Wills and Trusts in California

Get Help With Your Estate Plan From a Will and Trust Attorney in Modesto

Wills and trusts are legal documents that are typically included in an estate plan. Whether you have a standalone will or a trust with an accompanying pour over will depends on your preferences and intentions. Either way, we recommend that you consult with an experienced estate planning lawyer. In order for either document to be enforceable, they must meet certain legal requirements. A will and trust attorney from our Modesto law firm can help you solidify your estate plan.

Get Your Estate Plan in Place. Contact Our Estate Planning Attorneys in Modesto.

At Arata, Swingle, Van Egmond & Heitlinger, we will work one-on-one with you to draft a will or trust that addresses your concerns and parallels your intentions. We have extensive experience helping clients in Modesto, Turlock and the surrounding areas with their estate plans. Schedule an in-person or virtual consultation with us to discuss your estate planning goals. Call us at (209) 522-2211 or contact us online and our office will be in touch with you soon.

Last Will and Testament

A will is a legal document that this created by a person and directs what will happen to their assets after death. The person creating the will is referred to as the Testator. Generally, for a will to be effective, it must be signed by the Testator and be acknowledged by two witnesses unrelated to the Testator. In certain circumstances, a handwritten will may be effective. However, it is not advisable to attempt to handwrite a will without first consulting a knowledgeable Modesto estate planning attorney familiar with the legal requirements of wills.


According to the California Probate Code, when a person dies with a will and their assets total $150,000 or more, the probate court will oversee the administration of the will. The Testator will nominate an executor, in the will, who will be responsible for marshaling assets, paying creditors and distributing the remaining assets according to the terms of the will. Most of the documents in a probate will become public record after they are filed with the probate court, including the distribution of assets. It is imperative that you you speak with a probate attorney in Modesto if you are considering a will as part of your estate plan to ensure that your estate will be distributed according to your intentions.


There are several different types of trust instruments. The most common is the Revocable Living Trust. A trust is essentially a separate entity in which the person creating the trust, known as the settlor, transfers assets, which are then held for the beneficiaries of the trust. The settlor transfers legal title of the assets to a Trustee who holds the assets in trust for the beneficiaries. Most often, the settlor is the Trustee during their lifetime. The settlor will appoint a successor Trustee who will administer the trust according to the terms of the trust after the settlor passes away.

There are several benefits for creating a trust. The distribution of assets held in trust are not typically overseen by the court. This avoids the high costs associated with the probate process and also keeps the distribution of assets private. There also may be several tax advantages to holding your assets in trust. A living trust attorney in Modesto can help you to determine whether a trust is right for your estate plan.

Pour Over Will

Most estate plans also include a pour-over will when there is a revocable living trust. A pour over will directs the Executor to transfer any assets, not held in trust, to the Trustee who will then administer according to the terms of the trust. For a more in-depth understanding of trusts and to decide if settling a trust is right for you, contact a Modesto will attorney at Arata, Swingle, Van Egmond & Heitlinger.

Our Firm’s Wills and Trusts Practice

The Modesto, California estate planning lawyers at Arata, Swingle, Van Egmond & Heitlinger have knowledgeable and practical experience drafting wills and trusts. Our attorneys keep current on the law surrounding wills and trusts. An experienced and knowledgeable will and trust attorney in Modesto will work one to one with you to draft a will or trust that addresses your concerns and parallels your intentions.