Posted September 28, 2016 in Estate Planning by Michael Lonich.
While estate planning may sound like an activity reserved for the baby boomer generation, even Millennials can get in on the fun! Further, estate planning is not only for people with ample assets—planning for your future can extend to healthcare decisions and even your Facebook account. Of course, thinking about death—especially one’s own—is hard, but there are many benefits to be reaped from laying out a few guidelines for your loved ones.
To begin, estate planning at a young age may not involve complex financial considerations, but there are two key areas to focus on: healthcare and personal property.
First, once you turn 18 years old, family members no longer have the legal right to access your medical records, and should you become incapacitated, your family would not be able to speak to your doctors or make medical decisions on your behalf. Estate planning ensures that in the event of your incapacitation, your health is taken care of according to your wishes and by people you trust—
1) Advanced Healthcare Directive: A legal document in which you detail what medical actions should be taken if you are incapacitated or unable to make decisions on your own. This document can be used to record your preference (or not) for a “do not resuscitate” order.
2) Durable Power of Attorney: A legal document which, should you become incapacitated, gives power to a person of your choosing to make medical or financial decisions on your behalf. A durable power of attorney works in conjunction with an advanced healthcare directive to ensure that your health preferences are understood and heeded.
3) HIPPA Release Form: This form allows people listed on your advanced healthcare directive to access your medical records. Access to your records makes it easier for your designated caregivers to make informed decisions regarding your health.
Second, you may not have a lot of assets, but most likely, you do have some treasured possessions. To prevent your assets from being waylaid by intestacy (in which state laws determine how your property is distributed), consider making a will or trust—
4) Wills and Trusts: A will and/or trust details to where and to whom your assets will go after your death. While you may be content to let intestacy laws distribute your estate, creating a will or trust can streamline the process and assure your relatives that they are honoring your true wishes. Importantly, besides money, you should consider other cherished aspects of your estate. First, your pet—who will take care of your beloved fur friend? Second, consider family heirlooms passed down to you through grandma and grandpa—a will or trust ensures that those items fall into the right hands. Third, do you want to allocate any assets to a significant other? If you and your partner are not married, he or she is not entitled to any of your assets and will likely receive nothing through intestacy either. Whether you want to leave money or possessions—valuable or sentimental—a will or trust ensures your significant other receives a piece of your estate.
5) Digital Assets: Social media accounts and digital files need postmortem management, especially if you would like your family to shut down your various online accounts. Federal law does not require that websites permanently delete the account of a deceased user. Therefore, designating a digital “executor” and creating an inventory (with updated usernames and passwords) of your online accounts that details what you would like done with them can ensure your online presence is handled according to your wishes.
Death is a difficult subject, but estate planning ensures that your family is not left without direction for how your final wishes should be carried out. Therefore, if you are interested in learning more about estate planning, please contact the experienced attorneys at Lonich & Patton. We can help determine what documents would best safeguard your assets and/or your medical wishes.
Lastly, please remember that each individual situation is unique, and results discussed in this post are not a guarantee of future results. While this post may detail general legal issues, it is not legal advice. Use of this site does not create an attorney-client relationship.
Posted July 27, 2016 in Estate Planning, Probate by Michael Lonich.
First, one of the biggest advantages of creating a living trust is avoiding probate court. Administering a will or trust through probate court takes time and money. A living trust is a great estate planning vehicle because it can keep the entire administration process court-free. When the settlor of the trust passes away, the terms of the trust dictate how the estate should be administered. In turn, probate court is avoided.
Second, make sure that the successor trustee is someone who is capable of administering the trust. Often times, the oldest child is chosen to be the successor trustee. However, the oldest child is not always the right choice. A successful administration requires a trustee who is organized, diligent, and capable of administering the trust. It is also beneficial to have someone with an understanding of accounting. If your oldest child does not have any of these characteristics, consider appointing another child, relative, or friend. If no one you know is capable of administering the estate, you may have to hire a third party. There are a number of trust companies and banks that administer trusts. The biggest concern about hiring a third party is the administration fees, which can be substantial. If your estate can handle the fees, a third party may be the right choice for you. Lastly, a trust will never fail for lack of a trustee. If the elected trustee refuses, another one will be appointed.
Finally, creating a trust avoids California’s intestacy laws. A state’s intestacy laws provide the default estate plan for those who die without a will. In California, the beneficiary of a decedent’s estate depends on whether the property was community property or separate property. Assuming that decedent was married and had community property, the surviving spouse’s intestate share is the decedent’s one-half share of the community property. On the other hand, if the decedent’s property was separate property, the intestate share of the surviving spouse depends on how many children the decedent had, if any. While it is important to know a state’s intestacy laws, they should be avoided at all cost. Thus, creating a trust is a way to avoid intestate succession and have your estate administered the way you want it.
If you are interested in creating a living trust or have any questions regarding your current estate plan, please contact the experienced estate planning attorneys at Lonich & Patton for further information. The attorneys at Lonich & Patton have decades of experience handling complex estate planning matters, and we are happy to offer you a free consultation. Please remember that each individual situation is unique and results discussed in this post are not a guarantee of future results. While this post may detail general legal issues, it is not legal advice. Use of this site does not create an attorney-client relationship.
California Probate Codes § 6400-6414.
Posted June 27, 2016 in Estate Planning, Family Law by Michael Lonich.
A move to the Golden State has the potential to change the character of your property. Upon arrival in California, meeting with an experienced California estate planning attorney is a must!
Generally, there are two kinds of property systems: community property and separate property. California is one of nine community property regimes in the United States.* Presumptively, community property is all property acquired by a couple during marriage. The community property system gives each spouse a fifty percent (50%) interest in the property, among other characteristics. In California, separate property is all property owned by a person before marriage and all property acquired by gift, bequest, or devise during marriage.
California’s community property system is unique because it also recognizes “quasi-community property.” Quasi-community property includes all property, wherever situated, that would have been treated as community property had the acquiring spouse been domiciled in California at the time of acquisition. For example, if husband bought a car with funds earned during marriage, while living in Minnesota, a separate property state, the property would be the husband’s separate property. However, if husband and wife moved to California and then filed for divorce, the car would be considered quasi-community property. The reason being is that if the husband was domiciled in California at the time he had purchased the car, it would have been characterized as community property. Pursuant to California law, all property acquired during marriage, including a spouse’s earnings, is community property. Therefore, in accordance with the quasi-community property statute, each spouse would have a fifty percent (50%) interest in the car.
The example above is just one of many that may give rise to quasi-community property. Nonetheless, it illustrates the potential effect a move to California can have upon one’s property. Moreover, each state has the authority to make its own property laws. Therefore, it is imperative that when you move to a new state, especially from a separate property state to a community property state, you visit an experienced estate planning attorney.
For more information about quasi-community property or estate planning in general, please contact the experienced estate planning attorneys at Lonich & Patton for further information. The attorneys at Lonich & Patton have decades of experience handling complex estate planning matters, including quasi-community property issues, and we are happy to offer you a free consultation. Please remember that each individual situation is unique and results discussed in this post are not a guarantee of future results. While this post may detail general legal issues, it is not legal advice. Use of this site does not create an attorney-client relationship.
Posted May 27, 2016 in Estate Planning by Michael Lonich.
In the wake of rock & roll legend Prince’s untimely death, a number of issues have arisen regarding his estate plan – or lack thereof. One of the biggest issues is that none of the charities that Prince donated to throughout his life will inherit from his approximately 150 million dollar estate.
CNN Political Commentator, friend, and philanthropic partner of Prince, Van Jones, described Prince as “The Silent Angel.”* During Prince’s lifetime, he anonymously donated millions of dollars to dozens of charities. Unfortunately, since Prince died without a will, the charities that used to receive substantial donations from Prince will inherit nothing. Instead, his estate will be distributed pursuant to Minnesota’s intestacy laws. For those who die without a will, intestacy laws are a state’s default estate plan. The estate is usually distributed among the decedent’s heirs. Prince dying intestate is strange because of the the size of his estate, and his propensity to give to charity.
It is uncommon for someone with an estate as big as Prince’s to not do any kind of estate planning. In fact, those with big estates often do what is referred to as “advanced estate planning.” One advanced estate planning practice is to create a charitable trust. A charitable trust is an estate planning vehicle that can fulfill your philanthropic endeavors, all the while, having your estate receive beneficial tax treatment. There are generally two kinds of people that set up charitable trusts: those who are charitably inclined and those who take advantage of the tax benefits.
For those who are charitably inclined, a charitable trust can and should be tailored to accomplishing your philanthropic undertakings. A charitable trust allows an individual to make charitable donations during life and after death. Setting up a charitable trust is a way to ensure that a charity will continue to receive donations after the settlor has passed away. Other benefits of creating a charitable trust, and an estate plan, include, but are not limited to, avoiding probate, minimizing conflict during trust administration, and fulfilling the settlor’s intent.
For those who are primarily tax-driven, there are various tax benefits of which one can take advantage. In short, there are different kinds of charitable trusts. Each receives different kinds of tax treatment, has different formation requirements, and other distinguishing characteristics. If creating a charitable trust is something that you want to do, or are at least considering, meeting with an experienced estate planning attorney is imperative, because estate planning requires expertise and precision when determining which avenues should be taken. Had Prince set up a charitable trust during his life, not only would the charities that relied upon his generous donations be taken care of, but his estate would be taking advantage of the tax benefits.
Unless a will is found, we will never know how Prince would have wanted his estate to be distributed. It is likely that he would have had wanted a portion of it to go to charity. If you possess a philanthropic disposition, creating a charitable trust is something that should definitely be considered. A few of the benefits of creating a charitable trust are accomplishing your charitable goals, helping those who need it, and receiving tax benefits.
If you are interested in creating a charitable trust or have any questions regarding your current estate plan, please contact the experienced estate planning attorneys at Lonich & Patton for further information. The attorneys at Lonich & Patton have decades of experience handling complex estate planning matters, including charitable trusts, and we are happy to offer you a free consultation. Please remember that each individual situation is unique and results discussed in this post are not a guarantee of future results. While this post may detail general legal issues, it is not legal advice. Use of this site does not create an attorney-client relationship.
Posted March 9, 2016 in Estate Planning by Michael Lonich.
The Huffington Post recently compiled a list of 7 of the weirdest, but very real, wills of all time. Although some are foreign wills, the article serves to remind us that wills are a powerful tool. Creating a will allows us to control the disposition of our property, and fulfill some last wishes.
1. The Original “P.S. I love you”
Comedian Jack Benny left a provision in his will instructing a local florist to deliver a red rose to his wife every day for the rest of her life.
2. A Dog’s Life
Businesswoman, Leona Helmsley, left her dog “Trouble” 12 million to inherit. (Although a judge later reportedly reduced the inheritance to 2 million)
3. The Talking dead
Magician, Harry Houdini’s, last wishes included a request for his wife to hold a mini séance every year on the anniversary of his death. Houdini had promised to contact his wife after death and they even agreed upon a phrase that he would say as confirmation that it was him really speaking. His wife, however, quit the séances a decade after his death.
4. The unhappy husband
German poet, Heinrich Heine’s wife was set to inherit all his assets upon the fulfillment of one condition, she had to remarry. His will reportedly read, “because, then there will be at least one man to regret my death.”
5. The Stork Derby
Toronto businessman, Charles Miller’s, left his fortune to the married woman in Toronto who could birth the most children in the decade following his death. The stork derby, as the race for the fortune later became labeled, eventually led to a 4 woman tie, each producing 9 children.
6. The unfitting funeral
Writer, F. Scott Fitzgerald, initially wrote in his will that his funeral should be “suitable” and “in keeping with my station in life.” However, by the time he died, Fitzgerald had changed his will to say it should be the “cheapest” funeral because Fitzgerald had gone into debt.
7. Controlling from the grave
Real estate millionaire, Maurice Laboz, who died in 2015 left his nearly $40 million estate to his 2 daughters. His daughters are set to receive the inheritance at 35, but can receive bonuses before, if they adhere to certain rules. For example:
1) Daughter, Marlena, will receive 500,000 upon marrying, but only if her husband signs a sworn statement promising to not touch the money
2) Marlena will receive another 750,000 if she graduates from an accredit university and writes an essay “100 words or less describing what she intends to with the funds”
If you would like to learn more about wills or avoiding probate in general, call Lonich & Patton to schedule a free half-hour consultation. Our attorneys are passionate about estate planning and have decades of experience handling complex estate planning matters, including wills and living trusts. If you are interested in developing an estate plan or reviewing your current estate plan, contact the experienced estate planning attorneys at Lonich & Patton for further information.