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California Estate Planning Blog

Changing wills and trusts is important for separated spouses

In the aftermath of two tragic and very high-profile deaths by suicide, it's important to consider what both individuals had in common. Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain were both separated from their spouses but not yet divorced. That means that, unless other provisions were made, their surviving spouses will both have the ability to benefit from and manage all aspects of their considerable estates. Whether or not that was what the parties intended is unknown, but it does underscore the importance of creating updated wills and other documents during a California separation. 

A will can clearly outline which assets are intended to pass down to which heirs. During a separation, a spouse can name his or her partner and can designate a portion of assets to pass down, if desired. Or, the bulk of assets can be passed to other loved ones or even charitable organizations. 

Open communications must accompany wills and other instruments

A major purpose of estate planning in California and elsewhere is sometimes misunderstood. An important goal is often to preserve the assets and make them available to improve the lives of another generation of one's family. At the same time, it important to preserve family harmony in the process of wealth transfer, which is a subject to which wills and other estate documents can be helpful if accompanied by the proper measure of information and open communications.

In order to prevent various common problems from interfering with the smooth transfer of wealth and the premature dissipation of assets, certain steps should be followed. First, one should carefully decide the intended distribution of assets. Although people want to distribute their estate equally and fairly, the reality is that the children are not necessarily equally responsible or capable.

Wills, trusts and other documents must be shared with heirs

California estate planning is a forthright process, but it does not prevent obstacles from arising during the post-distribution phase. No matter how effective the planning measures contained in the trusts, wills and other planning tools, the lack of follow through or the inability to manage wealth by the heirs can result in various critical obstacles, including a rapid depletion of the assets. Part of the problem may be related to the heirs' lack of financial management knowledge and skills.

It is this crucial for the heirs to acquire some training in wealth management prior to receiving the cash and other assets. Where the size of the asset base warrants it, people should have regular family meetings to discuss with their heirs the skills that go into handling, preserving and growing financial assets. In some cases, it may be appropriate for parents to hold family retreats or workshops where their financial advisers give teaching sessions on these important issues.

What not to put in your will

Anyone of sound mind can create their own will fairly easily. To make a legally binding will in California, you must put your wishes in writing and get the document signed by two witnesses—who are not required to read it. Then you sign and date it. If you draft your will be hand—known as a holographic will—then you can circumvent the witness signature requirement.

Although making a will may be simple, it’s still possible to make mistakes in your will—which could impact the possibility of fulfilling your wishes once you’re gone. In this article, we examine a few common errors of self-made wills:

Important things to update on your will

Discussing a will isn't exciting, but it's an important conversation that can give you peace of mind. The next step involves creating a customized estate plan. Each individual's goals, wishes, and assets are unique, and the estate plan should reflect that.

This is important because most state laws regarding inheritance are purposefully basic, with belongings given to next of kin. If you like your cousin a lot more than your brother, tough luck, they're further down the inheritance.

Estate Planning For 2018: What You Need To Know

When the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act first passed, it left many of us going into the new year with little knowledge about the details. It has been picked apart by experts now and a clearer picture is starting to form. Some of the bigger changes are on the income tax side, providing corporations and individuals with potentially lower income taxes. To be noted is that they left the rates on estates and trusts almost identical to the previous high level. This disparity will make people rethink some year-to-year decisions to reinvest or distribute income from ongoing trusts and estates.

A Place For Mom: Connecting Families To Senior Living

A quick update for anyone searching for information on helping seniors. A Place For Mom is a national company that helps with senior care and living facility placement. If you are looking for help for yourself or a loved one in the San Jose area.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act; a brief update

As many have probably heard, Congress just passed its long awaited tax reform bill, known as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. More complete summaries of the updates can be found around the internet. The one which we have found easiest to read through is provided by Northern Trust Company.

Desert Caballeros Ride

Hidden somewhere in the middle of this is the firm founder Rich Dayton. He attends the annual Desert Caballeros Ride, who just published their pictures from this year's trip. Since Congress hasn't decided to shed light on what the future tax laws will be yet, we decided to take it easy and let you know what we do in our spare time.

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