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Bay Area estate planning lawyerThe makeup of the average American family has changed dramatically in recent decades. A large percentage of families now include children from multiple marriages. In some cases, both spouses have children from previous marriages in addition to the children the couple shares together. If you are part of a blended family, proper estate planning is especially crucial. Failing to properly plan for your family’s future can lead to arguments, confusion, and unintentional consequences.

Allowing the State to Handle Inheritance Matters Eliminates Your Control

Thinking about how your worldly possessions should be distributed to your heirs is a topic that many people try to avoid. In fact, only about half of adults over 55 years old have any type of estate plan in place. Understandably, it can be very uncomfortable to make plans for a time when you are no longer around. However, failing to plan for how your estate should be managed after your death leaves your surviving loved ones with a substantial burden. Your children, grandchildren, and other surviving loved ones will be left guessing how you wanted your assets distributed. Furthermore, passing away without an estate plan means that you give up the right to dictate how your hard-earned assets are handled after your death.

Dying Without an Estate Plan Can Leave Some Children with Nothing

In a blended family situation, the consequences of dying without a will can be even worse. If you pass away without a will or other estate planning tools in place, your estate will be subject to California’s intestacy laws. This means that you have no say in how your property is distributed to heirs. According to California law, most of person’s estate—including all community property—goes to his or her spouse upon his or her death. When the spouse dies, his or her estate passes to his or her children. This means that your children could unintentionally be left with little or nothing if you pass away before your spouse.  

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Bay Area estate planning lawyerIf your child has a mental or physical disability, he or she may depend on you for help with schoolwork, chores, or everyday tasks like eating and bathing. As a parent of a disabled child, it is important to consider how your child will manage once you are no longer able to care for him or her. If you fall ill or pass away, who will provide the assistance your child needs? How will these services be paid for? A special needs trust is designed to address these types of issues.

How Does a Special Needs Trust Work?

Disabled children may require assistance even after they reach adulthood. Some people with disabilities can accomplish most tasks on their own while others require assistance with many of their daily activities. Whatever your child’s needs, a special needs trust or “supplemental needs trust” can help you plan for a time that you cannot provide this assistance yourself.

A trust is a legal and financial relationship between a trustor, trustee, and beneficiary. The trustor, or person who creates the trust, gives a trustee the right to hold money or property for the benefit of a third-party beneficiary. In the case of a special needs trust, the beneficiary is the child with special needs. The trustee is often a sibling or other trusted loved one. The trustee is responsible for using the money placed in the trust to benefit your child. Funds contained in a special needs trust may be used for medical expenses such as physical therapy that are not covered by other programs, caregiving, transportation, recreation, and more.

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Bay Area probate attorneyLosing someone you love is never easy, regardless of their age and if they were a relative or a friend. Besides grieving this loss, you may have to figure out what to do with their possessions. Similar to other states, there is a certain legal process in California for distributing assets and property upon a person’s death. The property that an individual owns at the time of their death is known as the “decedent’s estate.” The “decedent” is the individual who died. Their “estate” is any property they owned at the time of their death.

Probate is a legal process through which the appropriate county court verifies the validity of the deceased person’s Will and distributes the decedent’s remaining assets after all debts are satisfied. If no Will exists, the debts must be paid, and then the remaining assets will be distributed according to state law.

When Is Probate Necessary?

Any probate case will be supervised by the court. As part of the proceedings, an executor is appointed by the court as personal representative to collect the assets, pay the debts and expenses, and then distribute the remainder of the estate to the beneficiaries, or those who have legal inheritance rights. It is important to note that an executor refers to a person named in the decedent’s will. If the decedent did not have a will, then an administrator will be appointed by the court. The entire case can take anywhere from nine months to a year and a half or longer.

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San Franciso estate planning attorneyStarting your own company and being your own boss can be a dream come true for many people. However, being a business owner is a major responsibility. Before embarking on this type of endeavor, it is crucial that you understand business law and also prepare for the future. Although some individuals may not like to think about it, there will eventually come a time when you are no longer on this Earth. Planning ahead ensures your wishes are carried out in the event of your death or if you become incapacitated during your lifetime. Even if you have a family businesses that goes back several generations, it is essential that you set up a plan for transition. A business succession plan is a legally binding document that outlines who receives ownership of your company. A skilled estate planning attorney can help you create this important legal document.  

Protecting Your Interests

A business succession plan gives you control in determining what happens to your company, such as an agreeable price for the business. It may also eliminate the need for a business valuation upon your death. In addition, it can designate the steps for determining how the value will be determined upon either death or retirement from the business and how those funds will be paid. Life insurance may be included in the plan, which means the full policy benefits can be instantly accessible so the funds can be used to pay for your part of the business. This will help protect the business from being sold as a way to cover your interest costs. A will or a trust may also be used to designate how a business will be transferred from owner to owner. Regardless of the transfer method, it is critical that any successor has the proper training, preparation, and access to any documentation or records in order to operate the business successfully after you are gone. 

In some cases, your business partner(s) may purchase your share of the business after you pass away. Selling the business upon your death may be an attractive option since it can provide for your family, and they do not have the responsibility of running the business. Selling to a trusted individual or organization can give you a peace of mind that the business will continue and thrive, as opposed to having a stranger take it over.

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San Francisco estate planning attorneyAlthough it can be unsettling to think about the future and what will happen upon your death, it is necessary to ensure your wishes are carried out. Estate planning can help prevent disputes among your family members after you pass away or in the event you become incapacitated. Guardianship is when a court awards someone other than the child’s parent to have custody of the child, manage the child’s property (estate), or do both. Naming a guardian in your will can avoid uncertainty surrounding who will care for your minor children if you are involved in a sudden or unexpected accident that leaves them without a parent to make decisions on their behalf. It is important to note that if your children’s other parent is still alive and has parental rights, he or she must consent to your nomination of the guardian. 

Keeping Your Children’s Best Interests in Mind

There are several factors that you should consider when deciding who to appoint as your children’s guardian upon your death. First and foremost, this is not a decision to take lightly. The guardian should be someone you know and trust. Make sure the person you nominate is willing and able to take care of your children. It also helps if the person already has a strong bond or relationship with them. In most situations, a close relative or friend of the family might be the best choice, as long as he or she makes decisions that are based on the children’s well-being. There are two types of guardians, one of the person and one of the estate. Depending on personal preference, the same individual can be appointed as guardian of the person and the estate, or separate guardians can be nominated for each.

Guardianship of the Person

In a guardianship of the person, the guardian has the same responsibilities as a parent in terms of care for the minor children. In the state of California, this means he or she has full legal and physical custody of the children and can make all the decisions about their care, including the children’s:

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