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California Estate Planning Blog

Available documents can dictate asset transfer during probate

After a loved one's passing, many California residents may wonder how the remaining assets will be distributed. Hopefully, the decedent will have created an estate plan while he or she was still living, and the information in that plan can determine what process is needed for transferring assets. Commonly, probate proceedings handle these affairs.

If a person created a will, the document will be presented to the probate court for validation. After validation, the terms of the will dictate who gets what when it comes to distributing the remaining estate assets. Typically, property distribution is one of the last steps of probate as some estate assets may be needed to repay debts and handle other probate-related expenses. Of course, not everyone creates an estate plan.

Wills, other planning tools can help disinherit family

Not everyone gets along with their close family members. Some parents and children may become estranged, or siblings may have strained relationships that go beyond simple rivalry. As a result, when individuals create their wills and other estate planning documents, they may think about disinheriting those close family members.

Though California residents can decide what happens to their assets after their passing, it can be more difficult than some people think to disinherit family or to leave them less than the law affords. In many cases, if an heir believes that he or she should have received more, it is possible for that person to contest the will and fight for a greater inheritance. If individuals want to prevent that, they could include a "no contest" clause in the document, which would prevent a person from receiving any intended inheritance if he or she chooses to contest the will.

Banks can act as executors during probate

It can take a lot of work to close an estate. Some California residents may not want to place that responsibility on a loved one or may not feel that a loved one wants to take on the role of executor. Fortunately, individuals can appoint almost anyone to handle their probate proceedings, and in some cases, parties choose to utilize banks or other professionals.

Using a bank to handle probate proceedings is not unheard of. In fact, many people choose such institutions because banks have experience handling money and know how to administer estates. As a result, some people may feel more comfortable using someone outside the family because it would allow the process to move forward more quickly and does not place the responsibility on a family member.

Credit report can provide needed information during probate

Though many people like to think that they know their loved ones, it is often impossible to know every detail. Of course, when a person is in charge of handling the probate process for a deceased loved one, it is often necessary to find out as many details as possible in order to properly settle the decedent's final affairs. In particular, an executor may need information about the person's creditors.

One way in which a California executor could gain information about a deceased loved one's creditors is by obtaining a copy of the decedent's credit report. This may seem like a difficult task, but fortunately, it is relatively straightforward. The executor can contact the applicable credit reporting agency either online or by mail in order to request a copy of the credit report.

Wills are of no use if they are lost

Many California residents may have the best of intentions when it comes to creating their estate plans. They may want their wills and other documents to help their loved ones settle important matters after their passing. However, certain mistakes could make that more difficult for surviving family members.

Though a person may take the time to create a will, it is of little use to the family if it cannot be found. In some cases, a person may not inform the family where the document can be located, and in other cases, the person could forget. As a result, the will ends up lost, and the family may have a difficult time ensuring that their loved one's wishes are carried out. Therefore, it is important that individuals discuss the location of the document ahead of time with those who need to know.

Estate planning can help new parents protect their children

Many California residents feel like there is no greater joy than having children. For new parents, the feelings of excitement, happiness and love for their new child may be overwhelming. Because they undoubtedly want to do what they can to protect their child in various ways, they may want to look into estate planning.

Some individuals may wonder how creating an estate plan could protect a child, but having this plan could ensure that the child would receive necessary care in the event that the parents cannot provide it. When it comes to ensuring care, parents can create a will that names a guardian for their child in the event that both parents become incapacitated or suffer fatal injuries. It is also wise to buy life insurance because it can provide financial stability after such an event.

Don't stop with a will when you really need a trust

California residents sometimes consider their estate plans to be complete after writing a will and issuing an advanced directive. But, in reality, that is often only the visible tip of a very large iceberg.

How can you tell whether you need to take a deeper dive into the realm of estate planning? Since everyone's circumstances are different, there is no stock answer to this question.

Probate hinges on the validation of the will

Many surviving loved ones appreciate when a family member has created a will. This and other estate planning documents can make settling the estate easier, but it is important that the will is valid. In fact, ensuring the validity of the will is the first step of the probate process.

The executor, who is often named in the will, has the obligation of filing the document in the probate court. The court will then review the document to ensure that it is valid under California law. The executor cannot take any steps to close the estate until the will is deemed valid. While this may seem straightforward, different issues could come up that could result in the court considering the document invalid.

Remember to include digital assets in wills

When trying to get certain affairs in order well ahead of time, it can be easy to overlook some details. For instance, while many California residents are focused on using their wills to distribute their physical assets after their passing, they may overlook the fact that they need to account for their digital assets as well. If digital assets are left unaddressed, issues could come about later.

Like with many other activities, it can be beneficial to start with a list when accounting for digital assets. The list can include email addresses, photo-sharing accounts, online storage accounts, social media, online dating profiles and much more. It is also important to list the devices that these accounts are used on. Some people may only access certain social media accounts from their smartphones, and that detail could be important later.

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