WHAT IS A HEGGSTAD PETITION AND HOW CAN IT HELP?
California Probate Lawyer Can Help Transfer Property to a Trust After Death
Sometimes the creator of a trust may overlook certain property or fail to transfer assets into the trust, for any number of reasons. In these cases, the property would typically have to go through probate before reaching the beneficiaries. However, in California, filing a Heggstad petition may allow you to transfer these assets directly into the trust, bypassing the probate process. This petition generally depends on whether the decedent intended to include the assets or property in the trust.
Trust litigation attorney Charles Triay specializes in probate law and fiduciary trust issues. He has been practicing in California since 1977. Along with his team at Triay Law Office, he has experience assisting residents of Oakland, and the surrounding areas with probate litigation matters.
When Can I File a Heggstad Petition?
A Heggstad petition, named after a California probate case concerning the Heggstad estate, transfers property into a trust after the person passes away. According to California state law, you may be able to file such a petition if the decedent intended to transfer the property, but failed to do so before death. Some common reasons this may happen include:
- The decedent forgot to transfer the property or was prevented from doing so by extenuating circumstances, such as declining health.
- The decedent started the process of transfer, but passed away before it was complete.
- Sometimes, the decedent may have incorrectly believe the property had been transferred. Flawed documentation or other issues can result in a failed transfer.
Each probate case is different, so the exact reasons why certain property was not included in a trust vary greatly. Oversights, mistakes and misunderstandings are not uncommon. The interpretation of a trust and probate litigation can solve these inconsistencies. However, filing a Heggstad petition is often a simpler way to carry out a loved one’s true wishes concerning certain assets.
How Does a Heggstad Petition Work?
The key to a Heggstad petition is providing proof of the intent to include the property or assets in the trust. In the original case concerning the Heggstad estate, the decedent intended to place a property into a trust for his beneficiaries. Unfortunately, at his death the deed to the property had not been transferred to the trust. However, he had written a schedule of assets which listed all the property he intended to include in the trust. A California court acknowledged that this schedule was enough to prove Mr. Heggstad’s intent. Therefore, the court placed title to the property into the trust without the need for probate proceedings.
A schedule of assets is strong proof for a Heggstad petition. However, it is not the only way to demonstrate intent. Other documentation may be sufficient, depending on the language of the trust declaration. A probate lawyer can examine your case and advise you whether you have grounds for a Heggstad petition. If you do, your petition typically must include:
- The trust document and relevant information about the decedent.
- Documents confirming the deceased person’s intent.
- A description of the assets in question.
- Information about all beneficiaries.
- A specific request detailing how you would like to remedy the situation.
If successful, a Heggstad petition results in a court judgment which confirms that the property in question is part of the trust. The trustee can then manage and distribute the assets or property as usual.
Questions about Heggstad Petitions? Contact a Trust Litigation Attorney Today
If your loved one was unable to transfer assets into a trust as intended, then contact probate lawyer Charles Triay. At Triay Law Firm, our attorneys have been handling estate matters such as defective trusts since long before the establishment of Heggstad petitions. We have been there since the beginning of this process, and can assist in carrying out your loved one’s wishes. We also allow clients to pay attorney fees on either an hourly or contingent basis, depending on your circumstances.
Probate is the legal process of administering a deceased person’s last will and testament or according to intestate law. Certain trusts only go into effect upon the death of the testator, and may therefore be part of a probate administration. California probate courts oversee probate administration and probate litigation.
There are several different reasons for contesting a will. For example, claims of undue influence and lack of capacity are common causes for probate litigation. Some individuals may argue that the will is defective, or that the estate trustee is breaching a fiduciary duty. If you are an omitted spouse or if your spouse leaves you less than required by California law, you may have a claim against the estate as part of your spousal rights.
A fiduciary duty is the obligation to act honestly, fairly and in good faith when handling the deceased person’s estate. There are multiple fiduciary duties that executors, administrators and trustees are legally required to follow, including keeping proper accountings of all investments, as well as money going in and out of the trust or estate. Violation of this duty or poor performance in administrating the estate may result in legal action by the estate’s beneficiaries.
Just as in all types of civil litigation, the law allows you to represent yourself in a probate proceeding. However, we strongly advise having a seasoned probate litigation lawyer handle your case to ensure that California probate law upholds your best interests.
Even in death, a person is liable for their debts. For example, creditors may bring claims against a person’s estate after their death to receive payment.
A codicil is a document that makes small changes to the terms of a last will and testament. An individual may use codicils when they want to amend their last wishes without having to create an entirely new will. A codicil will only be legally valid and enforceable if executed in the same manner as a will. Codicils are particularly useful upon remarriage, additional children born, or new property acquired by an estate.
If a person dies without a will, then California intestacy laws will dictate the division of their estates to the heirs at law. These laws will then distribute property and assets depending on the marital status, number of children and surviving relatives of the deceased individual.
About Triay Law Office
Probate litigation attorney Charles Triay has specialized in California probate litigation matters for over 30 years.Read More
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