The controversy surrounding the estate of painter Thomas Kinkade, including his palatial mansion in Monte Sereno, California, will continue as the court begins probate proceedings early next month. Among the issues at the heart of the controversy are the validity of claims made by Kinkade's live-in girlfriend and the documents that she claims express Kinkade's desires for the division of his property. The case provides for excellent celebrity drama, but also serves as a cautionary tale for those who may not recognize the advantages of avoiding probate.
Sacramento residents may want to prepare themselves for a tax hike next year. According to Republicans, in 2013 we will see the largest tax increase in U.S. history. From a pure dollars and cents perspective this is true, but when measured as a percentage of gross domestic product and compared to other years, it quickly loses this label. The increases would represent roughly 2.6 percent of GDP.
California residents are living more and more of their lives online. Many areas of law have evolved in response to the popularity of online activities. But laws governing what happens to a person's online assets--which can include blogs, email accounts and social media pages--in the event of that person's death are still developing. This lack of definite legal standards may cause problems for heirs.
Without federal legislative intervention before the New Year, the current generous gift tax exemption of $5.12 million could revert to $1 million. People in Sacramento seeking to pass along their financial assets might want to calculate the effect a vastly reduced exemption threshold could have on their estate plan. Many estate planning advisors are encouraging wealthy clients to take advantage of the current higher limits now in order to avoid unnecessary taxation.
During an economic downturn, people look for ways to save money. Sometimes the less expensive option turns out to cost more in the end. One technique of conserving cash that may lead to costly mistakes is pursuing the do-it-yourself approach instead of hiring professionals. This is especially true in legal areas, such as when people draft a will.