Category Archives: Estate Planning

Estate planning tips for women

Planning for the future can be difficult, especially when you’re busy being a wife or mother. Women face unique challenges when it comes to estate planning so it is important for them to be aware of the different types of issues they should address in their individual estate plans.

Women are usually known for taking care of everyone else and their estate plans usually reflect this too. However, an estate plan should also provide protection for women and help everyone else know their wishes.

What should women think about when creating their estate plan? For women who have children, it is important to have a will that names a guardian for any minor children. A guardian will be the person who will care for your kids in the event you are incapacitated or pass away. Women with kids should also consider having an advance health care directive and power of attorney to make sure their wishes are known, especially regarding life-sustaining medical treatments.

Women who don’t have children should also have a will, power of attorney and advance health care directive. These documents will help your loved ones and those taking care of you as you get older know your wishes. 

In addition to having these documents, women should make sure they review and update their beneficiary designations on their life insurance, retirement plans and other financial accounts. Women should review their beneficiary designations after they get married, divorced, have children or after their spouse passes away. It is important to review and update these documents because failing to do so could result in money going to someone who is no longer alive or someone you no longer have a relationship with.

Women in California should be aware of the different types of issues to address in their estate plans and take action now before it’s too late. 

Source: Market Watch, “How women can make estate planning easier,” Andrea Coombes, May 8, 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

Does your estate plan address digital assets?

We live in a world where technology continues to advance and our population evolves with the new technology. Years ago, you probably never imagined that you would be so reliant on your cellphone or tablet for staying connected to your family, friends and even co-workers. However, times have changed and the online world has become a part of our daily lives whether we like it or not. 

Due to the role technology plays in our lives, it is important to address digital assets in your estate plan. Most people have some digital assets that should be included in their estate plan to help their loved ones know what to do with their possessions after you pass away. Unfortunately, many people fail to include digital assets in their estate plan, which can make life very difficult for their loved ones.

When your heirs don’t have knowledge or access to your digital assets, it can be difficult for your loved ones to retrieve online financial accounts, photos and documents. Even if your family knows about your accounts and has the passwords, they may not legally be able to access the accounts depending on the privacy agreements with each company. 

This is why you need to address digital assets in your estate plan now before it’s too late. Digital assets can include online financial accounts, social media accounts, photos, website domains, music accounts like iTunes, stock accounts and a variety of other accounts. 

If you want to include digital assets in your estate plan, you should put instructions on how to access them and what to do with your digital assets in your will or other estate planning document. You may want to store your passwords in a different location and not in your estate plan. You can also designate an executor for managing your digital assets, which can include specific instructions on what to do with each account. 

Every estate plan is different and every person has a unique set of circumstances to consider when creating an estate plan. Individuals should contact an estate planning attorney to discuss their specific issues. 

Source: USA Today, “Estate plan should pass down digital heirlooms,” Sue Doerfler, April 17, 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

Not leaving inheritance? Be sure to inform your kids

Many children from wealthy families in California assume they will be receiving an inheritance from their parents. The popular belief that parents will leave a significant amount of wealth to their adult children after they pass away may actually be a myth, according to a new survey by HBSC.

The survey found that 59 percent of parents in the United States plan to leave their children any inheritance. Does this number seem low? That’s because it is the lowest percentage of all the countries surveyed. 

Why are parents in America less likely to give inheritance to their children compared to the other nations involved in the study? There could be several reasons, but many estate plans in the U.S. are changing and seeing baby boomer couples focus on spending more of their wealth instead of saving it all to pass on to their children. 

Part of the reason fewer parents are planning to leave an inheritance could be due to more parents thinking leaving a significant amount of wealth can actually harm their children. Some parents think if their children already have a lot of money, they won’t feel the need to try as hard to go to college or follow career aspirations. Other parents may want to see their children earn their fortune on their own. 

Whatever the reason, fewer parents are planning to leave inheritance for their kids. The question is: do the kids know this? Like we said, many adult children in California believe they will receive an inheritance from their parents. Some of them may be in for a big shock when they don’t receive as much or any inheritance from their parent’s estate plan. This could leadto very hurt feelings and resentment.

That is why parents need to think about whether or not they want to leave their children inheritance. After making this decision, it is best to discuss the issue with your children before it’s too late. Talking about your estate plan and if you are leaving any inheritance to your kids can be challenging, but discussing the issue now can reduce any hurt feelings, anger and resentment in the future.

Source: Forbes, “Why Bother Leaving an Inheritance for the Kids?” Larry Light, Feb. 27, 2014

‘Fast & Furious’ star’s estate records provide valuable lessons

When Paul William Walker IV, star of the “The Fast and the Furious” movies, died, in a tragic irony, in a high-speed car collision last November, he left behind more than a legacy of high-speed action flicks. He left a will to assure that his 15-year-old daughter’s needs would be provided for in the event of his untimely demise. Ventura County residents can learn a lot from this estate planning case study.

At the time of its probate filing, Walker’s estate reported assets of roughly $25 million. This was split almost evenly between personal property, expected income and net real estate assets. It is clear from the probate reports that Walker’s will was created mainly to provide for his daughter. The filing revealed a revocable living trust with his daughter as the sole beneficiary. It also revealed that Walker had nominated a guardian for his daughter — in this case, his own mother. He did not leave anything to his girlfriend of seven years.

Creating a trust for his daughter and naming a guardian for her were wise steps. However, the trust was not fully funded during Walker’s life. If he had done that, he could have avoided the costly and time-consuming probate court process. Even though his will was a pour-over will which passed all his assets into the trust, he could have kept his personal affairs private and avoided the hassle of probate court had he directly funded the trust while alive. While it was good thinking to name a guardian for his daughter, the court will still need to review his request. The law still favors custodial parents, so his guardianship designation may be denied.

In addition, Walker’s will was signed in 2001, when his career was young. He failed to update his documents in the 12 years prior to his death. In that time, his parents could have become incapacitated or deceased. He did not update documents to provide for his girlfriend, although he could have neglected that intentionally, or provided for her in other ways, such as a life insurance policy or joint bank account.

His assets probably also grew significantly over 12 years, and he could have taken advantage of tax-reducing strategies as his estate burgeoned. The main lesson for Ventura residents to learn from Walker’s estate is that trust planning needs to be updated frequently, with the aid of an estate planning attorney.

Source: Forbes, “Five Estate Planning Lessons From The Paul Walker Estate” Danielle and Andy Mayoras, Feb. 10, 2014