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Sacramento Estate Planning Attorney

Sacramento Estate Planning Blog

Have confidence when drafting your will

On its face, estate planning can seem relatively easy, especially for those who just want to leave their assets to their spouse or children. For these individuals, a simple will may suffice to meet their needs, but even these documents can be fraught with legal issues. For an example of the complexities and confusion that can arise when a will is improperly handled, just read our recent post about Aretha Franklin's estate and her handwritten wills. To avoid potential problems related to the creation of a will, Californians should consider working closely with an estate planning professional.

There are many issues that can derail a will, and other estate planning vehicles, but a skilled attorney will know how to deal with those matters. He or she can help an individual take the steps necessary to diminish or eliminate claims of incapacity, coercion, and undue influence. Additionally, a legal professional can help ensure that a will is drafted in accordance with applicable laws, thereby ensuring its legal validity.

Proposed law may change how IRAs are handled in estate plans

For many Californians, their retirement accounts make up a significant part of their estate. Pension plans, 401(k)s, and IRAs are some of the major accounts. When properly addressed in an estate plan, Californians can rest assured that their assets will pass into the right hands upon their death. That may sound simple enough, but the process of estate planning can actually be quite complicated, especially when the law is in a state of flux.

This may soon be the situation for IRAs that are part of an estate plan. The SECURE Act, which is awaiting passage in the U.S. Senate, seeks to impose a number of limitations on how the funds contained within an IRA can be inherited. For example, many IRAs are paid out to beneficiaries over the life of that beneficiary. This extends the IRA tax benefits well beyond the life of the individual who created the account. Congress is looking to limit the withdrawal of these assets to within 10 years of an IRA creator's death, which would subject them to more taxation. If passed, it is likely that inheriting spouses will be exempted from this restriction.

A primer on the duties of the trustee

Laying out an estate plan is no easy feat. The challenges that often arise can come up in a variety of contexts, too. Those with blended families, young children, and a desire for asset distribution that is anything other than evenly divided amongst loved ones need to carefully consider how their estate plan is drafted to obtain desired results. While this may mean the creation of a will and a number of trusts, estate planning is about much more than just determining how one's assets will be distributed upon his or her death.

For example, when a trust is created, an individual can name another person to serve as the trustee. This individual has a fiduciary duty, meaning that he or she has a duty to act in the best interests of another. The trustee also holds title to assets that have been placed in the trust, making him or her responsible for how those assets are utilized. Oftentimes these assets need to be invested to maintain the trust's viability for as long as possible, which is why trustees are oftentimes better off if they consult with a financial expert.

Estate planning for children with special needs

Many California parents worry about their children's futures. This can be especially true when a child has special needs. These children often need additional support that is both emotional and financial in nature.

It can be difficult to think about a future where these children, even as adults, have to live without the love and support of their parents, but oftentimes that future becomes a reality. This is why individuals who have special needs children need to carefully consider how best to engage in estate planning so that their children are cared for as fully as possible when the time comes.

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.

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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