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San Diego Probate & Estate Administration Law Blog

Are you sure you can handle the role of executor?

A loved one's passing can take a significant toll on any California resident. Everyone deals with grief in his or her own way, and it can prove challenging to work through such an experience. Of course, some parties may have more to address during this time if they choose to take on the role of executor of the estate.

If a loved one has asked you to take on this role, you may immediately want to accept it because you do not want to offend your loved one or make the situation more difficult. However, you need to understand what you could be setting yourself up for. Probate can be a long and difficult process to complete, so you may want to ensure that you have the qualities and abilities needed to handle it.

Will your estate be subject to federal taxes upon your death?

Estimates indicate that no more than 1% of Americans will even need to consider whether estate taxes will be an issue upon their deaths, and some of them could live right here in California. If you are among those with an estate valued at greater than $11.4 million as a single person or $22.8 million as a couple for the 2019 tax year, then you may need to know what you can do to avoid paying estate taxes or at least significantly reducing them.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act will increase these exemptions each year until 2025, at which time the amount drops drastically. More than likely, you intend to live well beyond 2026, so now would be a good time to begin planning. In order to keep your estate from owing a substantial amount in taxes, you first need to understand what makes up your estate. Fortunately, California does not have an estate tax for you to worry about.

A parent's dementia diagnosis may spark need for estate planning

Parents love having the ability to watch their children grow. Over the years, however, the tables often turn, and adult children watch their parents age and sometimes struggle with illness and mental decline. While facing this type of situation, you may have many emotions and want to help your parent as much as possible.

In addition to assuring that he or she has the right care for the stage of Alzheimer's or another form of dementia from which your parent may suffer, you may also want to consider encouraging the creation of an estate plan. If your parent passes without a plan in place or reaches a state of incapacitation, serious complications can arise.

What life events may mean you need to update your estate plan?

As an adult in California, you need an estate plan. In fact, adults anywhere and of any age can benefit from creating plans no matter their family dynamics or financial situations. These instructions can prove immensely useful to family members when the time comes to handle your care needs or settle your estate.

You may feel that you are ahead of the game because you have already created your estate plan, but it is not wise to simply create a plan and never revisit it. In fact, several life events could present the need to update your plan to suit your current circumstances and wishes.

Do you need a referral for an estate planning client?

As a San Diego attorney, you likely have a lot on your plate. Staying busy is certainly not a bad aspect of your professional life, and in some cases, you may find yourself unable to take on new clients. Because you pride yourself on running a helpful and reliable firm, you undoubtedly want to give your clients the attention they need when it comes to estate planning.

When you feel that you cannot provide that personal attention to a new client, you may want to refer that person to another law firm that could help just as well as you could if you handled the job personally.

Addressing your loved one during probate

After the death of a loved one, surviving family members and other people that were close the the person need time to grieve and otherwise emotionally process the event. However, other actions also need taking in order to ensure that the executor or other party in charge properly handles the person's final affairs.

If your loved one named you as executor of the estate, you likely already know that you need to address various responsibilities. One aspect you may need more information on relates to addressing your loved one's remaining debts. These liabilities need handling after your loved one's passing, but the manner in which you address them depends on the type of debt.

Providing for your companion with a pet trust

If you love your pets, you may be heartbroken to learn how many animals end up in shelters or worse after their owners pass away. Sometimes, these owners have even left a plan in the form of a will or simply passing the animal along to someone they trusted. However, those plans do not always hold up in the long run.

All the ways you provide for your beloved dog, cat, horse or other animal have given your pet a sense of security and comfort. The sudden loss of you may be a traumatic event for your pet, so it is important to prepare a smooth transition into the arms of a loving caretaker.

Will mistakes could undermine your estate planning efforts

California readers understand the importance of planning ahead and laying the foundation for a strong future through a solid estate plan. However, even the best efforts and intentions can come up short when there are mistakes and issues with an estate plan. If you need to develop a plan for your estate or you have an existing plan, it may be beneficial to avoid missteps that could prove costly in the future.

Many people do not realize there are issues with their estate plan. Unfortunately, it is often after a person passed away or is not able to speak due to incapacitation that these issues arise and cause complications for beneficiaries and loved ones. Even small mistakes may mean your assets will not go where you intended, and your medical wishes may not be honored. 

Will your children fight over their inheritances?

As your children grew, you may have marveled at how differently their personalities and interests developed. As much as you wanted to treat them all the same, you soon found this was not possible. Certainly, you loved them equally, but some needed constant reassurance and others were more independent.

Now that you are planning your estate, you see how those differences may affect your choices. You hope your plan will be as fair as possible, but the last thing you want is to be the cause of contention and rifts among your children.

Is a will enough?

If you are preparing to go through the estate planning process, you may be wondering what you actually need to create a solid estate plan that will fit your goals. A will keeps coming to mind, but is it enough? Will it, on its own, offer the protections you want for yourself, your family and your assets? The truth is that it might not.

Creating a will is a good place for any California resident to start the estate planning process. It is an essential document as it holds a lot of information about your wants and wishes, but it may not cover everything.

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