What Is the Big Deal About the Probate Process?

We hear all the time about how we should avoid probate.  How does it work?  Simply stated, probate is a court supervised process where: 1. The decedent’s assets are collected and then identified; 2. Any debts, taxes or expenses paid, and; 3. What is left, “the inheritance”, is either distributed outright to loved ones or is administered and distributed to them through a testamentary trust [meaning trust set up after you die].   The Gathering: Hopefully, the records are all in a handy dandy binder or file folder and there is no sleuthing required.  If it is all in shoe boxes, then that is the method of gathering of data that will be used.  In most events, the mail [electronic or snail mail] will also bring important information so the Executor should be checking email and also getting all the mail via a change of address card with the post office.  This will result in knowing what the assets and liabilities are.   The Paying: After we now what the liabilities are, we need to use the assets of the estate to pay the liabilities.  Notice to Creditors is given to start a four month period, currently and in California, within which general creditors must present their claim or they are forever barred.  Known creditors are also given notice but directly.  Notice to Creditors is a good thing because it closes off the time for future claims and protects the beneficiaries from creditors trying to follow the assets for payment.   The Distributing: Depending on whether there is a will or not, the result may change.  If there is...
Intestate Succession hazards

Intestate Succession hazards

  INTESTATE SUCCESSION? WHAT IS THAT?!? Dealing with the death of a loved one is often traumatic at worst, emotionally draining at best. This process is, however, exponentially more difficult when a person dies without a will, or “intestate”. Real property is particularly difficult to distribute without knowing the intent of the deceased. We may think we know, but if the deceased did not write it down, it will pass by the laws of “Intestate Succession” which means the State of California will instead tell the family how the property is to be divided. The more complex families are, the more complications there can be. Consider the following:     If you die with:Then here is what will happen: • parents but no children, spouse, or siblings• parents inherit everything • siblings but no children, spouse, or parents• siblings inherit everything • spouse but no children, parents, or siblings• spouse inherits everything • children but no spouse, parents, or siblings• children inherit everything • a spouse and child[ren]• spouse inherits all of your community property and 1/2 or 1/3 of your separate property, ½ if one child and 1/3 if more than one child AND • children inherit 1/2 or 2/3 of your separate property • a spouse and parents, no children• spouse inherits all of your community property and 1/2 of your separate property AND • parents inherit 1/2 of your separate property • a spouse and siblings, but no parents or children• spouse inherits all of your community property and 1/2 of your separate property AND • siblings inherit 1/2 of your separate property The Spouse’s Share...

Is It Time to Update My Estate Plan?

Is It Time to Update My Estate Plan? I am often asked what are the events that should make one update an estate plan. Here are my general guidelines: Marriage or Divorce of you, your children, grandchildren or business or life partners; Contemplation of Marriage, especially second marriages, Registered Domestic Partnerships or Divorce; Birth of children or grandchildren; Death of a spouse, children, grandchildren or business or life partners; Serious or life threatening illness of you, your children, grandchildren or business or life partners; Disability of you, your spouse, a parent, sibling, child, grandchild, or a dependant or handicapped dependant that may require special considerations or a special needs trust; Substantial change in your personal estate size, whether increased or decreased; Before any significant business or personal litigation; On any significant change of assets or interests; Especially on any major change in the estate tax laws! Like we just had in 2012. These things do not all require updating your estate plan but any of them should cue you to seek legal...

In Case of Death List

In Case of Death List The following agencies need to be notified of your loved one’s passing. Not all may apply to your situation: Social Security Administration Veteran’s Administration (if the decedent formerly served in the military) Defense Finance and Accounting Service (military service retiree receiving benefits) Office of Personnel Management (if the decedent is a former federal civil service employee) U.S. Citizen and Immigration Service (If the decedent was not a U.S. citizen) State Department of Motor Vehicles (If the decedent had a driver’s license) Credit card and merchant card companies Banks, savings and loan associations and credit unions Mortgage companies and lenders Financial planners and stock brokers Your estate planning attorney Pension providers Life insurers and annuity companies Health, medical and dental insurers Disability insurers Automotive insurer Mutual benefit companies All three credit reporting agencies: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion Any memberships held by the decedent (ex: health clubs, professional associations, clubs, library etc.) You can list the decedent on the Deceased Do Not Contact List, maintained by the Direct Marketing Association, which is a service that removes the decedent from all direct mailing...

Elder Abuse

Elder Abuse What is Elder Abuse? It is the neglect, exploitation or “painful or harmful” mistreatment of anyone who is 65 or older (or any disabled dependent adult age 18 to 64). It can involve physical intimidation, violence, psychological abuse, isolation, abandonment, abduction, false imprisonment or a care giver’s neglect. It could also involve unlawful taking of a senior’s money or property. In short, it can involve various crimes, such as theft, assault or identity theft. But when the victim is 65 years old or older (or a disabled dependent adult), the criminal faces stiffer penalties under various protective statutes. If a relative is refusing to visit unless you give money or do something for them, or if you are being compelled to “lend money” or change your estate plan to favor a care giver or family member, or if you are being threatened with harm if you don’t do what you are asked, it is all a form of something called “elder abuse”. Elder abuse can be physical abuse or financial abuse or neglect. You need to reach out for help right away. It is not OK for anyone to treat you this way. While the elderly are already extremely vulnerable to abuse, issues of mental impairment and dementia are additional significant factors that make seniors even more susceptible to elder abuse and/or neglect. Elder abuse happens everywhere - in poor, middle class, and upper-income households and in far too many long-term care facilities. It is a problem that has no demographic or ethnic boundaries. Because family members, close friends, and even professional care givers are often the...

For Animal Care

For Animal Care Providing For Your Pets In The Event of Your Death or Hospitalization For many people, a pet is an important and comforting part of life, often filling the void of an empty nest or loss of a family member. The love and companionship given by pets is immeasurable and many people feel they would do anything for their pets, but then, they never get to it. The care and well-being of the pet is a primary concern. This is particularly so in the event of a pet owner’s death or hospitalization. Below is a summary of how to plan for the care of a pet in the event of a pet owner’s death or hospitalization. I will start with hospitalization or “non-death” reasons for being unable to care for your pet. Upon the incapacity or hospitalization of the pet owner, advance arrange-ments should be made to ensure care of the pet while the pet owner is hospitalized or incapacitated. Some people have other people they live with who will care for the pet but many do not. Too often, a pet is ignored when something happens to those who live alone. Arranging For Friends/Relatives To Provide Short-Term Care. It is easy if you know you are going to need care but often this is out of your control. A pet owner should try to find a friend or relative who is willing to take care of his/her pet during these periods. The owner should leave word, preferably in writing, at home and with a neighbor, or with the building management and/or superintendent, for the friend or...
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