Merenbach Law has been in the practice of estate planning, trusts and probate for over 30 years and has handled complex estate plans, tax strategies, gifting, trusts and probates for 100's of clients. We craft customized estate plans
that integrate our sophisticated understanding of trusts, incapacity planning,
and estate and gift tax strategies with your short-term requirements and
We also maintain and revise existing estate plans to keep
pace with new regulations and your changing circumstances and objectives. Through the use of Living Trusts, Wills
(simple & complex), Powers of Attorney, Living Wills, Irrevocable Trusts, Family
Limited Partnerships, and Charitable Gifting Strategies, our firm helps
families preserve their wealth for future generations, minimize estate taxes,
and avoid the expense and nightmare of probate. We offer solutions and personal advice gleaned from decades of working clients, many of which are second and third generation family members - that is the testament of true client satisfaction and trust.
All of our custom estate plans are tailored to your
particular needs after we have developed an understanding of your goals, your
assets, and your risks. We work with you to make sure you understand your
alternatives and the pros and cons of each.
Why do I Need a Trust?If
you put all of your property and assets in a trust, there is no need for
probate. When you die, your successor trustee is going to do exactly what you
said to do in the trust. That will save thousands and thousands of dollars.
If you go to probate, there's a form used to determine fees. If you have
$650,000 in real estate, that probate cost could be as much as $15,000. If you
had a trust, the cost of the trust probably is somewhere between $2,500 and
$5,000. So the savings is just huge, and of course the more assets that you have,
the larger the savings.
If you own a piece of property or you own a bank account or you have an account
at one of the brokerage firms, you put those assets in the name of the trust.
Jane Doe, trustee of the Jane Doe family trust dated February 17, 2015.
Everything is kept in that name. You're still the beneficiary. You still have
absolute control, because it's a revocable trust.
It's as if you still own it, but the benefit is you can avoid probate when you
pass away and save thousands and thousands of dollars for your heirs and those
people that you choose to leave your estate to. That's why a trust is so
important and so valuable.
What is Probate?Probate
is a court procedure in which a person who has passed away can have all his
property transferred to whomever he wants to by court order. By court order
means you're able to record deeds and trusts and things of this nature so that
it makes a general record for the world to know who is supposed to have control
of this property. It also records the ownership of bank accouts, automobiles,
and personal property to the benificiaries.
There are a couple of ways that this can happen. If a person passes away with a
will, then that person will have named what is known as an executor. That
person is basically in charge of being sure that everything that the decedent
wants to have happen to their money and to their property will happen.
Sometimes a person dies and they don't have a will. Then what we do, is we have
a person apply as an administrator without a will. In that circumstance, the
decendent would be subject to having his property transferred under the rules
of the State of California. Because if you don't have a will, the State of
California has made one for you.
Normally, an adult person over the age of 18 who happens to be a relative can
apply to the courts to have letters testamentary issued. They then would be the
person who would be in charge of taking care of that person's estate, his
money, his property, and see that it's dispersed according to the laws of the
State of California.
That's what we use probate for. A lot of people don't have to go to probate.
For example, if a person passes away with less than $100,000 in assets there's
a procedure in which that property can be dispersed by a declaration. Yes, a
person can have $90,000 in the bank, and that's the only asset they have, and
the wife says, "I didn't know he had all that money in his name. I don't
have to go to probate?" I say "No, we will file a declaration that you're
the wife, we will walk into the bank with a declaration and a copy of the death
certificate and the banker will write you a check for the full amount."
There are other types of things that can occur. If you have a probate that is
extensive, a person dies with millions of dollars worth of property, and almost
all of these people will have a will, then that person named as the executive
will take over the responsibility of seeing that property is distributed
according to the wishes of that person who is the decedent.
One of the most important jobs an attorney can do when he drafts a will, is to
be sure that the will will be honored. The will should always cover the last
wishes of the person who is making the will. That's what we try to do. That's
why we have probate. Transfer property under court order so that the world
knows where it's supposed to go, and how it's going to get there, and that it
will all be legitimately and approved by a court order.
What is a Will Contest?Say
a client comes in to the office and says "My grandmother just passed away
and she had told me that she was leaving me her house. Now I find out that she
has revoked that will and she has another one and she's left the house to her
caregiver. I think there is something very funny about that, what do you
Well, we would agree with you. We think the best course of action is to have to file a will contest. We are going to have to go in to court
and tell the judge, that will where she has given all this property to the
caregiver, that will should be null and void because it was created with undue
influence and the first will leaving everything to my client, her niece, that
is the will we should follow.
That's what we call a will contest, that's litigation. That then requires
depositions, interrogatories, everything that we have in our arsenal of
litigation to try and prove that there was undue influence of that particular
We have to get medical records, we have to take depositions of nurses, we have
to take depositions of the witnesses to this will or a notary, if there is a
notary to find out whether that person truly was of the moment at the sign that
document, not under the influence of anyone and in true control of their own
faculties. That is what's known as probate litigation.
Serving Santa Barbara, Goleta, Montecito, Carpinteria, Ventura, Santa Ynez, Buellton, Lompoc, Santa Maria, San Luis Obispo, Ojai, and all of California.
This is attorney advertising. This website is designed for general information only. The information presented herein should not be construed as legal advice or as the formation of an attorney/client relationship. The only way to create an attorney/client relationship with me is by a written agreement which confirms that such a relationship has been established, and which sets forth the terms of that relationship.