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

What should I consider in planning for end of life care?

Few people like to think about what will happen to them if they become incapacitated as the result of an accident or becoming elderly. However, if you are a California resident with definite ideas about what types of care you would and would not want in such a situation, the California Probate Court allows you to make an advance health care directive fully expressing your wishes.

One of the benefits of making an advance health care directive is that you not only can choose the type of care you desire if and when the time comes, but you also can designate the person you want to carry out your wishes should you be unable to express them yourself. This agent may not be the owner or employee of any community or residential care facility where you are receiving care. Nor can he or she be the supervisor or employee of any health care institution where you are receiving care. The only exception to this prohibition is if your chosen agent is someone who is either related to you or is one of your coworkers. You may also wish to designate an alternate agent should your primary choice be unable or unwilling to carry out your wishes when the need arises.

How can you protect your estate from nursing home costs?

When working through your estate planning in Woodland Hills, it is easy to base your decisions off of your current situation. Right now, you may not even be considering the prospect of having to pay for added services as you age. Yet you may soon discover that it often costs money to get older, particularly if you have to spend an extended period of your golden years in a nursing home. Without the right planning, you may find that many of the assets you hoped to leave to your beneficiaries will be depleted to pay for your care. 

However, there are ways to still enjoy nursing home benefits while shielding your personal assets from having to pay for it. By divesting yourself of a certain amount of assets and property, you could qualify for state benefits through the Medi-Cal program. According to the California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, the resource limits to qualify for Medi-Cal are: 

  • $2,000 in cash reserves
  • $1,500 in whole life insurance
  • $1,500 in a prepaid irrevocable burial plan
  • $100 in jewelry and other valuable items

Issues to avoid when creating a comprehensive estate plan

Nobody is perfect. Humans make mistakes; they're a part of learning. One area, however, you might want to be pretty meticulous about is in the creation of your estate plan. By leaving a plan that is comprehensive and that distinctly spells out your wishes, you will be giving your family an invaluable gift. Fashioning such an estate plan will go a long way toward making sure no feelings are hurt and that no disagreements ensue between your loved ones.

There are some potential issues regarding your estate plan that could cause you and your heirs some angst without proper planning. Here are some areas you might want to think about when working on your estate plan. The more specific you can be in your planning, the better things should turn out for your beneficiaries.

Upcoming Can't-Miss FREE Seminar on Nov. 4: How to Protect Your Assets and Avoid Nursing Home Costs

Nursing Home Benefits - Without Sacrificing Your Inheritance

The unfortunate reality for many is the exorbitant cost of nursing home care for an aging family member. In addition to the cost, many people come to find their inheritances - often in the form of a home or proceeds from the sale of that home - lost to Medi-Cal, which can recover benefits paid from the deceased family member's estate - that is, unless you have the proper legal documents.

This Saturday on Nov. 4, elder law attorney Alice Salvo (State Bar Certified Specialist in Estate Planning, Trust & Probate Law), will show you why and how to get these legal documents in place.

Understanding the limitations to spendthrift trusts

As you get deeper into your estate planning, the issue of how you can preserve your assets for the benefit of your beneficiaries in Woodland Hills will inevitably come up. Many come to us here at The Law Offices of Alice A. Salvo concerned that their beneficiaries will misuse the money or property they leave to them (or worse, end up losing such funds to creditors). If you share this same worry, some may recommend that you place your assets in a spendthrift trust. These trusts are believed to be virtually untouchable by creditors. However, a unique provision of California law may mean that such instruments are not as ironclad as they seem. 

A spendthrift trust is essentially an irrevocable trust with a clause specifying that a beneficiary's interest will be managed and dispersed at the discretion of the trustee. The thought is that this protects assets from creditors due to them only being able to attach a judgment to that interest that has already been dispersed. Yet Section 15306.5 of the California Probate Code states that even for those trusts on which there is a restraint on beneficiary transfers, a court may order a trustee to satisfy a judgment from future payments that a beneficiary is entitled to. 

Detailing others' obligations to your deceased loved one

Say that you have a loved one living in the San Fernando Valley while you and other family members live in other states. If that family member dies, and you and others are not immediately available to help handle his or her affairs, what happens? The scenario just described has happened to many of those that we here at The Law Offices of Alice A. Salvo have worked with. There are pressing matters that must be addressed upon your loved one's death that, if not dealt with promptly, could complicate the handling of his or her remains and even impact the value of his or her estate. 

Fortunately, state law authorizes a public administrator to step in and see to those details if you or your loved one's personal representative are not available. Yet such an official must first be notified of the need for that assistance. If, for example, your loved one's body is handed over to a funeral home, the director of such a facility must attempt to make contact with his or her family in the following order: 

  • Spouse
  • Adult children
  • Parents
  • Adult Sibling
  • Adult next of kin

California's order of preference for conservators

For many in Woodland Hills, their greatest fear may be having to be placed under the care of another. Second to that may be the concern that if they do become incapable of caring for themselves, that the person assigned as their guardian or conservator is selected solely at the discretion of the court. While it is true that California law does state that the court does have the ultimate authority to determine who should be the conservator of a person and his or her estate, it does also make room for special considerations to be given to a conservatee and his or her family. 

Section 1810 of the state's Probate Code says that if a proposed conservatee does have the capacity to recommend who he or she would like to serve as conservator, the court will honor that request unless evidence exists that suggests appointing the designated person to the role would not be in the conservatee's best interests. The spouse (or domestic partner), parent, adult child or sibling of a conservatee may also request who should be appointed as conservator. 

Woman looking to take back control of estate from trustee

Assuming the role of trustee over a trust account in Woodland Hills may be an unenviable task. By doing so, one agrees to manage the trust assets of another for the benefit of designated beneficiaries. Of course, those beneficiaries may not always be keen to know that their interest in their trust funds is out of their control. These frustrations may often come to a head when the trustee attempts to block any dispersals that he or she believes may be in violation of the trust's purposes. While beneficiaries (as well as others who may have their own interests in a trust's assets) may not like such a move, it should be remembered that it is only being done in what is believed to be their best interests. 

Such is the message that a former attorney in Hawaii seems to be trying to convey to the beneficiary of the trust he currently manages. The woman, who is Hawaiian royalty, is attempting to resume control of her estate after having suffered a stroke. The attorney was named as the estate's successor trustee after doctors reported that the woman's health issues left her unable to manage her affairs. He says that the woman's longtime partner has repeatedly attempted to secure money from the estate. However, he has agreed to not contest the woman regaining control of her estate if she is found to be competent. 

Seeking guidance on the various types and benefits of trusts

With a certain amount of uncertainty involved, many individuals may be hesitant to put a plan in place for the future. However, chances are, you may have preferences as to the distribution of your assets and how you wish to provide for loved ones after you are gone.

Perhaps in your desire to form a strategy for the future, you wish to know more about the benefits of setting up a trust. Even in this area of estate planning, there are numerous available options, and you could be feeling somewhat overwhelmed and in need of guidance.

Applying property types to estate planning

When you hear terms like "community property" being used, you likely assume that one is referring to divorce proceedings occurring in Woodland Hills. Regarding estate planning, most that we here at the Law Offices of Alice A. Salvo assist are surprised to learn that such principles also apply. You might think that the law gives you the freedom to dispose of your property however you wish. Unfortunately, that may not exactly be the case. 

The California Probate Code states that upon your death, one-half of the ownership of any community property that you own automatically is granted to the person to whom you are married (or are in a registered domestic partnership with), while the other half remains with you. The Code defines community property as all real property situated in California (and all personal property wherever situated) that you acquire during your marriage while living here or elsewhere. This can include: 

  • Vehicles 
  • Artwork and collectibles
  • Investment and retirement accounts 
  • Homes and property in California