Estate Planning Attorneys


Revocable Living Trusts

Estate Planning Attorneys

Estate Planning Glossary Pet Trusts Methods of Holding Title

The estate planning attorneys with Michael T. Chulak & Associates represent clients throughout Southern California including the following areas:

• Ventura • Oxnard
• Thousand Oaks • Simi Valley
• Moorpark • Santa Rosa Valley
• Camarillo • Port Hueneme
• Santa Paula • Ojai
• Fillmore • Newbury Park
• Oak Park • Westlake Village
• Agoura Hills • Santa Barbara
• Santa Maria • Goleta
• Carpinteria • Summerland
• Santa Ynez • Lompoc
• Montecito                

Living Trust - Revocable Living Trust

A living trust is sometimes referred to as a revocable inter vivos trust, or a grantor trust. A living trust may be amended or revoked by the person creating it (commonly known as the trustor, grantor, or settler), at any time during the trustor's lifetime, as long as the trustor is competent.

A living trust is a written legal agreement between the individual creating the trust (trustor) and the person(s) or institution named to manage the assets held in trust (trustee). A living trust is created to benefit the beneficiary(ies) of the trust who inherit the assets held by the trust.

$1,000,000 Estate


Living Trust

  No Statutory Probate fees because no probate is required.
  Average Cost of Living Trust for two persons:  $1,250
  Attorney Fees:
  Negotiable, based on complexity of trust assets and amount of work Trustee does by themselves.
  (Average cost: $5,000 - $10,000)
Time to settle Estate:
  Approximately 2 to 4 months
Records are completely private.
  Example - Assume:
$1,000,000 Estate
  $(800,000) Debts
  $(10,000) Attorney Fees
  $190,000 Net Distribution


No Living Trust = Probate

  Statutory Fees: $23,000
Statutory Executor or Administrator Fees: $23,000
  Filing Fee (approx.): $350
Probate Referee Fee: $1,000
  Cost of Court Required Estate Accounting  
(average): $2,500
Total Cost: $49,850
Time to settle Estate:
  Approximately 6 to 8 months
Probate records are available to the public.
  Example - Assume:
$1,000,000 Estate
  $(800,000) Debts
  $(49,850) Probate and Other Fees
  $150,150 Net Distribution

* Probate fees are paid on the gross estate, not the net estate after debts. In this example, the estate was reduced $23,000 or 11.5% because of probate fees that could have been avoided with a living trust.

Frequently Asked Questions
Living Trusts and Estate Planning

Q. If I have a will, why would I want a living trust?

A. A will is a one-way ticket to probate if the estate has assests of $100,000 or more. Wills often must be formally verified or proven by a probate court and result in substantial probate fees being paid. A living trust is almost always the best way to plan an estate because it avoids the probate process and all probate fees. The probate process often takes ten to fifteen months, whereas with a living trust, property can usually be distributed within a few weeks.

Q. Can a living trust save on estate taxes?

A. Yes. While this is not always the case, many people are in a position to save on estate taxes by use of a well drafted living trust.

Q. What happens if I have no living trust or will?

A. The state has written a will for you (via the California Probate Code) that you may not like. It goes into effect automatically when a person fails to make their own estate plan. Probate and probate fees are included.

Q. Why should probate be avoided by use of a living trust?

A. In addition to the fees and lengthy administrative process, probate is a public process. It is not confidential as with a living trust. All members of the public have access to all information including who is receiving what property. Also most important, with a living trust, family living expenses can be provided almost immediately. With a will, the court must evaluate and approve the distribution of family living expenses.

Q. Will owning property in joint-tenancy avoid probate?

A. It will postpone it until the second person dies, at which point, probate will be required. In the event of simultaneous death (such as in an auto accident), probate will not be postponed. Joint tenancy has other possible disadvantages as well. It can result in a loss of control over the assets and may have severe adverse tax consequences. It is not the best estate planning method.

Q. Is a living trust valid in every state?

A. Yes. It is valid in most other countries as well.

Q. Is a living trust expensive?

A. No. The cost will depend upon the complexity of the plan, the type and amount of your assets and the amount of tax planning required. Always obtain a quote in advance.

Q. Does it make sense to have a living trust if I am not married?

A. Yes. If you want to avoid probate, you should have a living trust.

Q. Can two unmarried people who are living together have a living trust?

A. Yes. This is quite common and often makes sense.

Q. If my child dies before me, does his or her spouse become the beneficiary of that child's share of my estate?

A. It's up to you, but in most cases the answer is no. Usually the share goes to the children of that child (your grandchildren). If the deceased child has no children, usually the share would be divided among your other children. The formula is entirely up to you.

Q. Do I still have control over the property in my living trust?

A. Absolutely. As trustee of your trust, you can do anything you could do before.

Q. Can I leave part of my estate to a not yet conceived child or grandchild?

A. Yes. This can be accomplished easily with a living trust.

Q. Can I use my living trust to provide long-term care for a disabled child or grandchild?

A. Yes. A living trust is the perfect tool to use for long-term care of any type.

Q. Can I provide for my pet in my living trust?

A. Most definitely. A properly drafted living trust can provide for the long-term care of your pet after you are gone.

Q. How difficult is it to change my living trust?

A. It's very easy. Changes are made by simple amendment as long as you are living.

Q. Can my successor trustee make changes to my living trust?

A. No. Upon your death, the right to make changes ceases. The living trust becomes irrevocable and the trustee is under a legal duty to fulfill every instruction in your trust document.

Q. Is the cost of a living trust tax deductible?

A. In most cases the cost is tax deductible. See your tax preparer for details.

Q. If I transfer my home to a living trust, can I still deduct the interest?

A. Absolutely.

Q. What assets should be transferred into my living trust?

A. Generally, everything other than life insurance policies, IRAs, Keoghs and other pension plans.

Q. Can my mortgage lender "call my loan due" if I transfer my home into a living trust?

A. No. The lender's position remains the same and they cannot call the loan due.

Q. By transferring my home into a living trust, will I cause a reappraisal under California's Proposition 13?

A. Absolutely not.

Q. Should my life insurance policies be owned by my living trust?

A. Yes. In most cases, the living trust should be named as both owner and beneficiary of all policies. This will eliminate the risk that the named beneficiary (or beneficiaries) could die simultaneously with the owner of the policies, thus subjecting the insurance proceeds to probate. The policies should be owned by the insured.

Q. Should my IRAs and Keoghs be placed into my living trust?

A. A living trust should never own your IRAs and Keoghs because such a transfer would be equivalent to an outright distribution. Thus, it would have negative tax implications. Most people name their spouse as beneficiary and their living trust as contingent beneficiary.

Q. If married, what happens if I have separate property?

A. Separate property is still transferred into the living trust. The assets will retain their character of separate property by use of a "Separate Property Agreement".

Q. If I have a living trust, will I still need a will?

A. Yes. A pour over will makes sense for most people. It transfers any property left outside the trust at death to the living trust. While such property may still be subject to probate, it can at least be distributed as part of your overall estate plan.

Q. Do I need an attorney to draft my estate plan?

A. Yes. Only an attorney can give legal advice. It never makes sense to take unnecessary risks with your assets and estate plan.

Q. Do I need an attorney if my spouse dies and we have a living trust?

A. Yes. An attorney should review your estate plan, make sure your documents are legally up to date, still appropriate for your goals, and implement any tax planning devices that may be triggered at the death of a spouse.

Q. Is an attorney needed to assist with the distribution of trust assets upon the death of the second spouse, or individual trustor?

A. Yes. The probate code governs the distribution of trust assets and outlines certain actions required to be taken by the Trustee prior to asset distribution. Many of the requirements are in place to protect trust beneficiaries. The probate code requirements, in addition to tax laws, are complicated and an attorney can assist in making the Trustee aware of these laws and implementing the requirements.

Q. My parents refuse to form a living trust even though they are getting older. My brother and I who will inherit our parent’s property want to avoid paying thousands of dollars in unnecessary probate fees and want to avoid the long court proceeding that we will certainly face if they don’t form a simple living trust. What do you suggest?

A. You can prepay the cost of a living trust for your parents and then arrange an appointment for them to see an estate planning attorney. This should make them realize how very important proper planning is to their family and should eliminate any excuse to delay protecting their family. See Living Trust - Gift Certificate.

Q. My spouse recently passed away and is no longer in need of the insurance we have on my life. The policy is expensive and I would like to stop making the payments. Do you have any suggestions?

A. Yes. Many life insurance policies can be sold for many times the cash surrender value. In fact, term policies with no cash surrender value can often be sold. Do not let the policy lapse without first obtaining information on the value of the policy. It may be worth more than you realize.

Q. I desperately need a living trust to protect my wife and children but am short of cash. Will your firm consider barter?

A. Yes. Our firm will consider accepting the following types of property in exchange for legal services: Advertising, California Land or other Real Property, Trust Deeds, Antiques, Political or Historical Memorabilia, Classic Cars, LLC Interests, LP Interests, Stock in Small Corporations, High Quality Jewelry, or Restaurant Gift Certificates. Since our need for services will vary over time, please call to discuss the barter of your goods and / or services for legal services.

When goods or services are accepted in exchange for legal services, both parties exchange their services based upon the fair market value of the service provided. The IRS requires that the fair market value of goods and services traded must be included in the income of both parties.

Free Estate Planning Seminars

Please visit for a schedule of free estate planning and other legal seminars that we offer. Valuable information will be provided followed by a question – answer session. This is an opportunity to ask questions of an attorney at no cost and without any obligation. We hope to meet you in person at one or more of our legal seminars.

Church and Synagogue Donations Program

The law firm of Michael T. Chulak & Associates is offering a no-cost program to assist Churches and Synagogues located in Los Angeles County or Ventura County increase donations.

Five Reasons Why You Don't Need a
Living Trust and Will

  1. You dislike your children and want them never to talk to each other again after dealing with the probate of your estate.

  2. You hate your spouse and want him or her to suffer the agonizing process of probate.

  3. Your family doesn't need the money so probate fees and taxes are no object.

  4. You prefer to have your minor children experience foster care while the court decides what relative will receive custody.

  5. You have absolute knowledge that you will live forever.

Obviously, we are being dramatic in making our point. However, the point is critically important. Some people die unexpectedly and their families suffer.

Ask yourself this question - Will your loved ones remember how much you cared after you are gone?

Initial consultations are at no cost.

Probate Real Estate Sales

Attorney Michael Chulak is the broker and a co-owner of Pacific Realtors which represents buyers and sellers of residential properties, commercial properties, land, and businesses involving probates and conservatorships anywhere in Southern California. If you have inherited real estate that you would like to sell, please call Pacific Realtors for a no-cost broker evaluation or Michael Chulak at 818-991-9019.


Living Trust Mills - Consumer Warning

Companies advertising "living trusts" sometimes misrepresent the advantages of living trusts. But the most serious problem is the misuse of the financial information sales people obtain to prepare a living trust. Unfortunately, this information is used to sell unneeded annuities and various investments, most often to senior citizens.

Sales agents for these operations often misrepresent the disadvantages of seniors' current investments and the advantages of the investments the agents are selling. They may even make seniors believe their bank accounts are less safe than the annuities or other investments they want seniors to buy. To give themselves a cloak of legitimacy, these sales agents pretend to be experts on living trusts. In their solicitations, these sales agents often pose as expert financial or estate planners. They pass themselves off as a "trust advisor," "senior estate planner" or "paralegal," and schedule an initial appointment with seniors in their homes. Under the guise of helping set up or update a living trust, the sales agents find out about seniors' financial assets and investments. They sometimes work in assisted living centers, churches and other places where seniors gather, hooking elderly victims through free seminars and other sales presentations.

Sometimes, through fraud and deceit, the sales agents damage seniors' estate plans, and the security of their investments and life savings.

Usually, the sales agents schedule a home visit to explain the living trust and use a second visit to deliver a completed trust and have documents signed and notarized, and title of assets transferred to the trust. Typically, during the second visit, the agents go over the assets to be placed in the trust. The agents may have seniors sign documents that transfer the senior's CD, mutual fund accounts, or other investments to an annuity, or promissory note or other investment. They use that review of seniors' investments to scare them into believing their investments are unsafe, and that by moving their money, they can earn higher interest with less risk. Frequently, there are substantial penalties for early withdrawal of some investment accounts.

Planning an estate and choosing investments involve important legal, financial and personal decisions. If estate planning documents are not properly prepared or executed they can be invalid and cause lasting damage.

Following are tips to help consumers avoid becoming victims of living trust mills and their scams:

Living trust mills' sales agents are rarely licensed attorneys and are not experts in estate planning.
Watch out for companies that sell trusts and annuities or, other similar investments.
Sales agents may fail to disclose possible adverse tax consequences or early withdrawal penalties that may be incurred when transferring stocks, bonds, certificates of deposit or other investments to annuities.
An annuity is not 100% safe, and only a portion is guaranteed by the state. Insurance companies can and do fail, and their assets may not be enough to pay the full value of their customers' investments.
Promissory notes are not insured by the FDIC or any other government agency and may be very risky.
Before consumers buy an annuity or any other investment, they should review it with people they know and trust, such as their CPA or attorney, and trusted family members.

An attorney qualified in estate planning can help consumers decide if they need a living trust or other estate planning documents, or help them review an existing trust or will.



The information presented on this site was prepared for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It should not be relied upon as a substitute for consulting with a licensed attorney in your state. The law is constantly changing. In addition, the information presented may not be up - to - date or 100% complete. Our attorneys are licensed to practice law in California and seek to represent clients only in California. Sending us an email or other communication does not create an attorney - client relationship. Only signing a retainer agreement will establish an attorney - client relationship. This is an advertisement.

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