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

Reviewing executor compensation in California

The task of being the executor of an estate in Woodland Hills can be a daunting one. According to the American Bar Association, the duties of an executor include handling unpaid debts and expenses, overseeing the proper administration of trusts and gift disbursements, as well as paying taxes. Once that is done, there still is the matter of officially closing the estate with the court. While any expenses incurred from performing one duties as executor are paid from the estate’s assets, fulfilling the role of executor can also require a great deal of one’s time and energy. Fortunately, the law does allow an executor to be compensated for his or her services.

The executor compensation structure is detailed in section 10800 of the California Probate Code. It states that the amount an executor is entitled to depends upon the total value of the estate that he or she is overseeing. When valuating an estate, the court takes account the following items:

  •          The appraisal value of all of the properties included in the estate’s inventory.
  •          Any receipts of assets to the estate.
  •          The funds gained or lost depending upon the sale price of estate properties compared to their appraised value.

The details behind DNR orders in California

When most in Woodland Hills contemplate the topic of estate planning, they no doubt immediately associate it with maintaining the power to enforce decisions after one dies. Yet what about maintaining that same control before one’s death? Another vital component of estate planning is preparing for this exact scenario.

In most cases, it’s recommended that one assign a spouse or family member to be his or her health proxy. This empowers the assigned individual to make decisions regarding one’s health care. However, one can still maintain some degree of control of his or her care by also agreeing to advanced directives. These are predetermined instructions given by an individual regarding what course of treatment he or she consents to if he or she is not capable of doing so when it’s actually needed. These wishes should be recorded as part of a person’s medical record. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one of the most common forms of advanced directive among the population of those receiving long-term care is a Do Not Resuscitate order.

Woman claims both her husband’s and mother-in-law’s estates

Woodland Hills residents likely often hear estate planning experts talk about the importance of setting up a will sooner rather than later. The reason behind this urgency may be to ensure that people avoid putting it off until it is too late. When one dies intestate, he or she opens up the possibility of his or her estate being managed and dispersed against his or her wishes.

A family in North Carolina is currently learning firsthand the importance of having legal documentation outlining the administration of an estate. In their case, not just one, but two family members died without wills. This left the door open for the former wife of their deceased brother to step in and assume the role of administrator for not just his estate, but that of their recently deceased mother’s, as well.

Comparing living trusts to wills

When asked which documents are associated with estate planning, most in Woodland Hills would likely say a will. Yet in some cases, some may confuse the legal characteristics of a will with that of a trust. Yet a will and a trust are not the same thing. Where a will is simply a legal document that states how one’s assets are to be distributed upon his or her death, a trust actually provides for the management of assets and property both when the trustor is alive and after his or her death.

So when people start their estate planning, which tool would be best for them? Given that according to, nearly 60 percent of those engaged in estate planning are so doing in order to avoid probate, one could assume that most would want the asset protection afforded by a revocable living trust. Aside from the potential of being able to avoid probate, this particular type of estate administration tool can be beneficial in other situations, as well, such as:

  •          If one has minor children from whom assets from an inheritance would need to be held until they reach a certain age.
  •          If one needs to put a specific asset management plan in place for beneficiaries with special needs.
  •          If one’s estate is above the estate tax threshold.

No-contest clauses in California

For many of the clients that we work with here at The Law Offices of Alice A. Salvo, being named as a beneficiary brings with it some tension. You may be concerned that if you raise any questions or concerns about a trust or a will, you could potentially be disinherited. The trustee or executor in your case likely wants to follow the provisions set forth in the will or trust instrument to the letter. However, that doesn’t mean to you have no right to challenge them.

The main weapon that the trustee could use against you to dissuade you from questioning the terms of the estate is a no-contest clause. According to the California Probate Code, a no-contest clause allows you, as a beneficiary, to be penalized for filing a claim in court. However, a no-contest clause doesn’t simply give the trustee carte-blanche to disinherit you. Indeed, he or she is only able to invoke the clause under certain conditions.

Family, friends of Huguette Clark continue to battle over estate

The ultimate goal of estate planning is so that residents of San Fernando Valley can help to avoid causing any tension amongst those that they care about after they are gone. The potential for discord can be high when it comes to one’s estate, particularly if he or she had a high net worth. Yet such potential often only exists when one has not had open communication with those closest to him or her regarding his or her final wishes. When no one knows who is getting what, the likelihood of people fighting to “get theirs” can be high.

Perhaps no case illustrates this point better than that of Huguette Clark. The former heiress passed away in 2011, and those with interest in her estate have been fighting over it ever since. The source of their contentions has shifted from associates who forcefully took over her affairs and ended her relationship with her family to the hospital where she spent the last 20 years of her life. Clark apparently didn’t help matters by writing multiple copies of her will. However, her surviving relatives cannot really speak to her last wishes as, by their own admission, they rarely had contact with her during her final years.

How can you talk to your beneficiaries about their inheritance?

The last thing that you want is for the terms of your estate to create discord amongst your family once you are gone. This then prompts the question of how can you have a frank discussions with your future heirs and beneficiaries about their inheritance. According to the Huffington Post, over $15 trillion dollars will go through a generational transition by 2026. When that amount of money is involved, it is difficult to expect that no one will have their feelings hurt. However, you can ease the transition of your assets in Woodland Hills by setting expectations now.

Talking individually with each beneficiary could lead to distrust as some of them may think that others are being promised a disproportionate amount of your estate. Thus, it may be best to gather all of them together so that every issue is put out in the open.

How do you file estate taxes?

When you are named as the executor of an estate in Woodland Hills, one of the tasks that you are expected to oversee as part of the probate administration process is the filing of estate taxes. Fortunately, filing an estate tax return isn’t all that different from filing your own personal income tax return.

First and foremost, you should determine if you even need to file. If the estate has any money owed to it in unpaid wages, dividends or interests from financial accounts, or payments on real estate properties, and these payments total more than $600 per year, you must report them on an IRS Form 1041. Even if the estate doesn’t generate more than $600 in annual income, you may still have to file if any of the beneficiaries of the estate is a nonresident alien.

Avoiding the potential of public guardianship

If you’re like most, you probably think that we here at The Law Offices of Alice A. Salvo stress the importance of estate planning so that you can control what happens with your assets when you die. Yet could it also be that we want you to avoid having to surrender your assets, property, and even your decision making to a potential stranger, all while you are still alive? That’s exactly what could happen if you’re placed under the care of a public guardian.

Public guardianship is similar to a conservatorship. However, in this case, the person who’s given the power over you isn’t a friend or family member, but rather a member of a public guardian group. In many cases, a single public guardian may be handling yours as well as the affairs of several other wards simultaneously.

What is probate?

Managing the affairs and estate of a deceased person in California can be a complex task. If you find yourself in this position, you should have a basic understanding of what probate is. The California Courts identify probate as essentially a form of court case. The focus of any probate case is on tying up any loose ends associated with the legal issues and belongings, assets and debts of the person who has died.

If the deceased person had a will, an executor should have been named in that document. In these situations, the executor would be the one to oversee all payments of debts and distributions of assets, real or liquid. If there was no will, the probate court will appoint an administrator to manage the estate administration. In probate, all debts must be paid before beneficiaries or heirs receive any property or money. Tax responsibilities must also be taken care of through probate.