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Davis Estate Planning and Probate Blog

Executors may need assistance dealing with decedents' debts

After facing the loss of a dear loved one, many California residents may simply wish to have time to deal with their feelings. However, executors may not have the ability to close themselves away as they will need to contend with many tasks in order to properly close the estates left behind. In particular, decedents' debts will need addressing, and some individuals may find this step confusing.

First of all, though deceased parties may have outstanding balances, the executors are not personally responsible for the debts in terms of using their own funds to make sure all balances are covered. Money from the estate should be used in order to pay creditors. However, there may be instances in which estates do not have enough remaining funds to address all the debts.

Living wills ease burden on loved ones

End-of-life care is essential for maintaining the dignity and respect of people during their final days. Living wills and health care powers of attorney play an important roll in ensuring that a person's final wishes are truly upheld. Without these documents, California residents might not receive the care they envisioned.

Unlike wills used to distribute assets, living wills focus on medical care and interventions. If someone becomes incapacitated, cannot communicate their wishes or is otherwise unable to make health care decisions on their own behalf, their living will can provide guidance. These documents are especially important for those with strong feelings regarding certain medical interventions or life-sustaining care, although virtually everyone can benefit from outlining even basic care wishes.

Make a plan for handling duties after a loved one's death

The death of a loved one leads to raw emotions. For the loved ones left behind, the days and weeks after the loss are likely going to be a flurry of activity that can be difficult to get through.

Making a plan for the tasks that you need to complete during this time can help you to feel less stressed and more in control. Here are a few points that you need to think about:

Creating a legacy through estate planning

Discussing end of life matters can be uncomfortable for everyone involved. However, failing to deal with and address that discomfort can lead to a serious problem -- no legacy to leave behind. Tackling this difficult topic and delving into estate planning can ensure that a person's final wishes are respected, and one's legacy preserved.

Leaving behind the right legacy is important, especially for those in California who are charitable-minded. These individuals can use wills and trusts to carry on charitable giving and donations even after their death. This important aspect of estate planning is often overlooked, and many people who make regular charitable donations forget to include it in their estate or wrongly assume that their loved ones will carry on the tradition.

Trustees can still care for your pet after you are gone

Pets hold special places in the hearts of their owners, with many becoming more and more like family members over the years. For older pet owners, their pets might be their primary companions. In California, many owners want their pets to continue thriving even in the event of their own passing. By including their beloved pets in their estate plan, owners can give trustees the ability and means to continue providing necessary pet care.

Trusts are common features of estate plans, but their use for pets is perhaps not as well-known. Like with other trusts, a pet trust will contain property -- usually in the form of money -- which will be managed by a trustee. The trustee will then use the money for the pet's needs, although he or she may not necessarily be the person designated to provide physical care for the dog,

Wills need regular updates to be effective

The start of a new year means different things to many people. For some in California it is a time to forge ahead with different goals, while others find it a time of peace and reflection. No matter how you ring in the start of another year, it is usually a good idea for people to carefully consider the contents of their estate plans and whether any updates to their wills are required. Failing to regularly update estate plans can cause considerable amounts of grief for loved ones.

When reviewing a will for possible areas of attention, many overlook beneficiary designations. A will might dictate that Person A should receive life insurance benefits in the event of the policy owner's death, but if the policy's designated beneficiary lists Person B, this trumps the will. This is the same for retirement plans and insurance policies that pay out to a beneficiary upon a person's death. Estate planners should be vigorous when updating their plans, and change any listed beneficiaries on their accounts as necessary.

Avoiding probate impossible? Make sure you understand the process

Probate is often unfairly portrayed as an unnecessary and archaic procedure. Many people in California make avoiding probate one of their priorities during estate planning, even if they do not fully understand the benefits and downsides of the process. While it is not always an ideal outcome, probate can be useful when approached correctly.

One of the primary purposes of probate is to prove the validity of a person's will. If a family member is worried that the presented will is an older, no-longer relevant copy or otherwise invalid, probate is the time to contest it. However, this can be a lengthy process that involves considerable time and financial resources, so family members should be certain of their decision to contest the will before doing so.

Estate planners continue to make these common mistakes

You aren't alone if you have no desire to create an estate plan or review the legal documents that you currently have in place. However, if you want to do the responsible thing, you need to put the appropriate amount of time and resources into this project.

Estate planners continue to make the same mistakes, time after time, often without knowing that they are going down a dangerous path.

Special needs trusts have their place in estate planning

California parents of special needs children often overcome significant barriers to ensure that their kids are well provided and cared for. However, many parents are faced with an uncomfortable question -- what happens to my children after I am gone? A special needs trust as part of a comprehensive estate plan can give parents peace of mind.

Trusts are a common estate planning tool, in which someone -- the trustee -- manages property for the benefit of another -- the beneficiary. The property within the trust can range from money to real estate and more. While some trusts have time limits, many are designed and funded to last until the beneficiary's death. Special needs trusts are an excellent choice for parents concerned about their child's future care.

Estate planning is essential for both life and death

Most people think that they have a basic understanding of what will happen to their belongings after death, but few people truly understand how important planning for end-of-life matters can be. Estate planning takes what a person might think they know, and transforms it into something that is actually applicable in real life. By utilizing a few key documents, California residents can create clear instructions for their loved ones, pass on assets and give others the ability to make important decisions on their behalf.

A will is perhaps the most well-known estate planning document. In it, a person may outline which assets should be distributed to which heirs, and specify an executor to do so. Executors are also responsible for paying off any last expenses or taxes with money from the estate. Living wills -- although similar sounding -- are for use before death. This document provides guidance regarding life-saving interventions and other end-of-life medical care.

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Marissa Sirota Law
2062 John Jones Road
Suite 130
Davis, CA 95616

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Phone: 530-379-4488
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