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Sacramento Estate Planning Blog

The importance of estate planning for intellectual property

Most people who think of estate planning only consider the transfer of tangible property upon death. Others may think about how debts play into the distribution of an estate, too. Yet, there are a whole host of other types of property that can carry tremendous value. Failing to appropriately address them in an estate plan, though, could mean that they wind up in the wrong hand.

Some of these intangible assets are intellectual property. Copyrights, trademarks, and patents can each be very valuable, and some may not even know that they have any of those properties until they sit down and think about it. A novel that is written, for example, has a copyright even if it hasn't been registered with the Library of Congress. This is considerable given that a copyright can last for the life of an author plus 70 years.

Aretha Franklin's handwritten wills cause problems

Famed singer Aretha Franklin is well-known for her vocal work while with Motown Records. Her music has inspired a generation, and it continues to be heard across the world. While her talents continue to be celebrated long after her death, Franklin is also well-known for something else: failing to create an estate plan to deal with the distribution of her assets.

This is no small thing considering the presumed size of the singer's estate. As we discussed previously on the blog, Franklin's estate was destined for probate where legal fees and delays were sure to eat into the estate's value and her loved one's patience. Family member were, and still are, poised to present their cases for why they are entitled to certain portions of the singer's estate.

Single parents can benefit from holistic estate planning

The truth is that estate planning can be beneficial for anyone. Still, many Californians mistakenly think that estate planning is reserved for those with massive amounts of wealth and large families. In order to see its benefits, one just needs to be able to look closely enough at the details of estate planning, which can be especially helpful considering everyone's circumstances are different.

This week we will briefly look at estate planning as it pertains to single parents. Much of estate planning focuses on leaving assets to children, and for good reason. Children typically outlive their parents and are amongst the most trusted individuals to whom an estate can be left.

Claims against mental capacity can threaten a will's validity

A solid estate plan is one that is thorough and updated over time. Yet, with each legal document executed and modification made comes scrutiny. This can be especially true when changes to an estate plan are substantially different from what the plan previously constituted.

Therefore, when an individual is written out of a will, or when the distribution of a loved one's assets becomes suspiciously lopsided, other expectant heirs and beneficiaries may start to raise questions as to the legal validity of those changes.

The dangers of self-help estate planning

Self-help resources abound in our technological age. They can help you learn to do just about anything, from build a house to draw cartoons. Estate planning is no exception. Many online businesses offer cheap services to help individuals create wills, trusts, and powers of attorney. So, then, the question becomes whether or not it is worth it to seek out the assistance of an estate planning attorney when dealing with these matters.

The truth of the matter is that many people don't know how to create an estate plan that will protect their assets and their loved ones in accordance with their wishes. Although self-help and do-it-yourself guides are cheap, they often include boilerplate language and limited options that likely won't meet your unique needs.

Estate planning for blended families

There can be a lot to deal with when two California families combine into one. This is often seen in the context of blended families when one individual with children marries another individual who is not the children's parent. In some instances, each spouse has children from another relationship.

The blending of these families can lead to significance readjustments in day-to-day living, and it can also have significant ramifications for estate planning.

What does it take to properly sign a will

By utilizing a basic will, Californians can spell out how they wish for their assets to be distributed upon their death. Although many people think of this legal document as easily executable, it can raise some serious legal issues if improperly handled. This is why it is usually best to have the assistance of a skilled estate planning attorney before creating and finalizing one of these wills.

One problem that can arise with a will is the validity of its signing. An improperly signed will is an invalid will, which means that the terms laid out in the document may not be fulfilled.

A few ways estate planning can allow one to avoid probate

A lot of estate planning is about avoiding the probate process. Probate is a court process through which an estate is handled after an individual's death. Through probate, an executor can be appointed for the purpose of identifying heirs and beneficiaries, paying off estate debts, and distributing estate assets.

An executor will also handle many administrative duties such as cancelling credit cards and home services like cable and internet, and he or she will also notify the proper government agencies of the individual's death.

How to choose a health care agent

While much of estate planning is focused on the distribution of assets upon one's passing, it really encompasses much more than that. Estate planning should also delve into important health care and financial decisions, especially in the event that an individual becomes incapacitated. After all, these matters are inextricably linked to the distribution of assets because these health-related and financial decisions can have a profound impact on the remaining value of an estate.

Choosing an individual to make those critical decisions in the event of incapacitation can be daunting. This is why individuals who are selecting a health care agent or an individual to hold power of attorney should consider a number of factors.

Divorcing? Don't forget to modify your estate plan

Getting divorced can be emotional. After all, two individuals who were once in love have to come to terms with the fact that they are no longer right for each other. While this process can leave individuals feeling upset, distrusting, and sad, it also provides them with an opportunity to secure a fresh start. While many individuals consider this new beginning to pertain to the way one lives life, it should also affect how one plans to dispose of his or her assets after death.

An individual's estate plan may need to be overhauled in the event of divorce. To start, an ex-spouse should be removed from a health care directive so that he or she is not responsible for making important health care-related decisions in the event that an individual is injured and unable to communicate. Then, any power of attorney naming the ex-spouse should be revoked and a new power of attorney should be created. This will protect one's financial interests.

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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