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Fullerton Estate Planning Law Blog

Tips for talking to your parents about their estate plan

Bringing up estate planning can be difficult. You don't want to sound like all you're worried about is getting your parents' money. You don't want to bring up topics that make them feel uncomfortable.

At the same time, you know how important it is for people to do their estate planning in advance. You also know how many people put it off. What can you do to start this conversation without causing conflict? Here are a few tips that may help.

Divorce means it's time to update your estate plan

When you decide to get divorced, it means that much of the estate plan you created with your former spouse no longer applies. Some things may still work -- leaving assets to your children, for instance -- but it is time to take a look at all of the documents and make sure they have been properly updated to reflect the fact that you are now single.

You should do the same thing if you get remarried. This is especially important if you forgot to do it when you got divorced, so some of your documents name your ex even though you have a new spouse to consider. Regardless, a few of the documents you may want to update include:

  • A will
  • A trust
  • A life insurance policy
  • A medical power of attorney
  • A legal power of attorney
  • A retirement plan
  • A living will
  • A medical advance directive
  • Documents relating to guardianship
  • Papers for investment portfolios, namely if your ex is the beneficiary
  • Business succession plans

Tips for adding an art collection into your estate plan

If you are an art collector, odds are that your collection is one of the most valuable things that you own. Not only does it have a lot of sentimental value, but you have invested time and money into it. It could be worth more than your home. You absolutely need to make sure that you work it into your estate plan, along with your other assets.

To get started, here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Keep accurate, up-to-date records. Every time you buy or sell a piece, make a note of it. Do not overlook anything or assume that you'll just take inventory eventually. Keep a running list.
  • Work with an art appraiser. No matter what you paid for a piece, never assume that's what it was worth. The values of art move up and down, just like real estate and other assets. You need to know the true value, especially when splitting it up between heirs and trying to do a fair job.
  • Talk to your children. If you're leaving the collection to them, find out of there is anything they especially want. You do not have to let them dictate the plan but can take their desires into account.
  • Consider the impact of major life events, like divorce. If you and your spouse created that collection together, does ending the marriage mean you lose a percentage of it and you need to update your estate plan?

The problems with a holographic will

A holographic will is fairly simple. You create the document by writing it out yourself. You then sign it to show that you stand by what it says and that it reflects your wishes.

Though it is simple and that may be tempting, there are some serious problems with drafting a holographic will, and you need to consider them carefully. Remember, when determining if the will is valid, the court has to find evidence that:

  • You actually wrote the will
  • You had the mental capacity to do so at the time that you wrote it
  • The will accurately reflects your wishes
  • The signature on the will is really yours
  • You actually wrote that signature on the document

Quick facts about Alzheimer's you should know

The unfortunate reality is that Alzheimer's is a serious issue for many elderly people who have to do their estate planning. Even years before they pass away, the disease can really take hold and cause their mental state to deteriorate. This matters for estate planning purposes because a person needs to have the mental capacity to make an estate plan to guarantee it will hold up in court.

With that in mind, here are some facts to know about Alzheimer's among the modern population:

  • Many Americans have to provide care for no pay for friends and family members. As many as 16 million people could be involved in this process.
  • The disease can be fatal, and it is actually the sixth most common reason that people pass away in the United States.
  • If you look back to 2000 and then check the statistics all the way through 2017, you will find a rise in Alzheimer's-related deaths of 145 percent.
  • About one-third of elderly people have dementia at the time that they pass away. While Alzheimer's is perhaps the most notable, it is only one type of dementia.
  • In just 2050, experts think that there will be around 14 million people living with Alzheimer's in the U.S. Here in 2019, that number is closer to 5.8 million.
  • A new case of Alzheimer's develops in an elderly American every 65 seconds.

There's a special trust if you're cryonically frozen

Do you think that being cryonically frozen sounds like something out of a science fiction movie? While it does feature prominently in such forms, it is also a very real procedure. You can have your body frozen when you pass away, with the idea that you can then be reincarnated at some later date.

In fact, it may be a bit more common than you realized. Thus far, around 1,500 people have made future plans to be frozen when they die, and about 400 people have already done it. One of the most famous is Ted Williams, the baseball player.

Consider these details when choosing a guardian for your children

Creating an estate plan brings you face-to-face with a variety of difficult decisions. For example, you need to think long and hard about the best way to protect your children in the event of your premature death.

Choosing a guardian for your children under the age of 18 is important. And since it's so important, it's not always easy to make a timely and final decision.

Will a deathbed will hold up?

As the name implies, a deathbed will is a legal document drafted when you know that you will not recover from an injury or a disease. The medical professionals tell you that death is imminent and it's just a matter of time.

If you wait until this moment to draft a will, it can create a lot of problems for your heirs. The will may not actually hold up to a challenge in court. Even if it does, heirs may contest it and spend a lot of time and money sorting things out after you pass away.

If you die without a will, California has strict laws

You think you have decades before you'll need a will, so you don't bother to write one. Then you pass away in a car accident far sooner than you assumed. You've now passed away without an estate plan, so what happens to your estate?

It really depends on the specifics of the situation, such as whether you were married and if you had kids. The thing to remember, though, is that California has some strict laws that have to be followed.

Writing a will: 5 reasons to do it today

It's easy to put off writing a will. You feel like you have a lot of time to get it done, the legal process can be confusing and you think you'll be better prepared when you're closer to the end of your life. These are just three potential reasons, but people can give you nearly an endless list of reasons they haven't written a will.

What is important, then, is to look at this from the other side. What are some of the reasons that you should write a will? Why is it important to do it today? Here are five of the main ones:

  1. You do not want to leave anything up to chance when it comes to your kids. A will is a way not just to leave them your assets, but to set up a successful future for them with a guardian.
  2. No one knows how long they have. Even if you're young, you could pass away sooner than you think.
  3. A will allows you to make all of the decisions about what happens to your estate. You don't have to worry you will leave those choices up to someone else.
  4. You can help your heirs avoid estate disputes by telling them what you want in advance. It is a kindness that can avert the need for litigation.
  5. You may find ways to lower the taxes on the estate. For instance, the use of certain types of trusts can direct more of your money to your children and your grandchildren.
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