California Heggstad Petitions: Legal Counsel, Trustees, Litigation, and Fiduciary Insights

A Heggstad Petition can be an effective tool for avoiding the lengthy, costly, and time-consuming probate process.

What Problems Does a Heggstad Petition Solve for Beneficiaries and Trustees?

A Heggstad Petition is a valuable legal tool that addresses several common problems in trust and estate administration:

  1. Incomplete or Improper Transfer of Assets: When a trust creator (trustor) fails to properly transfer an asset into the trust before their death, a Heggstad Petition allows beneficiaries to correct this oversight and ensure the asset is included in the trust as intended.
  2. Avoiding Probate: If an asset is not formally transferred into the trust, it may be subject to the time-consuming and costly probate process. By using a Heggstad Petition to transfer the asset into the trust post-death, beneficiaries can avoid probate and streamline the distribution of the estate.
  3. Fulfilling the Trustor’s Wishes: When an asset is left out of the trust due to error or oversight, it may not be distributed according to the trustor’s wishes. A Heggstad Petition helps ensure that the trustor’s intentions are carried out, even if certain formalities were not observed during their lifetime.
  4. Reducing Family Conflict: Disputes over the distribution of assets can arise when an asset is not properly included in the trust. By using a Heggstad Petition to clarify the trustor’s intent and transfer the asset into the trust, beneficiaries can reduce the potential for conflict and ensure a smoother, more harmonious distribution process.
  5. Preserving Estate Value: The probate process can be expensive, eroding the value of the estate. By transferring assets into the trust through a Heggstad Petition, beneficiaries can help preserve the value of the estate and ensure that more of the assets are distributed to the intended recipients.

Introduction to Heggstad Petitions: Key Legal Insights

The Heggstad Petition is a crucial legal tool for California residents dealing with trust and estate matters. It allows beneficiaries to transfer assets into a trust after the death of the trust’s creator, even if those assets were not explicitly included in the original trust documents. Understanding the Heggstad Petition and its application can save beneficiaries time, money, and emotional stress during an already challenging period.

Understanding the Heggstad Case and Its Legal Implications on Estate Planning

The Heggstad Petition derives its name from the landmark case, Estate of Heggstad (1993) 16 Cal.App.4th 943.(opens in a new tab) In this case, Halvard L. Heggstad created a revocable living trust but failed to formally transfer a piece of real property into the trust before his death. However, he had listed the property on a schedule of assets attached to the trust document.

The court ruled that the mere listing of the asset on the schedule was sufficient to demonstrate Heggstad’s intent to include the property in the trust. This decision set a legal precedent, establishing that assets not formally transferred into a trust may still be considered part of the trust if there is clear evidence of the trustor’s intent.

The Heggstad case has had far-reaching implications for trust and estate law in California. It has provided a means for beneficiaries to rectify errors and oversights in trust documents, ensuring that the trustor’s wishes are fulfilled even if certain formalities were not observed.

Optimal Timing for Filing a Heggstad Petition in Probate Court

There are various situations in which a Heggstad Petition may be necessary. Some common reasons for assets being excluded from a trust include:
  • The trustor forgot to transfer the asset into the trust before their death
  • The trustor intended to transfer the asset but passed away before completing the process
  • The transfer documents were improperly prepared or executed
  • The asset was acquired after the trust was created and not subsequently added
Assets that can be transferred using a Heggstad Petition include, but are not limited to:
  • Real property (homes, land, etc.)
  • Bank accounts
  • Investment accounts
  • Personal property (vehicles, jewelry, artwork, etc.)
If you discover that an asset was intended to be part of a trust but was not formally transferred, a Heggstad Petition may be the solution. It is essential to act promptly to ensure the asset is distributed according to the trustor’s wishes and to avoid potential disputes among beneficiaries.

Key Requirements for a Successful Heggstad Petition: Legal Perspective

Demonstrating the Decedent’s Intent in Heggstad Petition Cases

The key to a successful Heggstad Petition is proving that the decedent intended to include the asset in the trust. This intent must be demonstrated through clear and convincing evidence. Some methods for establishing intent include:
  • Listing the asset on a schedule of assets attached to the trust document
  • Referencing the asset in the trust document itself
  • Providing written or verbal statements from the decedent expressing their intent to include the asset in the trust
The more evidence you can provide, the stronger your case will be.

The Role of the Schedule of Assets in Estate Litigation

A Schedule of Assets is a document that lists the assets intended to be held in the trust. It is typically attached to the trust document and updated periodically as assets are acquired or disposed of. If the asset in question is listed on the Schedule of Assets, it can serve as strong evidence of the decedent’s intent to include the asset in the trust. The court will consider this evidence when deciding whether to grant the Heggstad Petition.

Other Supporting Documentation: Deeds, Trust Agreements, and Legal Declarations

In addition to the Schedule of Assets, other documents can strengthen your Heggstad Petition. These may include:
  • Letters or emails from the decedent discussing their intent to transfer the asset into the trust
  • Records of attempts to transfer the asset, such as incomplete or improperly executed transfer documents
  • Testimony from witnesses who can attest to the decedent’s intent
Gathering as much relevant evidence as possible will increase the likelihood of your Heggstad Petition being approved.

Navigating the Heggstad Petition Filing Process: A Step-by-Step Guide

Filing a Heggstad Petition involves several steps and required documents. Here’s a general overview of the process:
  1. Gather necessary documents, including:
    • The trust document and any amendments
    • The Schedule of Assets
    • The death certificate of the decedent
    • Evidence of the decedent’s intent to include the asset in the trust
  2. Complete the required forms:
    • Petition for Order Confirming Property Passing to Trust (Form DE-350)
    • Notice of Hearing on Petition (Form DE-120)
    • Order Confirming Property Passing to Trust (Form DE-351)
  3. File the petition and supporting documents with the appropriate probate court in the county where the decedent resided or where the asset is located.
  4. Serve notice of the hearing to all interested parties, including beneficiaries and heirs.
  5. Attend the hearing and present your case to the court.
  6. If the petition is granted, obtain a certified copy of the court order and use it to transfer the asset into the trust.
The filing process can be complex and time-consuming, so it is recommended to seek the assistance of experienced estate planning attorney, Jack Klosek. He can help you navigate the legal system, ensure all requirements are met, and increase your chances of success.

Benefits of Filing a Heggstad Petition for Estate Resolution

Filing a Heggstad Petition offers several significant benefits for beneficiaries and the estate as a whole:
  • Avoiding Probate: By transferring the asset into the trust, you can avoid the costly and time-consuming probate process. This means the asset can be distributed to beneficiaries more quickly and with fewer expenses.
  • Fulfilling the Decedent’s Wishes: A Heggstad Petition allows you to ensure that the decedent’s intentions are carried out, even if certain formalities were not observed. This can provide peace of mind for beneficiaries and help prevent disputes over the distribution of assets.
  • Streamlining the Distribution Process: When assets are properly included in the trust, the distribution process is generally smoother and more efficient. This can reduce stress and uncertainty for beneficiaries during an already difficult time.

Alternatives to the Heggstad Petition

While the Heggstad Petition is a valuable tool, it is not the only option for transferring assets into a trust post-death. Other methods include:
  • Probate Code Section 13100 Affidavit: This affidavit allows certain assets, such as bank accounts and personal property, to be transferred to the trust without a court order. However, it is limited to assets valued at $166,250 or less.
  • Probate Code Section 13151 Petition: This petition can be used to transfer real property into the trust without a full probate proceeding. It requires notice to be given to all interested parties and a court hearing.
  • Probate Code Section 850 Petition: This petition, also known as a “Heggstad Petition,” allows any type of asset to be transferred into the trust with a court order. It requires clear and convincing evidence of the decedent’s intent.
The best approach will depend on the specific circumstances of your case, including the type and value of the assets involved. An experienced estate planning attorney can help you determine the most appropriate course of action.

Frequently Asked Questions About Heggstad Petitions and Probate Solutions

What is the cost of filing a heggstad petition?

The cost of filing a Heggstad Petition varies depending on the complexity of the case and the attorney fees involved. Court filing fees are typically a few hundred dollars, while attorney fees can range from a few thousand to tens of thousands of dollars.

How long does the heggstad petition process take?

The timeline for a Heggstad Petition depends on several factors, including the court’s schedule and any objections raised by interested parties. On average, the process takes between 4-6 months from filing to the court’s decision.

Can i file a heggstad petition without an attorney?

While it is possible to file a Heggstad Petition without an attorney, it is not recommended. The process is complex and requires a thorough understanding of trust and estate law. An experienced attorney can help ensure that your petition is properly prepared and presented to the court.

What happens if my heggstad petition is denied?

If your Heggstad Petition is denied, you may have other options, such as filing a different type of petition or proceeding with a full probate. An attorney can help you understand your options and determine the best course of action based on your specific circumstances.

Work With A Trusted California Attorney When Filing A Heggstad Petition

The Heggstad Petition is a powerful legal tool for California residents seeking to transfer assets into a trust after the death of the trust’s creator. By understanding the requirements and process for filing a Heggstad Petition, you can ensure that your loved one’s wishes are carried out and avoid the time and expense of a full probate proceeding.

If you are considering filing a Heggstad Petition or have questions about trust and estate matters, Klosek Law Offices is here to help. Our experienced attorneys have a deep understanding of California trust and estate law and can guide you through the process with compassion and expertise.

Don’t let legal complexities stand in the way of fulfilling your loved one’s final wishes. Contact Klosek Law Offices today to schedule a consultation and learn how we can assist you with your Heggstad Petition and other trust and estate needs.

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