Where Should You Safekeep Original Estate Planning Documents?

Estate Planning Lawyers SafekeepingWhere is the best place to safekeep your original estate planning documents?  As Estate Planning attorneys we get this question all the time. Why in a safe, of course!  But, which safe and where? Estate planning clients invest a great deal of time into planning for their future and that of their offspring, dependents, spouses, pets, property, and charities.  Clients take the time to account for their property, arrange their affairs, and update their estate planning documents regularly. But after everything is in place, where should clients store their original documents to accomplish these goals?

Many people opt to lease a safe deposit box at their local bank.  While this option likely provides maximum security for documents stowed inside, we do not recommend people store original estate planning documents in this fashion.  Arizona Revised Statute § 6-1002 defines a landlord-tenant relationship to exist between the bank that owns a safe deposit box and the person who leases the box from the bank.  Furthermore, the same statute declares the person who leases the safe deposit box maintains legal possession of the contents inside. Taking these two statements together, a bank opening a safe deposit box to people claiming to be the survivors of a decedent, and allowing those people to take property belonging to the decedent who leased the box, is – legally – the same as a landlord opening an apartment of a deceased tenant to people who claim to be the tenant’s children and allowing them to take away the tenant’s property inside.

A related law, Arizona Revised Statute § 6-1008, provides guidance for banks on how to proceed when a safe deposit box lessee dies.  If someone approaches a bank claiming an interest in the contents of a deceased person’s safe deposit box, the statute allows, but does not require, a bank to open the safe deposit box and release estate planning documents and life insurance policies.  However, the statute also requires a bank to retain all other contents in the box and only deliver them to a person legally entitled to assume possession.  So while Arizona law allows a bank at its own discretion to release some limited estate planning and insurance documents, the weight of the law requires a bank to secure all other safe deposit box contents unless the person requesting them presents a court order granting permission.

Banks would expose themselves to unnecessary risk allowing even the possibility of releasing unauthorized safe deposit box contents without a court’s permission.  Therefore, banks generally adopt the most conservative approach and require a decedent’s survivors to produce a court order before allowing anyone to inspect or remove contents inside a decedent’s leased safe deposit box.  As a consequence, the limited provisions in Arizona law allowing a person to remove estate planning and insurance documents from a decedent’s safe deposit box tend not to work well in practice. So if a person who rented a safe deposit box dies, how do the survivors prove to a judge the estate planning documents grant them access to the box and ownership of the contents inside if the estate planning documents themselves are in the box?  The answer to this question generally involves hiring an attorney and paying hundreds or thousands of dollars to obtain the court order.

Alternatively, the attorneys at Citadel Law Firm recommend clients store their original estate planning documents in a private safe in their home.  Clients may even wish to keep a small safe at home that only holds their original estate planning documents and leave photocopies of the originals in a bank safe deposit box.  This small home safe may be left unlocked or locked, providing survivors are notified of the combination or given a key.  This arrangement allows trusted friends and relatives easy access to the original estate planning documents upon a person passing.  After reading the estate planning documents, survivors can easily identify and notify successor trustees and personal representatives named by the deceased.  Successor trustees and personal representatives should be able to access a decedent’s safe deposit box or property with the original estate planning documents.  But, if not, the cost of obtaining a court order to access a safe deposit box, or bank account, or other property will be expensive and time consuming.

The attorneys at Citadel Law Firm are available not only to consult on estate planning and document drafting to achieve clients’ goals, but also to advise on strategies to ensure your desires and intentions are implemented after death.  Everyone knows families that were torn apart after the death of a loved one. For families, often the management of a decedent’s affairs is even more emotionally taxing on everyone involved than the immediate sense of loss and grief. Keeping original estate planning documents readily available allows a decedent’s surviving loved ones to move beyond the loss and minimize risks of tensions within the family.

Thanks to our friends and contributors from Citadel Law Firm for their insight into estate planning.


prince performing at coachella

Why Prince Should Have Created a Living Trust

Our living trust lawyer at Yee Law Group focuses on estate planning and assisting those in our community who wish to protect their legacy for future generations. We work one-on-one with clients to provide the information they need to make informed decisions. Everyone’s needs are different because of their unique set of circumstances. Our living trust lawyer understands this and will present options that reflect the client’s best interests. Many people are hesitant to visit a living trust lawyer to plan their estate because they do not want to consider their eventual passing. However, as the old adage says, death and taxes are unavoidable. Though Yee Law Group can’t help you avoid death, we can certainly help your heirs avoid paying unnecessary taxes.

It’s unfortunate that the iconic entertainer known as Prince did not create a living trust before he passed away. If he had, he might have enjoyed several benefits as a result, including peace of mind of knowing that the best interests of those he loved would be protected after his death. However, he serves as a great example of how prevalent it is to not plan for the future, and yet how important it is to work with a living trust lawyer to do exactly that. We encourage you to contact our office and schedule an appointment to plan your estate. If Prince had created a living trust, the following scenarios would be very different.

Substantial and Valuable Assets

The more valuable assets and cherished possessions one owns, the more important it is to consider talking to a living trust lawyer from Yee Law Group about creating an estate plan. If Prince had created a living trust that took “ownership” of his assets, he would still have had control of those assets but they would not enter into probate after his death. The probate process prevents the assets from immediately transferring ownership to the specified heirs and subjects them to tax penalties.

Control Over One’s Living Trust

As mentioned, Prince would have retained control of his assets that were transferred into a revocable living trust. If at some point during his lifetime he wished to sell one or more of those assets, it would be a straightforward process with the help of a living trust lawyer. Adding assets to the trust is also a straightforward matter. In this way, a revocable living trust provides the best of both worlds: protection from inheritance taxes and control of the assets by the trustor.

Control Over Asset Distribution

In his living will, Prince could have specified who should inherit which of his assets, much like a will. This can minimize or eliminate possible confusion, angst, or anger about who should receive which assets, and how much of each asset such as cash, jewelry, vintage clothing, musical instruments, etc. When the deceased’s final wishes are clear in the form of a living trust, there is less likelihood of someone challenging it.

Yee Law Group: We Can Make the Future More Secure

To learn more about living trusts and whether or not they are the right solution for you and your heirs, contact our office today. Our living trust lawyer in Sacramento, CA will be pleased to provide you more information.

What You Need to Know About Living Trusts

Sacramento Estate Planning Lawyer

In creating a living trust, you are also providing for the financial future of your family members, friends, beloved pets, as well as charitable organization if you so choose. With the help of a living trust lawyer, the process of transferring your property and assets to the trust will be a straightforward manner. Even after they are managed by the trust, you will retain control of that property and assets. In addition, you can specify your spouse as a co-trustee so that they too will have control of your property and assets. If you have additional concerns or needs, talk to your living trust lawyer. They can develop a customized estate plan solution that can provide you with peace of mind and a carefully preserved legacy.

The Differences Between a Living Trust and a Will

When our living trust lawyer sits down with you and learns about your concerns, circumstances, and goals you will gain a greater understanding of the differences among the choices of estate planning tools. Here is a brief overview:

  • One of the primary differences between a will and a living trust is that wills are a matter of public record. A living trust is private from the moment it’s created until after your passing. This is advantageous for those who do not wish to proclaim sensitive or confidential information to the world. After all, the nature and amount of your assets is not anyone’s concern but your own. And who you name as your heirs is also not anyone else’s concern.  
  • When a will is the sole estate planning tool used by an individual, upon their passing their assets over a certain value will be forced to pass through the probate process which requires time, additional fees, and possible tax burdens. If you choose to place assets within a living trust, those assets will not have to go through probate.
  • A will enables you to name your choice for a guardian or guardians for your minor aged children in the event you pass away before they reach adulthood, or if you become incapacitated. This is not possible with a living trust. However, our living trust lawyer can create a will for you as well as a trust if you have minor children.

Bequeathing Property to Minors Using a Living Trust

If at the time of your passing you have minor-aged children to whom you wish to bequeath property, by law they cannot inherit it until the age they are considered an adult. Instead, the trustee you name for your living trust will manage the property or properties until such time that the minors reach adulthood. At that time, the living trust will expire (assuming all of the other assets have already been distributed). Alternately, you can instruct your Sacramento estate planning lawyer to specify that the now-minor aged child cannot the property until they have graduated university (post adult age).

Contact Yee Law Group, P.C. for their insight into estate planning and what to know about living trusts.

The Benefits of Creating a Living Trust

Living Trust Lawyer Folsom, CA

Many people choose to create a living trust for the many benefits it offers over a simple will. A will is also an important tool, but like any other tool, it is not a full estate planning solution. In this way, our trust lawyer can create a customized and full-featured blend of tools that will fully protect your final wishes and legacy. A living trust is an important component of an estate plan, and when you meet with our trust lawyer, your particular needs will be considered and addressed.

Living Trusts

In essence, in creating a living trust with the assistance of our trust lawyer, you will transfer the ownership of your assets and property to the living trust for the duration of your lifetime. After your passing, it will be a seamless process to transfer those same assets from your trust to your designated beneficiaries. Among the many living trust options available to you, are joint and individual living trusts. If you are single you may wish to choose an individual living trust. If you are married, you and your spouse may benefit from choosing to create a joint living trust. When you sit down with our trust lawyer, you can gain additional clarity with insight from a skilled legal professional.

The Benefits

As mentioned, there are many benefits of having a living trust in place. Your trust lawyer will review your circumstances and estate needs in detail prior to making recommendations to you. In this way, they can provide you with insight into the pros and cons of each option available. Insofar as the benefits of a living trust, here are some of the most common ones:

  • Assets transferred into a living trust can avoid going through the probate process before passing to heirs.
  • While the information contained within a will is a matter of public record, the details of a living trust will remain confidential.
  • Trustors who create a revocable living trust retain control of their assets throughout their lifetime. (Ask our trust lawyer about the differences between a revocable and an irrevocable living trust.)
  • When the trustor passes away, assets within the living trust may not be subject to estate taxes. In advance of creating your living trust, our trust lawyer can provide specific tax information as it pertains to your particular circumstances.
  • In creating a living trust, the trustor can name a trustee or secondary trustee who will make responsible decisions on their behalf should they later become physically or mentally incapacitated.
  • The assets transferred into a living trust can be protected from legal action and creditors. There are certain criteria that must be met and which can be explained by our trust lawyer.
  • A living trust can easily be amended with the help of our trust lawyer.

To learn more about whether or not a living trust is right for you, contact a living trust lawyer Folsom, CA relies on to schedule a consultation.

Contact Yee Law Group, P.C. for their insight into estate planning and the benefits of creating a living trust.

Can a living trust be helpful if a person becomes disabled or incapacitated?

Living Trust Lawyer Roseville, CA

As opposed to a will, a trust offers many advantages to the trustor as well as their heirs. In addition to allowing them to avoid going through the probate process, a trust enables them to inherit assets without paying taxes on them. Another important consideration when choosing whether or not to create a trust is the question of what happens to an individual’s assets and property should they become disabled or incapacitated. A living trust created with the help of a trust planning lawyer makes it possible to put plans into place in the event they are no longer able to make important life decisions. A living trust can protect their assets and property from unscrupulous persons who might seek to take advantage of their vulnerability. The sad truth of the matter is that this can happen to anyone. Talk to our trust planning lawyer to learn how we can help you and your heirs avoid this scenario.

When does a living trust go into effect?

As opposed to a will that goes into effect only after the person’s passing, a living trust goes into effect when it’s created by the trustor. In the scenario of the trustor becoming disabled or incapacitated, control of the trust will transfer to the trustee. If the trustor is the primary trustee, control will transfer to the secondary trustee. When you create the trust with the help of your trust planning lawyer you designate the trustee and a secondary trustee if you wish. You can change or update the trustees as needed.

How is it determined that I have become disabled or incapacitated?

In order to protect the trustor from getting taken advantage of by someone falsely accusing them of being disabled or incapacitated, your trust planning lawyer can put safeguards into place. For instance, you can specify two or three trustworthy physicians of your choice who must certify if you are indeed physically or mentally incompetent should you be accused as such. This also allows your specified trustee to avoid having to petition the Court to certify your incompetence. When the Court makes such a decision it becomes a public matter and your privacy will not be considered.

Are trusts taxed?

For as long as you are the trustee of your own trust, it will not be taxable. However, should you become disabled or incapacitated and your secondary trustee takes over control of the trust, they will be required to file an annual income tax return on behalf of the trust.

Learn More About Living Trusts and If They Are Right for You

A living trust lawyer Roseville, CA offers works with individuals and families to create the estate plans that reflect their wishes and goals for their legacy. We can make the process trouble-free and painless. Call us today to schedule an appointment with our skilled trust planning lawyer.

Contact Yee Law Group, P.C. for their insight into estate planning and how a living trust can be helpful.

Do I Need to Have A Trustee for While I’m Alive?

Estate Lawyer

Appointing a Trustee over your assets while your still living can be a difficult decision to make. Ultimately, the responsibilities of a Trustee are to manage your assets, pay your bills, and essentially is the person to go to in the event that you need access to funds.

Therefore, in making the decision as to whom your Trustee should be you most definitely would want to consider access. It is recommended that your Trustee live within the same State as you, but ultimately ease of access is something to consider also.

If your Trustee lives out of State or even in a different county than what you reside in; you may want to consider the fact that if an emergency situation arose, how willing would your Trustee be to travel to you? Accidents and occasions that we do not plan for often arise and you need to ensure that you have access to finances in the event that these situations arise.

A major factor to consider also is that you do not want to appoint your cousin that has financial problems as your Trustee, or your brother that has a gambling addiction. Even though a Trustee has legal obligations and could face legal ramifications from mismanagement of your funds, you want to make the best educated option for your Trustee.

Someone that is willing to assist you that is trustworthy, reliable, and flexible would be the best options to think about when coming to the final decision as to whom your Trustee should be. This person does not have to have college experience or be a third party that charges a fee to manage your Trust either. You can appoint a lifelong friend, family member, or even consult with an Attorney to be your Trustee.

The only major factor again, is someone that you know you can count on and be flexible with your current needs. As we age, you are able to amend your Trust as long as it is a Revocable one to appoint different Trustee’s for the duration of your lifetime. Ultimately the end goal is to have you feel comfortable with the decision you’ve made in appointing your Trustee.

It is typically recommended that as long as you are able to maintain control over your finances then you should exercise that right personally. Discussing your estate and finances with an estate planning lawyer Arlington, TX relies on that has the best knowledge and expertise within the field would be able to advise you more in depth to possible alternatives in the event of your incapacity. This will allow you the peace of mind knowing that you made the best decision for your assets and investment within your finances.



Thank you to our friends and contributors at Brandy Austin Law Firm, PLLC for their insight into appointing a trustee and estate planning.

estate lawyer Folsom

How to Avoid Probate

There are several tools that an estate planning attorney has to offer clients when it comes to estate planning, including wills and living trusts. A will is a document that is drawn up where a person states how they want their assets and property divided when they pass away. When a person dies, the will is then placed in probate. Probate is the legal process where the validity of the will is confirmed – or denied – by the court.

As a probate attorney from Yee Law Group can attest, many clients do not want their estate to go through the probate process. For those clients, we often recommend living trusts.

A trust is a legal tool that allows an individual to possess property for the benefit of another. When a person sets up a trust and places assets or property into the trust, they stop being the owner of those assets or property, but they still maintain control over it. A trustee is chosen to control and oversee the trust, and at some point in the future, often upon the death of the person who set up the trust, the beneficiary who the trust is set up for will receive the assets.

Living trusts are a popular choice for many of our clients because you can transfer the assets or property from yourself, as the owner of the assets, to yourself, as the trustee. When you pass away, the assets of the trust will be distributed to the beneficiary and there is absolutely no requirement of the probate process.

Your estate planning attorney can help you set up a living trust, as well as prepare all the documents needed to transfer the property you choose into the trust. Some of the property our clients have placed in living trusts include money, stocks, bonds, vehicles, and real estate.

There are many benefits to a living trust. Some of the more common include the following:

  •       As mentioned above, using a living trust to leave assets to beneficiaries avoids the probate process. There is not delay in the transfer in the property with a trust, unlike probate, which can take up to a year or more before an heir receives their inheritance. There is also the expense of probate, which can be avoided with a trust. And the whole process is private, unlike the probate process which is entered into the public record.
  •       Control: With a living trust, you maintain complete control over the assets contained inside the trust. A living trust can be changed or canceled at any time. You are not locked into it. This also means you can use the funds for your own use if you choose.
  •       Tax relief: A living trust can often help lower the amount of estate taxes that are due when a person dies.
  •       Almost challenge-proof: Unlike a will, which people can contest, a trust is usually much more difficult to challenge.

Contact Yee Law Group today!

What happens during a reading of a will?

Probate Lawyer Sacramento, CA

A last will and testament is a special legal document that has been created by a person who wishes to detail their estate and what happens to it upon their death. Their will should name their beneficiaries, how the beneficiaries will get the assets, and when they will get the assets. It should also name an executor. This person will be in charge of ensuring the beneficiary receives their assets, as well as, other tasks. If someone has recently died, also known as the decedent, you might wonder whether or not you are named in their will, who the beneficiaries are, who the executor is, and whether the will has been probated. All of these questions are valid and can be answered by a probate lawyer. It also will help to understand what a reading of the will is.

The Reading of a Will

In popular films, the reading of a will may involve a lot of action and drama; however, this is a fictional scenario. In reality, the reading of a will often goes on behind closed doors and usually in law firm offices. There is no state that has laws regarding a will needing to be read aloud to anyone, at anytime.

Who Should Receive a Copy of a Will

Typically, it will be up to an estate lawyer or executor of the will to determine who is entitled to a copy of the last will and testament. Once this is determined, they should send a copy via mail to the recipient. In general, the first people to receive a copy will be the beneficiaries and the executor.

If the decedent also had a living trust, in addition to a pour over will, the laws of the state will determine who gets a copy of the will. For example, if the decedent named the same person to act as the trustee and executor of the pour over will, they will receive a copy. If the trustee and executor are different people, they will receive only the copy of the legal document which they have been named in. It is certainly possible that an accountant or other party involved in the estate will also receive a copy of the will or trust.

When a Person Has Been Disinherited in a Will

It is possible that a disinherited person could challenge the validity of the current will that has been filed at the probate court. If any current beneficiaries are concerned about a disinherited person contesting the will, their estate planning lawyer might choose to send a copy of the will prior to probating the estate. This would limit the time in which they could file a will contest. That said, the estate planning lawyer is not legally required to do so, but it is often the best practice as it forces the person who has been disinherited to choose whether or not to pursue a will contest.

Once all relevant parties have received a copy of the will, they will have the opportunity to review the document and proceed with the probate process as they see fit.

Don’t Forget: A Will is  Public Record

No matter who you are, if there is a will, it is required to be made public unless very specific circumstances apply. In general once a will has been submitted to probate, anyone can access it. If you are concerned about whether or not you are included in a will, you can do a search online or go to the courthouse in which the will may have been filed. If you cannot find anything, but are sure you were named in an estate plan, at some point, you might want to consult a probate lawyer Sacramento, CA offers at Yee Law Group.

What is probate and what are some reasons to avoid it?

Probate Lawyer Folsom, CA

Probate is the legal process that has been designed by the court system and is required to utilize in the event of a person’s death – and who has no will or only a will. Probate can last between 3 months and 3 years with the average completion time being six months. Although it can be done on your own, it often requires the assistance of a lawyer. A general procedure of the steps of probate are as follows:

  1. The will is filed with the probate court. (It becomes public record) If there is no will, the state takes over and will appoint an administrator to probate the estate.
  2. An inventory of the property will take place.
  3. The property is appraised.
  4. All debts are paid off; including any taxes owed.
  5. The court validates the will.
  6. Any expenses related to probate are paid off.
  7. The remaining estate is distributed to the beneficiaries.

This process can be straightforward or rife with obstacles depending on the circumstances of the situation. It can be avoided by having all of your assets placed into a trust. A will would be needed still for any property that was not placed in the trust, and this ‘pour-over will’ still goes through probate.

Reasons to Avoid Probate

If you ever discussed probate with someone, you might have been told to avoid it if you can. The following are a few common reasons to avoid probate.

The Probate Process Can Be Slow

Probate is often very tedious and tends to require several months of time because it is controlled by the court system. If the estate is complex, or there is a will contest, the process will be significantly hindered.

Probate is Often Expensive

Although the costs of probate vary by state, they are often expensive. First, the court will take a portion of the estate. This could be as high as 10 percent. Money may also be needed for lawyers, to protect the interests; of minor heirs, conduct other parts of the probate process. If probate is avoided, this money might go directly to the heirs.

Probate is Public

Probate is a public process. Any documents and information that are used in the process will become a part of the public records. This means all assets, debts, wishes, and distributions can be viewed by any public member on request. For example, if you are left a significant amount of jewelry, this will be publically available.

What You Can Do to Avoid Probate

The easiest way to avoid probate is to ask a lawyer to draft a living trust. A living trust is private, offers a number of ways to save money, and tends to be more practical for estates that contain real estate and many assets. If your estate is valued less than $50,000, the probate process may be expedited and slightly different than the steps above. In any case, it is recommended that you speak with a probate lawyer Folsom, CA relies on at Yee Law Group about your estate planning objectives and concerns.


Estate Lawyer

This topic comes up more often than one would think in the business law realm of practice. It is so often the case that a potential new client comes into the office devastated because their business partner is just not working and they want out. So, what do they do?

The answer to that question is fairly complicated, but certain things can be done early on in a business to avoid potential headaches and problems in the future. Many people seeking to dissolve their business come in not having set up any formal documents related to the business from the get-go of the company. I cannot re-urge enough how important it is to discuss and draft a formal operating agreement that deals with all issues related to the running of the company and that includes what happens if the members of the company want to get out of the company. This step is so simple but can save so much time, frustration, and headaches in the end if you want to remove yourself from the business.

A good business lawyer can be very helpful in aiding you and your new business in drafting this agreement. An attorney knows exactly what needs to be included and can help guide you in knowing what you should be thinking about with the company. For example, many people who are in business with only one other person do not discuss or make a decision on what happens when decisions result in a tie. It is so much easier to decide what to do when you and your business partner can’t agree when the relationship is on a high and not at its most acrimonious.

Even if you are not parting ways on poor terms, events in life happen and you may need to get out of the business for a myriad of reasons. Still, problems can arise when your business partner envisions running a business on their own and being the only one placed in a financial risk situation. Having a clearly outlined method of getting out of the business is the best possible scenario. Sitting down at the very beginning of a business and having a somewhat uncomfortable discussion with your business partner(s) is one of the most valuable things you can do for your business. Further, this discussion really protects you in the long run.

There are several things that you need to be considering in an exit strategy that is found in the company’s operating agreement. You need to consider how you will be valuing the business as the time you plan on exiting, when that valuation date is set, what notice terms need to be given to the other partners in order to trigger your right to exit the business, how the appraisal will be conducted and how you will be paid out for your portion of the business. There are several other things to consider in this situation but these are just a few things that are incredibly important for any new business owner to consider up front, prior to starting a business.

A business divorce can be messy just like a regular divorce between a husband wife. However, it can be alleviated if certain steps are taken early on in the business relationship. If you are contemplating starting a business, even a solo business where you don’t have a partner, contact a divorce attorney Arlington, TX trusts immediately and get the proper protections put in place for you and your business.



Thank you to our friends and contributors at Brandy Austin Law Firm for their insight into family law and divorcing a business partner.