• Will vs. Living Trust vs. Living Will—What’s the Difference?

    What is a Will?

    A will outlines how you wish your assets and affairs to be handled after your death. It specifies who will receive your property, who will care for any minor children, and who will be responsible for executing your wishes. A will only takes effect after you pass away and must go through the probate process, where the court supervises the distribution of your estate. Wills are publicly available records, meaning anyone can look up the information they contain.

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    What is a Living Trust?

    A living trust, or revocable living trust, is a legal arrangement where a trustee holds and manages your assets during your lifetime. Unlike a will, a living trust takes effect immediately upon creation. You can manage and benefit from these assets while you’re alive, and upon your incapacitation or death, they transfer to your beneficiaries according to your instructions without going through probate. This key benefit of a living trust speeds up the process, costs less, and provides privacy for your family.

    What is a Living Will?

    A living will is very different from a traditional will. Also known as an advance health care directive, this document outlines your wishes regarding medical treatment if you become incapacitated. It’s focused on your health care preferences rather than the distribution of your assets, covering decisions such as whether you want life-sustaining treatments, resuscitation, or pain management in certain medical situations.

    Key Differences Between a Will, Living Trust, and Living Will


    • A will manages asset distribution and guardianship after death.
    • A living trust manages assets during life and after death.
    • A living will directs medical care preferences when incapacitated.


    • A will becomes effective upon death.
    • A living trust is effective immediately upon creation.
    • A living will is effective when you’re unable to communicate your medical preferences.


    • A will is subject to probate.
    • A living trust avoids probate.
    • A living will is not related to probate or asset distribution.


    • A will can be updated any time before death.
    • A living trust can be altered or revoked during your lifetime.
    • A living will can be updated as long as you’re competent.

    Choosing the Right Option for Your Needs

    Selecting between a will, a living trust, and a living will depends on your unique circumstances and goals. Here are some considerations to help you decide:

    • If you want a straightforward way to outline your final wishes and appoint guardians for your children, a will might be the best choice.
    • If you wish to avoid probate, ensure seamless asset management, and maintain privacy, a living trust could be more suitable.
    • If you want to ensure your healthcare preferences are followed when you can’t communicate them, a living will is a must.

    Dying Without a Will or Living Trust

    If you die without a will, known as dying “intestate,” your loved ones may face unintended complications. State intestacy laws will dictate how your assets are distributed, usually to the closest family members, but the specifics vary by state. Without a will, there is no named executor, so the court will appoint an administrator to manage the distribution of your assets. This process can be lengthy and stressful for your family, possibly causing disputes and delays in settling your estate.

    Benefits of Professional Legal Advice

    Creating the most advantageous estate plan is complicated. Having a knowledgeable attorney makes the process smoother and more effective. Professional legal advice provides customized solutions that reflect your specific needs and goals. You’ll receive expert guidance in navigating the legal requirements and potential pitfalls of estate planning for peace of mind that your documents are correctly prepared and legally enforceable.

    Contact Bakerink, McCusker & Belden Today

    You don’t need to be rich and famous to benefit from a will, a living trust, or a living will. Even if you are of modest means, you should create an estate plan if you have specific wishes about your end-of-life decisions, asset distribution, and child guardianship.

    Bakerink, McCusker & Belden would be honored to help you craft or update your estate plan to meet your wishes. We have over 35 years of legal experience to guide you through your estate planning needs. Whether you need a will, a living trust, or a living will, our experienced attorneys are here to provide the legal guidance you deserve. Contact us today for a free, no-obligation consultation in Tracy, CA. We’ll help you plan for the future with confidence.

  • How to Select the Right Estate Planning Attorney for Your Needs

    What is Estate Planning?

    First things first—what is an estate plan, and why do you need one? Estate planning involves financial preparations in the event of your incapacitation or death. The core documents involved in estate planning include wills, trusts, powers of attorney, and living wills. A good estate plan appoints an administrator to carry out your wishes, determines beneficiaries to inherit your assets, and takes steps to minimize estate taxes.

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    The Importance of Choosing the Right Attorney

    Not all attorneys are equally qualified or experienced in the areas where you require assistance. The decisions you make during the estate planning process will affect your family’s financial security and peace of mind once you’re gone. Estate planning involves complex legal and financial issues requiring specialized knowledge to navigate successfully. Expect an experienced attorney to provide personalized advice based on your specific situation.

    Remember, estate planning is not a one-time event but a process that requires updates and adjustments as your circumstances change. Therefore, having a lawyer you can trust and build a long-term relationship with is essential. Proper planning also helps avoid common pitfalls and mistakes that could result in financial losses or legal issues, making your choice of attorney a vital decision for your family’s future.

    Qualifications to Look for in an Estate Planning Attorney

    Take your time when finding the right estate planning law firm in Tracy, CA. Your decision should be based on far more than a quick internet search. Here are the most important qualifications and attributes to consider.

    Experience and Specialization

    Experience is a crucial factor when selecting an estate planning attorney. Look for a professional who has been practicing law for a minimum of five years to ensure they have handled a variety of cases. For the best results, the lawyer should specialize in estate planning to ensure they know the latest laws and tax strategies.


    Look for an attorney who has been certified as a specialist in Estate Planning, Trust & Probate Law by the State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization. This is a California Supreme Court-approved method of certifying attorneys as specialists in certain areas.


    Reading online reviews provides valuable insights into an attorney’s service quality and client satisfaction. As you gauge past clients’ experiences, look for consistent praise of good communication, professionalism, and results.

    Ethical Standards and Professional Ratings

    High ethics are essential when choosing an estate planning attorney. A Martindale-Hubbell® BV Distinguished® rating indicates that the lawyer has demonstrated high ethical standards and professional excellence. Also, check your state’s bar association website for any history of disciplinary actions against the attorney. A clean record and strong reputation in the legal community provide peace of mind that you’re working with a trustworthy professional.

    What to Expect at Your Initial Consultation

    Your first meeting with an estate planning attorney is an opportunity to assess whether they are a good fit for your needs. To make the most of this consultation, it’s important to come prepared. Bring financial statements and any previous estate planning documents, including wills and trusts. During the consultation, be ready to discuss your family, financial situation, and estate planning goals. This discussion will help the attorney understand your circumstances and tailor their advice accordingly.

    It’s also important to ask questions about the attorney’s experience, fee structure, and approach to estate planning. Understanding how they will handle your case and the costs involved helps you make an informed decision. As you ask these questions, note your comfort level with the attorney. You should feel at ease and confident in the attorney’s abilities to manage your estate plan.

    Why Choose Bakerink, McCusker & Belden for Estate Planning?

    Estate law is complex. Unless you have an incredibly simple estate, you probably need a lawyer to help you make the best decisions and create documents that will hold up over time. That’s where the team at Bakerink, McCusker & Belden comes in.

    We have over 35 years of legal experience providing the guidance our clients need and deserve. Our law firm is consistently ranked among the “Best of Tracy” and holds a distinguished rating from Martindale-Hubbell. We offer personalized and passionate legal support for all your estate planning needs. Contact us today for a free, no-obligation consultation in Tracy, CA, and let us help secure your family’s future.

  • What Injuries Can Cause Death in a Car Accident?

    Which Car Accident Injuries are Most Commonly Fatal?

    Certain injuries from car accidents are more likely to result in death than others. Here are some of the most common fatal injuries:

    • Head injuries: Traumatic brain injuries, concussions, skull fractures, and contusions cause a majority of car accident deaths. These injuries can occur when the head strikes the steering wheel or another hard surface, causing the brain to shake within the skull. These injuries can lead to severe brain damage, coma, or death.
    • Spinal cord injuries: The spinal cord connects the brain to the rest of the body, so damage here can result in paralysis or death.
    • Internal bleeding: This type of injury occurs when the impact from a car accident causes blood vessels or organs to rupture. The danger lies in the fact that internal bleeding isn’t always immediately visible. By the time symptoms appear, it might be too late to save the victim.
    • Chest injuries: Damage to the heart, lungs, and major blood vessels can be fatal. The force of a collision can fracture ribs and puncture internal organs. Blunt trauma to the chest can also cause cardiac arrest.
    • Severe burns: Car accidents sometimes result in fires or explosions, leading to severe burns covering large areas of the body, which can be fatal.

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    Which Car Accident Types Result in the Most Deaths?

    Certain types of car accidents are more likely to result in fatalities due to the nature of the impact and the forces involved. These include:

    • Head-on collisions: This is when two vehicles traveling in opposite directions crash into each other front-first. These accidents are often fatal due to the speeds involved and the fact that the car’s front end, where the driver is seated, bears the brunt of the impact.
    • T-bone accidents: Also known as side-impact collisions, T-bone accidents happen when the front of one vehicle crashes into the side of another. These accidents are particularly dangerous for the occupants on the side of the car that gets hit.
    • Rollover accidents: Rollovers involve a vehicle flipping onto its side or roof. These accidents can be particularly deadly due to the potential for occupants to be ejected from the vehicle if they are not wearing seatbelts.
    • Rear-end collisions: While generally less fatal than other accidents, rear-end collisions can still result in deaths, especially at high speeds. Fatalities are more likely if the rear-ended vehicle is pushed into oncoming traffic or other obstacles.
    • Multi-vehicle pileups: Highways are the most common places for multi-vehicle pileups. These accidents are particularly deadly due to the high speeds at which they usually occur, the multiple impacts some cars sustain, and the difficulty for emergency responders to reach and treat victims quickly.
    • Pedestrian, bicycle, and motorcycle accidents: Collisions involving victims who are not inside a car are often fatal due to the lack of protection. When a vehicle strikes a pedestrian, bicyclist, or motorcyclist, the force of the impact can cause life-threatening injuries, especially if the collision occurs at high speed.

    What Steps Should I Take If a Car Accident Kills My Loved One?

    Losing a loved one in a car accident is devastating. Here’s how to navigate this difficult time:

    • Seek immediate medical help to get first responders on the scene. These professionals can confirm the death and provide any necessary documentation.
    • Report the accident to the police and make sure a thorough investigation is conducted. Obtain a copy of the police report for future reference.
    • Document the scene and gather contact information from witnesses.
    • Notify your insurance company about the accident and the death of your loved one.
    • Consult a car accident attorney who can guide you through the legal process and help you file a wrongful death claim.

    Does Hiring a Car Accident Lawyer Help?

    Relying on a car accident lawyer after losing a loved one in a car accident eases the burden during this difficult time. A lawyer can help you conduct a thorough investigation, gather evidence, and work with experts to build a strong case. Their negotiating skills help ensure fair compensation for your loss and reduce the chance of ending up in court. Even so, if your case goes to trial, a lawyer will represent you to achieve the best possible outcome.

    Get Experienced Legal Help from a Car Accident Attorney in Tracy, CA

    Nothing compares to losing a loved one in a tragic car accident. Bakerink, McCusker & Belden can support you legally and emotionally as we help you fight for justice. If your loved one was killed in an auto collision, contact us at (209) 835-9592 to request a free consultation. We’ll put our 35 years of legal experience to work for you

  • Is it Worth Getting a Lawyer for a Car Accident?

    Benefits of Hiring a Car Accident Lawyer

    Dealing with insurance companies and legal claims after a car accident can be overwhelming, especially when you’re trying to recover from your injuries. Here are several ways a car accident attorney can help:

    • Reducing stress: Filing a car accident claim can be stressful and time-consuming. Hiring a car accident attorney allows you to focus on your recovery while they handle the legal aspects of your case.
    • Expert knowledge and experience: Personal injury lawyers often specialize in car accident cases. They understand the laws, procedures, and strategies needed to build a strong case, increasing your chances of getting a fair car accident settlement.
    • Evidence gathering: Your lawyer will gather crucial evidence to support your claim. This includes obtaining police reports, medical records, witness statements, and any available video footage. Proper evidence collection strengthens your case and increases the likelihood of a favorable outcome.
    • Accurate claim assessment: Determining the value of your claim involves adding up economic losses like medical bills and lost wages, but it also goes well beyond this. A car accident injury lawyer can accurately assess the full extent of your damages, including future medical expenses, lost earning potential, pain and suffering, and more. An accurate assessment ensures you pursue the full compensation you deserve.
    • Protecting your rights: After an accident, it’s easy to make mistakes that could harm your claim. A car accident attorney ensures your rights are protected throughout the process. They advise you on what to say and do, preventing you from making statements or decisions that could be used against you by insurance companies.
    • Effective negotiation skills: Insurance companies tend to offer low settlements immediately after the accident in an attempt to minimize payouts. Don’t fall for this trick—instead, speak with an experienced car accident lawyer first to see if the settlement is fair. If not, the lawyer will put their negotiating skills to work. They can handle all communications, present compelling evidence, and advocate on your behalf to secure a better settlement.
    • Contingency fee basis: Many car accident lawyers work on a contingency fee basis, meaning they only get paid if you win your case. This makes legal representation affordable, as you don’t have to worry about upfront costs.

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    When to Hire a Car Accident Lawyer

    Not every car accident requires legal representation. For instance, fender benders are typically easy to manage through your insurance company. However, here are the situations where hiring a lawyer is highly recommended:

    • Severe injury or death: If you or a passenger sustained serious injuries, became permanently disabled, or was killed in the collision, hiring a car accident injury lawyer is crucial. Severe injuries often involve high medical costs and long-term care needs, while wrongful death can be emotionally devastating and have significant financial consequences for you and your loved ones. An attorney can help you obtain compensation that reflects the long-term impact on your life.
    • Disputed liability: If there are disputes over who was at fault for the accident, an attorney can help gather evidence and build a strong case to establish liability. Proving that the other party was at least partly responsible is essential for securing compensation.
    • Insurance issues: When an insurance company denies your claim, offers a low settlement, or delays payment, it’s time to consult a car accident lawyer. They have the expertise to challenge these tactics and fight for your rights.
    • Complex cases: Accidents involving multiple parties, commercial vehicles, rideshare drivers, or hit-and-run situations tend to be more complicated. A lawyer can navigate your complex case and ensure all responsible parties are held accountable.

    Contact Our Car Accident Attorneys in Tracy, CA

    California law isn’t always easy to understand. It’s tempting to accept a low settlement and move on, but if you do, you could be leaving thousands of dollars on the table. Get the help you need navigating the aftermath of a car accident—turn to Bakerink, McCusker & Belden for expert legal advice.

    Our car accident attorneys in Tracy, CA, have over 35 years of experience providing the guidance our clients need and deserve. We work on a contingency basis, so you don’t have to worry about high upfront fees. Contact us at (209) 835-9592 today for your free, no-obligation case evaluation. Let us fight for your rights and secure the compensation you deserve.

  • New State Law Could Impact Personal Injury Claims for Bicyclists in California

    A Comprehensive Overview of the New AB 1909 Provision

    The Old Law: Following Traffic Signals

    Previously, bicyclists in California were expected to adhere to traffic signals meant for vehicles. This meant stopping at red lights and only proceeding when the light turned green. While this rule was straightforward, it often failed to account for the challenges and vulnerabilities cyclists face when sharing the road with cars.

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    The New Law: Following Pedestrian Signals

    Under the new AB 1909 provision, bicyclists may now cross intersections when the pedestrian “walk” signal is illuminated. This new rule acknowledges that cyclists often navigate roads using pedestrian pathways, giving them more opportunities to cross with a reduced risk of accidents.

    Exceptions to the Rule

    It’s important to note that cyclists must still adhere to bike-specific signals when present. These signals are typically found at busy or complex intersections where the movement of bicycles must be more carefully managed. If a bike-specific signal contradicts the pedestrian signal, cyclists must follow the bike signal.

    How AB 1909 Could Affect Your Personal Injury Claim

    To understand the impact of AB 1909 on personal injury compensation claims, let’s consider a hypothetical scenario. Imagine a bicyclist is hit by a car while crossing an intersection. The driver had a green light and was making an unprotected left turn while the bicyclist was following the pedestrian “walk” signal.

    Under the old law, the cyclist would likely be deemed at fault for not adhering to the vehicle traffic signal, reducing the chance of receiving compensation for injuries and damages. With the new law in effect, the cyclist’s actions are legally protected if they were following the pedestrian signal. This shifts the liability to the driver, who should have yielded to the cyclist, just as they would to a pedestrian. Consequently, the cyclist would have a stronger case for receiving personal injury compensation.

    Factors Affecting the Settlement of a Bicycle Accident

    Offering an average bicycle accident settlement amount is difficult because every incident is unique. The factors influencing the outcome of your claim include:

    • Severity of injuries: More severe injuries, such as traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, or multiple fractures, often require extensive medical treatment, rehab, and long-term care. The pain, suffering, and other emotional impacts can also be significant. These factors are considered when calculating both economic and non-economic damages. The goal is to ensure that the compensation reflects the true cost of the injury to cover immediate and future needs.
    • Financial losses: Not all costs associated with a bicycle accident are caused by hospital fees and medical treatments. If your injuries prevent you from returning to work, part of your settlement amount should cover the lost wages you would have earned had you not been injured.
    • Clear liability: California is a pure comparative negligence state. It allows injured parties to collect damages even if they are more than 50% at fault. Even so, the court subtracts the percentage of fault from the injured party’s compensation. If the driver is found mostly or entirely responsible for the bicycle accident, the settlement amount will likely be higher.

    Common Damages in a Bicycle Accident Settlement

    Bicycle accident claims fall under personal injury law, meaning the same kinds of damages that can be collected for other personal injury cases also apply to bike accidents, including:

    • Medical expenses related to emergency room visits, hospital stays, surgeries, medications, and ongoing medical care
    • Property damage to the bicycle and any other personal property involved in the accident
    • Lost wages if the cyclist is unable to work due to their injuries
    • Pain and suffering experienced due to the accident
    • Long-term disability to cover ongoing care and lifestyle adjustments needed to accommodate the disability

    We Help Injured Californian Cyclists Obtain the Maximum Settlement

    At Bakerink, McCusker & Belden, we support injured cyclists in California. With over 35 years of legal experience, our bicycle accident lawyers provide the expert guidance you need to obtain the maximum settlement. Consistently ranked among the “Best of Tracy,” as published in the Tracy Press, our firm reflects the highest ethical standards and professional expertise. Contact us today at (209) 835-9592 to request a free, no-obligation case evaluation. We’ll help you seek justice and compensation for your injuries.