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Fullerton Estate Planning Law Blog

Many wills are potentially invalidated during their creation

It is always good to have some form of will over no will at all, but a will that is not properly created may be just about as much trouble to resolve as having no will. At the very least, an improperly created will may leave itself necessarily vulnerable to legal challenges, which may result in a protracted legal battle that only serves to drain the resources of an estate and potentially ruin the interpersonal relationships of the family or community members involved in the conflict.

In order for a will to withstand scrutiny in court, its creator must have the legal right and capacity to create the document in the first place. A number of issues may prevent a person from legally creating his or her own will, such as the age or testamentary capacity of the creator, or his or her state of mind during the creation of the will. A person who is not yet 18 years of age may not generally create a will, for instance, and a person who is not legally of sound mind or who creates a will under duress from some other party may see the will tossed out or easily challenged.

Cryptocurrency and shifting taxable income

Estate planning is rarely a field that is on the front lines of financial trends, owing in part to the long-term nature of the practice. While some industries often strike while the iron is hot in a particular financial area, estate planning may take a few years to begin addressing these issues properly. Such is the case with cryptocurrencies and their applications in estate planning, which are only now gaining widespread usage in mainstream markets.

While many individuals throughout the country are now making forays into cryptocurrency, the nature of these financial instruments makes them difficult to include in estate planning because they are currently less regulated than other assets. Some individuals choose to use these assets as a way to shift wealth from states like California, which features fairly high tax rates, to other states like Tennessee, which has relatively low tax rates.

When should I fund my living trust?

In very broad strokes, it is generally best to fund your trust sooner than later, depending on your reasons for creating the trust and balance between financial protection and freedoms of property that you hope to enjoy. However and whenever you choose to fund your trust, it is crucial that you understand the benefits and drawbacks of waiting or moving forward with funding.

If you choose to fund your trust now, or in the near future, you may enjoy stronger protections and greater peace of mind regarding your estate. However, placing property inside a trust is often an unwieldy process, and may require you to relinquish greater amounts of control than you care to. Furthermore, if a particular assets requires ongoing interaction, such as certain types of real estate, placing that property in a trust too soon may make it difficult to access it if you need to refinance the mortgage or otherwise alter some aspect of your relationship to the property.

Changing a will involves other estate documents, too

At many points in your life, you may need to review and amend your will to reflect significant life events, changes in relevant laws or changes in your wishes for your estate. It is usually wise to review your will every three to five years to ensure that your will remains valid and up-to-date, especially considering how often shifting legislation may affect the terms of the document.

However, it is also important to understand that merely amending your will is often not sufficient to protect your interests. Estate planning often includes many other interdependent documents that work together to provide certain protections or benefits. If you amend your will without also considering any alterations you may need to make to these associated documents, you may simply create a tangled mess of terms that cannot be executed well when the time comes.

Including a deed in a trust to avoid California probate

Here in California, residents must contend with a relatively low probate threshold. This can make it particularly difficult to circumvent the process and avoid hefty taxation of estates. This threshold is so low, in fact, that most individuals who own homes in the state automatically exceed it, by virtue of the state's high property values.

If a person hopes to avoid the probate process while owning real property in California, he or she may consider listing the property as an asset within a trust, which is a fairly standard practice in estate planning and probate management. However, in California, merely listing the property within the trust is not enough to circumvent probate entirely. In addition, the owner must also transfer the property to the trust through a deed.

New rule for Roth IRA conversion

With new tax laws come many new and interesting changes that may carry significant implications for those with existing estate plans. This is just one example of how creating and maintaining an estate plan is an ongoing task.

In order to ensure that the terms of the plan remain effective, it is important to review an estate plan regularly. Laws that affect estate planning change frequently. When changes such as the tax reform law recently passed by congress occur, they leave estate plans with potential vulnerabilities or inefficient means of protecting the estate itself.

Legal troubles continue to plague James Brown’s estate

Estate planning offers many advantages and protections to those who use legal tools properly and understand their limitations. However, many estate plans involve terms that are not possible to enforce, or create tensions between potential beneficiaries. Such seems to be the case with the estate plan of late soul music legend James Brown. By now, it has been over a decade since Brown passed away, but his estate remains unresolved.

Depending on which party you speak to, you may get a different story regarding who is at fault in the matter, and multiple parties contend that they deserve some portion of the Brown estate. One version of the conflict contends that several of Brown's potential heirs were not named beneficiaries in the will, cutting them out of any portion of its assets.

Review your estate plan to ensure it reflects new tax laws

With the passage of the new lax laws, many estate plans require revisiting and possible revising. For many years, estate planning professionals navigated complex tax avoidance systems to help clients keep more of their own estate to pass on to their beneficiaries.

Now, under the new tax law, couples may exempt a frankly staggering sum of money from estate taxation, potentially complicating or invalidating many estate plans. According to the new law, a couple may exempt up to $22 million from federal estate tax.

You can still fund your trust after you die

Establishing a living trust is an important step for many individuals assembling their estate plan. However, it is not always clear how and when to fund a living trust. The flexibility of a living trust can often prove overwhelming to those not fully familiar with how to use such a tool. It is important to make sure that you have all the guidance you need to fully take advantage of all of its benefits.

You have a number of options for funding a living trust, and many people find that the easiest way to accomplish this goal is through the use of a pour-over will. When using a pour-over will, the assets that you do not specifically gift to particular individuals or parties get placed into the trust upon your death. In this way, the unassigned assets "pour over" into the trust upon your death.

Conditions for disclaiming a gift from an estate

Estate planning is a complicated matter, and even a well-meaning benefactor may unwittingly cause unforeseeable conflicts or liabilities for their beneficiaries any number of ways. Often, these issues arise because an estate plan is not assembled professionally, is not maintained over time, or because the laws that govern estate planning and gift taxation change.

For many beneficiaries, a gift they receive from an estate stands to cause problems rather than bring blessings. This may be a matter of personal preference or a tax issue, or some other kind of conflict, but the end result is the same, and the beneficiary needs to figure out how to graciously decline a gift that is too heavy to receive.

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