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

What duties come with power of attorney?

Much is made by people in Woodland Hills about the authority granted to those given power of attorney. What is often overlooked, however, are the duties that come with such a role. You may have been led to believe that whomever you entrusted to handle your affairs through power of attorney has carte blanche to do whatever he or she wants. That is not the case.

The duties of those entrusted with powers of attorney can be found in the California Probate Code. First and foremost, however, it should be understood that whomever you endow with powers of attorney is only obligated to fulfill those duties in those areas that you designate. In general, whoever is entrusted with power of attorney is expected to fulfill his or her obligations pursuant to the terms that the two of you agreed upon. He or she should complete those duties with the same judgment and care you would expect from a reasonably prudent person. If you chose to grant him or her power of attorney based on any special skills he or she claimed to have, he or she should be expected to act up to the standard one possessing such skills would.

Brothers and sister at odds over mandate of family trusts

Naming a reliable trustee may be the most important decision that a person in Woodland Hills can make after deciding to establish a trust in the first place. That trustee will be endowed with power to oversee much of the management and administration of the trust’s assets and properties. Oftentimes, as a way of balancing out that power, co-trustees may be chosen instead. In such a case, each co-trustee must typically agree on actions that affect the trust. However, that is not to say that there will not be disagreements and disputes amongst those that hold this role.

Such a dispute recently played itself in Los Angeles County Superior Court. The seeds for the dispute were sown in February of this year, when the daughter of the late owner of the Los Angeles Lakers (who now serves as the controlling owner of the franchise) fired her brother as the organization’s vice president of basketball operations during a restructuring of the team’s front office. The two siblings (along with another brother) serve as co-trustees of four family trusts through which a majority ownership of the team is maintained.

Is at-home or out-of-home long-term care right for you?

You will undoubtedly face many unexpected situations over the course of your lifetime. Some of those events may bring joy to you and your family, and other incidents may cause considerable stress and uncertainty. Though you cannot plan for all potential life events, estate planning could help you address the possibility of needing long-term care at some point in the future.

A substantial number of people end up in situations where long-term care proves necessary. The circumstances of needing such care can come from physical or mental impairments that result from injuries, illnesses or other factors. Because you probably do not want to place your family in a predicament that causes them to feel the burden of deciding how they should handle your care, you may wish to consider creating your own plans ahead of time.

Can you resign from being a trustee?

Assuming the responsibility of acting as the trustee for a trust set up by a family member or friend in Woodland Hills is a huge undertaking, and certainly one that should not be taken without a good deal of thought and careful contemplation. Yet even after having given your best effort, circumstances may make performing your duties as a trustee impossible. The question then becomes is there a method by which you can legally resign from the role?

California’s Probate Code does allow you to resign from being a trustee by certain methods. The first is through any methods detailed in the trust instrument itself. If there are none, and the trust is revocable, you can contact who has been given the power to revoke the trust (either the settlor or parties who have been given that privilege), and asked to be released from your role. If the trust is irrevocable, you need to have the consent of all of the adult beneficiaries of the trust in order to resign. The law also allows you to petition the court to accept your resignation as trustee.

Intestate succession when there is no surviving spouse or issue

For many in the San Fernando Valley, the issue of estate planning may engender absolutely no sense of urgency, as most believe that they will have ample time to address it later on in life. Others may believe that they simply do not need a will. These attitudes no doubt contribute to the fact that, according to information shared by USA Today, as many as 64 percent of Americans currently do not have a will.

Those who die without wills will see their estates become subject to intestate succession. As has been detailed in earlier blog posts on this site, one’s spouse plays a large role in this process. Yet what if one’s spouse preceded him or her in death? In such a case, the entire estate would pass to his or her surviving issue. Yet if he or she has no surviving issue, matters may become a little more complicated.

Detailing your protections from liability as a trustee

If you have been asked to serve as a trustee of a trust account by a family member or friend in the San Fernando Valley, your first concern may be what sort of consequences you could face should you commit an error during the execution of your duties. Many of those that we here at The Law Offices of Alice A. Salvo have worked with who have been named trustees come into the role without any related experience. Fortunately, the California Trust Code recognizes that there may be differences between personal liability and alleged incorrect action performed while fulfilling the role of a trustee.

According to Section 18000 of the California Probate Code, you are generally viewed as not being personally liable for any contracts you may enter into while fulfilling a trustee’s designated fiduciary duties. The same holds true disputes arising from ownership or control of trust property, and even tortious actions committed while administering a trust.

Protect your wishes for medical care with health care directives

Being fully prepared for the future might seem like an impossible task. Since no one can predict the future, you should consider putting instructions in place in the event you become incapacitated and can no longer make decisions for yourself, even temporarily. With health care directives prepared and ready to go, you can make sure your that your family members understand and carry out your wishes for end-of-life or long-term care and treatment.

Not sure if you need health care directives? Every adult, no matter how young or old, needs them. This week's column provides you with basic information about advance directives and the legal requirements to make them valid.

Former DA’s family fighting over validity of his will

Woodland Hills residents are advised to see to their estate planning early on their lives so that their true intentions regarding the disposition of their assets are known should they die unexpectedly. They may also be counseled to keep the process as transparent as possible so that all who are parties to their estates understand their wishes, which hopefully will minimize the chances of disputes arising. Yet no amount of planning may overcome any bitter feelings that may exist amongst potential beneficiaries. Estate disputes may often be emotionally charged, with all parties involved being convinced that their claims are valid.

Such cases can often result in legal proceedings. That is exactly what is happening with the estate of a former New York district attorney. The man succumbed to cancer late last year, Days before his death, he wrote a new will in which he left all his assets to his wife and children. This replaced an earlier will that he had written eight years earlier. His mother is now claiming that the man’s widow manipulated him in his final days to amend the will in order to completely exclude her from it. She is now seeking to have that earlier will turned over to her in an attempt to discredit the one he wrote before his death. The widow has countered by claiming that the man destroyed the earlier document, and that the amended will renders its contents moot, anyway.

What are Letters of Administration?

Being asked to serve as the personal representative for the estate of a loved one in Woodland Hills is a tremendous responsibility, which can even carry financial penalties if you are unable to fulfill the duties entrusted to you. In order to meet the obligations that come with the role, you have to prove to interested parties to the estate that you have the legal authority to manage its assets. Otherwise, they may refuse to disclose important information to you. Yet how can you prove that you have been granted this authority?  

According to information shared by the Superior Court of California for the County of Los Angeles, you can obtain Letters of Administration to help fulfill your duties as a personal representative. Letters of Administration are court documents signed by a judge confirming your appointment to administer the estate. These can be presented to banks and financial institutions, trustees, or even tax authorities.

A general overview of the probate process

Many in the San Fernando Valley may talk about the probate process as if it were some form of punishment that should be avoided at all costs. While there are certain advantages to not having an estate go to probate, the truth is that thousands of cases appear in probate court every year. Statistics shared by the Judicial Council of California show that in the 2013-14 fiscal year, 44,298 of such cases were heard in state courts. Understanding the probate process may have a significant impact on one’s estate planning.

According to the website for the California Courts, the probate process involves the appointment of either an administrator or an executor by the court to handle the affairs of an estate. An executor is appointed if the decedent had a will (in which the executor is often specifically named), while an administrator is assigned if a person died intestate (without a will). In either case, the person appointed has three primary responsibilities:

  •          Collect all of the assets that together comprise the estate.
  •          Use those assets to pay off any debts or claims against the estate.
  •          Distribute the remaining assets to estate beneficiaries who are either named in a will or designated as such by the state’s guidelines for intestate succession.