Frequently Asked Questions(Faqs)

The Law Offices of Andrew C. Cohen assists Santa Clarita Valley residents in estate planning and family care matters, including the preparation of wills and trusts, probate and trust administration, and legal services for people with special needs. Below we address some general questions and concerns that clients often have when they come to our offices. For specific information regarding your unique situation, please contact our offices in Valencia and schedule a free initial consultation.

Will I lose control of my property and assets if I place them into a trust?

With a revocable living trust, you will not lose control of the property and assets that you place in the trust. “Revocable” means that you can revoke or amend the trust whenever and however you wish, and “living” means that the trust is legally in existence during your lifetime to use for the benefit of you and your family. You may be the trustee of your living trust, which means you manage and direct the use of the property and assets in the trust, and you will name a “successor trustee” to take over upon your death. After your passing, the successor trustee will generally either distribute the trust property to your beneficiaries, or continue to hold the property and manage the trust in accordance with the terms you have specified in your trust document.

Unlike a revocable living trust, an “irrevocable” trust is, as the name implies, irrevocable in nature, meaning you cannot change or amend the trust once it is established except under limited circumstances and with a court order. An irrevocable trust also typically requires you to relinquish control of property that is held in the irrevocable trust. However, an irrevocable trust is often a superior way to secure tax benefits and asset protection. Once we evaluate your personal and financial situation and assess your needs and goals, we will make specific recommendations regarding the type of trust that is the most appropriate for you.

What is a “living” will?

A living will is distinct from a basic will, which provides for how your assets will be distributed to your heirs and beneficiaries. With a living will, you provide instructions for how you want to be treated if certain medical conditions should arise in the future. For example, you may express your preferences as to treatment using life-sustaining equipment if you are terminally ill or injured, or whether you wish to be given food and water via intravenous devices. A living will also allows you to appoint someone to make such decisions for you if you become incapacitated.

Advance health care directives are the most recent incarnation of the living will, and basically perform the same function of letting your doctor, family, and friends know your health care preferences, including the types of special treatment you do or do not want at the end of your life. Advance health care directives are generally more complete than living wills, however, also addressing issues such as diagnostic testing, surgical procedures, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, and organ donation.

Am I automatically considered the legal guardian of my adult child with special needs?

While many parents assume they will continue to be their disabled child’s legal guardian through the child’s entire life, once a child reaches the age of 18, he or she is considered an adult and presumed to be competent, notwithstanding disability and/or dependency. If your adult child with special needs does not have the capacity to make informed choices with regard to finances, personal hygiene, maintaining a household, or other basic adult responsibilities, you may need to establish legal guardianship of your child.

We can help you through every step of the guardianship process, which generally involves gathering statements from physicians, filing and serving required documents to interested parties, and participation in court competency hearings. We also provide guidance and representation to clients following the establishment of a guardianships or conservatorship, including advising guardians and conservators of their fiduciary duties and obligations, filing accountings with the court, and assisting with other issues and tasks arising during the administration of a guardianship or conservatorship.

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