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Holiday Season Estate Planning Reflections

Nov 02, 2015 08:49PM ● By Danel DuRee

Daniel DuRee

by Daniel DuRee

            This month’s turkey and pot-pie fueled extravaganza, correctively referred to as Thanksgiving, marks the beginning of another holiday season and the winding down of yet another year. As we gather with our loved ones and reflect on 2015, it is the perfect time to consider the changes in our lives and how we have provided for them in our estate plan. This month I will talk about a few key areas to think about in the estate planning area that change over time as your family situation changes.

Is your successor trustee still the person you want it to be? Often, when children are young, parents will have a sibling or even a parent named as the successor trustee of their trust and also as guardian of any minor children. Over time, as the children grow older and become responsible adults, it is often better to make the children (who are usually the beneficiaries) the successor trustees. Also, think about whether your successor trustee has moved out of the area or is just not the ideal person for the job anymore. 

Are there new family members for whom you wish to provide? Families grow and change over time and different members have different needs. Are there any new members of your family that were not included in your trust that you would like to provide for? It is not uncommon for specific gifts inside a trust to be used for educational purposes for younger members of a family. 

Are all of your assets properly titled in the trust? I feel like a nagging parent bringing this one up, but it is truly the most important part of the estate planning process and it doesn’t end when you set up your trust. I recently assisted a client with his father’s probate where there was a trust, but the largest asset by far (the house) wasn’t in it. There is no way around this except for probate. Have you moved, bought a new property, or refinanced? About half the time, in these circumstances, the property doesn’t end up in the trust.

Daniel L. DuRee is a third generation resident of Contra Costa County and a licensed attorney practicing in Walnut Creek. He can be reached at (925) 210-1400 or visit