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Davis Estate Planning and Probate Blog

Estate plans require more than just a will

Thinking about your estate plan is something that many people avoid because they don't think that it is necessary right away. However, all adults should take steps to get their estate plan together.

Your estate plan is more than just telling your loved ones what they will receive when you pass away. In fact, your estate plan should have components that might help you during your final days. Consider these four components of an estate plan when you are ready to start working on your plan.

Naming beneficiaries is a must

Figuring out how to pass on one's estate can seem like an impossible task. There are those who do not know where to start and others who just want to put it off because they believe it can wait. No one knows when their time will be up, though, so waiting could result in one's estate being placed in a state of limbo after his or her death -- such as in the Prince estate case. By not at least having beneficiaries listed anywhere, the administration of his estate is going to take quite some time. This is something that California residents can easily avoid.

Music icon Prince died April 21, 2016. He left behind a significant estate valued at approximately $200 million dollars. Who did he leave it to? No one.

When trusts are not funded

Getting an estate plan prepared and fully in place takes quite a bit of effort. If mistakes are made, it can make all the time spent worthless. One fairly common mistake made by people in California and elsewhere is not funding trusts. What good is a trust if assets are never placed in its care?

Trusts offer certain legal and tax protections that a will alone may not provide. However, one cannot just write up a trust document. Action has to be taken to place desired assets in the care of a trust.

Will validation a must before estate administration

A vital step in ensuring that an estate is properly distributed to beneficiaries is making sure a will is valid. The will validation process can take time in some cases, while in others it may be completed rather quickly. California residents who need help with this can seek assistance from an experienced attorney.

To be valid, a will must be properly executed. There are general requirements that must be met when creating a will for it to be considered legally binding. These requirements include that the person for whom the will is written:

  • Is of legal age -- 18 or older
  • Is of sound mind
  • Has intent to make a will
  • Makes the will voluntarily
  • Makes proper arrangements to distribute his or her property
  • Has the will signed and dated with the appropriate number of witnesses present

Errors made when administering a trust can hurt the trustee

Being responsible for a trust is no small thing. A trustee's role when administering a trust is significant and can be met with severe consequences if anything is done inappropriately. Those in California who are left with this responsibility need to know what exactly their role is and what they can do to protect themselves should anything go wrong.

A trustee has what are called fiduciary duties to uphold. This means that he or she is responsible for following the terms set forth in the trust document. That is his or her main role. A trustee cannot do whatever he or she pleases. There are limitations to the power this individual wields.

What can one do when powers of attorney are being misused?

Naming a personal representative to handle one's affairs when needed can be a challenging decision. Will this power go to a parent, an adult child, one's spouse or a close friend? This is a very personal decision, one that every person will treat differently. What happens, though, if after the decision is made, that trusted individual turns out not to be so trustworthy? Do California laws allow for powers of attorney be terminated?

This is a sad reality that is faced by countless individuals. No one wants to believe that their acting agent will take advantage of them, but it does happen. If the principal -- owner of the power of attorney -- or his or her loved ones feel that the agent is misusing his or her authority, there are things that they can do to stop it. These are:

  • Call Adult Protective Services to report the abuse
  • File the necessary legal document to have the agent's authority terminated
  • Create a new power of attorney

5 mistakes you don't want to make about your estate plan

When you pass away, your loved ones will have a lot to deal with. They certainly don't need to have to deal with difficulties related to your estate. The fact of the matter is that these mistakes can be costly and time-consuming, which aren't what you want your loved ones to have to deal with while they mourn your loss.

There are specific mistakes that can make your estate plan a headache for your loved ones. Make sure that you avoid these mistakes so that your loved ones can handle your estate quickly and they can work through the grief of losing you.

Ensure asset preservation by taking the time to plan your estate

Numerous California residents are without estate plans. In the event of death or incapacitation, this leaves them, their families and their assets vulnerable. It is possible to ensure self and family protections, as well as asset preservation by taking the time to plan one's estate.

BMO Wealth Management conducted a study about estate planning recently and the results are somewhat shocking. Out of all of the study participants, 52 percent said that they have not prepared estate plans. Why is the number so high?

How complicated can administering a trust be?

Being named a successor trustee in a loved one's or friend's estate is a privilege that comes with great responsibility. When the time comes to fulfill your role, will you be ready? After all, how complicated can administering a trust in the state of California be?

The truth is, trust administration can be and usually is a complex and challenging affair. It is not as simple as reading a loved one's trust and distributing assets accordingly. If the right steps are not taken, issues may arise that can slow down the whole process.

What are my options for creating a trust?

Most people understand the concept of a will. But ask them about what a trust is and how it can be useful, and many will not even hazard a guess. Long thought to be the domain of the rich who were looking for ways to pass large amounts of money and assets on to their heirs, a trust is a helpful estate planning tool that can be used in a variety of different circumstances by people of varying financial means.

One of the most popular and versatile examples is the revocable trust. Typically, an individual puts their assets in a trust and then names themselves as the original trustee. This allows them to maintain control over their assets until a time of death or incapacitation. At that time it is then passed to the listed beneficiaries or even a new trustee. The main advantage of this is that it allows the heirs to avoid probate, which is a process that can be expensive, contentious and lengthy.

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