Category Archives: Death

Living wills and health care proxies

California residents may be interested in information about health care decisions as one of the more important aspects of estate planning. While many think of estate planning as dealing mostly with the disposition of a person’s assets upon death, making these health care determinations while still healthy can be vital.

The documents that govern medical care in an estate plan are the health care proxy and the living will. Both of these are important in cases where a person has become incapacitated and cannot make their own health care decisions. The health care proxy gives power of attorney to a third party with regard to these decisions. This generally applies when the person is unable to communicate or is not in the proper mental state to make these important decisions. Usually, one person is named, but successors can also be named in the document when that original person is not available to perform their duties.

A living will, on the other hand, is a document which gives medical care directives with regard to end-of-life decisions. The types of things covered are the use of life-saving machines and techniques, such as a heart-lung machine or tube feeding. Without these procedures, the person would die. Having this document will allow doctors to either make use of the procedures to prolong the person’s life or to prevent their use, if the person so chooses. The living will is important when the person is terminally ill and incapacitated.

Determining the appropriate estate planning documents can be difficult without the help of an attorney. The attorney can assess a client’s situation, both financial and personal, and determine and then prepare the specific documents that will be appropriate.

Source: American Bar Association , “Living Wills, Health Care Proxies, & Advance Health Care Directives“, December 15, 2014

Celebrity examples for those facing estate planning concerns

While successful celebrities may manage significant assets during their lives, they are just as prone to making bad decisions during the estate planning process as any other California resident. Understanding the implications of each type of estate plan is important, and it is wise to consider scenarios that might affect one’s wishes. Robin Williams’ irrevocable trust is an excellent example. While he may have desired to protect the privacy of his family by establishing an irrevocable trust, the documents became public due to the death of a trustee. The co-trustee was faced with the need to have a new trustee appointed, requiring a petition that involved making related documents public.

Casey Kasem’s health decline led to significant conflict between his adult children and his second wife. The spouse’s challenge over his health directives and Kasem’s designation of a daughter for decisions related to his care led to a long battle. Similar battles may be ahead as the deceased Kasem’s estate is addressed. Meanwhile, the estate of Philip Seymour Hoffman must go through probate due to the fact that he did not marry his children’s mother nor establish trusts. His lack of more appropriate estate planning may leave his partner with large tax bills.

Failing to update an estate plan resulted in Michael Crichton excluding his unborn child from inheriting from his estate at the time of his death. A review of Crichton’s estate plans might have prevented an unpleasant court battle. An individual who is not a celebrity might not need to worry about high-value assets, but family members could be just as negatively affected by a lack of planning.

An individual who is concerned about issues such as publicity, medical decisions, tax liabilities or an unborn child may want to review an existing estate plan with a lawyer practicing in a relevant field. Regularly revisiting a plan may ensure that new life issues may be addressed appropriately.

Source: Forbes, “Lessons Celebrities Can Teach Retirees About Estate Planning“, Thomas and Robert Fross , September 16, 2014

Discussing estate planning

Many individuals might find it difficult to discuss the eventual division and distribution of their estate with their family. However, recent research has suggested that putting off the conversation about wills and trusts can be detrimental. A goal of California estate planning is to remove any doubts about what is going to happen to a person’s assets after death as well as to cover unforeseen events, such as an accident or illness that inhibits one’s ability to make decisions. According to a report from UBS Investor Watch, approximately 50 percent of parents do not discuss.

Without telling heirs what to expect, there may be fights and disagreements, hurt feelings and unanswered questions after a benefactor passes away. Sometimes, parents and other benefactors have good reasons for why they might leave more money to one person than another, yet those reasons are not always clear. Going over a will or the terms of a trust gives heirs the opportunity to question decisions and get answers, limiting misunderstandings.

Talking openly about inheritances also gives parents the chance to voice concerns, such as anxiety about their children relying on their inheritance instead of working hard to support themselves. One way parents might prevent this is to instill a respect for money and self-reliance into their kids from a young age. Overall, although it may be difficult, families are typically happier when beneficiaries are involved in inheritance decisions, according to the UBS report.

A primary benefit of estate planning is to avoid the often stressful and public process of going through the probate courts. Families who feel uncomfortable discussing inheritances amongst themselves will certainly appreciate the privacy afforded to them by creating a solid estate plan. An attorney could assist by establishing trusts, drawing up wills and working to make sure all assets are included in a plan to avoid probate.

Source: NASDAQ, “Expensive Consequences of Not Having the Dreaded Inheritance Conversation Read more: http://www.nasdaq.com/article/expensive-consequences-of-not-having-the-dreaded-inheritance-conversation-cm383319#ixzz3BilApwjc“, Motley Fool, August 23, 2014

Source: NASDAQ, “Expensive Consequences of Not Having the Dreaded Inheritance Conversation Read more: http://www.nasdaq.com/article/expensive-consequences-of-not-having-the-dreaded-inheritance-conversation-cm383319#ixzz3BilApwjc“, Motley Fool, August 23, 2014

Why everyone needs an estate plan in California

Estate plans are just for older, wealthier people, right? Wrong. Everyone should have an estate plan, including young adults who don’t have a significant amount of wealth. An estate plan will make sure your wishes are known and pass on your possessions to the people you care about. 

Some readers may not know what an estate is or what it includes. An estate includes any real estate property you own as well as personal property like a vehicle or furniture. Your estate also includes financial accounts like bank accounts, retirement accounts, investments and even your Social Security benefits. Since your possessions and finances are part of your estate, it couldn’t be more important to create an estate plan to address what you want done with your estate.

An estate plan can include several different documents. At the very least, you should have a will. A will can document what will happen to your possessions and financial accounts. A will can also document who will take care of your children in the event you and their other parent pass away. 

In addition to having a will, you may want to consider having a few additional documents in your estate plan. You may want to have a durable power of attorney, which allows you to appoint someone else to make personal and financial decisions on your behalf if you are incapacitated.

Another document to consider is an advance health care directive. This allows you to appoint someone to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are no longer able to. It also lets your loved ones and doctors know what life-sustaining medical treatments you want and don’t want. 

Creating an estate plan and thinking about your own death can be very depressing and difficult to do. However, individuals in California need to think about the benefits of having a will and other estate planning documents before it’s too late and create an estate plan now.

Source: Dallas News, “Everyone needs an estate plan, regardless of wealth,” Pamela Yip, May 2, 2014

More than 50 percent of Americans don’t have a will

As you get older, many Americans accumulate more wealth, property and heirlooms they may want to pass onto their loved ones. The best way to address your wealth and possessions and what you want to happen to them is by having a will. Despite the many benefits, many Americans still don’t have a will.

A new survey by Rocket Lawyer found that 51 percent of people between the ages of 55 to 64 haven’t drafted a will. Among individuals 45 to 54, only 62 percent have a will. Why do so many Americans not have a will? The reason varies from person to person, but the most common reasons people said they don’t have a will include not having the time to create one, not feeling the urgency to create a will, not thinking they need a will and some don’t want to think about dying. 

Even though these reasons seem to be very common in the United States, they are not valid reasons for not having a will. Everyone should have a will, regardless of how much wealth they have or how old they are. Young adults to the elderly can benefit from having a will. 

What is the consequence of dying without a will? If you don’t have a will at the time of your death in California, your loved ones may not know your wishes and it can make it more difficult or impossible for them to inherit your assets. 

Having a will is very helpful for you and your family. A will can make sure your loved ones are cared for as well as make sure your assets are distributed according to your wishes. Having a will can also help your family avoid heated debates because they will know what you want and hopefully honor those wishes. 

Even if you think you have plenty of time to draft a will, do it sooner rather than later for the benefit of everyone you love. 

Source: Forbes, “Americans’ Ostrich Approach To Estate Planning,” Richard Eisenberg, April 9, 2014

L’Wren Scott leaves entire estate to Mick Jagger

The death of famous designer L’Wren Scott has led to some debate over her estate plan. The well-known fashion designer passed away earlier this month after committing suicide. In a surprising twist, she left her entire estate to her boyfriend, Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger. 

Her will lists Mick Jagger as the sole beneficiary of her $9 million estate. Her will did not include her siblings and they are set to receive nothing from her estate. In addition to her fortune, Mick Jagger is also listed as the beneficiary to her automobiles, furniture, clothing, jewelry and other personal items. 

Leaving her entire estate to her boyfriend could lead to some tension with her siblings. However, reports show that she wasn’t very close with her two siblings, which is likely why she didn’t name them in her will. Her siblings could possibly contest her will, but they would have to prove that she was not in the right mental capacity when the will was created or that the will is missing legal requirements. There are no reports of her siblings stating they want to contest her will, but it is a possibility. 

The fact that she left her entire estate to one person may seem shocking, but it is more common than you think. If you are drafting your will and are leaving your estate to only one person, you should definitely discuss it with that individual. It can also be helpful to discuss your will and other estate planning documents with other family members or loved ones who may think they will be named as a beneficiary in your will. Discussing the specifics of your will now can reduce stress and hurt feelings in the future as well as prevent potential legal battles over your estate. 

Source: Hollywood Life, “L’Wren Scott: Real Reason She Left Estate To Mick Jagger, Not Siblings,” March 27, 2014