Can you leave property to non-relatives?

Estate planning gives you control over how your estate is distributed to the people you care about, your beneficiaries, after your death. While family members are typically named as beneficiaries, leaving property to non-relatives is also a consideration for some people when determining how they want their assets to be distributed.

While there’s no legal issue with leaving property to a non-relative, problems can arise if you’ve not left some type of legal document that specifically stipulates your wishes. The laws of intestate succession take over, and your property is distributed to your descendants. Additionally, your family members may have legal rights to fight the transfer of assets to non-family members.

Living trusts are one of the best estate planning options available to you in this situation. A living trust is a legal document into which your assets are placed for your benefit during your lifetime. A representative of your choosing, a “successor trustee” will transfer those assets in the trust to any designated beneficiaries. If the trust is revocable, you have the option of changing any provisions during your lifetime.

Living trusts do not go through probate which saves your beneficiaries both time and money. A living trust is not made public at the time of your death, so your estate will be distributed privately. Just as important is the fact that living trusts are more likely to hold up better in court should a family member decide to contest your wishes to leave some or all of your assets and property to a non-family member.

Make sure it’s done correctly

Throughout your lifetime, you’ve had the opportunity to develop close relationships with friends who you would like to consider when it comes to time to develop an estate plan. Discussing your wishes with family members before making them part of a legal document may go a long way to heading off potential issues after your death. Additionally, you may want to consider leaving property or assets to friends while you’re still alive to avoid any potential challenges after your death.

When it comes to establishing living trusts and non-relatives, trusts provide for more control over your assets and property, even after death. By setting up a trust, you can leave strict instructions about, not only how assets and property are to be distributed, but under what circumstances. You have the ability to choose a successor trustee that you feel confident will transfer your assets and property according to your wishes and who will be willing to deal with any legal challenges to the trust should they arise.

Relationships matter

A carefully thought-out and prepared estate plan is even more important when leaving property to non-family members. For the best advice on how to plan for your estate after your death, it’s important to retain the services of an attorney that specializes in living trusts, trust administration, and other facets of estate planning.

San Diego Living Trust Attorney, David Foley, is well-versed in California laws as they apply to estate planning, probate, power of attorney, and more. Schedule an appointment for a free in-person consultation.

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