Probate, Estate Planning and Trust Law
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San Fernando Valley Probate & Estate Administration Law Blog

Understanding the Probate Homestead Exemption

Most in Woodland Hills would likely list their homes as being among their most valuable possessions. That’s likely due to the fact that one’s home is much more than just a simple investment building equity. Rather, it offers peace-of-mind in knowing that one always has a place that he or she as well as his or her family can rely on to provide comfort and protection. Yet for all of the intrinsic and financial value that a home may have, it is surprising how little so many do to protect it in the event of their deaths.

The common line of thinking is that when one dies, the ownership of his or her home will automatically pass to his or her surviving family members. However, that is not always the case. Imagine if one had named a former spouse as being entitled to inherit the home in his or her will, yet forgot to update it after he or she remarried. Or, worse yet, what if one were to die intestate? Such a scenario is not hard to envision, given that information shared by Forbes shows that 62 percent of Americans aged 45-54 have not prepared wills. Could one’s surviving spouse and children really lose his or her home to a former beneficiary or creditors?

Understanding your estate planning options

Estate planning can be important no matter what your age and asset level. Most people begin to plan their estate when they are older and have more assets to consider, but younger people with less in the way of financial solvency can also benefit from planning for their estate. They can make changes as they age and their life takes different turns, but early planning can be a big benefit in a number of ways. Planning an estate isn't always just about finances, as there are other factors to consider. 

What information is a trustee obligated to give you?

Lack of communication between the interested parties to a will or trust may be one of the most common causes of discord in estate planning. Here at The Law Offices of Alice A. Salvo, we often see an inherent level of mistrust between the beneficiaries of a will or trust and the trustee or executor. In the case of a trust, this may be due to you, as a beneficiary, feeling as though the trustee is only giving you the information that he or she feels that you need.

The California Probate Code states that upon your reasonable request, a trustee must provide you with both the complete terms of the trust as well as any information related to its administration that is relevant to your particular interest. The only exception to this is during the period of time in which a revocable trust may be revoked. Once the trust becomes irrevocable due to either the decree or death of the settlor, you can freely request any information regarding it.

Understanding the process of appointing an estate administrator

Woodland Hills residents are strongly recommended to engage in estate planning early in their adult lives so as to avoid issues with the management of their affairs once they are gone. Nevertheless, we here at The Law Offices of Alice A. Salvo can attest to the fact that many die without having named a personal representative or even creating any estate planning articles. If you have had a loved one pass away without such resources in place, then you and other interested parties may justly be wondering how his or her estate is to be handled.

According to the California Probate Code, the court will appoint an administrator to manage your loved one’s estate if he or she dies intestate. The order of priority when making such an appointment is as follows:

  •          The surviving spouse or domestic partner
  •          Any children, grandchildren, or other surviving issue
  •          Parents
  •          Siblings
  •          Surviving issue of siblings
  •          Grandparents

Understanding the difference between heirs and beneficiaries

For many in Woodland Hills, the details regarding who is entitled to estate assets may be difficult to understand due to the unique vernacular of the law. An example of this is the confusion that exists between the titles “heir” and “beneficiary.” Many may use the words interchangeably, when in reality they have very different meanings.

If one has named his spouse, children or any other party or entity as being entitled to receive his or her assets through a will, trust, or other form of legal arrangement, he or she is naming them as beneficiaries. The common assumption is that one primarily leaves his or her beneficiaries cash gifts. However, information shared by the IRS show the most common estate portfolio assets to be stocks, small business interests, and real estate.  

New estate protection bill inspired by the late artist Prince

Woodland Hills residents have likely heard for years how important it is from them to not put off their estate planning. The risk one assumes by not having any certified documentation outlining his or her final wishes is that a veritable ‘open season’ may ensue among those who claim to be interested parties to his or estate. In some cases, those interests may go beyond the tangible assets included in an estate. If it also contains properties, original works, or even name recognition that could be of value, then those associated with the estate may also want to try an exploit them, as well. Without the proper estate planning documents, there may be little that can be done to stop them from doing so.

Currently, 17 states have laws on their books prohibiting people from profiting off of an apparent association with a decedent without permission. Minnesota may soon join their ranks. Legislation was just recently introduced to the state’s House of Representatives that would give added control of a person’s likeness, name, voice, and image to his or her estate for 50 years following his or her death. The bill is has been formerly named ‘The Prince Act’ after the later rocker who passed away late last month. His case alone may serve to demonstrate the need for such legislation. The musician apparently left no will, and since his death as many as 700 different people have come forward claiming a right to his estate.

Business succession is a big part of estate planning

If you own and operate a business, it's vital that you have proper estate planning. That can protect the continuity of your business, and help ensure that it is passed down to the people you intended to operate it. Here are three of the most important things to consider when it comes to estate planning and business succession.

When are you deemed unable to make your own decisions?

An important part of estate planning in Woodland Hills is making decisions surrounding your end-of-life care. Accidents, disease, or the effects of advancing age could place you in the position of being unable to make rational decisions regarding your own care. At what point are you considered to be unable to make sound choices for yourself? The answer to that question may be open to interpretation. What some may see as incapable of logical thought, others may view as slow and uninformed. Fortunately, the California Probate Code leaves little room to speculate on this matter.

Many attribute an inability to make good decisions to a physical or mental disorder. However, the law states that the mere presence of such a diagnosis does not mean that you are unable to think and act for yourself. It goes on to say that in order for the court to consider you as being incapable of sound decision making, you must first display a deficit in any of the following mental functions:

  •          Alertness and attention
  •          Information processing
  •          Thought processing
  •          Your ability to control your mood

Approaching retirement? An important estate planning tip to remember

You have worked your entire life and are looking forward to finally spending some time relaxing. Perhaps you are planning on taking a long vacation with your spouse, or maybe simply going to visit your grandkids. Whatever you decide to do, you are happy, healthy and looking forward to what is next.

It is easy to forget how quickly things can change. You may suffer an injury or illness at any time that makes it impossible for you to make decisions about your health care or finances. If you are not prepared for this, you could encounter serious challenges if you become incapacitated. 

In this post, we discuss how important it is for you to select a loved one to make these decisions for you. This will allow you and your family to be ready for whatever may happen, and provide you with peace of mind that things will be taken care of for you if you find yourself in this position. 

Detailing The California Probate Code’s methods of disbursement

Taking on the job of being the executor to one’s estate in Woodland Hills can be a daunting task. Thus, for many of those estates whose disbursement we here at The Law Offices of Alice A. Salvo assist with, we recommend executors learn all that they can about estate distribution methods. If you have been tasked with executing the wishes outlined in a family member or friend’s will, you may be happy to learn that you have plenty of resources available to help you understand the job you are about to do.

Certain methods for the disbursement of assets through a will, trust, or other estate planning tool are outlined in the California Probate Code. You may find that the assets in your case are to be dispersed “in the manner provided in” a certain section of the code. The details of these commonly referenced sections are as follows:

  •          Section 240: Assets will be divided into as many equal shares as there are members of the testator’s direct lineage. If one of the members has preceded the testator in death, his or her share will be divided equally amongst his or her descendants.
  •          Section 246: Assets are divided into as many equal shares as there are children of a designated ancestor. Again, any who have already died will have their shares dispersed in the same manner provided in Section 240.
  •          Section 247: Assets are divided in as many equal shares as there are members of the testator’s nearest lineal generation. Living members are given one share, and those of deceased members are once again divided equally and then dispersed amongst the remaining lineal descendants.