Californians may have heard of an interesting story of reunion, and some unexpected inheritance, that brought together two families that never knew of their common ancestry. All of it was caught on camera as part of an Irish television show called "Dead Money" that tracks two genealogist brothers as they track down heirs of people who die without named heirs in Ireland.
People in California may have seen a recent article proposing ways in which people can protect their digital accounts and social media assets after death. While it's something many people haven't thought much about, these staggering statistics might be reason enough: there are an estimated 30 million deceased people with Facebook accounts, and people consider the value of their digital assets to be, on average, $55,000.
A couple from Redlands, California, recently made an interesting discovery about the marriage that they thought they had shared for nearly half a century. As the two were preparing their wills and collecting estate planning documents, they could not find their marriage license from their nuptials in 1964. After contacting the county for a copy, they realized that the pastor who conducted the wedding had never filed the license with the county office, meaning that the two had never actually been legally married.
Earlier this month a Nevada judge certified that a substitute teacher from California is the sole heir to an unexpected fortune. The fortune was left behind by a family member who was a reclusive retiree from Carson City. As the only traceable living heir, the woman will receive the entire proceeds of her deceased first cousin's estate.
Blog readers may recall the story of deceased Hollywood sitcom star Sherman Hemsley's estate and the legal challenge from his brother that kept his body above ground for more than three months after his death. Finally, an El Paso, Texas, judge has ruled that Hemsley's will was valid, meaning that Hemsley can finally be buried in accordance with his written wishes.
A recent article about California estate law and probate highlighted the importance of estate planning for a number of reasons, whether or not a person has substantial assets. While most people may be uncomfortable thinking, and even planning, for their death and the distribution of their property, they should take the time to address these issues. Avoiding probate, saving many thousands of dollars and preventing family tumult are several reasons why a person should have a current estate plan.
For many people, avoiding probate is a good idea. A recent controversy about state laws now provides yet another reason for doing so through careful estate planning. A recent article about California estate administration laws brought up an interesting Catch-22 in the process of administering a disabled or elderly person's estate. In California, unlike most other states, the law allows attorneys who are appointed by the court as trustees of the estate to bill hours spent defending their fees against when the amount of the fees is challenged. The rule has been applied even when the fees are challenged by the beneficiary of the estate. State lawmakers have now assigned a task force to investigate and, if necessary, change California estate administration law.
A new bill being considered by the California State Legislature could produce some interesting side effects in the area of wills, trusts and probate administration. The bill, however, is primarily concerned with family law matters and seeks to eliminate the legal mandate that a judge consider no greater than two people to be the legal parents of a child.
Last week we discussed the importance of being proactive in developing a California estate plan to ensure that your wishes are carried out in the event of a sudden illness or accident. But that is merely the first step in the process. Executing a will and then placing it in a safety deposit box to accumulate dust is not a strong estate plan.
While we would all like to think we will live long enough to set up a will or complete some kind of estate planning, not everyone will make it that long. For those people in Sacramento who don't have their final wishes written down in a will, it is possible that all the individuals they hoped to give money or property to will spend time and money fighting about the estate in probate court.