Probate

Eight Common Estate Planning Objectives Of Married Couples

As the previous posts demonstrate, estate planners still struggle with how to structure estate plans for married couples in order to accomplish both the tax and nontax objectives of such couples. Introducing the portability election into the arena has only made such choices even more varied. If you asked 10 different […] Read...

Estate Planning News – April 14th, 2014

In this week’s inaugural edition of Estate Planning News, our firm has selected some helpful articles from around the web that cover problems commonly encountered by clients during the Estate Planning process: so our readers won’t make them! In an article from CNBC, authors highlight mistakes Estate Planning clients frequently make. The problems discussed occur all too often, as clients consistently regard Estate Planning as a “one-time” action rather than the lifelong process it ought to be. This is great reading for people who have not reviewed their estate plan recently. Along similar lines, Professor Gerry Beyer of Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog identifies the “Ostrich Syndrome” associated with Estate Planning, where clients do not want to begin the process because it is difficult to confront the questions associated with drafting a comprehensive plan. We wholeheartedly agree with him that this creates more problems than it solves. The article about an Estate Planning checklist is a good place for people overcoming the aforementioned “Ostrich Syndrome” to start when they realize they need a plan. It can be overwhelming to consider all of the steps that need to be taken when planning for the future, and having an easy-to-understand list of potential considerations is a big help. Finally, we conclude this week’s Estate Planning News with an interesting piece about digital assets and estate planning. In an age increasingly dependent on intangible assets and cloud technology, considering things like email accounts, subscriptions, and other digital property are often an afterthought when it comes to Estate Planning. Avoid the top 5 estate-planning blunders – CNBC.com CNBC.com Avoid the top 5 estate-planning blunders...

“Why Do I Need an Estate Planning Attorney?” To Avoid a Do-it-Yourself Disaster!

Our firm frequently comes into contact with prospective clients who want to know why they should pay attorneys’ fees for an Estate Plan when they can produce “the same product,” for a fraction of the cost, by filling out a form online. Unfortunately, the pitfalls of being a DIY Estate Plan owner are common, as evidenced by a story in this month’s ABA Journal. In the article, Ann Aldrich used an “E-Z Form” to create a will which left all of her property to her sister, and then to her brother if her sister had already passed away. It seems simple enough, doesn’t it? The client had simple wishes—why should she pay an attorney to memorialize something that only amounts to two lines of text? The answer is that even if the wishes are simple, drafting a document to ensure those wishes are followed can be complex. Ms. Aldrich didn’t know that a will should include a residuary clause, which directs how assets not specifically named in the will should be handled. Because the E-Z Form that Ms. Aldrich used did not contain this clause, a considerable amount of property was subject to disposition by the provisions of the law: not Ms. Aldrich’s wishes. When property isn’t mentioned in a will, it is disposed of according to the legal rules of intestacy applicable to that state, treating it as if Ms. Aldrich didn’t have a will at all when it comes to that property. The end result of this oversight was that the daughters of one of Ms. Aldrich’s brothers (who was long dead by the time of her...

3 Simple Real Estate Mistakes That Trigger Probate

Every year, during our free 3-year reviews, without fail, we find that a few of our clients have inadvertently placed a piece of real estate in danger of going through probate. Refinancing When interest rates drop, like they have in the past few years, many people rush to refinance and significantly reduce their mortgage payments, or pull equity to buy a new investment property. What most people don’t realize, is that whenever you refinance a property, most banks will make you take it out of the trust and put it into your individual name(s). There’s no real legal reason why they do this, but they often cite the unauthorized practice of law to cover themselves. Very, very few banks will let you keep it in the trust. Once it’s out of the trust, it is your responsibility to put it back into the trust. New Purchase Most, if not all realtors, are explicitly told by their brokers never to give advice on how to hold title. The way in which title is held, can have tax consequences for which the broker could ultimately be liable. Since most banks will not let you title the property directly into your trust and your realtor cannot give you advice on how to hold the title to the property, quite frequently the property will be titled in your individual name(s), and not protected from probate by your trust. Adding Someone to Title There are times when you may need to add someone to a property; like when you take on a new partner or partners in an investment property. Unfortunately not all people or services who...

Probate Law Changes Starting in 2012

There are a couple of new Probate Law changes this year: The threshold for file a probate went up from $100,000 to $150,000 pursuant to California Probate Coded section 13000. This amount does not include bank accounts held in joint tenancy or accounts with beneficiary designations such as paid on death (POD). Most Vehicles, boats and motor homes are also excluded from the amount under California Probate Code Section 13050. Additionally, the Federal amount excluded from estate tax increased from $5,000,000 to $5,120,000. The December 17, 2010 change in the law provided that the exemption amount is indexed for inflation. The Estate Tax exemption is still scheduled to significantly decline on January 1, 2013 to $1,000,000. The current tax rate is 35% and will rise to 55% on January 1, 2013. It is important that you review your estate plan with a licensed attorney committed to the practice of estate...

What is the gross value of the estate?

The gross value of the estate is the fair market value of the estate before the debts are paid. For example, a $200,00 home is left to a child by a parent in a will. As the estate goes through the probate process, there will be fees of approximately $8,000 in Statutory and Attorney Fees. These fees are due, even if there’s a mortgage against the home for $180,000, because the fee is based on the full fair market value of the estate before paying off any debts. In addition to court mandated fees, there are other expenses necessary to prepare everything for probate. These may include, but are not limited to: Bondsman fees Asset appraisal fees Court filing fees Publication fees Extraordinary fees The best and safest way to avoid probate is through estate planning and using a Revocable Living...