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We Help Make People's Lives Easier in Times of Crisis

Helping California Families With Their Estate Needs

Estate Planning

We create and update estate plans that protect our clients’ futures.

Estate Administration

We guide families through the administration of trusts and other assets.

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Build A Plan That
Works For You

Anyone with assets can benefit from an estate plan. We offer options for people from all walks of life. Estate planning can save your loved ones from making difficult decisions after you pass away or if you become unable to make your own decisions. It can also ensure that your wishes for both your assets and your care will be met.

At The Dayton Law Firm, P.C., our team of San Jose estate planning attorneys is compassionate to families and individuals. We aim to help answer questions about your long-term planning options. We help with a variety of estate needs, including:

Why Choose Us?

We focus on our clients. While some firms seek the highest-value cases with disregard for the clients’ needs, we focus solely on what techniques are going to help you most.

Competitive Pricing

We strive to keep our hourly and flat fees accessible to as many families as possible.


We use our knowledge from planning and administering estates to achieve efficient legal solutions with a process proven to work.

Personalized Legal Work

By blending industry standards with custom in-house templates, we can advise and customize your plan to include your wishes to make sure it works how you want.

Free Consultations

We offer initial consultations at no charge so we can evaluate your legal needs before you ever receive a bill. Please call us at 408-758-5750 or email us to schedule an appointment.

Our firm is located in San Jose and serves the entire Bay Area. We also serve clients throughout California.

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One of the most significant decisions you can make during estate planning is how your minor children or dependents should be cared for. Designating a guardian in your estate plan is a crucial step that ensures your loved ones are cared for by someone you trust in the unfortunate event that you are no longer able to do so. Below are some key considerations and steps to take when incorporating guardianship into your California estate plan.

How Does Guardianship Work in California?

In California, parents can nominate a guardian for their minor children in their will or through a standalone legal document. This nomination is a parent’s way of expressing their preference for who should take over the care of their children if both parents were to die or otherwise be unable to care for them. The court typically honors the parents’ wishes as expressed in the will, assuming the nominated guardian is willing, able, and deemed to be in the best interest of the children.

There are two main types of guardianship in California that can be addressed in an estate plan:

  • Guardianship of the Person: This type of guardianship is concerned with the physical well-being of the child. The guardian has custody of the child and is responsible for their care, protection, education, and health.
  • Guardianship of the Estate: When a minor inherits property or assets, a guardian of the estate may be appointed to manage these assets until the child reaches adulthood. This can be the same person as the guardian of the person or someone else. The guardian of the estate is responsible for managing the assets in the child’s best interest, including handling investments, property, and any income until the child is of age.

Choosing a Guardian

When selecting a guardian, parents should consider several factors, including the individual’s values, parenting style, relationship with the child, financial stability, and geographical location. It’s also important to discuss the potential guardianship with the chosen adult ahead of time to ensure they are willing and prepared to take on the responsibility if necessary.

Legal Steps to Nominate a Guardian

In California, you can nominate guardians for your children in your will. This nomination guides the court but is not absolutely binding. The court will consider your nomination seriously, but its ultimate decision will be based on the best interests of the children.

Alongside naming a guardian, consider establishing a trust to manage any inheritance for your children. A trust can specify how and when the assets are distributed, and you can appoint a trustee to manage the trust separately from the guardian of your children.

For a more focused approach, California law allows you to make a standalone guardianship nomination. This is particularly useful if you wish to update your nomination without altering your entire will.

This process can also be useful in situations where you might need to appoint a temporary guardian, such as when you’re undergoing a medical procedure or traveling without your children. California law allows for the appointment of temporary guardians under specific circumstances like these.

Life changes, such as births, deaths, marriages, and relocation, can affect your guardianship plans. Regularly review and update your estate plan to reflect your current wishes and circumstances. Navigating the legal requirements can be complex. An attorney specializing in estate planning can ensure your documents are correctly drafted and reflect your wishes accurately.

Talk to Professional Estate Planning Attorneys in San Jose About Appointing Legal Guardians

Incorporating guardianship into your California estate plan is a profound act of love and responsibility towards your children or dependents. Estate planning is crucial for ensuring that your children are taken care of by someone you trust in the event of your death or incapacity. It allows you to make clear legal arrangements for their guardianship and financial management, providing peace of mind for you and protection for your children. By thoughtfully selecting guardians and properly formalizing your wishes through legal documents, you can provide peace of mind for yourself and security for your loved ones. Remember, the best time to plan for the future is now, and consulting with a professional can make this important task more manageable. Learn more about how you can provide for your children’s care even if something happens to you by scheduling an appointment with The Dayton Law Firm, P.C., today.

Losing a spouse is an emotionally devastating event that brings with it a myriad of challenges, not least among them handling your spouse’s estate. The process can seem overwhelming, especially during a time of grief. However, managing these matters carefully is crucial for safeguarding your financial future and legacy. Below, we’ll guide you through the complexities of estate handling after losing a spouse and offer strategies to ensure that this critical period does not negatively impact your financial well-being.

Understanding Spousal Estate Complications

When your spouse passes away, you must navigate a myriad of legal and financial responsibilities, which can vary widely based on your prior estate planning, the jurisdiction, and the assets involved. Some of the primary complications include:

  • Probate Process: Many estates must go through probate, a court-supervised process to authenticate the deceased’s will, value the estate, settle debts, and distribute assets to beneficiaries. Without a clearly defined will or estate plan, this can become lengthy and contentious.
  • Tax Implications: Inheritance taxes can significantly impact the financial legacy left behind. Understanding these tax obligations and how to minimize them is crucial for safeguarding your financial future.
  • Joint Assets and Debts: Determining which assets are jointly owned and how debts are to be handled can be complex, especially without clear documentation or in community property states.
  • Beneficiary Designations: Life insurance policies, retirement accounts, and some financial accounts are not passed through the will but directly to named beneficiaries. Ensuring these are up-to-date is vital to prevent unintended consequences.

Handling Your Spouse’s Estate

The first step in handling your spouse’s estate involves understanding the legal process, which can vary significantly depending on whether your spouse has a will or not. If a will exists, their property will go through probate, a court-supervised process to validate the will, pay debts, and distribute the estate according to the will’s instructions. Without a will, the property enters intestate succession, and assets are distributed according to state laws, which might not align with your spouse’s wishes.

Inventory of Assets and Debts

Creating a comprehensive inventory of assets and debts is crucial. Assets include bank accounts, investments, and real and personal property, while debts might encompass mortgages, loans, and credit card balances. This inventory will be essential for probate proceedings or managing the assets through intestate laws.

Accessing and Managing Financial Accounts

Accessing your spouse’s financial accounts can be a hurdle, especially if they are solely in your spouse’s name. Contact financial institutions to inform them of your spouse’s passing and inquire about the necessary steps to gain access or control over these accounts. You may need copies of the death certificate and other legal documents.

Dealing With Taxes

Tax implications are an important consideration. You might need to file final income tax returns for your spouse and possibly for their assets, depending on its size and income generated during the probate process. Consulting with a tax professional can help you navigate these complexities and avoid potential pitfalls.

Seeking Professional Help

The intricacies of estate law and financial management during such a sensitive time can be daunting. It’s often wise to seek assistance from professionals, including estate attorneys, financial advisors, and tax specialists. They can provide valuable guidance, ensure compliance with legal requirements, and help you make informed decisions that protect your financial future.

Updating Your Estate Plan

After settling your spouse’s estate, it’s essential to review and update your estate plan. This might involve revising your will, updating beneficiaries on insurance policies and retirement accounts, and ensuring that your plan reflects your current wishes and circumstances.

Emotional Considerations and Support

Finally, it’s important to acknowledge the emotional toll of losing a spouse and the added stress of handling their finances. Seeking support from friends, family, or professional counselors can provide comfort and help you navigate this challenging period without compromising your well-being.

Skilled Legal Counsel for Spousal Estate Planning 

Handling your spouse’s estate after their passing is a complex and emotionally taxing process. By understanding the legal steps involved, meticulously organizing financial affairs, and seeking professional guidance, you can navigate these challenges more effectively.At The Dayton Law Firm P.C., we believe that protecting your financial future and legacy during this time is not just about legal and financial diligence—it’s also about allowing yourself to grieve and heal. Our empathetic attorneys are dedicated to helping our clients navigate this difficult period and protect their futures through skilled estate planning and administration services in San Jose, California. We encourage you to reach out to our experienced team today to learn more about how we can assist you.

Estate planning is a critical process that helps individuals manage their assets and ensure their wishes are honored after they pass away. One area of estate planning that can be particularly complex involves handling out-of-state property. 

When a California resident owns real estate in another state and passes away without properly addressing this property in their estate plan, their heirs might face a legal process known as ancillary probate. Below, we’ll explain ancillary probate and guides California residents on how to avoid it by properly incorporating out-of-state property into their estate plans.

What Is Ancillary Probate?

Ancillary probate is a secondary probate process that is required when a deceased person owned real estate or tangible personal property located in a state different from their state of residence at the time of their death. This process is necessary in addition to the primary probate proceeding, which typically takes place in the decedent’s domicile state—the state where they lived and intended to remain.

The need for this process arises because real estate law is governed by the state where the property is located. Therefore, to legally transfer ownership of non-local property upon the owner’s death, the estate must undergo probate proceedings in that state. This means the estate must be administered according to the specific laws and requirements of the state where the asset is situated, which can vary significantly from the laws in the decedent’s home state.

The Challenge for California Residents

For California residents, owning property in another state—whether it’s a vacation home, investment property, or any other type of real estate—can complicate their estate planning. It involves additional legal fees, court costs, and potentially complex logistical arrangements, especially if the heirs live far from the asset’s location. California’s administration process is already known for being lengthy and expensive, and adding the burden of ancillary probate in another state can exacerbate these issues for the estate and its beneficiaries.

Strategies to Avoid Ancillary Probate

Fortunately, there are several strategies that California residents can employ to avoid ancillary probate for their out-of-state property. These strategies not only simplify the estate administration process but also help ensure a smoother and more efficient transfer of assets to the intended beneficiaries.

1. Revocable Living Trusts

One of the most effective ways to protect real estate is by placing non-local property into a revocable living trust. A trust allows the asset to be transferred directly to the beneficiaries upon the trustor’s death without going through probate in any state. This approach not only avoids the process but also offers greater control over the distribution of assets and can provide privacy for the estate’s affairs.

2. Transfer on Death Deeds

Some states allow for the use of transfer on death (TOD) deeds for real estate. A TOD deed enables the property owner to designate a beneficiary who will receive the property upon the owner’s death, bypassing the probate process. However, California residents should consult with an attorney to determine whether TOD deeds are recognized and can be effectively used in the state where the out-of-state asset is located.

3. Joint Ownership with Right of Survivorship

Holding property jointly with the right of survivorship is another method to avoid ancillary probate. Upon the death of one owner, the property automatically passes to the surviving owner without the need for court review. Spouses commonly use this method but can also be employed with other family members or trusted individuals. It’s important to understand the implications of adding someone as a joint owner, as it involves giving them current ownership interests in the property.

4. Gifting During Lifetime

Transferring ownership of the out-of-state property during the owner’s lifetime is a more drastic measure but can effectively eliminate the need for additional review. This strategy involves gifting the asset to the intended beneficiary or selling it to them at a nominal value. While this approach avoids probate, it may have tax implications and should be considered carefully.

Protect Out-of-State Property From Probate With The Dayton Law Firm P.C.

For California residents with assets in other states, addressing the potential for ancillary probate is a crucial aspect of estate planning. By employing strategies such as creating a revocable living trust, utilizing TOD deeds where applicable, establishing joint ownership with the right of survivorship, or considering lifetime gifts, individuals can ensure a more efficient transfer of their assets and reduce the burden on their heirs. Consulting with an estate planning attorney at The Dayton Law Firm P.C. can help you navigate these options effectively and tailor an estate plan that meets individual needs and goals. Schedule your consultation today to learn how we can assist you in protecting your estate from probate.