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Torrance Trusts and Estates Law Blog

Do Your Loved Ones Know Your End-of-Life Wishes in Light of Coronavirus COVID-19?:

The Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic is dominating the national conversation, and with good reason. It is a highly infectious and potentially deadly disease, and we have no vaccine for it.

The reality is that most of the population will not likely become infected with this coronavirus, and most of those who are infected with it will not have critical symptoms.

Still there is a fear that each one of us and our loved ones potentially may die from COVID-19. That fear highlights the fact that many of us have not planned sufficiently for when we die or if we become gravely ill.

Spendthrift trusts are useful estate planning tools

You love all of your heirs equally and want to do right by each one. But, in reality, you recognize that their circumstances are vastly disparate. You worry what will happen to them once they each get a share of your estate.

It's not an idle concern, as there are many different ways that an inheritance can be dissipated in an alarmingly fast manner.

When might you want to update your will?

Taking time to stop and think about your plans for the end of your life isn't likely something that you want to do while you're busy living your peak years, but it's important to do it. This will ensure that things end up getting handled exactly as you'd like them to be if anything were to happen to you. While you may think that drafting a will is a one-time process, it's not. It's a document that you'll want to revisit regularly throughout your life.

There are a few different times in your life that you'll want to revisit your will to make sure that it still reflects your final wishes. You'll want to do so after getting married, having a child, if you get divorced or if you start or sell off your own business. You need to revisit this and any other estate documents that you may have if your relationship with a friend or family member turns sour, someone close to you passes away or if your financial situation changes significantly.

If you want to disinherit, don't just leave someone out

Say you're doing your estate planning and you know that you want to disinherit one of your children. They expect to be in your will, but you want to cut them out and give your assets to other heirs.

You could have any number of reasons for doing this. Maybe you had a falling out. Maybe you don't approve of their choices. Maybe they have more money than you do, and there's no reason to leave them anything.

What is probate, and what are some ways to avoid it?

Most individuals have never sat down to draft their estate planning documents. Even fewer have been asked to serve as an executor of someone's estate. If you've never done either one of these, then you may know very little about the probate process. You should learn what happens to a decedent's estate during this process though.

The term probate involves the opening of a court case. This usually gets underway when an executor of an estate locates and files a decedent's will with the probate court in the county where that person resided.

Most people have not gotten around to estate planning

Have you simply not gotten around to doing your estate planning yet? Do you have some vague idea about what you want to do with your assets someday and how you want to write a will, but you haven't actually taken any steps to get that plan in place?

If so, you should know that you are definitely not the only one. Studies have found that most Americans (60%) do not have a will.

Understanding the California probate process

If you are currently grieving the loss of a loved one, you will quickly realize that as well as dealing with the emotional aspects of your loss, you will need to deal with the logistical proceedings that are necessary after a person's death. If you have been appointed as the personal representative of the estate, you have the responsibility to oversee the probate process.

The probate process is how all assets that were in the possession of the deceased person at the time of their debt are documented and distributed. If the deceased person left a valid will, this will be used to distribute assets to loved ones. The following is an overview of the key steps in the California probate process.

The required elements of a will

Each state in the country has its own set of estate planning rules for what constitutes a valid and legal will. For this reason, readers of this post are encouraged to fully understand the estate planning laws in their state. However, this post will offer an overview of what California residents must do in order to have valid wills.

In California, a person must be an adult in order to draft and execute a will. That means that they must be at least 18 years of age when their will is made valid. Individuals under the age of 18 may not be considered to have testamentary capacity to create such important legal documents.

Ways that an estate plan can be challenged

A number of legal documents can make up an estate plan. However, the mere existence of these documents is not enough to constitute a satisfactory and efficient plan. In fact, any errors in the creation of these documents can render an entire estate plan invalid, thereby negating one's wishes for his or her estate. This is why many individuals turn to legal professionals for assistance. However, when issues with an estate plan arise, individuals need to understand the law and how it applies to their set of circumstances.

One way these issues arise is when an individual's testamentary capacity is drawn into question. In order for a will or trust to be legally valid, it must have been created by an individual who understood the gravity of the decisions made at the time, as well as the consequences of those decisions. Therefore, those who are under the influence of a substance or suffering from a mental illness like dementia may be deemed legally incapacitated for the purposes of creating an estate planning document. It is worth noting, however, that individuals are usually deemed competent to create a will or trust unless proved otherwise.

Many forego a health care directive when estate planning

A lot of estate planning is focused on distributing wealth upon an individual's passing. While this is certainly a significant portion of the estate planning process and there are a number of legal vehicles through which to achieve this, there are other matters that are of critical importance when creating an estate plan. One of them is long-term care planning, which often comprises of Medicaid planning and considering long-term care insurance. Yet, there is another issue that far too often goes overlooked during estate planning: health care decisions when incapacitated.

It's a scary situation to think about, but many individuals in California wind up unable to make their own health care decisions due to incapacity. This can create a whole host of complications, and ultimately the decisions made may go against what an individual would want if he or she were able to make these decisions him or herself.

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