It is a very good idea for every adult in California to have a comprehensive estate plan, but if you live with a partner to whom you are not married, having legal documentation in place to describe the role that he or she is to play in your end-of-life plans becomes even more important. Laws and customs automatically confer certain rights to married couples but presume no such provisions for unmarried couples no matter how long they have lived together.
You may already know that special needs trusts are available for you to provide financially for a disabled loved one in California, both now and after your death. You may also know that special needs trusts allow you to provide funds for a disabled family member for life-enhancing expenses, such as entertainment, travel or pet care, without affecting his or her eligibility for government assistance programs. However, you may not understand the different types of special needs trusts available or how to decide which will be the best fit in your particular family situation.
After the death of a loved one, you may have the responsibility of handling his or her final affairs. Whether the person named you as executor before passing or you accepted the role more recently, you will have a number of obligations to address before the estate can close. If you and your loved one did not live in the same state, your job may be more difficult.
Here at the Law Offices of Alice A. Salvo in California, we help families, both new and established, devise estate plans that meet their current and future needs. We realize, however, that many people labor under the misconception that only wealthy people need estate plans. Nothing could be further from the truth.
There are a number of benefits associated with a power of attorney, especially if one is worried about their inability to make key decisions for any reason in the future. Many people decide to name their spouse when creating a power of attorney, since their marital partner knows so much about them and should be able to make the right decisions should they become incapacitated for one reason or another. However, this can be problematic when a marriage falls apart and a couple is no longer together. If you have recently divorced or plan to file for divorce and have assigned these responsibilities to your spouse or former spouse, it is important to change your power of attorney.
As you continue to accumulate wealth throughout your life in California, a big part of your estate planning activities likely will center around the issue of which of your assets will wind up in your probate estate and which will not. As you likely already know, California is a community property state. This means that half of whatever property you and your spouse or partner accumulate during your marriage or registered domestic partnership belongs to you and half belongs to him or her.
The term "undue influence" refers to influence strong enough to abolish the free will of a person. Sadly, the undue influence over older and disabled persons is a growing problem in California and throughout the greater U.S., one that results in millions of dollars in losses to the estates of those affected. If one can prove undue influence is the reason for the transfer of assets, the amendment of an estate planning document or the extension of gifts, a judge may declare a will or trust invalid and withdraw the gifts or conveyance. For this reason, it is essential that you recognize the marks of undue influence so you can protect your loved one and your family before the influence results in substantial loss.