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What does it mean when an estate is depleted?

As a beneficiary of a will in California you are not only entitled to the material wealth your loved one set aside on your behalf, but you are also responsible for carrying out their wishes as intended. However, you might encounter barriers to these processes in the form outside forces significantly diminishing the value of the estate.

In cases where your family member was no longer mentally or physically competent, and as such relied excessively on another individual for a short period of time, it stands to reason that the will might change to include this caretaker in some way. However, an unwarranted allocation of the estate to your loved one's caretaker might be cause for suspicion, and— potentially— legal action. 

As you might assume, actors other than caregivers might deplete an estate. Practically any party that you can think of involved in the will or the administration thereof might have a hand in the excessive removal or redirection of funds before execution of the terms, or before the estate enters the probate process. Take, for example, the recent suicide of high-profile former athlete Aaron Hernandez. The New York Post reports that the estate of this individual may have been depleted through the formation of an irrevocable trust: A common technique you might use if you intended to avoid lenders or sidestep probate fees.

These trusts are relatively private, but the court ordered the law firm responsible for preparing the trust to deliver relevant documents: something which you would not want if you had intentionally depleted your estate. This serves to illustrate the fact that, while setting up trusts is legal and advisable in many cases, it is often important that you do so with care for the wishes of the will's author and the limitations of both federal and state laws. Please do not regard this as legal advice, but as educational material.

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