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Sacramento Estate Planning Attorney

Sacramento Estate Planning Blog

Steps to take to ensure an estate plan is effective

No one likes to think about their inevitable mortality. Therefore, it can take a lot of will power and bravery to create an estate plan. Those in California who are able to successfully create a plan may feel like they have achieved something major, which they have, at least to a certain extent. However, estate planning is never truly done. The legal documents through which an estate plan takes shape need revisiting from time-to-time, but even the process through which the plan is discussed with beneficiaries and heirs can have a significant impact on the plan's success.

Many individuals fail to discuss their estate plan with their heirs. In fact, one study found that nearly half of all parents fail to bring up the subject with their children, and only 28 percent of adults reported that they were aware of their parents' estate plan details. Another 40 percent reported that they felt that their parents' estate plans were unfair. By failing to discuss estate planning with their children and heirs, individuals risk that expectations may be dashed and feeling of unfairness may give rise to legal disputes.

Who is allowed to try to invalidate a will?

Wills can be powerful estate planning tools that can ensure that an individual's estate in California is distributed in accordance with his or her wishes upon death. However, in order for a will to be valid, certain legal requirements must be met. While the vast majority of wills meet these requirements, there are some instances when a wills validity can be called into question. However, when a will's legality is at issue, only certain parties can formally challenge it.

Generally speaking, only those parties who have an interest in the will are allowed to contest it. In short, this means those parties who would have something to gain from a change in a will or a ruling of invalidity can bring an action in court. Beneficiaries, for example, are able to challenge aspects of a will because they are named in the document and would thereby be affected by any such change. The same holds true to intestate heirs. In these situations, an intestate heir may challenge the legal sufficiency of a will, because he or she would stand to inherit more by proceeding through the probate process without a will.

Our Sacramento firm knows how to address intangible assets

Planning for your future can be a challenging endeavor. Planning for the future of your estate, then, can seem even more difficult. However, with proper guidance and some motivation, California residents can create an estate plan that works well for them and their loved ones. Assets can be protected, taxes and fees can be minimized or eliminated, and peace of mind can be obtained. Although this planning includes addressing physical assets such as one's home, bank accounts, retirement accounts and vehicles, it also often involves intangible assets, such as social media accounts, cryptocurrency, other digital accounts and even copyrights, trademarks and patents.

Dealing with these intangible assets can be critically important. Failing to properly address them could leave loved ones without access or, on the other hand, it may leave access available to those who the deceased did not want to access the assets. Therefore, those who are looking for a holistic approach to estate planning that adequately addresses physical assets, debts and intangible assets should turn to dedicated and trusted legal professionals.

Prince's estate unable to avoid probate, as the process continues

It's hard to believe that pop icon Prince passed away two years ago. Since his passing, his estate has been thrust to the forefront. One reason is because it is extremely valuable, estimated at $200 million. Another reason it has received so much attention is because Prince died without any sort of estate plan. There was no will, no trusts, no direction whatsoever as to how the estate's assets should be distributed.

This has created a lot of friction within the family, which likely has only been exacerbated by the probate process. Because Prince's estate was not subjected to a will, the matter must pass through probate to determine how the estate's assets should be distributed. Making matters more difficult in this case is the fact that the estate's executor and the federal government must first come to a consensus with regard to the estate's value before it can be divided amongst Prince's heirs. This has drawn the process out, costing the estate millions of dollars in management and legal fees while the family has yet to receive anything.

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.

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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