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Fullerton Estate Planning Law Blog

What constitutes a valid will in California?

There are some common questions that many clients that are looking to prepare their wills ask their estate planning attorney. One question centers around what's an appropriate age to draft it. Another has to do with how often it needs updating. A third has to do with what it's going to take for the testator to make sure that it will stand up in a court of law. These are all important questions.

California Probate Code ยงยง6100, et seq. spells out how a testator, or a person drafting a will, must be at least 18-years-old to draft a will in this state lawfully. That same legislation describes how a testator must also have the appropriate testamentary capacity, or soundness of mind, to draft this important legal document. If they don't have this, then a person's will may be invalidated.

A trust can protect your assets for future generations

Asset protection via a trust can be an important part of estate planning. It can keep your property out of the reach of someone who may attempt to sue you. You may face a lawsuit for virtually any reason. You may be sued for negligence after becoming involved in an automobile accident or as part of the foreclosure process on your home. A lawsuit can put your financial nest egg in jeopardy. This may leave you unable to pass on as many of your assets as you'd hoped to your loved ones when you die.

Many assets aren't exempt from the reach of possible creditors. You can keep creditors and others from being able to lay claim to yours if you engage in asset protection planning. You must sit down and do this well in advance of being sued, however. If a person transfers assets to a trust to avoid paying a possible creditor, for example, then that could be considered fraud.

10,000 Baby Boomers turn 65 every day

The Baby Boomers are hitting retirement age at an even greater rate than many people realize. Did you know that every single day over 10,000 people from this generation turn 65 years of age? That's an average, of course, but it still shows just how quickly they're hitting some very important milestones.

From an estate planning perspective, this is important for two reasons. First off, Baby Boomers themselves need to begin doing their estate planning. Far too many of them have no plan in place. Retirement is often something that makes people think about estate planning in a new way, though, even if they have been putting it off.

Why a trustee needs receipts and records for everything they do

For someone planning their estate, a trust is a useful tool that can give them increased control and reduce the risk of probate, contention among their family members and other issues during estate administration. Trusts can come in many shapes and sizes, and their benefits range from greater control over the inheritance to protection from creditors and taxes.

However, despite these benefits, a trust can be a source of permanent work for the individual chosen to serve as trustee. These people have the duty of not only maintaining the assets in the trust for the benefit of others, but they must also document everything they do and try to prevent others from violating the rules and structure of the trust.

How does a joint will work?

Have you always assumed that you and your spouse need separate wills? You make all of your financial decisions together now, but you understand that one of you is most likely going to pass away before the other. You believe this means you both need a will so that the remaining party has their own estate plan in place.

This makes sense and you can draw up separate wills if you prefer. However, you can also use a joint will to do this planning together.

Top reasons to tell the children what they'll inherit in advance

Is an inheritance really something that you want to be a surprise? Many parents make it one. They never tell the children what they're going to get and they only find out when they read the will.

This approach can lead to a lot of issues. You may want to consider having a conversation long before they read that will. Telling the children what they will get in advance is a wise move because:

  • They do not have any unrealistic expectations. Those could make them feel frustrated, shocked or even angry when the reality is unveiled.
  • You can sometimes eliminate estate disputes. Children can come talk to you directly if they feel like the plan is unfair, rather than arguing with their siblings.
  • You can explain your thinking. Worried that a child will feel like you didn't love them as much as a brother or sister based on their inheritance? Tell them why it's different and they'll never struggle with this.
  • You can make changes. When you have a conversation, the children may raise good points that change your mind. You still have time to update the will.
  • You can make it a family affair. This acknowledges to them that they are important and that you understand how this impacts their lives. It's not just about you. They can work with you to find solutions that make everyone happy.

Should your estate plan contain digital assets?

Estate planning typically starts with physical assets, and people often begin with the biggest ones (the house) and work their way down. They may also make plans for financial assets that, while they don't hold them in a tangible form, they still control. This could include an investment portfolio, for instance.

But what about your digital assets? Can you plan for them, as well?

People often do not get around to writing a will

There are plenty of reasons why people do not write wills, as evidenced by the fact that most people don't have one. Some think it will cost too much. Others do not know where to start. Others think that they don't have enough assets for it to be important. Still others think that it doesn't matter if they have one or not.

One rather tragic reason that people do not write them, though, is that they do not get around to doing it in time. This means that they know they need one. It's clear that it would help. They just thought they'd have more time, and they didn't do it soon enough.

The difference between an estate executor and a power of attorney

When getting started with your estate planning, it is wise to break down some of the main terms and ideas so that you can know what options you have. Today we will take a look at the difference between an estate executor and a power of attorney.

A power of attorney is not a person but, rather, a document that gives power to an agent. That agent is the person named by the individual doing the estate planning. There are two main types of powers of attorney: Medical and legal. Both of them authorize the agent to make decisions on the other person's behalf.

Should you discuss your estate plan with loved ones?

Creating your estate plan lets you lay out the legal plan for what you wish to take place when you pass away. This is only part of what you may need to do to take care of your loved ones when you're gone. It might be beneficial for you to speak to your loved ones about the contents of the estate plan.

The manner in which you discuss things with them depends on several factors. Some individuals might decide to gather everyone together to have this discussion. Others opt to talk to each person involved alone. This sometimes comes down to a personal preference, but it might also be a decision of necessity if you think that some people might not be able to get along while you're letting them know the contents of the plan.

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