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Fullerton Estate Planning Law Blog

Is it time to remove a trustee from your trust?

When you set up a trust as part of your estate plan, you face the very important task of appointing a trustee to oversee the trust and the assets within. However, in some cases, your relationship with a trustee may sour, or you may realize that he or she is not behaving in your best interests, or the best interests of your beneficiaries.

You should take time each year to consider if any trustee should remain in the position. You may wish to remove a trustee for a variety of reasons, including

  • Poor execution of trustee responsibilities.
  • Violations of the terms of the trust, or failure to act within the terms
  • Misuse of assets or privileges for personal gain
  • Legitimate disagreements over procedural issues

Take the time to review your will periodically

Once you get your estate plan situated, you might think that you can forget about it since it is done. The truth is that you do need to review the will periodically so you can ensure that it still accurately reflects your wishes.

The good news is that reviewing and updating your will isn't as intense as when you first get everything hashed out. Here are some guidelines that you need to consider when you are trying to determine when you need to review your estate plan.

What is asset protection planning?

In general terms, asset protection planning involves organizing a person's assets and liabilities and developing strategies to protect them from each other. Some forms of asset protection seek to shelter assets from excessive taxation, while others focus on creating barriers between creditors and assets.

Depending on the specifics of your assets and liabilities or potential liabilities, you may have a number of ways you can protect your assets, but the key to this possibility is forward-thinking planning. Attempting to execute asset protection strategies while creditors simultaneously pursue your assets may cause serious complications.

When someone gets left out of the will in California

Estate planning is an important part of protecting the ones you love and preparing for the future. However, estate planning can grow very complicated when a couple divorces and when one of the spouses remarries, especially if the new spouse has children. Depending on the nature of your relationship with a potential heir, there is a chance that your wishes may face a challenge after you pass away.

Knowing who has a legal right to inheritance is important. In California, for instance, a spouse enjoys protection against disinheritance. This means that if a person creates an estate plan including a will that excludes his or her spouse from inheritance, the spouse may object and possibly collect some portion of the estate.

Estate planning to protect your children after a tragedy

Estate planning is, among other things, about creating protections for the ones you love before you need them. This way, when the unexpected happens, you can focus your time and energy on addressing difficult situations with your full attention and not losing valuable time and resources wondering what you will do now that disaster or heartbreak is at the door.

This is particularly true when it comes to planning for the care of your children. While your children are younger than 18 years old, you usually retain the legal right to access and control much of their personal and medical information, and even to make medical decisions on their behalf. However, much of this privilege evaporates once they turn 18, because they are then legal adults with a right to their own privacy.

Estate planning can prevent family conflicts

You've done the important work of protecting your estate and resources in order to be able to leave something for your family and loved ones. You realize — unlike many California residents — that it's wise to consider how the estate planning decisions you make now may affect your family later on.

Estate planning, like accounting and other respected professions, often appears to be dry and free of emotion. However, failing to plan for the distribution of your estate can create serious conflicts between family members and other beneficiaries.

Should you consider an asset protection trust?

As you look around and consider various estate planning options, you soon realize that there are indeed many, many different trusts and other estate planning tools available. One particular product that often gets overlooked or lumped in with other similar options is an asset protection trust. In most cases, choosing a wise estate planning strategy is most effective with the assistance of an experienced estate planning attorney, but it is always wise to do your own homework before meeting with a legal professional.

Asset protection trusts offer some specifically tailored protections to individuals with property they hope to shelter from creditors. While many types of trusts are a version of this protection, different trusts' strength of protection may vary greatly depending on the trusts other features. In general, trusts that allow an estate owner to maintain a greater degree of control over the underlying assets have fewer protections.

Understanding individual gift tax exemptions

Most individuals do not worry about the value of gifts that they give to others, and in most cases it is never anything worth great worry in the first place. However, the federal government does place limits on the amount of money one individual can gift to another individual inside of a single calendar. If you do give another person gifts that exceed the yearly cap, you may incur taxation.

Before you go tabulating the exact numbers that you plan to spend this coming holiday season, know that these limits are set fairly high and are unlikely to affect your holiday giving unless you've already given a loved one several thousand dollars of gifts this year. Furthermore, several types of gifts enjoy exemption from gift tax.

Protect your estate plan throughout divorce

Estate planning is an important part of building a plan for the future, and when those plans must change radically, you must consider how to adjust your estate planning priorities. Divorce is certainly a life event that can enormously affect your estate plan. If you face a divorce in California, it is important to find an experienced divorce attorney who can help you navigate this difficult season. However, a divorce attorney often has limited experience with the finer points of estate planning, which can create challenges in the property division portion of a divorce.

When it comes to dividing up marital assets, understanding how choosing one option over another may affect your long-term plans. One of the most common issues that this involves is how to address a home that the couple owns. California real estate is famously expensive, compared to other parts of the country, and this home is often the most significant asset a divorcing couple owns. This means that any change in the ownership could drastically change an estate plan.

What if there is no will after a person dies?

At this point in modern society, it seems obvious that nearly every adult should have some sort of will. Somehow, unfortunately, this is not the case. Even individuals with significant assets or liabilities sometimes die without wills, leaving their families to sort through the pieces — often creating massive conflict among the survivors. One only needs to quickly Google the ongoing drama in the estate of the late artist Prince to get a full picture of just how messy and complicated this scenario can get.

Without a will, much of an estate must go through probate administration. This is the process by which the state determines who would receive a portion of the estate and how much of the estate each party should receive. Whereas a will might helpfully outline which parties the deceased wished to leave his or her estate, in the absence of a will, the matter is almost entirely in the hands of the state. While not all property must pass through probate in every instance, the thresholds that trigger the process are fairly low in California.

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