided up or major medical decisions are being made.

How To Do Estate Planning When You’re An Unmarried Couple

When it comes to estate planning for unmarried couples, you have to be much more deliberate to overcome any legal assumptions that run counter to your wishes. The overall estate-planning process remains the same:

  1. Take stock of your assets
  2. Decide who you want to benefit from your estate
  3. Meet with an attorney to create a plan
  4. Review the plan from time to time

If you have someone in mind that you want to inherit all or part of your estate, whether a partner, friend, or relative, it’s essential to put this in writing in a properly drafted legal document. Or perhaps you want to establish a legacy of charitable giving. There are several ways to accomplish this, including establishing a revocable or irrevocable trust. Meeting with an attorney will help you do this in a way that passes legal scrutiny and minimizes tax exposure.

Unmarried couples should also strongly consider creating an advance medical directive and designating someone who has power of attorney to make decisions on their behalf if they become incapacitated. You should review these documents regularly to ensure they still match your wishes.

Meet with an Estate-Planning Attorney

When you’re ready to create an estate plan, our team of expert attorneys can help you put it into action. Schedule a consultation today to get started.

I’m Breaking A Lease. What Are My Rights?

Breaking a Lease

At one time or another, most renters will consider whether breaking a lease is a good idea. There can be a lot of reasons to break a lease—a decrease in earnings, poor conditions on the rental property, or perhaps they just found a better deal. But people often stick it out because they’re worried about the potential fallout. Breaking a lease agreement can be done but it’s important to understand what happens if you do so and when it might be legally justified.

What Happens When You Break A Lease

When you move out of a rental property before the lease term has expired (i.e., “break the lease”), the primary consequences are financial. Simply put, you’ll probably owe the landlord money for the remainder of the lease.

For example, if you have a 12-month apartment lease with $2,000 in monthly rent, you’ve agreed to pay the landlord $24,000 in 12 monthly installments. If you move out after six months, you still owe them $12,000. If the lease is month-to-month and you leave without giving the landlord the required notice (usually 30 or 60 days), you would owe rent for that notice period.

The landlord does have a legal responsibility to “mitigate damages.” Rather than just leaving the property empty, they have to attempt to find another suitable tenant to take your place. If they do find another tenant, you would generally be responsible for paying rent for the time the property was sitting vacant, but not the period after someone else is paying rent.

Because breaking a lease is essentially like incurring debt and not paying it, it will also likely have a negative impact on your credit score and could make it difficult to find another rental.

Justifications for Breaking a Lease Agreement

The situation above may sound dire, but there are a number of legal justifications for breaking a lease, meaning that you could do so without paying the remainder of the rent due. Here are some of the justifications recognized in California:

1. The property is unsafe or uninhabitable

There’s a legal principle called “constructive eviction,” where conditions at the rental property are so poor that the tenant has no choice but to leave. These conditions have to be serious problems—e.g., no heat in cold winter, no lock on the front door, etc.—that are the landlord’s responsibility to fix. The landlord also must be given a reasonable amount of time to address the problem.

2. Harassment or violation of your rights

This is an extension of the constructive eviction principle described above. For example, suppose a landlord repeatedly enters the property without giving you at least 24-hour notice or performs deliberately harassing actions such as changing the locks. In that case, you may be able to break the lease without paying rent.

3. Active military duty

Under federal law, a member of uniformed services who is called to active duty may terminate their lease within 30 days of the next rent payment, regardless of how much time is left on the lease term.

4. Victim of domestic violence and other crimes

Under California law, if you or an immediate family member has been a victim of domestic violence, stalking, assault, or other crimes, this can justify terminating a lease early. In these cases, the tenant is only responsible for 14 days of rent following notice to the landlord.

If You Need to Break Your Lease

If you’re in a position where you need to break a lease agreement, advice from an experienced attorney can make the process much easier. An attorney can evaluate your situation to see if you have a legal justification for breaking the lease. Even if you don’t, they can negotiate with the landlord to minimize the negative consequences. Contact our office today for a consultation.


Estate Planning Tips: 10 Mistakes To Avoid

Couple Looking At Computer With Estate Planning Advisor

Estate planning is one of the most common reasons for someone to require the services of an attorney. Virtually everyone has at least some assets, and those assets will need to be distributed after they pass away. Because this affects so many people, it’s helpful to know some of the top estate planning tips, such as mistakes to avoid.

Mistake #1: Not Having an Estate Plan

Hands down, the most common estate planning mistake is simply not having an estate plan. There are many reasons for this. Younger people often just don’t think about it, some people think they don’t have enough assets for it to be a concern, and others underestimate the complications that can arise when someone dies without a will. It may be an unpleasant thought, but everyone should ask themselves: what would happen to all of my property if I died today?

Mistake #2: Not Hiring an Attorney

As some of the following entries on this list will suggest, several legal requirements must be met for an estate plan to be valid. This becomes more important as the complexity of the estate increases, but even a simple will must be executed according to the law.

Mistake #3: Not Keeping Your Estate Plan Updated

As your life changes, your assets and wishes will likely change, too. It is all too easy to create an estate plan once and then forget about it. You should periodically revisit your estate plan, especially after major events such as marriage or the birth of a child.

Mistake #4: Underestimating the Potential for Conflict

It’s easy to assume that everyone you leave behind will understand your wishes and agree on what those wishes are, but that is not always the case. Emotions often run high after death, and you will not be there to clarify things. A clear estate plan can minimize conflict.

Mistake #5: Not Creating a Health Care Directive

Tragedies and accidents can happen in an instant. If an event such as a car crash leaves you incapacitated, your family will have to make important and difficult decisions about your medical care. Creating a health care directive in advance that lays out your specific instructions for various circumstances will make sure your wishes are met and make things easier for your family.

Mistake #6: Not Choosing an Executor for Your Estate

It will fall to someone to take care of all the work of administering your estate. If you have someone specific in mind, be sure to identify them. Otherwise, the probate court will appoint an executor for you.

Mistake #7: Missing Assets

All of your assets must be dealt with in one way or another. If your will only lists a series of specific gifts, the remainder of your estate will be distributed according to the state’s laws of intestacy (the rules that dictate what happens when someone dies without a will). On the other end, if your will only speaks in generalities, you might be overlooking specific property you want to be distributed in a more specific way.

Mistake #8: Digital or Electronic Wills

In most states, including California, electronic or digital wills are currently not accepted as valid. A will must be printed out, signed, and stored as a hard copy. Even if it complies with every other legal requirement, a document in your computer will likely be rejected by a probate court.

Mistake #9: Witness Signatures

In California, a will must be signed by two witnesses, preferably when you signed the document yourself. This helps prevent fraud. The witnesses should not be estate beneficiaries, either. If they are, the probate court can presume the will was created under duress and may disregard portions of it.

Mistake #10: Not Keeping the Will in a Place Where It Will Be Found

A will is no good if nobody can find it after you pass away. If you keep it in your home or office, keep it in a place where it will be easily discovered. The best option, however, is to keep your will on file with your attorney.

For More Estate Planning Tips

One of the best estate planning tips is to meet with an attorney. It may be tempting to go it alone, but many things can go wrong. The price of consulting an expert is quite modest compared to the potential problems created by DIY estate planning. Contact our office today to schedule a meeting.

Estate Plan Checklist: Is It Time For A Checkup?

Couple Working On Their Estate Plan Checklist

How is your estate plan looking these days? If you created it years ago and have not kept it up to date, it might not match up with your wishes anymore. Our lives hardly ever remain static for an extended period of time, so it’s only natural that an estate plan would slowly—or sometimes rapidly—fall out of sync with our current reality. Ask anyone to create a high-level estate plan checklist, and you might get a few different versions, but they generally look something like this:

  1. Take stock of your assets
  2. Define your goals
  3. Meet with an attorney to create the right plan
  4. Revisit the plan from time to time to make sure it’s up to date

It’s very easy to lose track of this fourth component because it’s natural to think, “That’s done, now I don’t have to worry about it anymore.” However, sometimes an out-of-date estate plan can be just as bad as having no plan at all.

Why You May Need to Change Your Estate Plan

As circumstances in your life change, it is likely that your approach to estate planning and the legacy you want to leave behind will change as well. Here are some of the most common reasons that may cause someone to need to update their estate plan.

Marriage & Divorce

When people marry, they, of course, want to provide for each other, but they usually also want their new spouse to be involved in the planning process. There are probably new family members to consider, and marriage often brings new assets into the equation. On the opposite side, divorce involves a complicated disentangling of previous estate plans.

Increase in Assets

Our assets profoundly affect our estate plans. As we work, save, and invest, it’s common for our assets to increase as we get older. This may create considerations that did not exist before. For example, a person who once rented an apartment may later have rental properties of their own; that rental income could go into a trust for a family member or charitable organization.

Death or Birth of Family Members

Since most estate plans deal mainly with leaving assets to family members, it is expected that the plan should change as the family changes. In addition, as people pass away or children are born, you may need to make some major updates.

Changes in Attitudes and Opinions

This can cover a wide variety of situations. For example, you may have previously planned to leave a greater share of assets to a particular child because you thought they needed it, but now that’s no longer the case. Or, if you have created a health care directive—which we highly recommend—your thoughts on the subject may have evolved over the years.

Making the Necessary Changes

However your life changes, it is critical that your estate plan changes with you. First, review your current plan and make sure it matches your wishes. If not, that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to start over from scratch, but you should essentially repeat the original process: 1) Take stock of your assets; 2) Define your goals, and 3) Meet with an attorney to help you put the new plan into action.

Our team of experts is ready to meet with you to ensure you have the estate plan you want. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and we’ll help you review your estate plan checklist.

What Happens If I Declare Bankruptcy?

What Happens If I Declare Bankruptcy?

It’s unfortunate that many Americans are loaded down with more financial debt than they can afford. There can be many reasons for this, but typically it’s the result of some significant change in financial circumstances. For example, losing a job can leave someone unable to continue making payments at the same level. If you’ve reached that point, you may be asking “what happens if I declare bankruptcy?”

Depending on the type and size of the debt, there may be a variety of options available before you get to that point. For example, a consolidation loan may help if you need to pay off a few thousand dollars in credit card debt. However, bankruptcy may be the best option or even the only option if you have more significant debt.

Types of Bankruptcy

Bankruptcy is a legal remedy available to someone whose debts have become greater than they can reasonably manage. At its heart, it’s meant to help a debtor get a fresh start while also allowing creditors to recover some of the money they are owed. Though state law often comes into play, bankruptcy cases are handled exclusively in a federal bankruptcy court.

There are several different types of bankruptcy. Some are meant only for certain professions, such as farmers, and others only apply to businesses. Here we’ll discuss the two most common types of bankruptcy for individuals: Chapter 7 and Chapter 13.

Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

Commonly called liquidation, Chapter 7 is the more straightforward type of bankruptcy, though it’s also more extreme in some ways. In Chapter 7 bankruptcy, a debtor’s assets are transferred to a trustee, who sells these assets to pay off creditors in an agreed-upon order.

It’s important to note that most disputes in a bankruptcy case do not involve the debtor at all but are rather between creditors as they argue over who gets paid first. At the end of the process, the bankruptcy judge discharges the debts (if they are dischargeable), and the debtor is no longer responsible for them.

Chapter 13 Bankruptcy

Called a wage earner’s plan, Chapter 13 bankruptcy is different from Chapter 7 in that it’s not about selling off the debtor’s assets. Instead, the debtor will propose a repayment plan.

The plan allows them to keep their assets and pay off all or part of their debt over three to five years. At the end of this repayment period, the debts covered by the plan are discharged.

What’s An Automatic Stay?

The most immediate benefit for someone who files for bankruptcy is that creditors’ collection activities are paused (an automatic stay). If a person is at risk of eviction, foreclosure, or having their utilities cut off, the automatic stay stops everything in its tracks. It can be a powerful incentive to file for bankruptcy.

What About Bankruptcy Exemptions?

When someone files for bankruptcy, the issue of exemptions becomes critically important. It’s also one of the more complicated aspects of bankruptcy law.

Under Chapter 7, exemptions mean the debtor is entitled to keep some of the proceeds of the sale of certain assets (such as their home). They may even be able to keep the assets from being sold altogether. Under California state law, generous exemptions mean that most bankruptcy cases are settled with no sale of assets.

Exemptions work differently in Chapter 13 cases but are still very important because they’ll help determine what portion of the debt must be repaid.

The Long-Term Consequences of Bankruptcy

Bankruptcy may be the best option for completely overwhelmed people who want to start over, but there are major consequences.

One consequence is the possible sale of personal assets to pay creditors. However, as mentioned above, most cases are resolved with little to no sale of assets.

The most significant consequence of declaring bankruptcy is the damage to a person’s credit rating. Chapter 13 bankruptcy remains on your credit report for seven years, and Chapter 7 bankruptcy remains there for ten years. During this time, you can expect to have a significantly reduced credit score. In addition, it’ll make it difficult to find financing for any major purchase. Also, you’ll likely pay a much higher interest rate if you are able to get financed. For this reason, bankruptcy should not be taken lightly.

Bankruptcy Attorneys in Southern California

Hiring an attorney when you’re overwhelmed by debt may seem counterintuitive. But having expert legal advice can make a major difference in how the process plays out. A lawyer can help you determine what type of bankruptcy is appropriate for your circumstances and how to protect your assets.

For a consultation with one of our experienced bankruptcy attorneys, contact us today.

Do You Need a Lawyer for Pain And Suffering Damages?

Woman lying in bed in pain with hand over her shoulder and neck.

Getting what you deserve in a lawsuit for pain and suffering isn’t always a straightforward process. An identical plaintiff might get significantly different results from different attorneys. A pro per plaintiff (someone who represents themselves) is almost sure to have a less satisfying and drastically different outcome.

Even though the goal is always the same, i.e., to make the plaintiff “whole” again after the defendant has caused them harm, there are many different ways to approach the issue. It’s incredibly complex when it comes to showing damages from pain and suffering.

When Are Pain and Suffering Damages Appropriate?

Economic damages are, for the most part, relatively easy to calculate. For example, if someone steals your car, the economic damage you’ve suffered is the value of the car, its contents, any income you lost as a result of not having the car, etc. Non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering, are appropriate for less tangible harm.

If someone lost their hand due to another person’s negligence, you could calculate their medical bills and their decreased ability to make a living. But of course, that doesn’t cover the full extent of their injuries. They would have suffered great physical pain, severe emotional distress, and perhaps long-term mental health effects (such as depression and anxiety). While no amount of money can erase these injuries, pain and suffering damages are meant to at least address them.

Should You Handle Pain and Suffering Damages on Your Own?

We strongly advise against representing yourself in any lawsuit where you might be entitled to pain and suffering damages. Such a case is likely to be complex, and you would be doing yourself a great disservice by trying to go it alone.

Imagine a situation where the defendant’s culpability is not in question. It’s just a question of how much money they will have to pay. You would have two options: settle the case or take it to court to prove damages.

Proving damages in court is no simple matter. You will have to call your witnesses, cross-examine the defense witnesses, possibly hire experts, and follow the complex rules of evidence. On top of that, the defendant is likely to fight hard because pain and suffering damages can be a lot of money. A pro per litigant is not going to be on equal footing.

This leaves you with the option to settle out of court. The defendant may be very willing to do this. But the amount they offer will be directly related to how much they wish to avoid a trial. If they know you don’t have an attorney, they will lowball you because you probably can’t beat them in court. Worse, because it’s difficult to know how much your case is worth, you may not even know that the offer is too low.

Experienced Plaintiff’s Attorneys in Southern California

If you’ve been injured and believe you may be entitled to pain and suffering damages, your first step should be to contact an attorney. Schedule a consultation with one of our litigation experts today.

Estate Planning 101: The Different Types Of Trusts

Estate Planning 101: Trusts

Creating a trust or multiple trusts is an indispensable part of the estate planning process for many people. Trusts offer many advantages. They can reduce taxes, simplify the probate process, and give the grantor (the person who creates the trust) some amount of control over how their assets are used and managed even after they pass away. There are many different types of trusts in California. There is no one-size-fits-all approach because each has its advantages and disadvantages. Understanding some of the most common trusts will give you a sense of the tools available to you.

Testamentary Trust

The grantor’s will creates a testamentary trust after their death. A person might want this type of trust if they don’t wish to fully transfer their property to an heir (in the case of minor children, for example).

Because it doesn’t come into existence until the grantor’s death, the grantor may annul or make changes to the terms of a testamentary trust while they are still alive. However, the assets of the trust must go through the probate process.

Living Trust

As the name implies, a living trust is created while the grantor is still alive. The tax implications of a living trust and the degree of control the grantor may keep over the assets depend on whether it is a revocable or irrevocable trust.

With a revocable trust, the grantor may move assets in and out or annul the trust. However, any income is taxable to the grantor.

An irrevocable trust cannot be changed once created, so the trust itself must pay the taxes.

Special Needs Trust

A special needs trust provides for the needs of a person who is chronically disabled. The major advantage of a special needs trust is that the disabled person may still receive government benefits such as SSI or Medi-Cal. That’s even when the value of the assets in the trust would otherwise disqualify them.

A special needs trust can either be first-party (funded by the assets of the disabled person) or third party (funded by someone else).

Life Insurance Trust

With a life insurance trust, the trust owns and pays for an insurance policy on the grantor’s life. When the grantor dies, the proceeds of the policy are paid to the trust and distributed accordingly. Because the assets are not part of the estate, this arrangement can reduce or avoid estate taxes.

Charitable Trust

There are two main types of charitable trust: the charitable remainder trust and the charitable leads trust.

With a charitable remainder trust, the grantor may receive income from the trust assets for a certain period of time or the rest of their life. The assets are distributed to designated charities after the set period.

A charitable lead trust works oppositely. Income is paid to charity for the duration of the trust, and afterward, the assets may be distributed to family or others. The two types offer different income and estate tax benefits.

For Expert Advice on Different Types of Trusts

The list of California trust types could go on: bypass trusts, spendthrift trusts, blind trusts, etc. You have many options available to meet your unique needs, but it’s crucial to speak with an experienced estate planning attorney to find the best fit. Contact our office today to schedule a consultation.

Is DIY Estate Planning A Good Idea?

The Risks of DIY Estate Planning

Many people don’t have an estate plan in place. They may be young or believe they don’t have enough assets. Others recognize the need for one but try to do it all on their own. While we understand the impulse to avoid hiring an attorney, the benefits generally far outweigh the drawbacks and risks of DIY estate planning.

Risk #1: Invalid Documents

Whether it’s a will or trust or both, you must follow many rules and requirements for them to be considered valid.

If the documents you drafted aren’t clear enough, can’t be authenticated, or try to distribute assets in a way the law does not allow, they may be declared invalid by the probate court. In that case, the court will likely distribute your property according to the laws of intestacy (the state’s default rules of inheritance).

It’ll create two significant problems. First, your estate may not go to those to whom you wanted it to go. Some people may be overlooked, while others may receive more than you wanted. Second, it can make life difficult for those you’ve left behind. When someone contests a will in probate court, the process can be long, expensive, and emotionally exhausting.

A clear and professionally prepared estate plan, on the other hand, is much more likely to be executed smoothly and according to your wishes.

Risk #2: Higher Taxes

One of the most important considerations for an estate plan is the impact it’ll have on taxes. And that’s whether it’s your taxes, the taxes on your estate, or the taxes your heirs must pay.

There are various ways to reduce the overall tax burden and control when you must pay the tax. It can be complicated, and we advise you to leave it to the professionals.

Risk #3: Missed Opportunities

With a DIY estate plan, one big drawback is that you don’t know what you don’t know. Many tools will help you accomplish specific goals and prepare for a wide variety of contingencies. But unless you’re familiar with the ins and outs of estate law, you’re likely to take a few missteps.

Rather than trying to figure everything out on your own, a consultation with an attorney is crucial to make sure nothing gets missed.

Southern California Estate-Planning Experts

You’ll spend your whole life building up your estate. Determining what happens to it after you’re gone is one of the most important decisions you will make.

Trying to go it alone is likely to be frustrating and time-consuming. But more importantly, it may have unintended consequences for those you leave behind.

A quick consultation with our expert attorneys can help you create an estate plan that works and is right for you. Contact our office today.

Do You Need Both a Will and Trust?

Wills and Trusts

When it comes to estate planning, every case is as diverse and unique as the people involved. Luckily, modern estate planning offers a wide array of tools to accommodate virtually anybody’s goals. What is right for you will largely depend on the nature of your estate and those who you want to benefit from it.

Many clients come to us feeling torn between setting up a trust or relying solely on a will, but there is no need to choose between one or the other; a single estate planning can, and often does, include both a will and a trust (or multiple trusts).

Creating a Will

As most people know, a will is a written document that communicates how a person wants their property distributed after they pass away. It can be as simple or complex as the testator (the person who makes the will) wants it to be.

If a person dies without a will—“intestate” is the legal term for this—the state laws of intestacy provide a generic hierarchy for transferring their property. For example, if the person had a spouse, all the property goes to him or her; if not, it will be distributed equally among their children; if there are no children, then to the decedent’s parents, etc.

Of course, many people want a more custom-tailored estate plan than is offered by the laws of intestacy. For example, they may wish to leave specific property to specific people or leave property to a spouse for the rest of their life (called a life estate) before passing it on to their children. A will can accomplish all this and more when drafted by an experienced attorney. It can even be used to create a trust.

Different Types of Trusts

A trust is a legal arrangement whereby property is held on behalf of and for the benefit of another. Here’s an example: a person owns an apartment building; she dies, and by the terms of her will, if she dies before her child reaches the age of 21, the apartment building will be held in a trust until that time. The trust is its own legal entity, and all of the assets are managed by a trustee. The trustee has a legal obligation to maintain the building, pay taxes, etc. (paid for by the trust); depending on the terms of the trust, the monthly rental income may be paid out to the child, invested in a college fund, or whatever else the parent wished.

There are quite a few types of trusts, but they are separated into two main categories: revocable and irrevocable trusts. As the names imply, a revocable trust can be revoked by the trustor after its creation, while an irrevocable trust cannot. A trust established by a will is by definition an irrevocable trust, as the trustor is no longer around to revoke it. As to so-called “living trusts,” there are many reasons a person might create one or choose one type over another. For example, they may be looking to minimize their tax exposure or ensure that a child with diminished capabilities is cared for.

Identifying the right kind of trust and drafting a document that withstands legal scrutiny can be a complicated process. Therefore, you should consult an estate planning attorney.

Finding the Right Balance

With so many options available, estate planning involves choosing the right combination to suit your needs. The best way to do this is to sit down with an attorney who understands this area of law, identify your goals, and craft a plan accordingly. Take the first step today and contact our office to schedule a consultation.