TRUST LITIGATION ORANGE COUNTY, PROBATE LITIGATION ORANGE COUNTY, CALIFORNIA, ATTORNEY, ELDER LAW ORANGE COUNTY, LAWYER, WILLS TRUSTS
 

ORANGE COUNTY TRUST LITIGATION, PROBATE LITIGATION, ELDER LAW
ORANGE COUNTY, CALIFORNIA, IRVINE, RANCHO SANTA MARGARITA, NEWPORT BEACH, LAGUNA
LITIGATE OR SEIZE, PROBATE PROCESS, ATTORNEY ETHICS, ELDER LAW ISSUES, POWER OF ATTORNEY, CONSERVATORSHIP, WILLS, TRUSTS, CONTESTED WILLS, CHALLENGE TRUSTS, ASSET VALUATION, TRUST REFORMATION, TRUST CONTESTS, BREACH OF FIDUCIARY

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TRUST
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ORANGECOUNTY
CALIFORNIA .COM

Noelle M. Tomp
Attorney at Law
22421 Gilberto
Rancho Santa Margarita
CA 92688


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  ARTICLES:

ARTICLE 1:
Trusts Are The Key To Protecting And Keeping Your Assets

ARTICLE 2:
Estate Planning Basics and the Law

ARTICLE 3:
Developing your Estate Plan
ARTICLE 4:
Estate Planning Basics and the Law
ARTICLE 5:
To Avoid Probate You Need a Living Trust Besides a Will
ARTICLE 6:
How to Protect All your Assets Legally and Guaranteed
ARTICLE 7:
The Role of an Estate Planning Lawyer and His Tools
ARTICLE 8:
Living Trusts: Fact and Fiction
  ARTICLE 9:
How to Find a Good Attorney
ARTICLE 10:
The Living Trust Delemma
  Academic:
Information Article 1:
About Lawsuits
Information Article 2:
Elder Law Information

Information Article 3:
California Probate Code

Information Article 4:
Glossary of Estate Planning Terms


 

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Trust and Probate litigation is my specialty with honesty and integrity. Along with litigation I do elder law, trusts and estate planing. Being in court and appeals court continually I seeing all that goes wrong with wills, trusts, probate and estate planning. I can create a wonderfully helpful products for your love ones. My goal is to reduce the amount of conflict and keep the family unit in tact and minimize the harm. The court system is clogged with trusts that do not take these issues into consideration. If you have trust or probate problems or wish to avoid them please consider my services for your family. For a consultation with an attorney regarding an estate litigation or probate administration matter in Orange County, California.. If your loved one has passed on, and you do not know what to do, let us help. Orange County, California probate attorney. practice estate, probate, trust and conservatorship litigation and mediation in Los Angeles, California. Probate and trust litigation services Law Firm in Los Angeles California, For a consultation in the San Diego area regarding a dispute involving a will or trust, call the San Diego probate litigation attorneys

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How do you become famous,
Helping people! Changing their lives and making a difference in their lives.
Loving them...Eric Brenn

 

NOELLE M. TOMP
CALIFORNIA TRUST LITIGATOR, PROBATE LITIGATOR, ELDER LAW

Trust and Probate litigation is my specialty, and I conduct business with honesty and integrity. Along with litigation, I also do elder law, trusts and estate planning.

Being in court and appeals court on a regular basis, I see all that can go wrong with wills, trusts and estate planning. With this knowledge, I know how to create very helpful trusts and other products for you and your loved ones.

My goal is to reduce the amount of conflict and minimize the harm in order to keep the family unit intact. The court system is infiltrated with trusts that do not take these family issues into consideration. It is such a tragedy that families split up over the inheritance issues that are supposed to help them all out. How important are the amount of funds given out if you loose the family relationships. If you have trust or probate problems or wish to avoid them, please consider my services for you and your family.

Call us Today at (949)589-8151

 
TRUST LITIGATION  

We represent clients in a variety of trust actions:
* trust contests;
* beneficiary claims;
* the validity of trusts (fraud, duress, undue influence, coercion, lack of capacity, proper trust formation, divining the trustor’s intent);
* trust reformation
* representation of trustees;
* accounting of trust finances;
* breach of a fiduciary duty; and
* trust misappropriation/mismanagement.

A trust is a document where a person or entity (the trustee) manages the property of another (the trustor). Trust instruments can be created while the trustor is alive (an irrevocable or living trust) or substitute for a will (a revocable trust) to provide for the distribution of assets upon death. Like a will, the validity of a trust may be contested. Additionally, the trustee appointed to oversee the trust may be sued for improper accounting and trust mismanagement.

Remedies in such cases depend on the nature of the malfeasance and the goals of the beneficiary. Some may include:

* Obtain a full and objective accounting of the trust's activities
* Compel distribution of trust funds in accordance with the provisions of the trust
* Remove one or more trustees

By its nature, trust litigation is generally multifaceted and retaining a good attorney that has handled many cases and understands court outcomes and appeals processes is key to your litigation success.

Call us Today at (949)589-8151

 

PROBATE LITIGATION

Probate litigation often results when the validity or terms of a will or trust, are contested by one of the parties. Whether your role is one of contesting the validity of a will or you are an executor of an estate that is being contested, you need an experienced and knowledgeable probate litigation attorney to protect your rights and interests. When the important terms of a will are suspiciously altered, especially within one year of death, a will contest may be initiated by any person who asserts they were financially injured by the change in terms.

We represent clients in a variety of trust actions:

* Challenges to the validity or genuine character of a last will and testament
* Undue influence claims
* Disputes as to the testator's capacity or competence
* Questions concerning the ownership of particular assets by an estate, a trust or a transferee before death * Guardianship or conservatorship disputes
* Asset valuation problems
* Intestacy disputes where no will is available to guide the distribution of assets
* Disputes between the income beneficiaries and the remainder interest under a trust or life estate
* Breach of fiduciary duty claims involving executors, administrators, trustees, guardians or conservators
* Allegations of executor malfeasance
* Contested wills
* Lack of capacity of the decedent to write a will
* Undue influence in the writing or amendment of wills
* Petitions for special administration
* Claims against fiduciaries
* Contested conservatorships
* Financial elder abuse
* Tax appeals
* Beneficiary claims against a will
* Creditor claims against a will

The executor of an estate has the responsibility for completing the probate process. During this process, disputes can arise among the beneficiaries of a will, or between the executor and the beneficiaries regarding the probate process.

In the unfortunate event that a dispute arises with your estate after you are gone, a probate court will most likely have jurisdiction of what happens. You may be a relative who wishes to challenge a Will’s validity or terms, or you may be a loved one who believes that the executor of your loved one’s estate breached their fiduciary responsibilities and you would like to have that person replaced. We can help you contest the Will or petition the appropriate court for the removal of the executor. Likewise, if you are an Executor who has been falsely accused of mismanaging an estate or a trust, we can defend you while protecting your rights and your good name.

We work to arrive at cost-effective solutions to probate disputes.

In order for a will challenge to prevail, the plaintiff must demonstrate that the terms in question, were invalid, were incorporated into the will by coercion or under the mental or physical duress of the testator, or were included without the testator’s understanding. To avoid such a will contest, it is important to have witnesses and work with an estate planning attorney on all changes to a will, especially those made after the testator’s health begins deteriorating. In California, all will contests are litigated in the probate court. If you become involved in a probate litigation matter, you need a California probate litigation lawyer and California estate planning lawyer to advocate for you.

In California, all will contests are litigated in the probate court. If you become involved in a probate litigation matter, you need a California probate litigation lawyer and California estate planning lawyer to advocate for you.

Call us Today at (949)589-8151

 

ELDER LAW

Elder abuse is a general term used to describe certain types of harm to older adults. Other terms commonly used include: "elder mistreatment", "senior abuse", "abuse in later life", "abuse of older adults", "abuse of older women", and "abuse of older men".

The law defines elder abuse as "physical abuse, neglect, financial abuse, abandonment, isolation, abduction or other treatment with resulting in physical harm or pain or mental suffering, or the deprivation by a care custodian of goods or services that are necessary to avoid physical harm or mental suffering." (Welfare & Institutions Code, Section 15610.07 and in Penal Code 368). Financial abuse includes illegally taking an elder's funds, property or assets.

In the United States, it is esimtated that there are up to 5,000,000 cases of elder abuse every year, with most of the cases going unreported. Most of the abusers are typically individuals that the elder has an expectation of trust with such as as a spouse, family …

The signs of elder abuse are often subtle and a senior who is being abused frequently fails to report the abuse. If your friend or relative has had unexplained injuries, bed sores, a broken hip or frequent falls, and you are suspicious of elder abuse or nursing home negligence, you may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit including a wrongful death suit if the elder abuse has led to death. Elder abuse law is complex and changes frequently. Hiring an experienced California nursing home negligence attorney can make all the difference in the world.

If you have reason to believe an elderly person you love is suffering from elder abuse, please call us right away.

Call us Today at (949)589-8151

 

ESTATE PLANNING

Estate planning is the process of disposing of an estate. Estate planning typically attempts to eliminate uncertainties over the administration of a probate and maximize the value of the estate by reducing taxes and other expenses. Guardians are often designated for minor children and beneficiaries in incapacity.

Estate planning is a process that involves people—your family, other individuals and, in many cases, charitable organizations of your choice. It also involves your assets (your property) and the various forms of ownership and title that those assets may take. And it addresses your future needs in case you ever become unable to care for yourself. Through estate planning, you can determine:

• How and by whom your assets will be managed for your benefit during your lifetime if you ever become unable to manage them yourself.

• When and under what circumstances it makes sense to distribute your assets during your lifetime.

• How and to whom your assets will be distributed after your death.

• How and by whom your personal care will be managed and how health care decisions will be made during your lifetime if you become unable to care for yourself.

Estate planning devices involves wills, trusts, beneficiary designations, powers of appointment, property ownership (joint tenancy with rights of survivorship, tenancy in common, tenancy by the entirety), gift, and powers of attorney, specifically the durable financial power of attorney and the durable medical power of attorney. Specific final arrangements, such as whether to be buried or cremated, are also often part of the documents. And more sophisticated estate plans may even cover deferring or decreasing estate taxes or winding up a business.

Do I Need to Worry?
You may think estate planning is only for the very wealthy. But whether or not you have sizeable financial assets, it's likely you have possessions that have significant value to you and to those you care about - the china your great, great grandparents brought with them when they immigrated, or the Bible that has been handed down in your family for generations. Certainly, if your assets are worth $2,000,000 or more, estate planning can benefit your heirs by minimizing the taxable portion of your estate. Remember, all.of your assets are included in your estate, and adding up the value of your assets can be an eye-opening experience. When you include your home, investments, retirement savings, and life insurance policies you own, you may be surprised at the value of your estate.

Taking Stock
A good first step in estate planning is to inventory everything you own (i.e., your assets) and assign a value to each asset. The following list can help you get started, but you'll probably need to add some categories and delete others.
* Residence
* Other real estate
* Savings, e.g., savings accounts, CDs, money markets
* Investments, e.g., stocks, bonds, mutual funds
* Pension and/or other retirement accounts, e.g.,401(k), IRA
* Life Insurance policies and annuities
* Ownership interest in a business
* Motor vehicles, e.g., cars, boats, planes
* Jewelry
* Collectibles, e.g., art, antiques
* Other personal property Depending upon your specific situation, you may need professional advice (e.g., a real estate or antiques appraiser) to determine realistic values.

Once you've estimated the value of your assets, you're ready to do some planning.

Estate Taxes
How Estates Are Taxed Federal gift and estate tax law permits each tax payer to transfer a certain amount of assets free from tax. These assets may be transferred during his or her lifetime or at death. In addition, certain gifts valued at $12,000 or less can be made that are not counted against this amount (see "Minimizing Estate Taxes"). The amount of money that can be shielded from federal estate or gift taxes is determined by the unified credit. A credit is an amount that eliminates or reduces tax. The unified credit applies to both the gift tax and the estate tax. You subtract the unified credit from any gift tax that you owe. Any unified credit you use against your gift tax in one year reduces the amount of credit you can use against your gift tax in a later year. The total amount used against your gift tax reduces the credit available to use against your estate tax.*

Minimizing Estate
Taxes There are a number of estate planning methods you can use to minimize federal taxes on your estate. Brief overviews of some of these planning tools are outlined in the following paragraphs.

Giving away assets during your lifetime.
Federal tax law generally allows each individual to give up to $12,000 (scheduled to be adjusted periodically for inflation) per year to anyone, without paying gift taxes, subject to certain restrictions. That means you can transfer some of your wealth to your children or others during your lifetime to reduce your taxable estate. For example, you could give $12,000 a year to each of your children, and your spouse could do likewise - for a total of $24,000 per year to each child. You may make $12,000 annual gifts to as many people as you wish. You may also give your child or another person more than $12,000 a year without having to pay federal gift taxes, but amounts in excess of $12,000 will count against the amount shielded from tax by your applicable credit. For example, if you gave your favorite niece $33,000 a year for the last threeyears, you would have reduced your applicable credit by $63,000 - a $21,000 excess gift each year.

Using the marital deduction to shield property from taxes.
Federal tax law generally permits you to transfer assets to your spouse without incurring gift or estate taxes, regardless of the amount. This is not, however, without its drawbacks. Marital deductions may increase the total combined federal estate tax liability of the spouses upon the subsequent death of the surviving spouse. To avoid this problem, many couples choose to establish a bypass trust.

Bypass trusts or credit shelter trusts
can give a couple the advantages of the marital deduction while utilizing the applicable credit to its fullest. Let's say, for example, that a married couple has a federal taxable estate worth $3,000,000 million (or $1,500,000 each). Using the marital deduction, if one spouse dies in 2006 the full $1,500,000 can be left to the other spouse without incurring taxes. But if the second spouse dies in 2007 and passes his or her $3,000,000 estate on to their children, taxes will be levied on the excess over the amount of assets shielded by the applicable credit ($3,000,000 - $2,000,000 = $1,000,000 subject to estate tax). With a bypass or credit shelter trust, the first spouse to die can leave the amount shielded by the applicable credit to the trust. The trust can provide income to the surviving spouse for life; then, when the surviving spouse dies, the assets are distributed to beneficiaries, such as children. This permits the spouse who dies first to fully utilize his or her applicable credit. If the trust document is drawn properly, the assets in the trust are not included in the surviving spouse's estate. Thus, the surviving spouse's estate will be smaller and can also utilize the applicable credit. In the example above, the surviving spouse's estate would not have to pay federal estate taxes. Because both partners have made use of their applicable credit, the couple is able to pass on a substantial estate to their beneficiaries, tax free.

Charitable gifts
are not taxed as long as the contribution is made to an organization that operates for religious, charitable or educational purposes. Check to see if the organization you want to give money to is an eligible charity in the eyes of the Internal Revenue Service. You, or your estate, maybe entitled to a tax deduction for contributions to a qualifying charity. Consult your tax advisor for specific details.

Life insurance trusts
can be designed to keep the proceeds of a life insurance policy out of your estate and give your estate liquidity. Generally, you can fund a life insurance trust either by transferring an existing life insurance policy or by having the trust purchase a new policy. (Note that transferring an existing policy may have gift tax consequences - consult your tax advisor.) To avoid inclusion in your estate, such trusts must be irrevocable- meaning that you cannot dissolve the trust or change the terms of the trust if you change your mind later. With proper planning, the proceeds from life insurance held by the trust may pass to trust beneficiaries without income or estate taxes.This gives them cash, which may be used to help pay estate taxes or other expenses, such as debts or funeral costs.

Estate planning is very complex and is subject to changing laws. Be sure to seek professional advice from a qualified attorney, and perhaps a CPA. The money you spend now to plan your estate can mean more money for your beneficiaries in the end.

Call us Today at (949)589-8151

 

WILLS AND TRUSTS

We all do our best to prepare for the future. Few of us like to think about our end of days, but it is important to have your affairs in order to ensure that your loved ones are cared for and your assets are distributed or maintained in the way that you intend. There are two main vehicles for protecting your assets and providing for your loved ones after your death: wills and trusts.

A trust enables you to create a separate legal entity to protect your property and assets from probate, taxes and public scrutiny. Trusts may be established while you are living or upon your death as set forth in your will. The type of trust you establish will determine how much control you have over the property that you place within it.

A will is a legal document that allows you to name a guardian for your child and specify who will inherit your property after you die. Without a will, you will have no say in what happens to your property.

The main advantage for a living trust is the avoidance of probate.
Probate is a state court proceeding in which your property is transferred to your heirs. All Wills must be probated. Since probate only affects assets which you own at the time of your death, assets placed in a living trust are not owned by you, therefore, there is no probate on those assets. Probate will generally cost about 3-4% of the value of the probate assets and will take between 9 months to 2 years (absent litigation or contested claims) to complete.

Confidentiality and Continuity of Ownership
Since probate is a court proceeding, your Will and the valuation of your assets are open to public inspection. A living trust, however, is confidential and the transfer of assets from the living trust is kept from public view. When the grantor of a living trust dies or becomes incapacitated, the successor trustee continues the administration of the living trust. There is absent the "gap" period between the time of death and the appointment of the executor which occurs under a Will. Also, the continuity of the living trust is preserved if the grantor becomes incapacitated through illness or accident through the successor trustee. In this case, the living trust would be administered for the benefit of the grantor.

Advantages to a Will
A Will only takes effect upon the death of the person, therefore, nothing has to be transferred or administered currently. Also, the probate estate is a separate taxpayer which can select a fiscal year end -- an advantage over a living trust. The decedent's creditors have a very short statute of limitations period to bring any claims in a probate and once that period has passed, those creditors are barred from asserting claims against the heirs. The probate is an orderly and well established process; creditors and debtors familiar with dealing with an executor of a Will. Dealing with the probate court system and bureaucracy, however, can be a lengthy and frustrating experience. In conclusion, the Will presents none of the administration difficulties associated with a living trust during the life of the grantor.

Disadvantages of a Living Trust
All assets which are to be owned by the living trust must be transferred currently into the living trust. Real property deeds must be transferred into the name of the living trust and if the transfer involves real estate, other than a personal residence, then generally all lien holders (mortgagees) must consent to the transfer. Likewise, all bank accounts must be reopened in the name of the living trust, all partnership and stock interests must be transferred, and each of these transfers typically requires special documentation by the transfer agent. In addition, the trustee must title and sign all documents relating to the living trust as "John Doe, Trustee, John Doe Revocable Trust dated January 1, 1989", instead of merely signing his or her name. All purchases and sales must be conducted in the name of the living trust. Third parties who are used to dealing with an individual often have a difficult time dealing with the trustee of a living trust. Often they will insist that the living trust agreement be provided or that their attorneys review the living trust, at the living trust's expense, before they will transact business with the trustee. Inevitably, the trustee must educate those with whom he or she does business as to the legal validity of the living trust and the legal right of the trustee to transact business on behalf of the trust. To summarize, the transfer of assets to the living trust must be carefully and properly documented, and dealing with third parties tends to be difficult. The living trust, because of the transfer of documents and its operation as a viable entity during the grantor's lifetime, make it more expensive to draft and implement than a Will.

WHY SHOULD I HAVE A LIVING TRUST?
There are several reasons why a Living Trust is essential to good estate planning. However, the single most important reason why someone should have a Living Trust is to avoid probate! A Living Trust eliminates the need for your heirs or surviving spouse to be subjected to the agony and unnecessary cost of probate. A Living Trust further provides the entity to ensure that you either pay no estate and inheritance taxes or at least minimize those onerous taxes. In addition, a Living Trust establishes the means to provide for your needs in the event that you become incompetent. It can provide for the support and education of your minor children. It can further provide care for a handicapped child without jeopardizing his or her governmental benefits. A Living Trust can also insure what all people want-privacy of their financial affairs. When a will is probated, it is filed with the court. All court filings are considered public record which allows anyone to go to the court and view them. Since a Living Trust is not probated it never becomes a public record. Hence, no one can view the Trust without the Trustees permission.

In Conclusion
Initially a living trust has greater costs with respect to its formation and implementation than a Will, but those costs are usually a small percentage of the amount saved through the avoidance of probate costs at the time the grantor dies. Additionally, if confidentiality and continuity of ownership are important objectives, then the living trust is the document of choice. Conversely, if confidentiality and continuity are not important objectives, and if the initial cost and constant administration of a living trust outweigh the potential savings through the avoidance of probate, then a Will should be used.

Please find below reason why you should get a Living Trust:

Reason #1: Protecting Property for Certain Beneficiaries.
Reason #2: Reducing or Eliminating Estate Taxes.
Reason #3: Managing Property upon Incapacity.
Reason #4: Avoiding Probate.
Reason #5: Avoiding a Will Contest.
Reason #6: Privacy.

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ACADEMIC SECTION:

ABOUT LITIGATION:
In law, a lawsuit is a civil action brought before a court in which a party (plaintiff) has claimed to have received damages from a defendant's actions, the plaintiff, seeks a legal or equitable remedy. The defendants are required to respond to the complaint of the plaintiff. If the plaintiff is successful, judgment will be given in the plaintiff's favor, and a range of court orders may be issued to enforce a right, award damages, or impose an injunction to prevent an act or compel an act. A declaratory judgment may be issued to prevent future legal disputes. A lawsuit may involve dispute resolution of private law issues between individuals, business entities or non-profit organizations. A lawsuit may also enable the government to be treated as if it were a private party in a civil case, as plaintiff or defendant regarding an injury, or may provide the government with a civil cause of action to enforce certain laws. The conduct of a lawsuit is called litigation.

Rules of procedure and complications in lawsuits
Rules of criminal or civil procedure govern the conduct of a lawsuit in the common law adversarial system of dispute resolution. Procedural rules are additionally constrained/informed by separate statutory laws, case law, and constitutional provisions that define the rights of the parties to a lawsuit (see especially due process), though the rules will generally reflect this legal context on their face. The details of procedure will differ from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, and often from court to court within the same jurisdiction. The rules are very important for litigants to know, however, because they dictate the timing and progression of the lawsuit – what may be filed and when to get what result. Failure to comply with the procedural rules can result in serious limitations in conducting the trial or even dismissal of the lawsuit. Direct contempt is a special summary procedure used in federal courts. It allows federal judges to order litigants to be incarcerated if they do not obey direct orders as to what they should file or do in another court. No U.S. Attorney participation is required. No statutory authority is needed. The aggrieved party simply requests a federal judge to put the plaintiff in a different court in jail if he or she doesn't obey a direct order to file a motion to voluntarily dismiss the action in the other court. Edward Nottingham, former federal judge used the direct contempt procedure to jail pro se litigant Kay Sieverding because she didn't obey his direct orders as to what she should write to other courts. When direct contempt is used, the section on the warrant for offense does not need to be filled in with an Act of Congress. Though the majority of lawsuits are settled and never even get to trial[4], they can expand into a very complicated process. This is particularly true in federal systems, where a federal court may be applying state law (e.g., the Erie doctrine in the United States) or vice versa, or one state applying the law of another, and where it additionally may not be clear which level (or location) of court actually has jurisdiction over the claim or personal jurisdiction over the defendant. Domestic courts are also often called upon to apply foreign law, or to act upon foreign defendants, over whom they may not, as a practical matter, even have the ability to enforce a judgment if the defendant's assets are outside their reach. Lawsuits become additionally complicated as more parties become involved (see joinder). Within a "single" lawsuit, there can be any number of claims and defenses (all based on numerous laws) between any number of plaintiffs or defendants, who each can bring any number of cross-claims and counterclaims against each other, and even bring additional parties into the suit on either side after it progresses. However, courts typically have some power to separate out claims and parties into separate suits if it is more efficient to do so, such as if there is not a sufficient overlap of factual issues between the various claims.

Pleading
A lawsuit begins when a complaint is filed with the court. This complaint will state that one or more plaintiffs is seeking damages or equitable relief from one or more stated defendants, and will identify the legal and factual bases for doing so. The clerk of a court signs a summons, which is then served by the plaintiff upon the defendant, together with a copy of the complaint. This service notifies the defendants that they are being sued and that they have a specific time limit to file a response. By providing a copy of the complaint, the service also notifies the defendants of the nature of the claims. Once the defendants are served with the summons and complaint, they have a time limit to file an answer identifying their defenses to the plaintiff's claims, including any challenges to the court's jurisdiction, and any counterclaims they wish to assert against the plaintiff. In many courts, a lawsuit begins when one or more plaintiffs properly serve a summons and complaint upon the defendant(s). In these states, the plaintiffs need not file the complaint with the district court clerk to commence the lawsuit. As in other court, the defendant(s) will have a specific time limit during which they may file their answer. If the defendant chooses to file an answer within the time permitted, he/she must respond to each of the plaintiffs' allegations by admitting the allegation, denying it, or pleading a lack of sufficient information to admit or deny the allegation. At the time he files an answer, the defendant will also raise all "affirmative" defenses he may have. He may also assert any counterclaims for damages or equitable relief against the plaintiff, and in the case of "compulsory counterclaims," must do so or risk having the counterclaim barred in any subsequent proceeding. The defendant may also file a "third party complaint" in which he seeks to join another party or parties in the action if he believes those parties may be liable for some or all of the plaintiff's damages. Filing an answer "joins the cause" and moves the case into the pre-trial phase. Instead of filing an answer within the time specified in the summons, the defendant can choose to dispute the validity of the complaint by filing one or more motions to dismiss. The motion must be filed within the time period specified in the summons for an answer. If all such motions are denied by the trial court, and the defendant loses on all appeals from such denials (if that option is available), then the defendant must file an answer. Usually the pleadings are drafted by a lawyer, but in many courts persons can file papers and represent themselves, which is called appearing pro se. Many courts have a pro se clerk to assist people without lawyers.

Pre-trial
The early stages of the lawsuit may involve initial disclosures of evidence by each party and discovery, which is the ordered exchange of evidence and statements between the parties based on what they each expect to argue during the actual trial. Discovery is meant to eliminate surprises and clarify what the lawsuit is about, and perhaps to make a party realize they should settle or drop the claim, all before wasting court resources. At this point the parties may also engage in pretrial motion filing in order to exclude or include particular legal or factual issues before trial, by blocking the other party from presenting a particular witness or arguing a particular legal theory. At the close of discovery, the parties may pick a jury and then have a trial by jury. Or, the case may proceed as a bench trial heard only by the judge, if the parties waive a jury trial, or if the right to a jury trial is not guaranteed for their particular claim (such as those under equity in the U.S.) or for any lawsuits within their jurisdiction.

Alternative Dispute Resolution
Congress requires that all federal courts offer alternative dispute resolution in all civil actions including bankruptcy. A neutral third party participates to assist in the resolution of issues in controversy. Except as defined in section 1654 participation by litigants is voluntary and not binding. Section 1654 does not allow arbitration when the participants do not agree, there is a claimed violation of a constitutional right, or the amount in controversy is more than $150,000 but mediation can still be used in those cases. The only exception to this mandate is for pro se litigants. Although Congress requires the procedure to be offered to all litigants, many federal courts do not allow pro se litigants to participate even when they pay the full filing fee.

Trial and judgment
The lawsuit may then proceed similarly to a criminal trial, with each side presenting witnesses and submitting evidence, at the close of which the judge or jury renders their decision. Generally speaking, the plaintiff has the burden of proof in making his claims, which means that it is up to him to produce enough evidence to persuade the judge or jury that his claim should succeed. The defendant may have the burden of proof on other issues, however, such as affirmative defenses. There are numerous motions that either party can file throughout the lawsuit to terminate it "prematurely" – before submission to the judge or jury for final consideration. These motions attempt to persuade the judge, through legal argument and sometimes accompanying evidence, that because there is no reasonable way that the other party could legally win, there is no sense in continuing with the trial. Motions for summary judgment, for example, can usually be brought before, after, or during the actual presentation of the case. Motions can also be brought after the close of a trial to undo a jury verdict that is contrary to law or against the weight of the evidence, or to convince the judge that he should change his decision or grant a new trial. Also, at any time during this process from the filing of the complaint to the final judgment, the plaintiff may withdraw his complaint and end the whole matter, or the defendant may agree to a settlement, which involves a negotiated award followed also by the plaintiff withdrawing his complaint and the settlement entered into the court record.

Appeal
After a final decision has been made, either party or both may appeal from the judgment if they are unhappy with it (and their jurisdiction grants the ability). Even the prevailing party may appeal, if, for example, they wanted a larger award than was granted. The appellate court (which may be structured as an intermediate appellate court) and a higher court will then affirm the judgment, refuse to hear it (which effectively affirms), reverse, or vacate and remand, which involves sending the lawsuit back to the lower trial court to address an unresolved issue, or possibly for a whole new trial. Some lawsuits go up and down the appeals ladder repeatedly before finally being resolved.

Enforcement
When a final judgment is entered, the plaintiff will likely be barred under res judicata from trying to bring the same or similar claim again against that defendant, or from relitigating any of the issues, even under different legal claims or theories. This prevents a new trial of the same case with a different result, or if the plaintiff won, a repeat trial that merely multiplies the judgment against the defendant. If the judgment is for the plaintiff, then the defendant must comply under penalty of law with the judgment, which will usually be a monetary award. If the defendant fails to pay, the court has various powers to seize any of the defendant's assets located within its jurisdiction, such as:

* Bank account garnishment
* Liens
* Wage garnishment

If all assets are located elsewhere, the plaintiff must file another suit in the appropriate court to seek enforcement of the other court's previous judgment. This can be a difficult task when crossing from a court in one state or nation to another, though courts tend to grant each other respect when there is not a clear legal rule to the contrary. A defendant who has no assets in any jurisdiction is said to be "judgment-proof." The term is generally a colloquialism to describe an impecunious defendant. Indigent judgment-proof defendants are no longer imprisoned; debtor's prisons have been outlawed by statute, constitutional amendment, or international human rights treaties in the vast majority of common law jurisdictions.

ABOUT TRUSTS
In common law legal systems, a trust is an arrangement whereby property (including real, tangible and intangible) is managed by one person (or persons, or organizations) for the benefit of another. A trust is created by a settlor, who entrusts some or all of his or her property to people of his choice (the trustees). The trustees hold legal title to the trust property (or trust corpus), but they are obliged to hold the property for the benefit of one or more individuals or organizations (the beneficiary, a.k.a. cestui que use or cestui que trust), usually specified by the settlor, who hold equitable title. The trustees owe a fiduciary duty to the beneficiaries, who are the "beneficial" owners of the trust property. The trust is governed by the terms of the trust document, which is usually written and occasionally set out in deed form. It is also governed by local law. The trustee is obliged to administer the trust in accordance with both the terms of the trust document and the governing law. In the United States, the settlor is also called the trustor, grantor, donor, or creator.

Significance
The trust is widely considered to be the most innovative contribution to the English legal system. Today, trusts play a significant role in all common law systems, and their success has led some civil law jurisdictions to incorporate trusts into their civil codes. Trusts are recognized internationally under the Hague Convention on the Law Applicable to Trusts and on their Recognition which also regulates conflict of trusts.

Basic principles
Property of any sort can be held on trust. The uses of trusts are many and varied. Trusts can be created during a person's life (usually by a trust instrument) or after death in a will.

Creation Trusts can be created by the expressed intentions of the settlor (express trusts) or they can be created by operation of law (resulting trusts). Typically a trust is created by one of the following:

1. a written trust document created by the settlor and signed by both the settlor and the trustees (often referred to as an inter vivos or "living trust");
2. an oral declaration;
3. the will of a decedent, usually called a testamentary trust; or
4. a court order (for example in family proceedings). In some jurisdictions certain types of assets cannot be the subject of a trust without a written document.

Formalities
Generally, a trust requires three certainties, as determined in Knight v Knight:

1. Intention. There must be a clear intention to create a trust (Re Adams and the Kensington Vestry)
2. Subject Matter. The property subject to the trust must be clearly identified (Palmer v Simmonds). One cannot, for example, settle "the majority of my estate", as the precise extent cannot be ascertained. Trust property can be any form of specific property, be it real or personal, tangible or intangible. It is often, for example, real estate, shares or cash.
3. Objects. The beneficiaries of the trust must be clearly identified, or at least be ascertainable (Re Hain's Settlement). In the case of discretionary trusts, where the trustees have power to decide who the beneficiaries will be, the settlor must have described a clear class of beneficiaries (McPhail v Doulton). Beneficiaries can include people not born at the date of the trust (for example, "my future grandchildren"). Alternatively, the object of a trust could be a charitable purpose rather than specific beneficiaries.

Trustees
The trustee can be either a person or a legal entity such as a company. A trust may have one or multiple trustees. A trustee has many rights and responsibilities; these vary from trust to trust depending on the type of the trust. A trust generally will not fail solely for want of a trustee. A court may appoint a trustee, or in Ireland the trustee may be any administrator of a charity to which the trust is related. Trustees are usually appointed in the document (instrument) which creates the trust. A trustee may be held personally liable for certain problems which arise with the trust. For example, if a trustee does not properly invest trust monies to expand the trust fund, he or she may be liable for the difference. There are two main types of trustees, professional and non-professional. Liability is different for the two types. The trustees are the legal owners of the trust's property. The trustees administer the affairs attendant to the trust. The trust's affairs may include investing the assets of the trust, ensuring trust property is preserved and productive for the beneficiaries, accounting for and reporting periodically to the beneficiaries concerning all transactions associated with trust property, filing any required tax returns on behalf of the trust, and other duties. In some cases, the trustees must make decisions as to whether beneficiaries should receive trust assets for their benefit. The circumstances in which this discretionary authority is exercised by trustees is usually provided for under the terms of the trust instrument. The trustee's duty is to determine in the specific instance of a beneficiary request whether to provide any funds and in what manner. By default, being a trustee is an unpaid job. In modern times trustees are often lawyers or other professionals who cannot afford to work for free. Therefore, often a trust document will state specifically that trustees are entitled to reasonable payment for their work.

Beneficiaries
The beneficiaries are beneficial (or equitable) owners of the trust property. Either immediately or eventually, the beneficiaries will receive income from the trust property, or they will receive the property itself. The extent of a beneficiary's interest depends on the wording of the trust document. One beneficiary may be entitled to income (for example, interest from a bank account), whereas another may be entitled to the entirety of the trust property when he attains the age of twenty-five years. The settlor has much discretion when creating the trust, subject to some limitations imposed by law.

Purposes Common purposes for trusts include:

1. Privacy. Trusts may be created purely for privacy. The terms of a will are public and the terms of a trust are not. In some families this alone makes use of trusts ideal.

2. Spendthrift Protection. Trusts may be used to protect one's self against one's own inability to handle money. It is not unusual for an individual to create an inter vivos trust with a corporate trustee who may then disburse funds only for causes articulated in the trust document. These are especially attractive for spendthrifts. In many cases a family member or friend has prevailed upon the spendthrift/settlor to enter into such a relationship.

3. Wills and Estate Planning. Trusts frequently appear in wills (indeed, technically, the administration of every deceased's estate is a form of trust). A fairly conventional will, even for a comparatively poor person, often leaves assets to the deceased's spouse (if any), and then to the children equally. If the children are under 18, or under some other age mentioned in the will (21 and 25 are common), a trust must come into existence until the contingency age is reached. The executor of the will is (usually) the trustee, and the children are the beneficiaries. The trustee will have powers to assist the beneficiaries during their minority.

4. Charities. In some common law jurisdictions all charities must take the form of trusts. In others, corporations may be charities also, but even there a trust is the most usual form for a charity to take. In most jurisdictions, charities are tightly regulated for the public benefit (in England, for example, by the Charity Commission).

5. Unit Trusts. The trust has proved to be such a flexible concept that it has proved capable of working as an investment vehicle: the unit trust.

6. Pension Plans. Pension plans are typically set up as a trust, with the employer as settlor, and the employees and their dependents as beneficiaries.

7. Remuneration Trusts. Trusts for the benefit of directors and employees or companies or their families or dependents. This form of trust was developed by Paul Baxendale-Walker and has since gained widespread use.

8. Corporate Structures. Complex business arrangements, most often in the finance and insurance sectors, sometimes use trusts among various other entities (e.g. corporations) in their structure.

9. Asset Protection. The principle of "asset protection" is for a person to divorce himself or herself personally from the assets he or she would otherwise own, with the intention that future creditors will not be able to attack that money, even though they may be able to bankrupt him or her personally. One method of asset protection is the creation of a discretionary trust, of which the settlor may be the protector and a beneficiary, but not the trustee and not the sole beneficiary. In such an arrangement the settlor may be in a position to benefit from the trust assets, without owning them, and therefore without them being available to his creditors. Such a trust will usually preserve anonymity with a completely unconnected name (e.g. "The Teddy Bear Trust"). The above is a considerable simplification of the scope of asset protection. It is a subject which straddles ethical boundaries. Some asset protection is legal and (arguably) moral, while some asset protection is illegal and/or (arguably) immoral.

10. Tax Planning. The tax consequences of doing anything using a trust are usually different from the tax consequences of achieving the same effect by another route (if, indeed, it would be possible to do so). In many cases the tax consequences of using the trust are better than the alternative, and trusts are therefore frequently used for tax avoidance.For an example see the "nil-band discretionary trust", explained at Inheritance Tax (United Kingdom).

11. Tax Evasion. In contrast to tax avoidance, tax evasion is the illegal concealment of income from the tax authorities. Trusts have proved a useful vehicle to the tax evader, as they tend to preserve anonymity, and they divorce the settlor and individual beneficiaries from ownership of the assets. This use is particularly common across borders—a trustee in one country is not necessarily bound to report income to the tax authorities of another. This issue has been addressed by various initiatives of the OECD.

12. Money Laundering. The same attributes of trusts which attract legitimate asset protectors also attract money launderers. Many of the techniques of asset protection, particularly layering, are techniques of money-laundering also, and innocent trustees such as bank trust companies can become involved in money-laundering in the belief that they are furthering a legitimate asset protection exercise, often without raising suspicion.

13. Co-ownership. Ownership of property by more than one person is facilitated by a trust. In particular, ownership of a matrimonial home is commonly effected by a trust with both partners as beneficiaries and one, or both, owning the legal title as trustee.

Types of Trusts

  • Constructive trust. Unlike an express or implied trust, a constructive trust is not created by an agreement between a settlor and the trustee. A constructive trust is imposed by the law as an "equitable remedy." This generally occurs due to some wrongdoing, where the wrongdoer has acquired legal title to some property and cannot in good conscience be allowed to benefit from it. A constructive trust is, essentially, a legal fiction. For example, a court of equity recognizing a plaintiff's request for the equitable remedy of a constructive trust may decide that a constructive trust has been "raised" and simply order the person holding the assets to the person who rightfully should have them. The constructive trustee is not necessarily the person who is guilty of the wrongdoing, and in practice it is often a bank or similar organization.
  • Express trust. An express trust arises where a settlor deliberately and consciously decides to create a trust, over his or her assets, either now, or upon his or her later death. In these cases this will be achieved by signing a trust instrument, which will either be a will or a trust deed. Almost all trusts dealt with in the trust industry are of this type. They contrast with resulting and constructive trusts. The intention of the parties to create the trust must be shown clearly by their language or conduct. For an express trust to exist, there must be certainty to the objects of the trust and the trust property. In the USA Statute of Frauds provisions require express trusts to be evidenced in writing if the trust property is above a certain value, or is real estate.
  • Fixed trust. In a fixed trust, the entitlement of the beneficiaries is fixed by the settlor. The trustee has little or no discretion. Common examples are:
    • a trust for a minor ("to x if she attains 21");
    • a life interest ("to pay the income to x for her lifetime"); and
    • a remainder ("to pay the capital to y after the death of x")
  • Hybrid trust. A hybrid trust combines elements of both fixed and discretionary trusts. In a hybrid trust, the trustee must pay a certain amount of the trust property to each beneficiary fixed by the settlor. But the trustee has discretion as to how any remaining trust property, once these fixed amounts have been paid out, is to be paid to the beneficiaries.
  • Implied trust. An implied trust, as distinct from an express trust, is created where some of the legal requirements for an express trust are not met, but an intention on behalf of the parties to create a trust can be presumed to exist. A resulting trust may be deemed to be present where a trust instrument is not properly drafted and a portion of the equitable title has not been provided for. In such a case, the law may raise a resulting trust for the benefit of the grantor (the creator of the trust). In other words, the grantor may be deemed to be a beneficiary of the portion of the equitable title that was not properly provided for in the trust document.
  • Incentive trust. A trust that uses distributions from income or principal as an incentive to encourage or discourage certain behaviors on the part of the beneficiary. The term "incentive trust" is sometimes used to distinguish trusts that provide fixed conditions for access to trust funds from discretionary trusts that leave such decisions up to the trustee.
  • Inter vivos trust (or living trust). A settlor who is living at the time the trust is established creates an inter vivos trust.
  • Irrevocable trust. In contrast to a revocable trust, an irrevocable trust is one in which the terms of the trust cannot be amended or revised until the terms or purposes of the trust have been completed. Although in rare cases, a court may change the terms of the trust due to unexpected changes in circumstances that make the trust uneconomical or unwieldy to administer, under normal circumstances an irrevocable trust cannot be changed by the trustee or the beneficiaries of the trust.
  • Offshore trust. Strictly speaking, an offshore trust is a trust which is resident in any jurisdiction other than that in which the settlor is resident. However, the term is more commonly used to describe a trust in one of the jurisdictions known as offshore financial centers or, colloquially, as tax havens. Offshore trusts are usually conceptually similar to onshore trusts in common law countries, but usually with legislative modifications to make the more commercially attractive by abolishing or modifying certain common law restrictions. By extension, "onshore trust" has come to mean any trust resident in a high-tax jurisdiction.
  • Private and public trusts. A private trust has one or more particular individuals as its beneficiary. By contrast, a public trust (also called a charitable trust) has some charitable end as its beneficiary. In order to qualify as a charitable trust, the trust must have as its object certain purposes such as alleviating poverty, providing education, carrying out some religious purpose, etc. The permissible objects are generally set out in legislation, but objects not explicitly set out may also be an object of a charitable trust, by analogy. Charitable trusts are entitled to special treatment under the law of trusts and also the law of taxation.
  • Protective trust. Here the terminology is different between the UK and the USA:
    • In the UK, a protective trust is a life interest which terminates on the happening of a specified event such as the bankruptcy of the beneficiary or any attempt by him to dispose of his interest. They have become comparatively rare.
    • In the USA, a protective trust is a type of trust that was devised for use in estate planning. (In another jurisdiction this might be thought of as one type of asset protection trust.) Often a person, A, wishes to leave property to another person B. A however fears that the property might be claimed by creditors before A dies, and that therefore B would receive none of it. A could establish a trust with B as the beneficiary, but then A would not be entitled to use of the property before they died. Protective trusts were developed as a solution to this situation. A would establish a trust with both A and B as beneficiaries, with the trustee instructed to allow A use of the property until they died, and thereafter to allow its use to B. The property is then safe from being claimed by A's creditors, at least so long as the debt was entered into after the trust's establishment. This use of trusts is similar to life estates and remainders, and are frequently used as alternatives to them.
  • Purpose trust. Or, more accurately, non-charitable purpose trust (all charitable trusts are purpose trusts). Generally, the law does not permit non-charitable purpose trusts outside of certain anomalous exceptions which arose under the eighteenth century common law (and, arguable, Quistclose trusts). Certain jurisdictions (principally, offshore jurisdictions) have enacted legislation validating non-charitable purpose trusts generally.
  • Resulting trust. A resulting trust is a form of implied trust which occurs where (1) a trust fails, wholly or in part, as a result of which the settlor becomes entitled to the assets; or (2) a voluntary payment is made by A to B in circumstances which do not suggest gifting. B becomes the resulting trustee of A's payment.
  • Revocable trust. A trust of this kind can be amended, altered or revoked by its settlor at any time, provided the settlor is not mentally incapacitated. Revocable trusts are becoming increasingly common in the United States as a substitute for a will to minimize administrative costs associated with probate and to provide centralized administration of a person's final affairs after death.
  • Secret trust. A post mortem trust constituted externally from a will but imposing obligations as a trustee on one, or more, legatees of a will.
  • Simple trust. This term is only used in the USA, but in that jurisdiction has two distinct meanings:
    • In a simple trust the trustee has no active duty beyond conveying the property to the beneficiary at some future time determined by the trust. This is also called a bare trust. All other trusts are special trusts where the trustee has active duties beyond this.
    • A simple trust in Federal income tax law is one in which, under the terms of the trust document, all net income must be distributed on an annual basis.
  • Special trust. In the USA, a special trust contrasts with a simple trust (see above).
  • A Spendthrift trust is a trust put into place for the benefit of a person who is unable to control their spending. It gives the trustee the power to decide how the trust funds may be spent for the benefit of the beneficiary.
  • Standby Trust or Pourover Trust. The trust is empty at creation during life and the will transfers the property into the trust at death. This is a statutory trust.
  • Testamentary trust or Will Trust. A trust created in an individual's will is called a testamentary trust. Because a will can become effective only upon death, a testamentary trust is generally created at or following the date of the settlor's death.
  • Unit trust. A unit trust is a trust where the beneficiaries (called unitholders) each possess a certain share (called units) and can direct the trustee to pay money to them out of the trust property according to the number of units they possess. A unit trust is a vehicle for collective investment, rather than disposition, as the person who gives the property to the trustee is also the beneficiary.

Trust Terms

  • Appointment. In trust law, "appointment" often has its everyday meaning. It is common to talk of "the appointment of a trustee", for example. However, "appointment" also has a technical trust law meaning, either:
    • the act of appointing (i.e. giving) an asset from the trust to a beneficiary (usually where there is some choice in the matter—such as in a discretionary trust); or
    • the name of the document which gives effect to the appointment.
The trustee's right to do this, where it exists, is called a power of appointment. Sometimes, a power of appointment is given to someone other than the trustee, such as the settlor, the protector, or a beneficiary.
  • Protector. A protector may be appointed in an express, inter vivos trust, as a person who has some control over the trustee—usually including a power to dismiss the trustee and appoint another. The legal status of a protector is the subject of some debate. No-one doubts that a trustee has fiduciary responsibilities. If a protector also has fiduciary responsibilities then the courts—if asked by beneficiaries—could order him or her to act in the way the court decrees. However, a protector is unnecessary to the nature of a trust—many trusts can and do operate without one. Also, protectors are comparatively new, while the nature of trusts has been established over hundreds of years. It is therefore thought by some that protectors have fiduciary duties, and by others that they do not. The case law has not yet established this point.
  • Trustee. A person (either an individual, a corporation or more than one of either) who administers a trust. A trustee is considered a fiduciary and owes the highest duty under the law to protect trust assets from unreasonable loss for the trust's beneficiaries.

ABOUT PROBATE
Probate is the legal process of administering the estate of a deceased person by resolving all claims and distributing the deceased person's property under the valid will. A surrogate court decides the validity of a testator's will. A probate interprets the instructions of the deceased, decides the executor as the personal representative of the estate, and adjudicates the interests of heirs and other parties who may have claims against the estate.

In the jurisdictions in the U.S. that recognize a married couple's property as community property or as tenancy by the entireties, if a person dies intestate, his/her estate passes to a surviving spouse without a probate.

If the estate is not automatically devised to the surviving spouse, it is necessary to "probate the estate", whether or not the decedent had a valid will. A court having jurisdiction of the decedent's estate (a probate court) supervises probate, to administrate the disposition of the decedent's property according to the law of the jurisdiction and the decedent's intent as manifested in his testamentary instrument.

The will usually names an executor (personal representative), a person tasked with carrying out the instructions laid out in the will. The executor marshalls the decedent's assets. If there is no will, or if the will does not name an executor, the probate court can appoint one. Traditionally, the representative of an intestate estate is called an administrator.

In some cases, where the person named as executor cannot administer the probate, or wishes to have someone else do so, another person will be named as administrator. An executor or an administrator may receive compensation for his service.

The probate court may require that the executor provide a fidelity bond, an insurance policy in favor of the estate to protect against possible abuse by the executor.

The representative of a testate estate who is someone other than the executor named in the will is an administrator with the will annexed, or administrator c.t.a. (from the Latin cum testamento annexo.) The generic term for executors or administrators is personal representative.

Steps of probate

Some of the decedent's property may never enter probate because it passes to another person contractually, such as the death proceeds of an insurance policy insuring the decedent or bank account that names a beneficiary or is owned as "payable on death", and property (usually, again, a bank account) legally held as "jointly owned with right of survivorship".

Property held in a living trust also avoids probate. In these cases, the personal representative provides documentation to the court, and the property is prevented from entering probate.

After opening the probate case with the court, the personal representative inventories and collects the decedent's property. Next, he pays any debts and taxes. Finally, he distributes the remaining property to the beneficiaries, either as instructed in the will, or under the intestacy laws of the state.

A party may challenge the probate, either by petitioning the personal representative or the court. If the claim is rejected, the claimant may file a lawsuit to prove the claim. Such challenge may force the court to scrutinize the probate in further detail.

The personal representative must understand and abide by the fiduciary duties, such as a duty to keep money in interest bearing account and to treat all beneficiaries equally. Not complying with the fiduciary duties may allow interested persons to petition for the removal of the personal representative and hold the personal representative liable for any harm to the estate.

Avoiding probate

Probate generally lasts several months, occasionally over a year before all the property is distributed, and incur substantial court and attorney costs. One of the many ways to avoid probate is to execute a living trust. A settlor, or a creator of a trust, transfers ownership of his real property from himself to a trust which he controls and can revise (except in the case of an irrevocable trust.) Upon death, the persons named as beneficiaries in the trust acquire ownership of the property of the trust. Since a probate is a public process, a living trust shields private affairs of the deceased and the heirs from public scrutiny and helps the estate avoid estate tax.

Probate can also be avoided by setting up P.O.D (paid on death) designations on bank accounts and T.O.D (transfer on death) on brokerage accounts, 401ks and IRAs that pass automatically to designated beneficiaries.

As for real estate, a testator must add a named beneficiary to a deed by executing a life estate deed. The property can be passed several generations.

The key to avoiding probate is having named beneficiaries on all assets, as is the case for life insurance. A common error on life insurance is naming the insureds estate as the contingent beneficiary. Doing so will place the proceeds from that policy into probate.

Life insurance, savings accounts, and joint tenancies with the right of survivorship are testamentary substitutes to avoid probate.

A Segregated fund is a specific type of investment vehicle that is held inside a life insurance company. While segregated funds are not life insurance policies, and thus do not have a death benefit, they can be valuable substitutes for mutual funds held at a bank or other financial institution, due to the ability within them to designate a beneficiary, and thus bypass the estate, and probate.

Avoiding probate does not eliminate estate taxes. Under the federal estate tax law as modified, included in the definition of a taxable estate are property held in a living trust, life insurance, payable on death or transfer on death financial instruments, and other property a party receives upon decease of the decedent.

Inter vivos trusts can reduce estate taxes if they are properly structured, but that is not related to the avoidance of probate. Generally, to avoid an estate tax, a person must give it away irrevocably or leave it to a qualified charity. However, the use of credit shelter trusts (AB trusts) can allow a married couple to preserve both unified credits, allowing up to twice the total estate to pass to heirs without estate tax. It may reduce or eliminate the tax.

ABOUT ATTORNEYS

An attorney at law (or attorney-at-law) in the United States is a practitioner in a court of law who is legally qualified to prosecute and defend actions in such court on the retainer of clients. Alternative terms include counselor (or counsellor-at-law), and lawyer.

The United States legal system does not draw a distinction between lawyers who plead in court and those who do not, unlike many other common law jurisdictions (such as Britain, which has distinct between solicitors and barrister (or, in Scotland, advocates) or and civil law jurisdictions (such as Italy and France, which distinguish between advocates and civil law notaries). An additional factor which differentiates the American legal system from other countries is that there is no delegation of routine work to notaries public or their civil law notaries (their civil law equivalent).

Attorneys may use the post-nominal letters Esq., the abbreviated form of the word Esquire.

Practice of law

Once admitted to practice by the highest court of a state (the state supreme court), a function sometimes administered by the state's bar association, an American attorney may file legal pleadings and argue cases in any state court, provide legal advice to clients, and draft important legal instruments such as wills, trusts, deeds, and contracts. Arguing cases in the federal courts usually require separate admission.

In some states, real estate closings may be performed only by attorneys, even though the attorney's role in a closing may involve primarily notarization of documents and disbursement of settlement funds through an escrow account.

Actions that may be performed by lawyers are referred to as the practice of law. Practicing law includes interviewing a client to identify the legal question, analyzing the question, researching relevant law, devising legal solutions to problems, and executing such solutions through specific tasks such as drafting a contract or filing a motion with a court.

Most academic legal training is directed to identifying legal issues, researching facts and law, and arguing both the facts and law in favor of either side in any case.

For several years, law schools have sent through far more students than new job openings have become available. This leads to attorneys (once they pass the bar) seeking work in other occupations, either by choice or by the lack of employment opportunities. This has led to a market in legal temps or contract attorneys, where attorneys spend a certain period of time working on tasks such as discovery for a case.

Media images

Contrary to the media image of attorneys, a great deal of litigation and regulatory legal work is spent conducting research in a law library or in an electronic database like Westlaw, LexisNexis, or Bloomberg L.P. Many attorneys also spend a large portion of their working time drafting documents, such as legal briefs, contracts, wills and trusts. Few television programs and movies accurately portray the hours conducting research, often surrounded by a pile of books or printouts, or drafting documents which form the core of the occupational life of many attorneys.

One occasional exception is the television program Law & Order, which sometimes shows the main characters researching at a computer late into the night (always using Westlaw, due to a contract between Westlaw and the show's producers). Some episodes also show lawyers keeping a small rack of clothes in their office for those times when research lasts all night and the character does not have time to go home to change.

Another notable portrayal of the profession was the series Murder One which featured a group of lawyers as central characters. The Practice did as well, but its accuracy may be questionable.

Movies and television also generally show attorneys focused on a single case. Most litigators have many cases in progress at any given time. Each case has deadlines that must be carefully monitored and court dates which one must not forget. Because they often balance many cases at once, attorneys that litigate often have difficult working lives when important documents must be drafted or other work must be performed on different cases at one time.

In litigation, attorneys spend much time discovering the facts of the case to develop a "theory of the case" that integrates facts and law in a way most favorable to their client. Many attorneys believe that the discovery process has reduced the number of civil cases that actually go to trial since the discovery process often allows for a clear evaluation of the merits of each side's position.

Some attorneys are not trial lawyers. Non-trial attorneys are sometimes called transactional lawyers or corporate lawyers. Transactional or corporate attorneys specialize in activities that seldom involve them in litigation, such as writing legal opinion letters, drafting wills or trust documents, advising clients, structuring business transactions, negotiating and drafting contracts, developing tax strategies, or preparing and prosecuting filings with government agencies such as the Internal Revenue Service, the Securities and Exchange Commission, or the Patent and Trademark Office.

Specialization

Many American attorneys limit their practices to specialized fields of law. Often dichotomies are drawn between different types of attorneys, but these are neither fixed nor formal lines. Examples include:

  • Outside counsel (law firms) v. in-house counsel (corporate legal department)
  • Plaintiff v. Defense Attorneys (some attorneys do both plaintiff and defense work, others only handle certain types of cases, like personal injury, business, etc.)
  • Transactional (or "office practice") attorneys (who negotiate and draft documents and advise clients, rarely going to court) v. litigators (who advise clients in the context of legal disputes both in and out of court, including lawsuits, arbitrations and negotiated settlements)
  • Trial attorneys (who argue the facts, such as the late Johnnie Cochran) v. appellate attorneys (who argue the law, such as David Boies)

Despite these descriptions, most states forbid or discourage claims of specialization in particular areas of law unless the attorney has been certified by his or her state bar or state board of legal specialization. Other states allow indirect indications of specialization (in the form of advertisement language such as "our practice is limited to . . .") but require that the lawyer state that he or she is not certified by a state board of legal specialization in the advertised practice area. Patent attorneys are allowed to advertise their specialization in all jurisdictions, since registration for patent law is administered by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) instead of a state-level body.

Some states grant formal certifications recognizing specialties. In California, for example, bar certification is offered in family law, appellate practice, criminal law, bankruptcy, estate planning, immigration, taxation and workers' compensation. Any attorney meeting the bar requirements in one of these fields may represent himself as a specialist. Similarly, Texas formally grants certification of specialization in the following fields: administrative law; business bankruptcy law; civil appellate law; civil trial law; consumer bankruptcy law; consumer law; commercial law; criminal law; estate planning and probate law; family law; health law; immigration and nationality law; juvenile law; labor and employment law; oil, gas and mineral law; personal injury; trial law; real estate law; tax law; and workers' compensation law.

The vast majority of lawyers practicing in a particular field may typically not be certified as specialists in that field (and state board certification is not generally required to practice law in any field). For example, the State Bar of Texas (as of mid 2006) reported 77,056 persons licensed as attorneys in that state (excluding inactive members of the Bar), while the Texas Board of Legal Specialization reported, at about the same time, only 8,303 Texas attorneys who were board certified in any specialty. Indeed, of the 8,303 certified specialists in Texas, the highest number of attorneys certified in one specific field at that time was 1,775 (in personal injury trial law). Despite the relative large number of lawyers that presumably would handle divorce, adoption and child custody matters, Texas reported that of 77,056 attorneys, only 697 in the entire state were certified in family law (which is, arguably, the applicable specialty).

Specialization in patent law is administered by the Office of Enrollment and Discipline of the USPTO, which imposes stringent requirements for applicants to become registered as patent attorneys or patent agents.

About half of American attorneys work solo or in small firms. There are also many midsize firms, with anywhere from 50 to 200 attorneys, and since the 1970s, some law firms have merged to form giant firms with 1,000 attorneys or more. Whether a law firm is large or small is also a relative concept depending on the size of the community served. A law firm with six attorneys in a small community may be considered a large firm for that area. Because of conflict of interest rules, the maximum size of a law firm is dependent upon the size of the population it serves. Conflict of interest rules prevent one attorney in a law firm from, for example, representing a client in litigation that has an adverse interest to the interests of another client represented by a different attorney in the same law firm.

Control of cases

An American attorney licensed in each applicable court may in a few cases control and argue his or her case at each level of the judiciary through its entire life cycle. A notable example of this is the Brown v. Board of Education litigation, where the same trial team handled the case from start to finish at the U.S. Supreme Court. However, cases which advance to the appellate level, particularly to the US Supreme Court, are often reassigned to experienced appellate practitioners or firms.

Education and training

Avenues to becoming a lawyer

Almost all US jurisdictions require successful completion of a bar examination to be licensed as an attorney. All but a few of those states which require a bar exam also require the applicant to have taken a degree in professional law from an accredited law school; most require it to be an professional degree in law granted in the United States (usually the Juris Doctor, or J.D., a doctorate), but a few states accept foreign law degrees. In addition to this formal education, attorneys in most jurisdictions must complete regular Continuing Legal Education (CLE) requirements.

Bar exams are administered by agencies of individual states; in 1763 Delaware, created the first bar exam with other American colonies soon following suit. A state bar licensing agency is invariably associated with the judicial branch of government, because American attorneys are all officers of the court of the bar or bars to which they belong. Sometimes the agency is an office or committee of the state's highest court or intermediate appellate court.

In some states which have a unified or integrated bar association (meaning that formal membership in a public corporation controlled by the judiciary is required to practice law therein), the agency is either the state bar association or a sub-unit of it. Other states split the integrated bar membership and the admissions agency into different bodies within the judiciary; in Texas, the Board of Law Examiners is appointed by the Texas Supreme Court and is independent from the integrated State Bar of Texas.

In almost all jurisdictions, the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE), an ethics exam, is also administered by the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE), which creates it and grades it. The NCBE created the MPRE in 1980. The MPRE is offered three times a year, in March, August and November.

The bar examination in most US states and territories is at least two days long (a few states have three-day exams) and consists of essay questions, usually testing knowledge of the state's own law (usually subjects such as wills, trusts and community property, which always vary from one state to another. Some jurisdictions choose to use the Multistate Essay Examination (MEE), drafted by the NCBE since 1988, for this purpose. Others may draft their own questions with this goal in mind, while some states both draft their own questions and use the MEE. Some jurisdictions administer complicated questions that specifically test knowledge of that state's law.

Bar exams also usually consists of the Multistate Bar Examination, which is a multiple-choice standardized test created and sold to participating state bar examiners by the National Conference of Bar Examiners since 1972. The MBE contains 200 questions which test six subjects based upon principles of common law and Article 2 of the Uniform Commercial Code.

A majority of US jurisdictions also require a performance test, which is intended to be a more realistic measure of actual lawyering skill. The candidate is presented with a stack of documents representing a fictional case and is asked to draft a memorandum, motion, or opinion document. Many jurisdictions use the Multistate Performance Test (MPT), which was first created in 1997, while California drafts and administers its own performance tests.

The State of Washington has a separate Law Clerk program under Rule Six of the Washington Court Admission to Practice Rules. A college graduate of good moral character may be accepted into the four-year Rule Six Law Clerk program, obtain employment in a law firm or with a judge for at least 30 hours a week, and study a proscribed Course of Study under a tutor. After successful completion of the Rule Six Law Clerk program, a law clerk may take the Washington State Bar Exam and, upon passing, will be admitted as an attorney into the Washington State Bar Association.

Degrees in law

The degree earned by prospective attorneys in the United States is generally a Juris Doctor (Latin for "Doctor of Jurisprudence"; abbreviated JD or, when conferred in English, D.Jur.).

This is distinct from most other Anglophone countries, where law is taught at the undergraduate level and the Bachelor of Laws (LL.B.) or other bachelor's degree is conferred. This undergraduate degree was followed by the Master of Laws (LL.M.), a master's degree in law. Where the LL.B. is still awarded, the highest degree is often still the Doctor of Laws (LL.D.), which is an academic degree in law (i.e., geared toward academia or theory rather than legal practice). The LL.D. is now exclusively given in the United States as an honorary degree.

In the United States, the LL.B. was elevated to the graduate school curriculum as a second bachelor's degree starting in 1896 with Harvard Law School under Christopher Columbus Langdell, "the father of modern American legal education." Then, starting in 1902 at the newly-established University of Chicago Law School, the JD replaced the LL.B as the professional doctorate in law. By 1971, all American Bar Association-accredited law schools had replaced the LL.B with the JD

Because Louisiana has a system that, uniquely among the states, uses civil law, the Paul M. Hebert Law Center at Louisiana State University in the now offers a joint JD/Bachelor of Civil Law (B.C.L.) over seven semesters (instead of its previous six-semester program for the JD alone) in recognition of the increased Louisiana civil law component of the new program.

The LL.M. continues to be offered in the United States, for two distinct purposes:

  • One is to offer lawyers the chance to acquire an advanced level of expertise in a specific legal discipline, such as tax law; this, the LL.M may be a type of specialist postdoctoral degree.
  • The other is as a degree for non-U.S. educated attorneys with the LL.B. or other non-U.S. law degree. Many foreign lawyers who have such a degree come to study in the United States to obtain an LL.M. degree in comparative law, in order to familiarize themselves with US common law and to enable themselves to take the bar exam in New York or California, both of which allow foreign attorneys with such degrees to take the exam. Some of these lawyers end up practicing law in the US, while many of them return to their home countries and use their US LL.M. and bar admission as a gateway to advising international clients.

The highest law degree obtainable in the United States is Doctor of Juridical Science (Scientiae Juridicae Doctor, abbreviated S.J.D. or J.S.D.). This is an academic degree that, like the Ph.D., is research-based and requires a dissertation (an original contribution to the academic study of law) The degree is very rarely awarded and is generally only sought by attorneys holding exceptional credentials and a desire to enter the legal academy (i.e., to become professors of law). The degree is generally only offered at top-tier law schools, which typically accept only a handful of students into their program each year, and admission is limited to those who have achieved their JD and LL.M. degrees with distinction. Successful applicants often have already published significant scholarly legal articles in their proposed area of study, and many have legal teaching experience prior to entering the program.

Law students in court

Some courts allow law students to act as "certified student attorneys" after the satisfactory completion of their first year of law school and the completion of particular second- and third-year courses with subjects such as evidence. Many states allow students to argue in front of a court as a certified legal intern (CLI), provided they meet certain prerequisites, such as having completed at least half of their law education, having taken or be taking the law school's ethics class, and being under the supervision of a qualified and licensed attorney.

This concept was somewhat misrepresented in the movie Legally Blonde, where the protagonist Elle argues before a jury. Although Elle was under the supervision of an attorney, no state would allow a student still completing the first year of law to argue a case in court. However, it is reminiscent of "teen court" programs that are expanding around the USA. In these programs, it is not law students, but high school students, who argue cases before a judge and sit on juries to decide penalties to impose upon other high school students who have agreed to be tried by the teen court in exchange for bypassing the regular court and having no criminal record created in the process, even if they are found responsible for a crime by the teen court. The punishment often includes community service, including sitting on juries in upcoming cases.

Additionally, most states have rules allowing law students in their third and final year to practice on a limited basis while under the direct supervision of a licensed attorney. These laws vary state to state. While many states are very strict, some states like Kansas provide opportunities for law students to argue cases before juries.

Illinois: The 711 license

In Illinois, a student currently in good standing who has earned credits that represent at least three-fifths of the credits required for graduation may be eligible for a 711 license (based on Illinois Supreme Court Rule 711). A 711 license allows a student to: (1) Counsel clients, negotiate in the settlement of claims, and engage in the preparation and drafting of legal instruments. (2) Appear in the trial courts and administrative tribunals subject to the following qualifications: (i) Appearances, pleadings, motions, and other documents to be filed with the court may be prepared by the student or graduate and may be signed by him with the accompanying designation "Senior Law Student" or "Law Graduate" and must also be signed by the supervising member of the bar. (ii) In criminal cases, in which the penalty may be imprisonment, in proceedings challenging sentences of imprisonment, and in civil or criminal contempt proceedings, the student or graduate may participate in pretrial, trial, and post trial proceedings as an assistant of the supervising member of the bar, who shall be present and responsible for the conduct of the proceedings. (iii) In all other civil and criminal cases, the student or graduate may conduct all pretrial, trial, and post trial proceedings, and the supervising member of the bar need not be present. (3) The student may prepare briefs, excerpts from the record, abstracts, and other documents filed in courts of review of the State, which may set forth the name of the student or graduate with the accompanying designation "Senior Law Student" or "Law Graduate" and must be filed in the name of the supervising member of the bar.

A graduate who has completed the Juris Doctor may qualify for a 711 license if the graduate (1) has not yet had an opportunity to take the first Bar examination scheduled after graduation; (2) has taken the Bar exam but has not received the results; or (3) has taken and passed the Bar examination but has not yet been sworn in as a member of the Illinois bar.

A 711 license is not available for a student working for a private law firm. The license is available for work with (1) a legal aid bureau, legal assistance program, organization or clinic chartered by the State of Illinois or approved by a law school approved by the American Bar Association, (2) the Office of the Public Defender, or (3) a law office of the State or any of its subdivisions.

Unlicensed practice of law

Some states provide criminal penalties for falsely holding oneself out to the public as a lawyer, and the unauthorized practice of law by a non-lawyer.

A person who has a professional law degree but is not admitted to a state bar is not a lawyer, and cannot legally engage in the practice of law. In most states, even the practice of law by an "out-of-state" lawyer is considered the unauthorized practice of law within that state. Exceptions are sometimes made when the out-of-state lawyer is permitted temporarily to practice within the state pro hac vice or in some cases as in-house counsel for corporations.

In addition, a few areas of law, such as patent law, are mandated by the US Constitution to be strictly under federal jurisdiction. In this case, state courts and bar associations are not allowed to restrict the practice of that field of law, and a patent attorney may freely advise clients as to patent matters anywhere in the jurisdiction of the United States, without regard to state court or bar association rules. Furthermore, prior to November 15, 1938, individuals could become registered as "patent attorneys" with the PTO without ever passing a state bar exam or going to law school. That status was grandfathered for patent attorneys registered prior to that date. This represents a holdover to the traditional meaning of the term "attorney" as "agent" or "attorney-in-fact". There are still some living patent attorneys who became registered as patent attorneys before that date, as far back as 1934. Today, a non-lawyer who takes and passes the patent bar would be considered a patent agent.

In some jurisdictions, the definition of the practice of law is quite strict. Persons have been successfully prosecuted for publishing do-it-yourself will forms and for representing special education children in federal proceedings as specifically allowed by federal law.

Paradoxically, some jurisdictions will allow a non-attorney to sit as a judge, usually in lower courts or in hearings by governmental agencies, even though a non-attorney may not practice before these same courts. Similarly, in a jurisdiction where a judge is elected by the people, the judge often does not need to be licensed to practice law or trained in any particular way. Likewise, the US Constitution does not provide any such requirement for a US Supreme Court justice or other federal judge, although no non-lawyer has ever been appointed as a federal judge.

Attire

Unlike their counterparts in other common law jurisdictions, American attorneys are not required to wear wigs, robes, or any other items of court dress when they appear in court. They are usually expected to wear contemporary business suits.

The one exception is the United States Solicitor General and other US Department of Justice attorneys, who traditionally argue before the US Supreme Court in 19th-century morning dress.

Alternatives to the practice of law

Because an accredited legal education generally provides a strong understanding of not only the substance of the law, but also an advanced analytical approach to the use and ramifications of the law, many professions, other than the practice of law, promote or require those with legal educations. As a result of overcrowding in the legal profession, the desire to achieve better work-life balance, and disenchantment with the legal profession, many attorneys are leaving the Bar to pursue these other professions that take advantage of the attorney's legal education. In some instances, graduates of law school who either cannot be admitted or who decide not to bother to be admitted to a state bar, enter these various professions.

Alternative careers that seek legally educated employees include:

  • Work with the government as a policy analyst or a legislative drafter (the latter is sometimes classified as a 'policy analyst' and sometimes as a 'lawyer');
  • Work for a publisher of a legal information publication;
  • Work in banking, finance, real estate, insurance;
  • Work in law enforcement.

In these fields, law degrees are useful (and sometimes mandatory, such as in the case of policy analysts and legislative drafters) qualifications for a job.

 

About Rancho Santa Margarita:

City of Rancho Santa Margarita, California
Official seal of City of Rancho Santa Margarita, California
Seal
Location of Rancho Santa Margarita within Orange County, California.
Location of Rancho Santa Margarita within Orange County, California.
Coordinates: 33°38'29"N 117°35'40"W / 33.64139°N 117.59444°W / 33.64139; -117.59444
Country United States
State California
County Orange
Incorporated January 1, 2000
Government
 - Mayor Neil C. Blais
Area
 - Total 12.3 sq mi (31.9 km2)
 - Land 12.3 sq MI (31.8 km2)
 - Water 0.0 sq MI (0.1 km2)
Elevation 551-1,000 ft (290 m)
Population (2000)
 - Total 47,214
 - Density 3,847.9/sq MI (1,485.7/km2)
Time zone PST (UTC-8)
 - Summer (DST) PDT (UTC-7)
ZIP code 92688, 92679
Area code(s) 949
FIPS code 06-59587
GNIS feature ID 1867054
Website http://www.cityofrsm.org/

Rancho Santa Margarita (English: Saint Margaret Ranch) is a city in Orange County, California, United States. One of Orange County's youngest cities, Rancho Santa Margarita is a master planned community set upon rolling hills. Most neighborhoods in Rancho Santa Margarita are within various homeowners associations. The population was 47,214 at the 2000 census.

Although it is named for Rancho Santa Margarita y Las Flores, which was in San Diego County, the city limits fall within the borders of Rancho Mission Viejo.

History

The city seal has the brands of Rancho Mission Viejo and Rancho Santa Margarita and Las Flores on the border, with artwork containing Santiago Peak in the background. The tower in the foreground symbolizes the Rancho Santa Margarita Lake Tower.

Hughes Aircraft Company's Microelectronic Systems Division and Connecting Devices Division moved to Rancho Santa Margarita in May 1988 from Irvine. In August 1992 the Hughes plant closed its facilities and moved the division to Carlsbad, California due to budget constraints in the aerospace industry.

La Cañada Flintridge had the longest city name in California with 18 letters until January 1, 2000, when the title was ceded to Rancho Santa Margarita upon the latter's incorporation.

Geography

Rancho Santa Margarita is located at 33°38'29"N 117°35'40"W / 33.64139°N 117.59444°W / 33.64139; -117.59444 (33.641518, -117.594524).

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 31.9 km² (12.3 MI²). 31.8 km² (12.3 MI²) of it is land and 0.13 km² (0.04 MI²) of it (0.16%) is water.

Rancho Santa Margarita is bordered by the city of Mission Viejo on the west, the census-designated Coto de Caza and Las Flores on the south, Trabuco Canyon on the north, and the Cleveland National Forest on the east.

Major homeowner's associations and communities

The Rancho Santa Margarita City Hall and Community Center building
Plaza El Paso and Civic Plaza in Rancho Santa Margarita

Rancho Santa Margarita Landscape and Recreation Corporation (SAMLARC)

SAMLARC is often referred to as the master association in Rancho Santa Margarita because other smaller sub associations fall within its membership and it encompasses the original footprint of the master planned community of Rancho Santa Margarita. SAMLARC comprises roughly 13,000 units and maintains most streetscapes, medians, parks and trails within the community. In total, SAMLARC runs and maintains 13 parks, 4 pools, a lagoon, a lake, and numerous trails within the community. One of SAMLARC's most popular parks, Central Park located next to City Hall, contains a large amphitheater where a number of community events are held each year. Central Park is also home to an arena soccer rink that was converted from a roller hockey rink. SAMLARC also maintains a popular skate and dog park that are located within SAMLARC's Canada Vista Park.

Dove Canyon

Dove Canyon is a private residential community located in eastern Rancho Santa Margarita. It is a small enclave of approximately 1,200 homes and 5,000 residents. Included within the guard-gated entry is a Jack Nicklaus signature golf club, pool, tennis courts, a small child's park, a wide field, a shopping center, and a reservoir. The majority of its residents are upper middle class residents of Orange County, and all of the homes in Dove Canyon are single-family residences. It is located in the Southeasternmost foothills of Orange County. Major roads include Dove Canyon/Bell Canyon and Sycamore Canyon. A horse trail starts at the waterfalls outside of the community and continues until the end of Sycamore Canyon. From there, hikers, horse riders, bikers, etc. can continue into Dove Canyon's neighbor community, Coto de Caza

Robinson Ranch

Robinson Ranch is a mid-sized residential community located northeastern Rancho Santa Margarita south of Trabuco Canyon. It is one of the older communities in Rancho Santa Margarita. It has several condominium areas closer to Plano Trabuco Road and a large park. Major Roads include Robinson Ranch and Shadow Rock. Like Dove Canyon and Rancho Cielo it is assigned with a Trabuco Canyon zip code even though the areas were annexed into Rancho Santa Margarita when the city incorporated in 2000.

Rancho Cielo

Rancho Cielo is a smaller residential community located in eastern Rancho Santa Margarita. It includes gated entry with security guard. It is near the intersection of Plano Trabuco Road and Dove Canyon Drive. All of the homes are all single family residences and the majority of its residents are upper-middle class. Major Roads include Rancho Cielo and Camino Del Cielo.

Climate

Rancho Santa Margarita, like most of coastal Southern California, generally has a Mediterranean climate. The name derives from its similarity to the climate of areas along the Mediterranean Sea. Summers are warm to hot, and winters are cool, rarely falling below freezing. Precipitation in Rancho Santa Margarita occurs predominantly during the winter months. The average January temperature in Rancho Santa Margarita is 56 °F (13 °C), while the average August temperature is 73 °F (23 °C).

Demographics

Antonio Parkway in Rancho Santa Margarita
Avenida De Las Banderas in Rancho Santa Margarita

As of the census of 2000, there were 47,214 people, 16,253 households, and 12,417 families residing within the city. The population density was 1,485.7/km² (3,847.6/MI²). There were 16,515 housing units at an average density of 519.7/km² (1,345.9/MI²). The racial makeup of the city was 81.59% White, 1.75% African American, 0.42% Native American, 7.40% Asian, 0.21% Pacific Islander, 4.49% from other races, and 4.15% from two or more races. Hispanic of any race were 13.00% of the population.

There were 16,253 households out of which 51.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 64.7% were married couples living together, 8.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 23.6% were non-families. 17.7% of all households were made up of individuals and 2.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.90 and the average family size was 3.35.

In the city the population was spread out with 33.6% under the age of 18, 5.7% from 18 to 24, 41.4% from 25 to 44, 15.9% from 45 to 64, and 3.4% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 32 years. For every 100 females there were 96.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 92.9 males.

According to a 2007 estimate, the median income for a household in the city was $95,061, and the median income for a family was $110,799. Males had a median income of $61,314 versus $40,799 for females. The per capita income for the city was $31,531. About 1.5% of families and 2.9% of the population were below the poverty line, including 3.1% of those under age 18 and 4.2% of those age 65 or over. Most of the neighborhoods in RSM are maintained by larger homeowner's associations including Melinda Heights, town center, Dove Canyon, Rancho Cielo, Robinson Ranch, and Trabuco Highlands. Dove Canyon, Trabuco Highlands, Robinson Ranch, and Rancho Cielo were all established before Rancho Santa Margarita was an incorporated community. East of Plano Trabuco Road is designated with a Trabuco Canyon (92679) zip code even though the area falls within the City of Rancho Santa Margarita boundary.

Politics

In the state legislature Rancho Santa Margarita is located in the 33rd Senate District, represented by Republican Dick Ackerman, and in the 71st Assembly District, represented by Republican Todd Spitzer. Federally, Rancho Santa Margarita is located in California's 42nd congressional district, which has a Cook PVI of R +10 and is represented by Republican Gary Miller.

Education

The city is served by Saddleback Valley Unified School District and the Capistrano Unified School District.

  • Students in SVUSD boundaries attend Trabuco Hills High School or Mission Viejo High School, both outside of Rancho Santa Margarita in the city of Mission Viejo. Students in CUSD boundaries attend Tesoro High School located in the Las Flores neighborhood.
  • RSM Intermediate School (SVUSD) and Las Flores Middle School (CUSD) serve the city.
  • Public Elementary schools include Cielo Vista, Trabuco Mesa, Robinson Ranch, Arroyo Vista, Melinda Heights, and Tijeras Creek.
  • Private Elementary and Middle Schools include St. John's Episcopal, Serra Catholic, and Mission Hills Christian School.
  • Santa Margarita Catholic High School is a private Roman Catholic high school associated with the Catholic Diocese of Orange, and headed by Principal Ray Dunne. SMCHS is located in Rancho Santa Margarita.

Popular culture

Television

The television series The Real Housewives of Orange County, although based in Coto De Caza, is mainly filmed in Rancho Santa Margarita where many of the housewives do business, shopping, commuting, and dining.

Population history

  • 1990....11,390 (Census figure taken prior to incorporation)
  • 2000....47,214
  • (est. Present)... 49,000

The city's name often creates confusion: people in the Las Flores, Dove Canyon, Rancho Cielo, or Robinson Ranch neighborhoods, for example, can receive mail addressed to them at Rancho Santa Margarita, Dove Canyon, Coto de Caza, Robinson Ranch or Trabuco Canyon.

Notable natives and residents

  • Joy Fawcett, Olympic gold medalist
  • Martin Dugard, author
  • Members of the band Velvet Revolver
  • Chantelle Paige, member of group Flipsy
 

ABOUT ORANGE COUNTY:

Orange County is a county in Southern California, United States. Its county seat is Santa Ana. According to the 2000 Census, its population was 2,846,289, making it the second most populous county in the state of California, and the fifth most populous in the United States. The state of California estimates its population as of 2007 to be 3,098,121 people, dropping its rank to third, behind San Diego County. Thirty-four incorporated cities are located in Orange County; the newest is Aliso Viejo.

Unlike many other large centers of population in the United States, Orange County uses its county name as its source of identification whereas other places in the country are identified by the large city that is closest to them. This is because there is no defined center to Orange County like there is in other areas which have one distinct large city. Five Orange County cities have populations exceeding 170,000 while no cities in the county have populations surpassing 360,000. Seven of these cities are among the 200 largest cities in the United States.

Orange County is also famous as a tourist destination, as the county is home to such attractions as Disneyland and Knott's Berry Farm, as well as sandy beaches for swimming and surfing, yacht harbors for sailing and pleasure boating, and extensive area devoted to parks and open space for golf, tennis, hiking, kayaking, cycling, skateboarding, and other outdoor recreation. It is at the center of Southern California's Tech Coast, with Irvine being the primary business hub.

The average price of a home in Orange County is $541,000. Orange County is the home of a vast number of major industries and service organizations. As an integral part of the second largest market in America, this highly diversified region has become a Mecca for talented individuals in virtually every field imaginable. Indeed the colorful pageant of human history continues to unfold here; for perhaps in no other place on earth is there an environment more conducive to innovative thinking, creativity and growth than this exciting, sun bathed valley stretching between the mountains and the sea in Orange County.

Orange County was Created March 11 1889, from part of Los Angeles County, and, according to tradition, so named because of the flourishing orange culture. Orange, however, was and is a commonplace name in the United States, used originally in honor of the Prince of Orange, son-in-law of King George II of England.

Incorporated: March 11, 1889
Legislative Districts:
* Congressional: 38th-40th, 42nd & 43
* California Senate: 31st-33rd, 35th & 37
* California Assembly: 58th, 64th, 67th, 69th, 72nd & 74

County Seat: Santa Ana
County Information:
Robert E. Thomas Hall of Administration
10 Civic Center Plaza, 3rd Floor, Santa Ana 92701
Telephone: (714)834-2345 Fax: (714)834-3098
County Government Website: http://www.oc.ca.gov

CITIES OF ORANGE COUNTY CALIFORNIA:


City of Aliso Viejo, 92653, 92656, 92698
City of Anaheim, 92801, 92802, 92803, 92804, 92805, 92806, 92807, 92808, 92809, 92812, 92814, 92815, 92816, 92817, 92825, 92850, 92899
City of Brea, 92821, 92822, 92823
City of Buena Park, 90620, 90621, 90622, 90623, 90624
City of Costa Mesa, 92626, 92627, 92628
City of Cypress, 90630
City of Dana Point, 92624, 92629
City of Fountain Valley, 92708, 92728
City of Fullerton, 92831, 92832, 92833, 92834, 92835, 92836, 92837, 92838
City of Garden Grove, 92840, 92841, 92842, 92843, 92844, 92845, 92846
City of Huntington Beach, 92605, 92615, 92646, 92647, 92648, 92649
City of Irvine, 92602, 92603, 92604, 92606, 92612, 92614, 92616, 92618, 92619, 92620, 92623, 92650, 92697, 92709, 92710
City of La Habra, 90631, 90632, 90633
City of La Palma, 90623
City of Laguna Beach, 92607, 92637, 92651, 92652, 92653, 92654, 92656, 92677, 92698
City of Laguna Hills, 92637, 92653, 92654, 92656
City of Laguna Niguel
, 92607, 92677
City of Laguna Woods, 92653, 92654
City of Lake Forest, 92609, 92630, 92610
City of Los Alamitos, 90720, 90721
City of Mission Viejo, 92675, 92690, 92691, 92692, 92694
City of Newport Beach, 92657, 92658, 92659, 92660, 92661, 92662, 92663
City of Orange, 92856, 92857, 92859, 92861, 92862, 92863, 92864, 92865, 92866, 92867, 92868, 92869
City of Placentia, 92870, 92871
City of Rancho Santa Margarita, 92688, 92679
City of San Clemente, 92672, 92673, 92674
City of San Juan Capistrano, 92675, 92690, 92691, 92692, 92693, 92694
City of Santa Ana, 92701, 92702, 92703, 92704, 92705, 92706, 92707, 92708, 92711, 92712, 92725, 92728, 92735, 92799
City of Seal Beach, 90740
City of Stanton, 90680
City of Tustin, 92780, 92781, 92782
City of Villa Park, 92861, 92867
City of Westminster, 92683, 92684, 92685
City of Yorba Linda, 92885, 92886, 92887

Noteworthy communities Some of the communities that exist within city limits are listed below: * Anaheim Hills, Anaheim * Balboa Island, Newport Beach * Corona del Mar, Newport Beach * Crystal Cove / Pelican Hill, Newport Beach * Capistrano Beach, Dana Point * El Modena, Orange * French Park, Santa Ana * Floral Park, Santa Ana * Foothill Ranch, Lake Forest * Monarch Beach, Dana Point * Nellie Gail, Laguna Hills * Northwood, Irvine * Woodbridge, Irvine * Newport Coast, Newport Beach * Olive, Orange * Portola Hills, Lake Forest * San Joaquin Hills, Laguna Niguel * San Joaquin Hills, Newport Beach * Santa Ana Heights, Newport Beach * Tustin Ranch, Tustin * Talega, San Clemente * West Garden Grove, Garden Grove * Yorba Hills, Yorba Linda * Mesa Verde, Costa Mesa

Unincorporated communities These communities are outside of the city limits in unincorporated county territory: * Coto de Caza * El Modena * Ladera Ranch * Las Flores * Midway City * Orange Park Acres * Rossmoor * Silverado Canyon * Sunset Beach * Surfside * Trabuco Canyon * Tustin Foothills

Adjacent counties to Orange County Are: * Los Angeles County, California - north, west * San Bernardino County, California - northeast * Riverside County, California - east * San Diego County, California - southeast

ORANGE COUNTY TRUST LITIGATION, PROBATE LITIGATION, ELDER LAW
ORANGE COUNTY, CALIFORNIA, IRVINE, RANCHO SANTA MARGARITA, NEWPORT BEACH, LAGUNA
LITIGATE OR SEIZE, PROBATE PROCESS, ATTORNEY ETHICS, ELDER LAW ISSUES, POWER OF ATTORNEY, CONSERVATORSHIP, WILLS, TRUSTS, CONTESTED WILLS, CHALLENGE TRUSTS, ASSET VALUATION, TRUST REFORMATION, TRUST CONTESTS, BREACH OF FIDUCIARY

"Representing you and your family with HONESTY AND INTEGRITY!"

Services: Trust Litigation Probate LitigationElder LawEstate Planning WillsTrustsLiving TrustsTrust Lawyer

How do you become famous, Helping people! Changing their lives and making a difference in their lives.
Loving them...Eric Brenn

TRUSTLITIGATIONATTORNEYSORANGECOUNTYCALIFORNIA.COM TRUSTLITIGATIONATTORNEYSORANGECOUNTYCALIFORNIAPROBATEELDERLAW.COM
This Business was Awarded - TOP in Business, Orange County CA, Visit: OrangeCountyCABusinessDirectory.com

Noelle M. Tomp
Attorney at Law
, 22421 Gilberto, Rancho Santa Margarita CA 92688

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Trust and Probate litigation is my specialty with honesty and integrity. Along with litigation I do elder law, trusts and estate planing. Being in court and appeals court continually I seeing all that goes wrong with wills, trusts, probate and estate planning. I can create a wonderfully helpful products for your love ones. My goal is to reduce the amount of conflict and keep the family unit in tact and minimize the harm. The court system is clogged with trusts that do not take these issues into consideration. If you have trust or probate problems or wish to avoid them please consider my services for your family. For a consultation with an attorney regarding an estate litigation or probate administration matter in Orange County, California.. If your loved one has passed on, and you do not know what to do, let us help. Orange County, California probate attorney. Practice estate, probate, trust and conservatorship litigation and mediation in Los Angeles, California. Probate and trust litigation services Law Firm in Los Angeles California, For a consultation in the San Diego area regarding a dispute involving a will or trust, call the San Diego probate litigation attorneys

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