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Fullerton Estate Planning Law Blog

What estate planning issues face newlyweds?

If you and the one you love are approaching marriage, or recently married, you have some very important legal steps to consider. Estate planning may already be on your radar, but by the time you marry your spouse, it is time to start putting plans into action to create a safer, more prosperous future together.

Some of these matters are more or less formalities, such as legally changing names, if that is something you or spouse plan to do. Whichever direction you choose to go with your or spouse's name change, it is wise to take stock of all the different areas of your life that may be affected by a name change and update these at the same time, to avoid confusion or conflicts later on.

Protect your animal companion with a pet trust

If you have a furry friend who depends on you, or one with feathers or scales for that matter, you may worry about how your pet will continue to receive what they need after you are gone. Many pet owners inaccurately believe that writing provisions for a pet into their will is enough to guarantee their ongoing care, but this is not always true. If you need to make sure that your pet truly has what it needs after you are gone, you may want to consider a pet trust.

One of the primary advantages of a pet trust is that the individual who is charged with caring for your pet actually bears a legal duty to follow your instructions for the pet's care. In contrast, if you merely make provisions for your pet in a will, the caretaker of the pet is not actually bound to the care of the pet after he o she receives the payout from the will.

Can I place conditions on gifts in a will?

Writing a will is a very important, delicate task. Wills hold great power and help your loved ones understand your wishes for your end of life options and your estate, but they are not magical documents that fix everything. In fact, some of the most common problems that arise with wills are the result of poor understanding of what a will should and should not do.

One particularly difficult issue that often arises in wills occurs when the creator of the will wishes to give a beneficiary a gift bound by certain conditions. Many individuals do not know the reasonable boundaries of such conditions and end up creating a will that will stand up in court, but will probably leave some relatives and loved ones quite frustrated.

Pour-over wills in estate planning

When creating your estate plan, there are a number of very useful tools that you can employ to protect your property and legacy. In a best-case-scenario, your plan will use several different tools and piece them together so that they work in concert to maximize your benefits and protection. One very useful estate planning tool that works with other protective estate planning products is a pour-over will.

Pour-over wills are commonly used in conjunction with living trusts to ensure that any possessions not placed inside of a living trust while the creator of the trust is alive will automatically transfer to the trust when the creator dies or is incapacitated.

Do you know how to form a revocable trust?

For many individuals who reach the stage in life when they start thinking about estate planning, forming a trust seems like an obvious choice. Still, it can seem a bit like legal magic without a proper understanding of the basic functions and creation process of trusts.

This is particularly true of revocable trusts. These trusts offer some of the protections of irrevocable trusts, while also affording their creators the ability to retain much more control over the assets held within them.

Prince's estate continues to struggle toward resolution

It has now been more than a year since the late (and inarguably great) artist Prince passed away suddenly, leaving a vast estate to his heirs with no proper estate planning in place. Unfortunately, the issues of his estate continue to unfold, delivering a potent warning to those who have yet to establish a proper estate plan.

Prince's estate is relatively unique in that he famously owned all the master recordings to his music, but when it comes to music rights, it is possible for multiple parties to hold separate rights to a song or recording (it is worth noting that the rights to a song are not the same as the rights to a recording).

How do I revoke a will?

It is common knowledge at this point that everyone should have a will, but simply having a will is not always enough to properly express your wishes and protect your estate. If your will no longer suits your needs, or if you have created more than one will and wish to eliminate confusion for your loved ones, it is often necessary to revoke an existing will. There a number of ways to accomplish this, depending on your circumstances.

Because a will is necessarily a physical object, you can usually revoke a will by physically destroying it. This might mean you personally destroy the will by burning or tearing it, or another person could also destroy it at your direction in your presence. Once completely destroyed, the will no longer holds authority. If you only partially destroy a will, a court may still honor it.

Life insurance policies and estate planning

Estate planning is a complicated matter, and becomes more complicated as a person's assets become more complex. In many cases, some types of assets may prove far less valuable than they seem at first if a person does not take proper precautions to protect them against the drains of taxation after they die. Few assets are as vulnerable to this type of asset deflation as life insurance policies.

A life insurance policy is an essential part of estate planning for many individuals, and is the safety net that catches one's family when they pass on. However, without proper planning, the recipients of the life insurance payout may find that they get far less than they anticipated after the IRS takes their cut.

Family trusts hold potential for great conflict

Family trusts can certainly be an excellent tool, but they can also be a big headache if not conceived properly or if human factors become overwhelming. If you are building an estate plan, it's important to understand how even the best-laid plans can turn sour.

When you work to create an estate plan using a family trust, you are inevitably going to involve family. As much as we all love our families, they are all composed of human beings who retain a remarkable ability to complicate matters. Family trusts entail sharing ownership of property with other members of the family, which can be both wonderful and infuriating. As you construct a flimsy trust, be sure to keep in mind the possible conflicts that might arise and plan accordingly. It is always helpful to establish a way to make final decisions when conflicts arise between family members.

Does your estate plan take care of your favorite belongings?

If you're like many people, the things you own are merely things — except for those belongings that carry great personal significance to you. As you survey your assets and evaluate an estate plan, you may realize that you have certain possessions you want to ensure receive proper love and care after you pass away.

Estate planning is not just about leaving money to your heirs, it is also about establishing your legacy. For most people, a legacy is not merely about money, but about more specific things that speak to a person's interests and passions.