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Sacramento Estate Planning Attorney

Sacramento Estate Planning Blog

Adding property to a trust

Sacramento readers of this blog are familiar with the basic concepts of estate planning. They also likely recognize the important role that trusts can play in this planning process. Depending on one's unique set of circumstances, specific types of trusts can prove beneficial in furthering one's goals with regard to asset distribution upon death.

Deciding which types of trusts to create, if any, can be a challenging process. In fact, many individuals find themselves wondering about the nuts and bolts of it all. The first thought for many is a consideration of how assets are actually entered into a trust.

How to make modifications to a will

Taking even the most basic steps can be huge when it comes to estate planning. After all, this often means that an individual in California is prepared to confront the reality of his or her mortality with an eye on the futures of those he or she loves. While estate planning should occur early in an individual's life, it should also occur often. The accumulation of assets, the addition and loss of family members, and personal preferences can change over the years. Any of these changes may justify modification of an estate plan.

There are some significant life events that warrant revisiting a will, which can play an important role in any estate plan. Marriage, divorce, the birth of a child and the addition of stepchildren can all cause an individual to want to change his or her will. Another time when it might be wise to modify a will is when an individual takes on a new partner. If the couple is not legally married, and if they are not registered, then a surviving partner may be left with little, if anything, in the event of the other's passing. A will veers away from this default.

The basics of conservatorship in California

Although it may be uncomfortable to think about, we will all grow old and there may come a time when many of us will find ourselves unable to care for ourselves on a daily basis. While this can include the physical care of an individual, it can also include the maintenance of one's financial affairs. When a person become incapacitated and is unable to care for his or her financial estate, the court may create a conservatorship. A conservatorship allows an individual known as a conservator to manage the financial affairs for an incapacitated individual to ensure that the estate is not abused while the individual who is being held in conservatorship is incapacitated.

There are some strict legal processes in place to ensure that a conservatorship is managed appropriately. First, a bond must be posted, which is held as a sort of insurance. In the event that the estate is mishandled, the court can order the bond to be used to reimburse the individual who is being held in the conservatorship. Additionally, the court will order that an inventory and appraisal of the estate's assets be filed within 90 days of the creation of the conservatorship. This helps establish a foundation to which the court can refer when analyzing the progress of the conservatorship.

Need estate planning assistance? We may be able to help

Holistic estate planning can address many issues. It can determine how your assets will be distributed upon your death, who will make your health care decisions in the event that you become incapacitated and even who will administer your estate. There are many decisions involved, and they can have a tremendous effect on the futures not only of the estate, but of those touched by the estate as well. Therefore, it is crucial that those who are engaging in estate planning ensure that their legal documents are thorough and specific, so that their estate is handled in accordance with their wishes.

Although there is a plethora of "do it yourself" types of legal resources available, those who are unfamiliar with this area of the law are taking a big chance by not working with an experienced attorney. What one may consider a small mistake can wind up having huge ramifications. A will may be rendered invalid, the terms of a trust may be negated and certain beneficiaries may be left without receiving the property they were expecting and that an individual was intending to leave to them.

Estate planning: the AB trust

Much of estate planning is about avoiding unnecessary costs so that one's beneficiaries can receive the assets that a testator wants them to receive. It sounds easy enough, but estate planning can be challenging and, for many in Sacramento, confusing. One reason is because there are so many estate planning options and tools at one's disposal. It is therefore wise that those considering developing a new or modifying an existing estate plan inform themselves as fully as possible before moving forward.

This week we will look at one estate planning option: the AB trust. The AB trust is often referred to as the tax-saver trust because, when used properly, it can allow an estate to pass free of taxation. To do so, assets are placed in an irrevocable trust that is meant to benefit one's spouse upon the testator's death. Once the testator dies, the trust property is usable by the spouse, who does not actually own the property. Since the spouse does not own the property, when he or she dies, the estate passes to beneficiaries free of estate taxation.

Trusts and long-term care planning

Nobody likes to think of their own mortality. Yet, it is an inevitability for us all. Instead of being afraid to confront this reality, Californians should prepare for it. Not only does this allow one to put his or her mind at ease, but it can also help alleviate any concerns possessed by an individual's potential beneficiaries. One way this can be accomplished is by creating trusts that seek to alleviate certain financial needs.

One of these needs is long-term care. There are many long-term care options, some more expensive than others. Although some individuals wind up needing the skilled care of nursing home professionals, others are able, and prefer, to receive health care services at home. Home care can come in many forms, including personal care to help with daily needs such as bathing and grooming; health care to assist with medication and medical equipment; dietary assistance to ensure that an elderly individual receives adequate nutrition; and house care to ensure that an individual's home remains livable.

Cryptocurrency and estate planning

Estate planning may seem pretty easy at first glance. After all, to many Californians it is nothing more than deciding how to distribute assets upon one's death. While this is true to a certain extent, estate planning is much more complicated in practice. Those who fail to properly and thoroughly address all estate planning issues may be putting themselves, and their loved ones, at risk of unexpected expenses, tax implications, unwanted distribution of assets and debts and eve the loss of valuable assets.

One asset that is becoming more common is cryptocurrency. Many Californians are probably aware of this digital currency due to the surging popularity of Bitcoin, but few recognize the impact that it can have on estate planning. Although cryptocurrency can carry a significant amount of value, some experts are finding that individuals are failing to properly document its existence and how to access it. In these instances, when a cryptocurrency owner dies, his or her beneficiaries may be unable to access what could be a significant amount of money.

Proactive estate planning can help prevent family disputes

Many people who receive inheritances from deceased loved ones are honored to simply have been remembered by the persons whose estates provided them with the inheritance. In California, a person may be an estate beneficiary through a number of testamentary devices, all of which a decedent must prepare prior to the end of their life. While in some cases a beneficiary may be aware of what their inheritance will be, in other situations a beneficiary may not know that they will receive an inheritance until their loved one has passed on.

Problems can arise when individuals who believe that they should be beneficiaries of the decedents' estates find, upon the deaths of the estate holders, that they have not been included therein. These misunderstandings and bruised expectations can lead to messy and sometimes hurtful disputes between family members. They can also lead to challenges to decedents' wills, trusts and other estate planning tools.

A joint will is not always a good legal option

Readers of this Sacramento estate planning blog can find a great deal of information about wills on this site. However, one unique will-related topic has not received much attention but deserves a discussion to introduce readers to its interesting legal significance. That topic is the joint will, and the remainder of this post will offer an explanation of what a joint will is and why it may not serve the interests of those who create them.

A joint will is a will made by two people. Usually the two people are married. Once a joint will is created it cannot be revoked by one of the parties alone. In order to revoke a joint will, both of the parties must revoke it during their lifetimes.

Why may people want to avoid probate and how can they do so?

Whether or not their estate will go through probate may not be a huge concern for some California residents, since they will not be around to see how the process affects the disposition of their wealth and assets. However, a Californian who wants to take proactive steps to protect their wealth and the inheritances of their loved ones should understand why avoiding probate this is a good idea. This post will discuss why a person should work to keep their estate out of probate and how that goal may be achieved.

Probate is the legal process of settling a decedent's debts, paying their beneficiaries and ensuring that all of their assets have been dealt with properly. Probate can take a long time and depending upon the issues that affect the estate can cost an estate a lot of money. As a result, a person whose estate is probated may not end up bequeathing as much wealth to their loved ones as they intended because of the costs of the probate process.

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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