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CA estate lawyerIn estate litigation, there is a problem known as the “worst evidence rule.” When there is any legal dispute over a trust, will, living will, or power of attorney, the only person who is guaranteed to know what these documents mean is generally either dead or incapacitated. In neither event can the individual who executed the document hop up on the witness stand and clear things up - nor can they guide others to where they have placed these important documents. This is why it is critical that all estate and incapacity planning documents are well in order before any precipitating event kicks them into effect. One of the best ways to make sure the plan you put time and money into creating will be enforced is to work with an attorney and follow their advice.

How Can I Make Sure My Estate and Incapacity Plans Are Enforced?

There are a few steps you can take to increase the likelihood that the plan you made is going to be carried out. For starters, make sure that your documents are very clear. Using precise, unambiguous language is extremely important. A good attorney will know how to write out these documents in a way that prevents confusion.

It is also a good idea to spread the word about what you have done. If you make a will or trust and then shove it in a closet - or worse, a locked safe - without telling anyone, you run the risk that your loved ones will assume that you are intestate and proceed accordingly. It could take months for anyone to find your testamentary documents - at which point you have created more of a mess than anything.

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CA estate lawyerThe trope of a person who is sick and elderly, perhaps on their death bed, calling an attorney to make a will at the last possible second is best left to movies and TV. In reality, the best time to do all your estate planning is while you are young and healthy. A lot of younger adults do not consider estate planning a necessity for a variety of reasons, a big one being that they do not expect to die or become incapacitated for many years to come. However, over the past two years, it has become clear that life can be quite unpredictable. A complete estate plan, comprised of both incapacity planning documents like a living will and testamentary documents, like a regular will, can lend some predictability and stability to a potentially chaotic situation.

If I am Young and Healthy, Why Should I Have an Estate Plan?

It is not unreasonable that many younger adults find the entire subject a bit saddening. It can be particularly difficult for young people to consider their mortality, or to consider the possibility that they could become incapacitated. However, it is wise to do so. Reasons that young healthy people also need estate plans include:

  • Temporary incapacity - We often think of age-related conditions, like dementia, in this area. However, temporary incapacity can happen to young people due to an injury or illness. In the event that you get hurt in a car accident, or sick with COVID, and cannot speak for yourself, you will be glad to have powers of attorney designating the person you would like to make decisions on your behalf and a living will. These documents may look different for young people, who may want more intensive forms of medical care than someone who has less chance of recovery.
  • Family concerns - The unexpected death of a younger person can shake up a family in ways that the expected passing of an elderly relative would not. The lack of an estate plan can complicate the situation, leading to additional difficulties and sometimes conflict.
  • Minor children - Young parents should always have an estate plan in place that protects their children. No parent wants to think of their child growing up without them, but it is better to know that your children would be well cared for.
  • Conflict avoidance - When a person is incapacitated, they must rely on others to speak for them. When no one individual has been named in a power of attorney, families may have serious disagreements over how the situation should be addressed. Your parents or other relatives may have conflicting religious or moral beliefs regarding life-preserving treatment. Especially if you had not made your wishes well-known, this can lead to significant conflict and even litigation.

Even if you are young and healthy, things can change very quickly. Families and individuals alike are protected when everyone has an estate plan in place, regardless of age or health.

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Do I Need a Pour-Over Will?

Posted on in Estate Planning

CA estate planning lawyerNowadays, trusts, rather than wills, are the predominant way posthumous transfers are made. Trusts offer a number of benefits, but avoiding probate is often at the top of the list. There are pitfalls to living trusts, however. One is that the trust can only control property that it owns, so any assets that have not been transferred to the trust at the time of the grantor’s death may be out of its reach. Pour-over wills can be used as a sort of failsafe on a trust by posthumously transferring the grantor’s remaining assets into the trust. If you are unsure whether your estate plan needs a pour-over will, you should consult with a local attorney.

How Do Pour-Over Wills Work?

Pour-over wills exist to back up a trust. When the grantor of a trust dies, any assets of his that have not made their way into a trust already cannot be governed by the trust. A pour-over will simply exist to gather up and control any assets that were left out of the trust for whatever reason. Using a pour-over will, the testator devises all his remaining non-trust property to the trust.

This can be extraordinarily useful when it is discovered after death that the decedent owned property he had forgotten about, or never became aware of in the first place. It is more common than one might think for assets to be inadvertently omitted from a trust. People may forget about an old bank account or own estate property from a long-dead relative they never found out about. A pour-over will simply offers a bit of extra security in making sure that all the property a grantor wanted to be included in a trust will be included.

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LA County real estate attorneyEvery July 1st, there are usually a handful of new laws that California lawmakers have passed that go into effect. Included in the list this year were several real estate laws. The following is a brief overview of each of these new statutes. If you have questions about how any of these new laws may affect your situation, a California real estate attorney can help.

New Buyer Fire Notice

AB 38 was passed to protect new home buyers from purchasing a property without being aware the home is located in a high fire risk area. It requires a seller to provide a list of all items that are not fire-resistant and that could be at risk in the event of a wildfire. This specific document must now be part of the closing package that a buyer must sign to confirm they have been informed of the risk. The form also provides information on how a buyer can prepare their home for wildfires. This is referred to as fire hardening.

Homeowner Association Rentals

AB 3182 requires homeowner associations (HOAs) to allow a minimum of 25 percent of their property to be rented. Prior to the law’s passage, an association could severely limit the number of rentals or prevent them entirely. This new law also prevents an HOA rule that an owner must live in a property for at least one year before they can rent it out; however, it does not stop an HOA from having a rule blocking short-term rentals.

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LA County estate planning lawyerAccording to national statistics, approximately 31 million Americans move each year. Some move across town, while others move across the state. However, about four million move to a different state. Out-of-state moves can be stressful to coordinate, especially if you have a family and an entire household to move. There are also all of the things you need to do when you arrive in your new state – including finding out about your children’s new schools, finding new doctors, dentists, hair salons, grocery stores – the list goes on. But what many people never think about is that by moving to a new state, they also need to update their estate plans.    

Estate Laws

If you have had a qualified estate planning attorney help you with your estate plan, it likely contains a variety of documents that stipulate how you want your assets and property to be distributed upon your death. Estate plans can contain a will, living trust, advance directive (living will), and power of attorney, along with other documents, depending on your own personal situation.

Every person’s estate plan is developed based on the laws of the state they live in. And just like many other laws, estate planning laws vary from state to state. This not only includes estate planning laws, but also laws regarding marital property, inheritance tax, income taxes, and state estate taxes.

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