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Sacramento Estate Planning Attorney

Sacramento Estate Planning Blog

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.

Utilizing trusts to care for children with special needs

Raising children can be a challenging endeavor. This is especially true when a child has special needs. Depending on the condition at hand, a child with special needs may require extensive medical care and social support. These needs can be long-term in nature, which is why these considerations need to be taken into account when engaging in estate planning.

There are a number of ways to provide for a child with special needs through an estate plan. If an individual has enough money to provide for the child's long-term care, then that significant amount of money can be placed in a trust with directions to make periodic payments to the child, who is named as the trust's beneficiary. However, doing so will likely disqualify a child from receiving government benefits.

Poor estate planning can leave estate milked dry

Should estate planning focus on leaving children as well off financially as possible? While some see no problem with doing this, others think that it could cause children to be spoiled and unappreciative of hard work.

Those in the latter category point to a number of cases involving problematic estates. Previous posts here have discussed the trouble with Stan Lee's estate plan, but there are other wealthy individuals who found themselves being taken advantage of by their loved ones. One woman, worth more than $100 million, lived in squalor while her son bilked her of her assets. He was later convicted of fraud and other crimes, but he still wound up inheriting more than $14 million from his mother's estate.

Luke Perry's death shows importance of estate plan upkeep

Actor Luke Perry, best known for his work on "Beverly Hills 90210," recently passed away at the young age of 52. Nobody expects to suddenly pass away so young, which makes Perry's death all the more tragic. It is usually in these circumstances that families find themselves struggling to figure out what to do with their lost loved one's estate. In the absence of an estate plan, matters can get messy, the distribution of assets can be costly and time-consuming and family members may vie over wanted property.

It looks like Perry may have had at least a minimal estate plan in place to avoid this outcome. Reports indicate that someone in his family likely had a power of attorney, which allowed that person to decide to take Perry off of life support. Others who utilize this estate planning tool can ensure that critical financial and healthcare decisions are left in the hands of trusted individuals should such a need arise. Failing to have this document in place could lead to the matter being argued over in court by family members who may have differing opinions about how the matter should be addressed.

Important trust basics Sacramento residents need to know

Understanding the basics of trusts as estate planning tools can be crucial for California residents. Trusts are essentially agreements that dictate how assets will be managed and distributed to named beneficiaries. The creator, or grantor, of a trust can name a trustee to manage the trust. This trustee has a fiduciary duty, meaning that he or she must make decisions regarding the trust and trust assets that further the best interests of the trust's beneficiary.

There are many reasons why creating a trust can be beneficial. To start, trusts, unlike wills, allow assets to bypass the probate process. This can reduce the amount of time needed to distribute estate assets and it can save beneficiaries money. Since the probate process can be bypassed, those who utilize trusts can protect the privacy of their estate. Also, trusts are a viable way to financially provide for those a grantor cares about while allowing restrictions to be placed on the distribution of those assets.

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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