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Estate Planning for Property Owners
What do property owners have to consider when engaging in estate planning?

Estate planning, desirable for almost everyone, is absolutely necessary for homeowners who co-own property.  They must be prepared for the eventuality of the death of a  spouse, family member, friend or colleague with whom they share ownership. Clearly, it will be necessary to cover any existing mortgage, as well as other property expenses, in the event that one of the borrowers dies. Many serious questions will have to be considered, such as:


Estate Planning for Same-Sex Couples in the Wake of Obergefell v. Hodges
How does this landmark United States Supreme Court decision effect estate planning strategies?

While the State of California has recognized same-sex marriage for a number of years, a recent landmark United States Supreme Court decision has legalized this practice across the country.  Even though this type of marriage was already legal in California it is important to understand the effect it will have on estate planning strategies for these couples.

Most importantly, the ambiguity is gone.  It is no longer up in the air whether the plan of a same sex couple will be honored or not.  Often times, it was unclear whether a plan created in California would hold up in a state that did not recognize same-sex marriage.  That is no longer the case.  These couples now have the ability to create estate plans that must be honored no matter where they end up being administered.  With this recognition come a number of benefits.

In states that previously did not recognize same-sex marriages, a surviving same-sex spouse will now be

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Cloud-Based Estate Planning
How can cloud-based technology assist in your estate planning?

Technology never ceases to amaze.  New cloud technology can even aid in your estate planning needs.
Products are now available that allow you to upload final messages to be read after your death. In these final messages you can reveal your feelings, secrets, last wishes or any other instructions or information you wish to pass on to your friends and family. It is also possible to set the terms of the encrypted data so that it is automatically emailed to the designated recipients upon your death or after a specified time period.

In addition to leaving a final message that might comfort or soothe your loved ones upon your passing, or help them carry out your last wishes, digital cloud storage is also a great way to

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Widow and Children Continue to Battle Over Robin Williams' Assets
How can an estate plan meet the needs of a spouse, ex-spouse and children from previous marriages?

Even when an estate is quite large, heirs and beneficiaries may quarrel over small sums of money and ownership of personal effects. These disputes can be especially acrimonious when children are feuding with a stepparent.

In the case of Robins Williams, his survivors have finally managed to divide thousands of the late comedian's possessions, but are still litigating over 300 articles, including watches, photos, awards, boxer shorts, t-shirts and slippers. His children are also disputing the amount of money his widow should receive to maintain the home she inherited. 

A California judge has set a deadline of the end of July for the parties to


Soap Opera Star Sues Mental Health Center For Wrongful Death Of Son
Can an estate administer posthumous damages?

Kristoff St. John, star of The Young and The Restless, and his former wife, Mia Rosales St. John, a professional boxer, filed a lawsuit against La Casa Mental Health Rehabilitation Center for the wrongful death of their son. The suit alleges negligence and wrongful death against the Long Beach facility’s owner, Telecare Corp.

Their son, Julian, was in the facility on suicide watch. He had attempted suicide multiple times in the previous weeks including trying to walk into oncoming traffic and suffocation. Julian was under one-on-one observation, but a short time after that ended, staff members found him dead in a bathroom with a bag over his head. He was 24 years old.
The suit alleges negligence of the nurses and staff members for failing to keep harmful objects, such as bags, away from their son. The nurses and staff also allegedly did not perform all mandatory checks and falsified documents to cover up their neglect in caring for Julian.

The rehabilitation center recently issued a statement about the lawsuit through its public relations firm. The facility said in the statement


5 Common Estate Planning Myths in California
I hear a lot of different information about the consequences of making a mistake in an estate plan. How can I separate fact from fiction? 

Estate planning is, of course, an important consideration for every family, regardless of size or financial situation. However, there are a number of myths out there, many of which are designed to coax folks into purchasing costly plans or unnecessary trusts on the promise of tax avoidance and the like. The following explores five common myths circulating the estate planning industry, followed by helpful suggestions to avoid being duped or misguided. 

Myth #5: Everyone needs a revocable trust: A revocable trust is an


What You Need to Know About the Proposed ‘Death Tax Repeal Act of 2015’
My estimated gross estate will be at or above the current federal exemption threshold. How is this tax law expected to change in the near future?

While it is always considered a wise idea to prepare an estate plan with an eye on the federal exemption, this figure is constantly increasing, decreasing, or being (temporarily) eliminated altogether. Currently, the individual estate tax exemption is $5.43 million, whereas a married couple can defer estate tax liability for a total exemption of $10,860,000 upon the death of the second spouse. However, legislation making its way through Congress could mean the ultimate death of the death tax, creating a number of alternative planning tools for high-net worth testators seeking to properly dispose of assets and provide for loved ones. 
Death Tax Repeal Act of 2015

In April, 2015, the United States House of Representatives voted 240-179 to repeal the estate tax all together. The measure, known as the Death Tax Repeal Act of 2015, was introduced on February 26, 2015 by Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX) and works to amend the Internal Revenue Code by repealing both the estate tax and the generation-skipping transfer taxes levied upon any estate created on or subsequent to the date the Act is executed. 

The proposal contains two exceptions, however, including (i) distributions from such trust before the death of a surviving spouse made more than 10 years after the enactment date of this Act, and; (ii) assets remaining in such trust upon the death of the surviving spouse. 

Moreover, the Act addresses

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Top 4 Ways a California Living Trust Can Enhance Your Estate Plan
I am thinking about executing a revocable living trust, but I am not sure if it will be beneficial. How will a trust help my family administer my estate? 

A revocable living trust is a popular and powerful tool for estate planners, and offers a number benefits for both surviving family members and beneficiaries. The following lists the top four ways in which executing a revocable living trust can help effectuate convenience, as well as possibly help high-net worth clients preserve assets and even avoid the over-imposition of estate tax.

#4: Increased Privacy – A revocable living trust is created with a trust agreement. It lists the creators (known as “trustors”), the trustees, and the beneficiaries. In the appendix, the trust lists the real and personal property placed in trust and subject to the distribution terms in the residuary estate clause. 

Assuming the trust is properly funded, and assets are fully re-titled in the name of the trust, the language of the trust agreement will govern the transfer of property. In other words, no public revelation of transfers will occur, and recipients will receive their inheritances seamlessly and privately – unlike the typical situation involving probate court (discussed further below). 


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Protecting the Assets of My Family Owned Business
What Can I Do to Protect Assets in Our Family Business?

Proactive business succession and estate planning can help preserve your business interests and allow them to be passed on to loved ones. This type of planning will require some thought and the process should start with some honest discussions among family members. There are many issues to consider, as spelled out by Fidelity Investments, and many ways to plan around these issues.  

One issue to consider is that of co-owners.  If you are but one of multiple owners, you could create an agreement allows one owners interest to be purchased by the fellow owner(s) upon death. This buy-sell agreement allows you to ensure that your family members do not unintentionally become owners. As part of a contract the owners must agree on the formula to put a value on the ownership interest at the time of death. Life insurance proceeds could be used to pay for the deceased’s share of the company if family members wish to retain and interest. 

You may not want to run your business forever. If you want the business to outlast you but remove yourself from the management of it, you need to

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Using Annuities in Planning for Long-Term Care
I am approaching retirement and still in great health. What are some long-term care planning options aside from a long-term care insurance policy? 

For those who are considering their options in long-term care planning, one of most pivotal issues to consider is eventual eligibility for Medicaid. Unlike Medicare, Medicaid is the only government health insurance program that provides full coverage for the staggering costs of residing in a nursing home.  But, only those meeting certain income and asset requirements will qualify. What’s more, for married couples – with only one spouse needing care – using one’s savings to pay for long-term care can render the community spouse nearly destitute. To avoid this result, many couples begin transferring assets from their personal name to that of an irrevocable trust or family member. However, use of annuities is another lesser-known option to help couples remain financially independent while still planning for the future. 

When determining Medicaid eligibility, the state of California will look at each spouse’s assets and income. Couples that have too much income or maintain too many assets will need to “spend down” these resources to reach the acceptable threshold level. For income purposes, only income payable to the Medicaid recipient is counted for eligibility, so income payable to the community spouse will be excluded from the computation. This is where the purchase of an annuity comes into play to allow the community spouse to enjoy a steady income stream without disqualifying his or her spouse from valuable government long-term care benefits. 

To maximize this option, the community spouse must convert
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