The Lawyer Blogs shown below are topical articles written by attorney David L. Crockett on all of the areas of the law that he deals with. Many of these articles are based upon actual and typical situations encountered by Mr. Crockett's clients. New blogs are posted when Mr. Crockett encounters new situations that merit detailed explanations to his clients. There is practical advice and explanations that span the subjects of the probate, trust, real estate and tax laws and court procedures that frequently arise. Because Mr. Crockett is actively advising clients on (i) wills, trusts, taxes and estate planning; (ii) administration of trusts and probate estates; and (iii) litigation about estates and trusts, many of these articles cover and crossover between all three areas of practice. The articles contain information that a person forming a trust, or a trustee or an heir/beneficiary needs to be aware of. The Blogs are organized into topics listed on the left of this page. You can view the posts listed in each topic here.


By: David L. Crockett, Attorney, CPA

Types of Accounting:  Trust accounting may be (1) Informal; (2) Formal (non-court) according to Probate Code §16063 format; or (3) Court accounting according to Probate Code §1060 et. seq. requirements. The trust accounting is to be prepared by the Trustee and/or under his/her authorization.


By: David L. Crockett, Attorney, CPA

Trust terminology basics.     A trust is created by a written  document  known as a declaration of trust, and is then funded by transfer of money  into  trust bank accounts and/or deeding or transferring of properties to the  trust.   The creator of the trust is known as the “Trustor” or the “Settlor.”  Trusts are usually prepared by attorneys because each trust is custom for the situation and there are many types of trusts.  The persons who are to receive money and property out of the trust are known as the “Beneficiaries.  The person or institution that takes care of the money and property  of  the  trust is the “trustee”.  The trustee is bound by law to follow the  directions contained in  the declaration of  trust.  Trusts are not supervised by the court system and are not registered with the state government upon formation.  Trusts are essentially private contracts between the trustors, the trustees and the beneficiaries.  There are laws written into the California probate code that control the governance of trust matters.

AN APPRAISAL IS NEEDED UPON DEATH OF A PROPERTY OWNER.  A routine part of trust administration or probate administration is to obtain an appraisal of each property owned.  This is for income tax reasons.  Because the income tax basis is increased “stepped up” upon death to fair market value an appraisal is needed to prove the exact date of death value.  A licensed appraiser is needed to do this.  A realtor’s letter of value opinion is not sufficient.  There are licensed residential appraisers and licensed commercial property appraisers.  Aside from tax purposes, an appraisal is also useful to determine actual value to help to deciding what to do with a property.

INCOME TAX “BASIS” CONCEPT. Under our system of federal and state income tax, if the property is sold before death for more than what was pay for it then there is a capital gain. There are special rates which apply to capital gains depending  upon one’s tax bracket. To compute capital gains, you subtract the income tax basis of the property from the net selling price. The income tax “basis” is what was paid for the property in the first place minus any depreciation and adding any expenditures for capital improvements.

DEATH AFFECTS THE BASIS. The basis of property acquired from a deceased person’s probate estate or trust is generally it’s “fair market value” on the date of the decedent’s death. Thus, the children who inherit a property from their parents through a trust or through a probate proceeding will have a date of death income tax basis. This is known as the step-up in basis at death. An appraisal is necessary to legally prove the date of death value.