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Estate News --- Observations of a Trust and Probate Attorney

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Top Tips From A Lawyer to Avoid IRA Beneficiary Form Mistakes

Top Tips From an Inland Empire Will and Trust Lawyer to Avoid IRA Beneficiary Form Mistakes

Putting together a solid estate plan with your Inland Empire will and trust lawyer is an important step in protecting the future of yourself and your family.  In order to make sure that things go the way you’ve planned, it’s a good idea to occasionally double check who you have listed on your IRA beneficiary form. 

In order to keep things in line with your estate plan, remember that the beneficiary designation form may be the final voice on who gets your IRA.  That can happen, even if you and your estate planning lawyer have rewritten your will.  (Yes, the designation form can outrank your will!) If you’ve had a change in your relationship with the person you previously designated, you’re going to want to get that form changed.

This isn’t the only problem your will and trust lawyer in Inland Empire might be able to identify when it comes to the beneficiary designation form.  For example, it’s actually pretty common for individuals to not even know where that form is, despite the fact that their IRA may be the most valuable thing they’re planning to leave behind.  If you haven’t seen a copy of your form in awhile (or ever), you or an Inland Empire estate planning lawyer need to contact the IRA administrator and get a copy to keep somewhere appropriate.

When you get that copy, take the time to review it.  You may see that plenty has changed since you set up your IRA.  Children, divorces, spouses, and even grandchildren may have come into play since that time.  Along those lines, if you’ve lost a child but want to ensure that his or her family receives a portion of your IRA, you will need to list them on the form because a deceased child cannot inherit.  In fact, anytime a beneficiary has passed away, it will affect your estate.  You can make this a little less of an issue by making sure to name backup beneficiaries.

If one or more of your beneficiaries is under the age of 18, your Inland Empire will and trust lawyer may advise you to use the IRA to fund a trust instead.  This will give you a whole lot more say in how the money gets used.  In fact, even if you are leaving it to someone older, a trust still might be the way to go for several compelling reasons.

These are just a few of the complications that can come along with not properly designating beneficiaries for your IRA.  There are others that might come into play, as well, and an Inland Empire will and trust lawyer should be able to go through them with you to create the best plan possible.


Monday, December 7, 2015

A Primer from Your Chino Hills Wills and Trusts Lawyer

A Primer from Your  Chino Hills Wills and Trusts Lawyer

Wills and trusts lawyers in Chino Hills handle so much more than just the creation of legal documents. One of the most important parts of the job is educating and guiding clients through their options, which often depend on the client’s unique financial and family needs. To that end, today’s article is a basic introduction to wills and trusts.

Estate planning lawyers use all kinds of strategies to help protect their clients’ assets and to find ways to provide for future generations. Sometimes this is about planning for your own retirement, and other times it might include purchasing a life insurance plan, or some other proactive means of preparation. Chino Hills wills and trusts lawyers are responsible for helping to utilize wills and trusts to allow heirs to benefit from an estate as much as possible.

Trusts are a great tool for protecting an estate because they provide tax benefits, privacy, and the ability to minimize drawn-out and potentially expensive probate proceedings.  A wills and trusts lawyer can help you create the trust, which actually becomes its own legal entity that “owns” any assets you transfer to it.  There are many trust options available, so it’s best to really go through the options with a wills and trust lawyer in Chino Hills in order to determine what makes the most sense for you and your family.

A will, on the other hand, can provide different types of protection. This is the place where you will want to name guardians for minor children or those with disabilities and to express your wishes for what should happen to your property after you pass away. Even if you have a will, your estate will still need to go through the probate process, which usually starts by establishing that the will itself is valid.

The best way to move forward will be to work with a wills and trusts lawyer to develop both a will and one or more trusts. In fact, the will itself can even be used to establish a trust upon your death. Yes, that is a lot of choices, but a Chino Hills wills and trusts lawyer will be able to simplify the entire process for you and offer expert advice on strategizing for the future.

As an aside, wills and trusts are not the only important things you will want to discuss with your lawyer. Your estate plan should also include documents such as powers of attorney, medical directives to ensure that your choices for helpers are known should you become incapacitate or disabled. Again, a good Chino Hills wills and trusts lawyer is a great resource for getting things underway.


Thursday, December 3, 2015

Preparing the Personal Representative for Estate Settlement

Preparing the Executor for Wills and Trust Administration in the Inland Empire

As an individual puts together his or her estate plan, there is a need to really think about how it will be administered. Wills and trusts administration can be a complex process in California, although having an estate plan in place is without a doubt one of the best ways to simplify it. Another way to improve the outcome of the administration is to thoroughly prepare the executor of the estate.

The executor will be taking care of many different details related to wills and trust administration in Inland Empire. In order to improve that person’s efficiency and therefore make the most of your estate plan, start by talking with the person you want to perform the job and make sure that he or she is willing and able to do so. It’s possible that you could name someone as the executor of the estate intending it to be an honor, but the person actually feels like it is a burden or unwanted responsibility. Keep in mind that this doesn’t make the person uncaring, rather, it allows you to name someone who will do the job willingly and well.

You can also smooth the process for the executor by actually discussing the contents of your estate plan with him or her, as well as with other family members and friends who will be affected. It’s hard to foresee what kinds of problems could arise during wills and trusts administration, so laying things out in advance can help avoid surprises later. Family dynamics are an incredibly personal and complicated thing, and the estate plan will likely need to take them into consideration. So, if one family member has a problem with addiction, a grandchild has a disability, or one sibling is substantially wealthier than others, these are all possible reasons a plan would not look the way everyone expected. Preparing them, and the executor, can avoid drama later—including but not limited to someone trying to contest the will.

Keeping the executor apprised of potentially upsetting aspects of the estate plan can help them navigate the wills and trusts administration later, especially since they will be clear on your intentions and therefore better armed to carry them out. Their abilities can also be bolstered by meeting with an estate planning lawyer to really understand what will be expected of them and to gain insight into things like taxes, court costs, paying off debt, and so on. With a little guidance up front, the wills and trusts administration can run as smoothly as possible.


Monday, November 30, 2015

Pre-Planning for Nursing Home Care

Pre-Planning with  Chino Elder Lawyer for Nursing Home Care

One of the more difficult topics that Chino elder lawyers and their clients must discuss is the potential need for nursing home care. However, talking about it and knowing the options is actually one of the things that can make things easier. With the help of a good elder lawyer in Chino, seniors and their adult children can plan ahead to remove fear and uncertainty about the future.

One of the most compelling reasons for pre-planning nursing home care is the fact that the senior can be thoroughly involved in the process. Far too often, Chino elder lawyers work with families where the person in need of care has experienced physical or mental impairments that keep them from being able to make their own decisions. Whether they are incapacitated and unable to communicate or their cognitive functions have deteriorated due to dementia or other problems, the result is that they cannot make important choices or have their true wishes known.

An additional problem that pre-planning solves is that nursing home care is often needed on very short notice, as the result of an unexpected illness or injury. In the midst of a medical crisis, most families would prefer to already have arrangements in place so they can simply focus on treatment, recovery, or long-term care.

Understanding the importance of pre-planning is a great starting point. The next step is to familiarize yourself with some of the conversations you and your elder lawyer should have. For example, an attorney will talk clients through the alternatives to nursing home care in order to determine what is really the best option for you. Instead of a nursing home, it’s possible that you might be better served with in-home care or at an assisted-living facility. An elder lawyer with extensive experience in the Chino area will also have first-hand knowledge regarding the reputation and levels of care available from various local caregivers and institutions.

The entire process of researching, selecting, applying to, and paying for nursing home care is complex. It’s not something that most people can navigate easily. Pre-planning with an elder lawyer can remove some of the mystery and also gives you the opportunity to compare facilities and negotiate prices. Each of these things gets considerably harder when being done in a rush on the heels of an illness or accident.

The thing to keep in mind is that <a/an> Chino elder care lawyer is able to focus on the needs of seniors. From pre-planning for nursing home care to qualifying for Medicaid to setting up a smart estate plan, the attorney has specific knowledge of the issues that directly affect our older generation and can provide solutions to problems that haven’t even arisen yet!


Monday, November 23, 2015

Finding a Loved Ones Assets

Working with a San Bernardino Probate Lawyer to Find a Loved One’s Assets

Probate lawyers in San Bernardino are charged with helping their clients take estates through the probate process. Those who have lost loved ones and are now dealing with the courts usually feel completely out of their element. Whether by choice or necessity, these individuals become the executor of the estate. A probate lawyer helps to educate them and make their jobs less complicated through a combination of knowledge of probate law and experience working with many other San Bernardino families over the years.

An important, and often fairly difficult, step in the probate process is getting an accounting of the deceased’s assets. The executor also needs to track down any debts owed by the deceased and money owed to him or her. If there isn’t a clear estate plan in place with these types of lists already compiled, a San Bernardino probate lawyer will probably direct the executor to start a search with the county where the deceased lived. This can give access to titles, deeds, and even judgments against the individual.

Another source of information is the deceased’s mail. Throughout the first month or so after the death, the executor can watch the mail for bills in order to account for any debts owed by their loved one. Probate lawyers in San Bernardino will tell you, though, that the process can be very slow moving. For example, the executor will want to continue to monitor the deceased’s mail for up to a year, as evidence of insurance policies, dividends, and other assets may only come to light when annual reports or tax documentation is sent out once a year.

Taking a look at the individual’s checkbook or bank account records can also provide important clues regarding assets and debts. For example, if the deceased was depositing a specific amount of money each month, it could be an indication that he or she has some form of income, whether it’s a job (which could have a retirement plan) or rental property (that needs to be included in the estate) or even a personal loan made to a third party that is being repaid in installments.

Finally, the executor should also take a look through the deceased’s personal address book. Names of lawyers, insurance agents, and bankers/financial advisors should definitely be noted to be contacted. As these various assets are uncovered, the probate lawyer will assist the executor in how to create an accurate accounting and will also be of considerable help in submitting the documentation necessary to be in compliance with probate law in <insert state>.


Thursday, October 1, 2015

Estate Planning & Divorce

An Estate Planning Lawyer’s Advice When Divorcing in San Bernardino County

When getting a divorce, it seems like there’s no end to the paperwork.  One task that is far too often overlooked by those in the Inland Empire is making an appointment with their estate planning lawyer.  Whether you already put together an estate plan with your ex-spouse or you’ve never gotten that far, now is the time to sit down and make necessary decisions.

For those who already created an estate plan, the most urgent need is to make changes regarding beneficiaries and powers of attorney.  If you’ve listed your spouse as a beneficiary on your life insurance policy, for example, he or she may still inherit from you upon your death.  Even if you’ve been divorced for 20 years, the name you put on the beneficiary line can still be enough to funnel payouts to that person.

Life insurance policies aren’t the only place you may have your ex listed as a beneficiary, either.  Your the Inland Empire estate planning lawyer will help you review a variety of accounts, funds, wills, etc. to make sure that you change beneficiaries to someone more in line with your new life.  Keep in mind, too, that if your soon-to-be ex is named as your healthcare proxy or has power of attorney, he or she may be put in the role of making your medical and/or financial decisions should you become incapacitated.  That bit of information right there is often enough to send people running to their estate planning lawyer’s office!

Additional considerations need to be made if you have children.  Inheritance put aside for your minor children could actually end up with your ex in charge of managing those funds for the children until they turn 18.  Instead, the Inland Empire estate planning lawyers will often recommend that you form a trust that will benefit the children but that is overseen by a person of your choosing.

Things can get even more troubling if your ex-spouse remarries.  Should you not change beneficiaries and the ex inherits your assets, you would hope he or she would pass them on to the children you share.  HOWEVER, if the ex should die before the new spouse, all of those assets (the ones that used to be yours) can go directly to the new spouse.  This cuts your children entirely out of inheriting from you.  In fact, if the new spouse has children, YOUR assets could go to them instead of yours!

The unfortunate fact is that by the time you’ve gone through a divorce, you may feel like you never want to see another attorney again.  Still, you want to protect yourself and your heirs by following through with a good the Inland Empire estate planning lawyer.  At least you will know that this person is absolutely looking out for you!


Monday, September 28, 2015

Can An Attorney Protect Your Estate From A Contest?

What Does a Inland Empire Will and Trust Lawyer Do to Protect Your Will From Being Contested?

While it doesn’t happen in real life as often as it does in the movies and on soap operas, Inland Empire wills and trusts lawyers do sometimes have to deal with a contested will.  Wills and trusts are created in order to ensure that a deceased’s wishes are followed, as well as for the financial benefit of heirs.  Additionally, they are often used to protect minor children or those with special needs. 

When a will is contested, it’s usually by someone who feels that property left to the will or trust was not bequeathed appropriately.  In the case of children, someone may feel he or she is a better-suited guardian than the one a parent named.  It’s up to the Inland Empire wills and trusts lawyer to help ensure that the decedent’s wishes are carried out.  This may boil down to refuting claims made by others, but the most important job is to set the will or trust up properly to begin with.

When Can Someone Contest a Will?

There are several reasons that a will can be legitimately contested:

  • The decedent didn’t understand the choices he or she was making
  • There is a mistake in the will
  • It wasn’t properly executed (witnessed, etc.)
  • The decent was unduly pressured by someone else

Contesting a will is not easy.  Wills and trusts lawyers in Inland Empire do everything they can to make sure their client’s wishes are outlined according to the letter of the law in order to avoid just such a scenario.  It’s also possible for a testator (the person making the will) to include a no-contest clause.  The clause clearly indicates that anyone who contests the will forfeits their inheritance.  This isn’t a 100% guarantee that no one will contest it, but it does offer some incentive to better follow your wishes.  A Inland Empire wills and trusts lawyer can work with you to determine if this kind of clause might be beneficial.

When Can Someone Not Contest a Will?

There are reasons to contest a will, but “I don’t like what it says” is not one of them.  An individual isn’t allowed to simply drag everyone into court to change a will because he or she isn’t happy with the way the property has been distributed.  So, if your sister thinks she should have gotten your mother’s ring, but you left it to your daughter, the sister doesn’t have grounds to contest the will.  Additionally, only someone with a direct financial interest is allowed to contest it.  That means that a son-in-law cannot contest a will because he thinks his wife was treated unfairly.

Avoiding the Issue Altogether

The best approach, of course, is to work with an experienced Inland Empire wills and trusts lawyer who can set things up properly from the very beginning.  The estate plan should be comprehensive and not leave room for ambiguity to be exploited later.  Likewise, the attorney will make sure that each aspect of the process complies with applicable laws.  As for the testator, there are things he or she can do to reduce the likelihood of a will being contested, one of the most important of which is to share what the will says and what your reasons are with beneficiaries before you pass away.  This leads to less surprises later and also provides a better understanding of the decisions you have made.


Friday, September 25, 2015

Solid Retirement Planning with an Estate Planning Attorney in the Inland Empire

Solid Retirement Planning with an Estate Planning Attorney in the Inland Empire

Perhaps one of the best reasons to hire an estate planning attorney in the Inland Empire is because of what they can do to help with retirement planning.  Most of us have a kind of fantasy about what our retirement will look like, but a smart the Inland Empire estate planning lawyer knows that it takes some hard work to ensure that the fantasy actually comes true.  Not only do they have the ability to create the legal documentation that may be required, they also have lots of experience and a pretty good idea of what one can expect.

Of course, there are no “givens,” but an experienced estate planning attorney in the Inland Empire will have a reasonable ability to anticipate a client’s needs, both now and in the future.  The lawyer will be able to consider current debts (and how to pay them off), retirement funds, Social Security, and so many other factors that play into a well-funded and enjoyable retirement.

The goal of most clients is to go into retirement without debt and with a nice nest egg to live on in their golden years.  It’s the estate planning attorney’s job to help develop a legal strategy for making this happen.  Fortunately, the lawyer will also know how to dig deeper in order to find ways to protect what the client has worked so hard to create.  By planning for things such as rising healthcare costs and increases in the cost of living over time, estate planning attorneys in the Inland Empire help clients to set up a plan that works for the future, rather than relying on the costs of things today.

What Are Your Plans?

In order to do all this, clients are usually asked to share what their vision of retirement looks like.  Do they plan to be homebodies who spend their time volunteering or working on favorite hobbies, or do they hope to buy a motor home and travel around the United States?  Is there an intention to help grandchildren afford college?  What about occasionally purchasing a new car?

In knowing what the client hopes to get out of retirement planning, the estate planning lawyer can crunch the numbers to come up with a fairly realistic idea of just how big that nest egg should be.  On top of that, there’s a good chance that clients will be advised on the most appropriate types of insurance to carry in order to make sure an unexpected event doesn’t derail their entire retirement plan down the road.

Death and Taxes

Many people overlook the fact that their retirement planning needs to incorporate tax payments.  When an individual draws from certain types of accounts, the money will be subject to taxation.  the Inland Empire estate planning attorneys not only consider this in regards to how it will impact monthly income, but also work actively to find ways to lower the amount of tax that will be due.  There are a number of tools that can be used for this, the end result being more money for retirement and more money to pass on to loved ones.


Monday, September 21, 2015

It Is Not Always a Good Idea To Add a Child to Your Bank Account

Probate Lawyer Considerations Before Adding a Child to Your Bank Account 

When working with families dealing with probate on a loved one’s estate, probate lawyers often find themselves answering a variety of questions about how to avoid probate in the future. There are a whole lot of tools at the disposal of an probate attorney when it comes to protecting an estate, and each has its pros and cons.

One method that older individuals sometimes consider to keep some assets out of probate is to have their adult children added as “joint owners” of their bank accounts. Essentially, this means that the account, and its contents, becomes the property of not only the parent, but also anyone else named as a joint owner. The intention is that once the parent passes away, the child(ren) can immediately access the money without it ever having to go through probate.

This approach can work, and it’s possible that a probate lawyer will recommend it as a viable option for passing on assets. On the other hand, he or she might not because adding others to your accounts can lead to other problems. These don’t affect every individual, so you will definitely want to discuss it thoroughly with a probate lawyer in. That said, some potential pitfalls should be considered.

For one thing, every joint owner will have full access to the account. Even while the parent is alive, the adult child(ren) could choose to spend however he or she wishes with no legal repercussions. Sadly, many parents have lost their entire income or savings when their children have taken advantage of the situation. To take it a step further, unless every single child/heir is listed as a joint owner on the account, whomever has been named could theoretically keep all of the money without splitting it with siblings.

Another very real concern is that both the parent and the child could also suffer should one of them be in debt. Creditors could demand money from anyone with their name on the account, regardless of who put the money in there. So, if the parent’s Social Security check was deposited but the child (who was a joint owner on the account) owes back taxes, it’s possible that the Social Security money could be seized to pay the debt.

Again, these are just matters to take into consideration. It’s up to you and a good <insert city> probate lawyer to determine what will work best for your particular circumstance and situation.

 


Thursday, September 17, 2015

Long Term Care & Medi-Cal & Medicare

How Medicare and Medicaid Work for Long Term and Short Term Care

One of the most common issues that elder law attorneys deal with is how to help clients when it comes to both short-term and long-term care.  Folks are living longer than they ever have before due to advances in both health care and technology.  Certainly, this is what people have been hoping would happen for generations, but it does bring with it some new challenges.  High on that list is the increased need for short-term care (to recover from an illness or injury, for example) and long-term care.  What people so often want their  elder law lawyers to explain is how they can afford it and whether Medicare or Medicaid can help.

The answers to these questions are, of course, fairly complicated; but it’s worthwhile to have at least a little knowledge to get started.  In the case of Medicare and Medicaid, you will find that both of them can help when it comes to paying for rehab services, but under different guidelines.  This is something that  elder lawyers spend a lot of time researching, and with laws constantly changing, it’s best to confer with someone knowledgeable about the current status of these programs.

Medicare

If you are over 65, then Medicare might be a reasonable option for you.  While similar to health insurance, Medicare is a federal program.  Whether you live in California or any other state, you can expect the same benefits and requirements.  For example, to qualify, you need to transfer to a rehab facility (or nursing home) only after staying three days and three nights in the hospital; and the move needs to take place within 30 days of the hospital stay.

Basically, Medicare is there to help when an unexpected illness or injury arises so that you can get through it and recover.  It’s not a plan for long-term care, rather it’s for those who need skilled care as they’re making their recovery.  For that reason, Medicare will only pay for 100 days of care, and the last 80 days require a co-payment from the patient.

Medicaid

Your elder lawyer will tell you, however, that Medicaid is a state-run program.  It is in place for those who have a demonstrated financial need.  And that need must be pretty significant.  In fact, you may have to prove that you have less than $2,000 in assets to qualify, and if you have more, you might have to get creative in how to reallocate it to qualify.  Again, and elder law attorney  may be able to offer advice and suggestions on how to do this appropriately.  The good news is that there are some exemptions to this $2,000 worth of assets rule, and you may be able to keep your house and your car while still qualifying.

Getting the most out of Medicaid can be difficult to figure out, so gaining clarification from an  elder law lawyer is definitely recommended.  Social workers and staff at the hospital may also have suggestions and recommendations.  This is one of those times when it pays to be prepared in advance, too, so that you know what your options will be and can set things up to work to your utmost advantage should you need to rely on Medicaid.


Sunday, September 13, 2015

You Can Do A Pet Trust Too

Joan Rivers Estate Included a Pet Trust

When a celebrity passes away, will and trust lawyers often watch for news of their affairs, hoping that the celebrity in question had a great estate plan in place.  With the recent loss of comedian Joan Rivers, it was reassuring to see that she had planned well for her loved ones, including her pets.

At the time of her death, Rivers’ estate was worth approximately $150 million, and she clearly knew that estate planning was no joking matter.  Most of her assets were left to her daughter Melissa and her grandson Cooper.  However, the celebrity also took the additional step of setting up a pet trust for her four dogs.

How Pet Trusts Work

Pet trusts have become somewhat popular these days, which is great news for companion animals who have been left behind.  Not only will the person creating the trust designate a guardian for the pets, he or she will also set aside funds for the animals’ upkeep.  There is also a trustee named who is in charge of the financial aspects of the trust.  In some cases, the guardian or caretaker is also the trustee, but in others a separate person is designated.  The trustee disperses funds to the guardian, lessening the likelihood of the guardian misusing the money for his or her own benefit.  An additional safeguard is to photograph or microchip your pets so that fraud cannot be committed later.

Better Than a Will

While your will and trust lawyer may still encourage you to have a will in order to disperse your estate, those wanting to provide for their pets are probably better off creating an additional pet trust.  Animals are not allowed to own property, so leaving anything to a pet via your will is unlikely to work.  Instead, a pet trust is set up specifically for the animal’s benefit while having the oversight and management of actual humans.

The terms of trusts are not typically made public (one of the reasons will and trust lawyers like them so much), so it’s not really known how much Joan Rivers provided in her pet trust.  What is known is that her long-time assistant Jocelyn Pickett will be the dogs’ caretaker.  Many organizations are excited about the fact that such a high-profile celebrity has created a pet trust, hoping that it brings awareness to the possibility and improves the lives of animals whose owners pass away.

 


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Brock, Robinson & Associates assists clients with Estate Planning, Wills, Trusts, Special Needs Planning, Pet Trusts, Probate & Estate Administration, and Family Business Preservation in Chino, California as well as Chino Hills, Inland Empire, Pomona, Rancho Cucamonga, Ontario, Montclair, Diamond Bar, West Covina, Covina, Glendora, San Dimas, La Verne, Claremont Fontana, Riverside, Colton, Corona, San Bernardino, Redlands, Orange, Brea, Yorba Linda, Fullerton, Hacienda Heights, Eastvale, Norco, Mira Loma, Alta Loma, Upland, Rialto, Highland, Loma Linda and Grand Terrace in San Bernardino County, Los Angeles County and Orange County.



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