An elderly relative may express an intent to leave his or her assets and property to a specific individual. As noted on the Judicial Council of California website, without a signed will the estate passes on to the deceased’s lawful heirs instead.
The probate court may also have a difficult time identifying the deceased’s assets and the beneficiaries who have a right to inherit them. Compiling an inventory of a relative’s property may help encourage a fruitful conversation about his or her intentions, which a written will can then include.
Useful information to gather about assets and property
If a relative owns real estate such as land, a house or a building, details about its location may help bring about a smooth transfer of ownership. A will may include the address, plot number or a description of real property. Written instructions may also describe how a beneficiary may terminate a lease or pay off a mortgage.
Tangible personal property includes vehicles, furniture, jewelry, boats and other valuable belongings. A will may include a description of these assets and their current value. A relative who wishes to leave various assets to specific individuals may list each item in a will with the intended beneficiary.
When to consider a trust and an individual to manage it
A relative may decide to leave all assets and property to a trust managed by a trustee. As noted by Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, a trust provides a set of instructions for managing its contents and distributing income to its beneficiaries. An individual may wish for the trustee to use his or her property as a means of generating income for a surviving spouse and children.
Wills and trusts have different purposes. Speaking openly with an elderly relative regarding his or her intentions may help determine what to include in an estate plan.