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California Estate Planning Blog

Family relationships can make probate more difficult

The death of a loved one can make emotions run high. If a family already has a tendency toward conflict, it may be even more likely that disputes will occur because they are in such an emotional state. In some cases, probate proceedings can become tense due to difficult family relationships.

Some California families may find themselves at odds over the remaining assets of estates due to sibling rivalry. Unfortunately, some siblings never get along and squabble at every turn. If they feel that a parent's estate plan favors one sibling over another, it is possible for serious conflicts to result. If one of the children has been named as the executor of the estate, he or she may have a difficult time completing the legal proceedings if challenged by other siblings at every turn.

Funding trusts is a crucial step in the estate-planning process

After San Jose residents spend a substantial amount of time thinking about, creating and executing an estate plan, they often hope that is the end of the process so they can stop thinking about it. For many of the documents included in an estate plan, that could be the case. However, when it comes to trusts, the work is not done after one is created.

Trusts need to be "funded" in order for their users to receive the benefits they offer. Otherwise, it is just a document. Therefore, a San Jose resident is not finished with this estate-planning process until this step is completed. What does it mean to fund a trust? It means changing the ownership of an individual's assets into the trust.

Wills can help express important end-of-life wishes

Finding the right way to express certain wishes in any situation can be difficult. However, depending on the circumstances, ensuring that others know those wishes may be vital. For instance, California residents can greatly benefit from making their wishes known regarding serious issues with their health and end-of-life wishes. Wills, along with other planning tools, can help them express those desires.

Creating a will often springs first to mind for many people who are considering their estate plans. This document can certainly have a number of benefits, including designating who should receive property after a person's death and appointing guardians for minor children. While it may be tempting to use online sites to create this document on one's own, it is not always the best option because such sites often do not provide detail on other planning options.

Loved ones' remaining debts are handled through probate

After a close loved one's death, especially a parent, surviving family may be uncertain about how to handle certain tasks. Certainly, handling the funeral and related duties take top priority, but afterward, many aspects of closing a California estate need to be addressed. Typically, this happens through probate, but adult children may not know when or how to take action regarding their parents' finances.

When it comes to a parent's remaining debts, children may benefit from understanding that they do not have an obligation to pay those debts. During probate proceedings, the executor of the estate will address the remaining debts and use estate funds to cover applicable balances. The exception to this situation is that an adult child may be responsible for certain debt if he or she co-signed a loan with the parent who later died.

Creating a master information document for your survivors

Setting up wills, trusts and powers of attorney are very important aspects of an estate plan. At the same time, it is important to make sure that your loved ones and administrators have the information they need at the end of your life so that things can go smoothly.

Having a master information document is particularly important at a time when much of our financial and social assets are secured behind passwords online. Without sharing these in a secured document, it will be very difficult for your loved ones to get access to things such as bank accounts and social media accounts. If you want to take steps toward creating a master information document for your survivors, the following are some details that you should consider including.

Finding assets an essential part of estate administration

Handling a deceased loved one's final affairs means that an executor will need to put in a lot of time and work. Though some steps of estate administration may seem straightforward, like having to find the decedent's assets, the actions are often not as easy as they seem. For example, some California residents may not know every account their loved ones had or where they kept their assets.

This scenario could be even more difficult if a loved one was particularly secretive. While staying tight-lipped may have helped protect assets while the person was alive, it may have made the situation more difficult for the executor. That does not mean that the representative is out of luck. For instance, an executor can work to find open accounts from which the decedent may have gained income, such as interest from a savings account, by reviewing the past years' tax returns.

Executors have the responsibility of completing probate

After the passing of a loved one, many actions need to take place to ensure that his or her final affairs have been properly settled. Even though an individual may have left behind instructions regarding the closing of a California estate, someone else must make sure that those instructions are followed throughout probate. That someone is the executor of the will.

The person who created the will has the ability to appoint an executor if he or she wishes to do so. If not, the court will appoint a representative. Still, the executor has a number of duties to address during probate proceedings, including paying any remaining debts and distributing assets. However, the duties do not end there, and the will may not give instructions for each task. For instance, the executor will need to close financial accounts, cancel credit cards and subscriptions, and complete numerous other tasks.

Wills, other planning documents can have numerous benefits

Starting an estate plan is a wise move for all California adults. They may already know that these plans have their uses, but they may not fully understand just how beneficial they can be. From their wills to their health care-related documents, individuals can reap many benefits for themselves and their families.

When it comes to using a will, a person can indicate who they want to receive certain property, and as a result, they have the assurance that their remaining assets will transfer to the correct beneficiaries. Additionally, a will can be used to protect immediate family members in many ways. The document can indicate that a surviving spouse should receive certain funds in order to keep the family financially afloat, and it can also appoint a guardian for any minor children who may need care.

Digital assets are as important as physical assets in wills

Like most people, numerous California residents like living part of their lives online. They may take trips or spend time with family and want to post photos or anecdotes from the occasions on social media. They may also want to handle part of their professional and financial lives online by having access to bank accounts and other online portals. What they may not realize is that they are creating digital assets that likely need addressing in their wills.

While keeping online account password protected is a smart part of internet safety, it can cause problems if surviving loved ones do not know those passwords. If instructions for accessing online accounts are not left in estate planning documents, loved ones could remain locked out of important accounts or otherwise unable to obtain sentimental digital assets. Aside from providing passwords and access information, individuals may also need to dictate how the ownership of those assets should pass on after death.

If you haven't created a living will, now is the time to do so

Most people put off creating a last will or comprehensive estate plan for as long as they think they can. However, that delay leaves their family vulnerable to the whims of probate court in the future if something happens to them. It also makes them decide what medical actions you would want taken on your behalf in certain situations.

The impact of failing to proactively plan for death or incapacitation could affect you as well, not just your family. Thorough estate plans include not just instructions about divvying up your possessions in the event of your death but also documents that comprise a living well. Your living will explains what your wishes are in the event that you don't die but can no longer provide for yourself.

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