Leaving a Legacy to Your Nieces and Nephews: What to Know and Why You Need a Santa Barbara Will and Trust Lawyer

Santa Barbara will and trust lawyer

If you share a close bond with your nieces and nephews, ensuring they’re included in your estate plan is natural. However, the laws of inheritance can complicate things, especially for younger beneficiaries. Let’s unravel the factors to consider:

How Inheritance Laws Work without a Will

When you die without a will (known as dying “intestate”), state laws dictate how your assets are distributed. In most cases, these laws prioritize descendants in order of lineage:

  • First in line: Your spouse and children.
  • Next: Your parents.
  • Following that: Siblings come into the picture.

Nieces and nephews often won’t inherit directly in this scenario unless their own parent (your sibling) has also predeceased you.

Leaving Assets Directly to Nieces and Nephews

A clear, legally-sound will ensures your inheritance desires are honored. A Santa Barbara will and trust lawyer will help you structure your will to leave specific assets or a portion of your estate to your nieces and nephews.

Important Considerations for Minors

If your nieces and nephews are still minors, it’s important to consider the following issues when creating your plan:

  • Age of Majority: Most states consider minors unable to directly manage property or finances before age 18 (in some states, 21).
  • Guardianship Battles: Parents are normally guardians, but without a plan, surviving relatives could clash over this role, jeopardizing your intended legacy.
  • Access to Funds: Even well-intentioned guardians may have limits on how they can use inherited money for a child’s benefit.

Trusts – The Flexible Solution

Trusts solve problems and provide enhanced control over how and when your nieces and nephews receive their inheritance. Your lawyer can advise on these crucial components:

  • Trustee Choice: Choose someone you trust implicitly to manage assets responsibly for your beneficiaries until they reach a certain age.
  • Distribution Rules: Tailor provisions for staggered payouts, funding education, or meeting specific needs in their childhood.
  • Protecting Assets: Properly constructed trusts may shield inheritances from future creditors or bad financial decisions early in a beneficiary’s adult life. 

Get Clear Guidance – Protect Your Legacy

If you are interested in creating a plan that benefits your nieces and nephews, our Santa Barbara will and trust lawyers are here to offer guidance and support. Simply call our law firm at 805-946-1550 to schedule a consultation. Together, we’ll help you navigate the legal framework and design an estate plan that reflects your love and ensures peace of mind.


Author Bio

Julianna Malis is the Founder and Managing Partner of Santa Barbara Estate Planning & Elder Law, a Santa Barbara estate planning law firm she founded in 2014. With more than 25 years of experience practicing law, she has dedicated her career to representing clients in a wide range of legal matters, including estate planning, elder law, Medicaid and Medicare planning, probate, and other estate planning areas.

Julianna received her Juris Doctor from the University of the Pacific — McGeorge School of Law and is a member of the California State Bar Association.

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