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Consider the estate of affairs in your succession plan, part 2

Last week we discussed the importance of being proactive in developing a California estate plan to ensure that your wishes are carried out in the event of a sudden illness or accident. But that is merely the first step in the process. Executing a will and then placing it in a safety deposit box to accumulate dust is not a strong estate plan.

Soul singer Etta James dies in California hospital

Legendary singer Etta James passed away on January 20, 2012, as she succumbed to complications due to leukemia. The world renowned singer--famous for songs such as "At Last" and "I'd Rather go Blind"--died at a Riverside, California hospital with her husband and two sons at her side.

Consider the estate of affairs in your succession plan, part 1

Some very large estates have been divided in California courts. But sound estate planning is not just for Hollywood millionaires, titans of industry, and masters of the universe. Every person needs to lay out a detailed plan, so that when the time comes to dispose of one's property, the process can be as free from strife and discord as possible. Most importantly, a strong estate plan will most fully effectuate the intent of the person who created it.

Estate taxes may rise in 2013

One of the concerns that California residents have when they do estate planning is the effects of federal taxes on their estate. At the moment, estate taxes have an exemption amount of $5 million with a top marginal rate of 35 percent, but that exemption is set to expire in 2013. If no action is taken by Congress, then the exemption will fall to $1 million and the top marginal rate will rise to 55 percent. So readers of this blog may be particularly interested in a piece of legislation by Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Washington.The bill, called the Sensible Estate Tax Act of 2011, was recently introduced a week before Thanksgiving. If passed, the bill would allow the top marginal tax rate to rise to 55 percent, as it would under current law. However, the bill also proposes that the current exemption amount be allowed to expire, and that the $1 million exemption be indexed for inflation starting in 2000. That would mean the exemption amount would fall from the current $5 million for individuals and $10 million for couples to $1.31 million for individuals and $2.61 million for couples.

Heiress estate plan leaves $33M to private nurse

When a person has a substantial estate to transfer upon their death, he or she will often utilize wills and trusts to handle many of the issues that they may face. Wills and trusts are often an excellent way to avoid probate court and to see that the deceased person's wishes are followed when it comes to asset protection. One Filipino woman who owns property in California and elsewhere understands the importance of estate planning as she is expected to inherit some $33 million from a wealthy recluse she had nursed for years.The massive inheritance that Hadassah Peri is expected to receive comes from Huguette Clark. Ms. Clark died at the age of 104 and is the daughter of a wealthy copper baron. She is perhaps best known for her reclusive behavior, having not been seen in public circles for an estimated 70 years. Mrs. Peri has been Clark's private nurse (and reportedly close personal friend) for over 20 years. She came to the United States in 1972 from the Philippines.

Portability provision aids estate planning

Even those California residents who are young and healthy may benefit from estate planning. A good estate plan will maximize the size of the estate while minimizing the potential tax consequences for one's heirs. Moreover, proper estate planning will reduce the need for litigation and help the estate to escape the probate process as much as possible.

California seeks asset protection help for seniors and disabled

One aspect of estate planning may be that an individual or couple is "house rich" but strapped for cash. In some California communities, real property taxes have risen to the point that seniors are in danger of losing their homes solely for not being able to come up with the money for the property tax. Asset protection planning is often necessary to both save the home for the duration of the owner's remaining years and to preserve it as part of the estate to pass on to heirs. A law to help seniors with just that problem is being proposed again, having been initially axed when California faced its budget crisis.

Estate planning for those with special needs

When someone with special needs receives an inheritance or a personal injury award, they may no longer be eligible for needs based government benefits. However, this type of one-time windfall can be put into a trust for the recipient's benefit so they can continue receiving their government benefit. This is called a "special needs trust" (SNT), and it is an important part of estate planning for California residents with special needs.

Asset protection in California is critical, both now and later

It goes without saying that a person's whose finances remain fixated 'in the red' may more than likely leave an estate that reflects the same. While residents here in California all hope to live in a debt-free environment that allows our primary focus to be on asset protection, the reality of day-to-day living for most people means financial obligations in the form of mortgage payments, car loans and credit cards. Given our current economy, there may be many individuals finding it difficult to manage their finances and ensure that all financial obligations are met in a timely and comprehensive fashion. Doing so usually requires some degree of financial planning whether you live in California or somewhere else in the United States.

My Sacramento law practice, Michael A. Sawamura, Attorney at Law, focuses on wills, trusts and estate planning law in addition to business law and corporate defense services. My clients include professionals, government employees, small businesses, blue-collar workers and national corporations.

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