Newport Beach Estate Law Blog

The unique estate planning challenges of women

Women and men are equal under the law, but there are some unavoidable characteristics that make them very different from one another. From an estate planning perspective, the most important difference is the fact that women tend to live almost five years longer than men. As such, women often die after their husbands have passed.

There is also the fact that women may have less savings and lower retirement incomes than men due to the male-female pay gap that lawmakers and American society as a whole are currently trying to overcome. Throughout history, women have suffered with lower pay and it continues to this day. A well-organized estate plan will recognize these differences when it comes to planning how women will transfer these assets to heirs.

What should I consider when creating a pet trust?

California parents love their children more than anything -- well, almost more than anything. Many parents arguably love their pet dogs and cats just as much as their human children. The problem is, dogs and cats are considered property under the law and they can't, themselves, own property. As such, this creates some challenges for those who want to ensure that their animals are well taken care of following their deaths -- challenges that could be resolved via a pet trust.

A pet trust is an excellent way for dog and cat parents to designate a caretaker and earmark funds to be specifically used for the care of their pets. Here are a few considerations to keep in mind when making such a trust:

  • Your pet trust should be able to withstand a legal challenge that attempts to invalidate it and takes the money out for other heirs or family members.
  • The instructions for the care of your pet should be specific. For example, you should also include details about the type of food and snacks, the number of times to walk your dog and the number of times to play with your cat per day.
  • A well-drafted pet trust will go into effect the moment you die, while a will could take weeks to engage.
  • Include a regular inspection of your pet by a third-party or the trustee to ensure your pet is well-taken care of.
  • Make sure your pet trust applies if you become incapacitated.

What are the limitations of a special needs trust?

Setting up a special needs trust is virtually a necessity for parents of children with special needs. Having one in place means that your child will benefit from solid financial resources, be able to afford the level of care that he or she deserves and still qualify for valuable government benefits.

Even parents who don't have much in the way of financial resources can set up a special needs trust that will be funded with life insurance proceeds in the event of their deaths. Therefore, this useful estate planning tool should be appropriate for nearly anyone who needs it.

What parties are involved in a testamentary trust?

A testamentary trust is written within a will, or it's written within another document that has been incorporated into a will by reference. Such a trust goes into effect at the death of the will creator (a.k.a, the settlor). One of the primary reasons why estate planners seek the benefits of a testamentary trust is because it protects a minor child's bequeathed assets.

In order to complete a testamentary trust, several different parties will be involved. These parties include:

  • The settlor: As referenced above, the settlor is the individual who created the trust as a way of transferring his or her assets over to the beneficiaries named in the testamentary trust. This person may also be referred to as the trustor or grantor.
  • The trustee: The trustee is the individual identified within the trust who will assume the legal responsibility of managing the trust's assets and handling the trust in a way that complies with the instructions laid out within the trust. The trustee will hold legal control, or title, to the assets owned by the trust; however, he or she must control them in accordance with the directions of the trust.
  • The beneficiary: The beneficiary or beneficiaries are those named who shall benefit from the trust in a specific way. These individuals, when it comes to a testamentary trust, are usually children or family members who have disabilities.
  • The probate court: The probate court will have jurisdiction over the administration of the estate. The probate court will ensure that the trust is properly handled by the trustee.

What if only 1 of my children wants to own the family business?

When an estate plan involves an independent business owner who wants his or her family to benefit from the value of the business, a lot of important questions will need to be answered. Most importantly: Will you leave your business to be managed by your children, or would your children rather do something else?

Fifty years ago, this probably wouldn't be a question that business owners would aks. In the past, children usually took the reins of the family business after mom or dad became too old to manage it. Modern families are different. Parents tend to encourage their children to follow their own path. If the kids are interested in taking over the family income maker, that's excellent. If they're not, parents are usually happy as long as their children are happy.

Bitcoin and inheritance: What will happen to my crypto coins?

With the rise of Bitcoin's value, more and more people are taking the cryptocurrency seriously as a method for storing wealth. Some analysts believe that a single Bitcoin will be worth $1 million in the not-to-distant future, while others believe that the coins will be worth no more than $0 dollars in a matter of years. Regardless of your opinion, if you own Bitcoin, you will want to make sure you create a strategy for transferring your crypto coins to heirs in your estate plan.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about cryptocurrencies in terms of estate planning is the way that they can be lost forever. If someone dies but doesn't leave instructions to heirs regarding how they can gain access to the coins, then potential heirs will not have any way of accessing the coins. Indeed, as every cryptocurrency investor knows, these coins are often held by individuals independent of banks -- so there is no authority to which heirs can appeal to open up a cryptographic wallet. These digital lockboxes cannot be accessed without the cryptographic keys -- not by anyone.

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Dispute over Napa estate erupts more than decade after death

A family argument over the fate of a $92 million estate wages on in Napa Superior Court. The dispute erupted between two daughters of a multi-millionaire landlord, businessman and vintner who amassed a considerable amount of wealth during his life. The daughters are in disagreement about what happened to the $92 million estate, which also included approximately $38 million intended to fund charitable works for disadvantaged youth.

The suit was filed in 2016, 10 years after the death of the vintner. One of the sisters filed suit to demand that the other sister present all of the accounting for money the sister controlled as the co-trustee of the man's estate.

Doctors: Have you completed your estate plans?

As a doctor, you will have unique estate planning concerns. For one, if you're in private practice, you may own a valuable business and you will want to transfer as much of your business value to your heirs as possible. Secondly, if no one in your family is a doctor, you face the challenge of not having anyone to continue running your business. Fortunately, there are some strategies doctors can employ to ensure the success of their estate plans.

Here are a few things you'll want to take care of first when beginning your estate planning process:

What are the benefits of creating a living trust?

California estate planners have a lot of options for organizing their finances and distributing their wealth after they're gone. One of those options might include the creation of a living trust instead of a will.

It's important to understand the potential benefits of a living trust before deciding if creating one for your estate is right for you.


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