What is an AB Trust?

This article will provide basic information about an AB Trust, also called a bypass trust or a credit shelter trust with information summarized from Investopedia.com.

What is an AB Trust?

An AB trust is a joint trust for a married couple that is created for the purpose of minimizing estate taxes. It is formed with each spouse putting assets into the trust and naming as the final beneficiary any person except the other spouse. The name AB comes from the action that splits one trust into two separate entities when one spouse dies such that Trust A is the survivor’s trust and trust B is the decedent’s trust.

Why were AB Trusts previously ubiquitous but more recently they are no longer widely used?

While A-B trusts are a great way to minimize estate taxes, they are not used much today because of changes to the tax code. Now each individual has a combined lifetime federal gift tax and estate tax exemption was $12.06 million in 2022, and has risen to $12.92 million in 2023

What might be better for you than an AB Trust?

According to nolo.com,  for most people, a simple probate-avoidance trust is better than an AB trust, which can be more complex. A simple revocable trust is not designed to continue past the death of a spouse. Rather, the trust assets are quickly distributed to the people who inherit them. This avoids probate proceedings, saving money and hassle, and because the trust does not stay in existence for years, no trust tax returns are necessary

Contact an Experienced Estate Planning Firm

Estate planning can seem overwhelming or confusing to some people, which may result in a person delaying getting a plan in place. For estate planning made easy, contact us at the Law Office of David Knecht.  We have extensive experience with estate planning tools and can help you create the right plan for you and your loved ones. Contact us at 707-451-4502. 

Pets and Divorce in California

Many people consider a dog or a cat to be a member of the family, so the custody of the beloved pet, emotional support or service animal can be one of the highest priorities in a California divorce. This article will summarize how the law treats the custody of pets.  

Where can I find the California law related to pet custody?

In 2019, a new California law changed the way pet custody is handled in California divorce cases. See California Family Code §2605.

Before this law was enacted, the courts treated animals as property to be awarded to one party or the other. Judges did not have a lot of guidance and had wide discretion on their decisions relating to animals. 

What are the legal standards for pet custody?

  • A judge can make temporary pet custody orders while the divorce is pending, which do not impact the final order
  • The judge has the power to award custody of the pet jointly to the spouses or to one spouse exclusively. The judge must consider which spouse has provided care for the pet, which includes food, medical, shelter and protection.
  • The judge can make a joint custody order where the pet “parents” will share time and medical decisions or the judge can award the pet to one of the spouses exclusively. 

How can you bolster your pet custody case?

Every case is unique, but some general principles in bolstering your pet custody case are the importance of caring for your pet and documenting your involvement. 

  • Keep a record of your care of the pet, including walking, feeding, grooming, and caring for your pet’s needs. 
  • If you have not been the primary caretaker of your pet, increase your involvement in meeting the pet’s daily needs. 
  • Consider what witnesses you may have to document your involvement with your pet. 

Contact an Experienced Divorce Firm

Family law is a unique subset of the law, so you need an attorney who has experience to help you navigate the system. If you need help with a pet custody issue or any concern relating to divorce or family law, contact the Law Office of David Knecht.  We have extensive experience with family law and can help you succeed. Contact us at 707-451-4502. 

Estate Planning Lessons from Hollywood: Michael Lockwood Appointed Legal Guardian Amidst Lisa Marie Presley Trust Battle

A widely publicized estate planning case that is ongoing is the disputed estate of Lisa Marie Presley and new developments were recently reported by the LA Times. Lisa Marie (daughter of Elvis Presley) died in January of 2023, leaving behind a trust that purported to leave control of her estate to her adult daughter, Riley Keough. However, Priscilla Presley (Lisa Marie’s mother) has challenged the validity of the documents that changed the Trust. In 2016 Lisa Marie amended her will, naming her two eldest children as co-executors. Her son pre-deceased her. She filed to dissolve her marriage to Michael Lockwood that same year. Lisa Marie and Michael Lockwood were parents of two minor twins. The new development in this case is that the court has appointed the father of the twins, Michael Lockwood as the legal guardian of the twins.

Takeaway Lesson for Estate Planning from this Case – Avoid Conflicts of Interest

Why was Michael Lockwood a good choice for a guardian ad litem?

Although we do not know the specific basis for the court’s ruling on this issue, the LA Times quoted Michael Lockwood’s lawyer explaining why Lockwood was a good choice: He said that his client was ready, able and willing to protect the twins’ interests and that he has a good, collegial, familial relationship with all of the parties involved. Perhaps more importantly, there is no conflict of interest regarding appointment because the proposed guardian is not a beneficiary of the trust instrument at issue. 

What is the estate planning lesson we can learn from this new development in this case? Avoid conflicts of interest.

When doing estate planning, an important consideration should be any real conflicts of interest of potential conflicts of interest. When you are alive, you are in the best position to know your beneficiaries, their relationship to each other, and try to look down the road to understand what motivations may be in play after you have passed. When you meet with your attorney to do your estate planning, it will likely be helpful for you to talk through any concerns that you might have about conflicts of interest and the possible methods to avert your worries. 

What other estate planning lessons can be learned from this case? The importance of following procedures and keeping all documents up to date. 

Some of the issues that are in dispute in this trust case are the authenticity and validity of the 2016 alleged amendment to Lisa Marie’s trust amendment. Pricilla has alleged that it wasn’t delivered to her during Lisa Marie’s lifetime, that the date was added via PDF, that the document misspells Priscilla’s name, that the signature is on a separate page from the substantive provisions, that the signature looks inconsistent with her usual signature and that the purported 2016 Amendment was neither witnessed nor notarized.

The most important takeaway from this case for anyone hoping to avoid estate planning disputes in the future is the importance of following the procedures required by the will, keeping it updated, being accurate, and fully complying with all of the requirements in the documents.

Contact an Experienced Estate Planning Firm

Estate planning that is kept up to date, drafted accurately, and performed in compliance with the terms of the estate instrument is vital for avoiding estate planning disputed. For this reason, finding an experienced law firm to assist you is essential in making sure that your estate planning is done properly to avoid disputes after you have passed. At the Law Office of David Knecht, we want to help you create a current and accurate estate plan that will help you achieve your goals. Contact us at 707-451-4502. 

Who Has a Better Chance of Getting Custody of the Kids in a California Divorce?

This article considers statistics relating to the physical custody of children and also the legal factors involved in these decisions.   

What are the statistics on physical custody?


These statistics are according to data published in 20202, which can be accessed here, 

  • Nearly 4 in 5 custodial parents were mothers. 
  • However, in more than half of the cases, the parties agree that the mother should have custody. 

Does this mean that there is a bias toward mother’s for physical custody? 

  • The legal standards, which will be described below, do not contain a gender bias. 
  • The statistics do not necessarily support the finding of a gender bias in the law because many of the parties surveyed had a parenting plan that was agreed upon by the parties and not based on a court award of custody. 


 What are the legal standards for determining physical custody?


Some of the factors that a judge may consider are listed on the self-help website of the California courts which can be accessed here. Factors that can be considered in determining the best interest of the child are the following:

  • Age and health of the child.
  • The emotional ties between the parents and the child.
  • The child’s ties to their school, home and community.
  • The ability of each parent to care for the child. 
  • Any history of family violence. 
  • Any regular and ongoing substance abuse by either parent. 

Contact an Experienced Divorce Firm

Each case is different, and whether you are a mother or father, the purpose of the family laws in California are to protect the best interest of your children. You need an attorney who understands family law and has the requisite experience to help you navigate the system. If you need help with any divorce issue or a other family law legal matter, contact the Law Office of David Knecht.  We have extensive experience with family law will listen to you and fight to achieve your goals. Contact us at 707-451-4502. 

Divorce and Healing

In a recent New York Times piece, the author describes how close friends became a parachute for her emotionally when she was left untethered and metaphorically free-falling alone after her divorce

If you are in the middle of a California divorce or rebuilding your life after finalizing your divorce, you may wonder how to find yourself again. Healing is possible, with healthy coping skills and time. This article will summarize suggestions from physchologytoday.com for healing during and after a divorce.

What are some key takeaways about divorce and healing?

Remember that you CAN heal from divorce with time and effort. 

  • Divorce involves stages of recovery and it takes time
  • Recovery requires a commitment to positive coping skills
  • Healing can take an average of one to two years

What are the do’s and don’ts in the acute phase of divorce trauma?

The acute phase is when you are in the initial shock of the changes in your life.

  • Do understand that this is a triage time and not the rest of your life. Keeping a perspective will help you cope with the trauma in this initial stage. 
  • Do focus on sleep, good health habits, friends and family. 
  • Don’t fall into bad habits with drugs and alcohol.

What is the acceptance phase of divorce healing?

The acceptance phase of divorce healing is a time of strong and extreme emotions. You may swing from anger to grief to guilt, shame or relief.

  • Remember that all feelings are ok
  • Listen to yourself and allow yourself to experience the emotions fully.
  • Find a close family member, friend or therapist to confide you feelings. Expressing them aloud can help you work through them.

 What is the adjustment phase of divorce healing?

The adjustment phase is when you adapt to your new life. 

  • Begin to create a plan for your new financial situation and parenting
  • Consider joining a support group
  • During this time you’ll notice that you are starting to think more clearly and feel more positive about the future. 

Contact an Experienced Divorce Firm

One way to facilitate the healing process in or after a divorce is to choose experienced legal counsel. A family law attorney who knows the system and is willing to take the time to get to know you and your case will help prevent the trauma that can come from becoming a victim to the legal system. Having excellent representation will take some of the stress of the divorce off your shoulders. For help with any issue relating to divorce or family law, contact the Law Office of David Knecht.  We have extensive experience with family law and can help you feel confident, understood and supported. Contact us at 707-451-4502. 

5 Common Estate Planning Mistakes to Avoid

It’s a famous phrase that failing to plan is the same as planning to fail, and this anecdote is especially true in the realm of estate planning. The most important step you can take with an estate plan is the first one: getting started, and therefore, the most important estate planning mistake of all would be to do nothing. But what are the other common mistakes people make in estate planning? This article will summarize typical estate planning mistakes to avoid with source material based on.

Failing to prepare for incapacity. 

Many people only think of an estate plan as how to divide their assets after they die, but preparing for incapacity is very important, as you never know whether disease, accident or age may take away your ability to care for yourself. It should identify the people you want to authorize to make important decisions on your behalf with regard to your money, your healthcare, your end of life wishes, etc., and then the estate plan should enable them to do so. 

Not including funeral and burial wishes. 

Don’t assume your family members know your wishes. If you have strong feelings about certain issues, such as cremation vs. burial etc., those wishes need to be communicated in your estate plan. 

Not considering tax implications of transferring property. 

The famous saying that nothing is certain except death and taxes is true, but different estate planning tools have various tax consequences, so it’s important to think through the tax implications when your estate plan is created.

Not naming contingency decision makers. 

The unexpected happens, so you need back-up decision makers in your plan. You and your spouse may perish in an accident together or a child may predecease you. Don’t assume that your family will remain unchanged as your estate plan ages. 

Not keeping track of beneficiary designations. 

It is important and can be somewhat challenging to make sure your estate plan matches the information in all your accounts and assets. Make sure that you keep the information relating to each specific asset matching your intentions. 

Contact an Experienced Estate Planning Attorney

An excellent way to avoid making estate planning mistakes is to use the services of an experienced estate planning attorney. Here are the Law Office of David Knecht, we have extensive experience with estate planning and will help you think through the potential challenges or various scenarios that may arise to create a plan that will accomplish your goals. Contact us at 707-451-4502.

Divorce and Depression in California

Divorce can be traumatic and can lead to temporary depression or even clinical severe depression. This article will explain symptoms to look for indicating divorce-related depression and share suggestions on how to move forward and feel better with material sourced from healthline.com.

Divorce Can Be Traumatic, Seeking Help Is Vital

Some statistics put the seriousness of divorce into perspective: A 2015 study of over 13,000 deaths concluded that recent divorce increases the odds of death by suicide by 1.6 times.

If you are dealing with severe depression, whether related to divorce or otherwise, seek professional help. There are many mental health resources with information available.

Signs and Symptoms of Divorce-Related Depression

What are some of the signs of divorce-related depression?

  • Ignoring responsibilities
  • Avoiding family and friends
  • Performing poorly at work

What are some of the symptoms of divorce-related depression?

  • Crying
  • Loss of appetite
  • Loss of interest in hobbies
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating

Suicidal thoughts (if you are having suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

What are some suggestions for alleviating divorce-related depression?

  • Seek professional counseling
  • Write in a journal
  • Exercise
  • Focus on eating healthy
  • Pamper yourself
  • Socialize
  • Try to sleep

Contact an Experienced Divorce Firm

You will have many feelings and thoughts to process during and after a divorce because change is never easy for anyone, but remember that you can get through it and find a new normal. Finding the right attorney that can help you may alleviate some of the stress of the divorce process. You will feel more confident with an experienced attorney by your side. For help with any issue relating to divorce or family law, contact the Law Office of David Knecht.  We have extensive experience with family law and can help you feel confident, understood and supported. Contact us at 707-451-4502. 

Estate Planning in California: Unequal Inheritances

For some who are creating an estate plan, a fair distribution may not be an equal distribution. Reasons for this may vary. Perhaps one child is already wealthy while another is needy, perhaps someone in the family is involved in the family business, perhaps certain assets might be more meaningful to one than another. This article will summarize some of the considerations to take into account when creating an estate plan with unequal inheritances, with ideas sourced from https://www.kiplinger.com/retirement/estate-planning-unequal-inheritances-talking-is-key.

Talking to your beneficiaries while you are still alive is key. 

Communication is highly advisable when you have an estate plan with unequal distributions. 

  • Explaining the reasons why you have decided to distribute your estate unequally will go a long way in helping your beneficiaries accept your decisions. 
  • Communication now is more likely to promote family harmony after you are gone.
  • The relationship between risk and reward is a common balancing act in life, so if you explain your assessment of the risks and rewards of each asset to the beneficiaries, it will help then understand the fair approach behind your unequal gift distribution. 

Addressing differences in need. 

There are many strategies for addressing differences in need, and this section will highlight a few approaches. 

  • You may consider involving your beneficiaries in a discussion before you make your decisions on estate planning to get their input as to what they believe is fair. 
  • You may want to pull the wealthy child aside and let him or her know that you will be giving them unequal inheritances, but you hope that they will choose to share it with the more needy siblings. 
  • If you plan on donating to a charity, you may want to prepare your children with a good explanation of why you believe the charity is in more need of the assets than they are. 

Remember that estate plans are not a cure all. 

An estate plan is about wealth transfer, and that is all it can accomplish. 

  • Don’t expect your beneficiaries to change their natures. If you know someone is selfish or hostile or if there is bad blood between family members, you shouldn’t expect that to change just because you are gone. Plan ahead with the personalities you know in mind. 
  • Consider wealth education. If you have substantial assets, you may want to think about what type of wealth education you can provide to your beneficiaries to allow them to effectively utilize the wealth when you are gone. Many estate planning professional will be happy to include your children in discussions about the pros and cons of different estate planning tools, such as trusts, to help them understand and be involved in what will eventually be their future.

Contact an Experienced Estate Planning Attorney

Estate planning involves many important decisions and involving your family members will likely ensure a smoother transition when you are gone. Here are the Law Office of David Knecht, we have extensive experience with estate planning and would be happy to educate or involve your beneficiaries as you see fit. We can help you feel confident, understood and supported as you plan for the future. Contact us at 707-451-4502.

Recent Calfiornia Family Law Case Involving Judge’s Bias

This article will review an interesting recent California family law case, Featherstone v. Martinez, a summary of which can be found here. The entirety of the case can be accessed here

In this case Featherstone (the court refers to her as “Mother”) was the parent of a child who was under six months old at the time. Mother sought sole primary physical and legal custody on the basis that Father traveled a lot for work and was only in town a few days a month. Mother wanted visitation in her home, for only a few hours and with advance notice. Father wanted overnight visits at least hours and overnight visitation. 

The case becomes interesting with the court’s comments that were later found to be biased. Mother was representing herself and the court made statements such as:  “I know how hard it is. You gave birth to the child. You held the child. You’ve taken care of this child. It’s hard to conceptualize that he is every bit of the parent that you are, especially in this case because he’s been there from birth…so here’s the law: If everything is equal, you’re supposed to be sharing 50/50. Not six hours. 50/50.”

Mother retained an attorney and filed a disqualification motion on the basis of judicial bias. As the litigation proceeded, issues arose where the court took umbrage with Mother’s request to record the Zoom visits between Father and child and the court believed the disqualification motion was untimely and procedurally deficient. The Court sanctioned Mother $10,000 and sanctioned her attorney $10,000. 

The Court of Appeals held that both sanctions were improper. The sanction against the attorney was an error because the code section it was based on does not allow a sanction against a party’s attorney. The sanction against the mother was unwarranted because the court cannot sanction a party for taking litigation positions to which the court disagrees. Further, Mother had a right to believe that the judge was biased and file a motion to seek redress. 


If you feel the court is biased, you have a right to make the appropriate motion. 

An attorney cannot be sanctioned with the legal basis of Section 271 

  • Quote from the case: “Section 271 provides that a family court may impose an award of attorney fees and costs `in the nature of a sanction’ where the conduct of a party or attorney `frustrates the policy of the law to promote settlement of litigation and, where possible, to reduce the cost of litigation by encouraging cooperation between the parties and attorneys.”

Mother appeared at first hearing unrepresented and perhaps may have had a better outcome had she been represented from the start of the case. 

  • Part of the basis for the improper sanction was that Mother’s disqualification motion was untimely. She waited until she had an attorney and then there was a delay in the attorney receiving the transcript.
  • In some cases, having counsel from the beginning can help you prepare the case properly from the onset of the litigation, rather than having to fix problems later.  

Contact an Experienced Family Law Firm

At the Law Office of David Knecht, we have extensive experience in family law. Whether your divorce case is at the beginning, or whether you have tried another firm without success or whether your case has been going for years, we are here to help. We will leverage our many years of experience to provide you with knowledgeable and passionate representation. Contact us at 707-451-4502. 

Estate Planning Lessons from Hollywood: New Developments in the Lisa Marie Presley Case

A widely publicized estate planning case that is ongoing is the disputed estate of Lisa Marie Presley. As reported in the New York Times, Lisa Marie Presley (daughter of Elvis Presley), who was only 54 years old, died suddenly. Within a week Priscilla Presley (Lisa’s mother), went to court to challenge the validity of documents that result in Riley Keough (Lisa’s daughter) is the trustee.  In this article, we provide an update on the news of this case and additional best practice takeaways. Full story here

In a previous article, we summarized some basic estate planning principles that can be learned from this high profile case. Namely, 1) detail matter in estate planning, so ensure that documents are accurate, 2) if proper notice is required by the terms of a trust or will, then effectuating that notice is critical, and 3) keeping estate planning documents up to date is important because circumstances can change over time, with deaths, marriages, children born, changes in assets, etc.  

RadarOnline publicized that Riley Keough had changed the locks to the private portion of Graceland that was reserved for family use. The LA Times debunked this rumor by reporting that Graceland reps denied the rumors and issued a statement that read: “No locks at Graceland have been changed since Lisa Marie’s passing.

A recent development in this case is the Lisa Marie’s ex-husband, Michael Lockwood, is seeking to represent their 14 year old twin daughters in an upcoming hearing for the trust. He asked a judge to appoint him guardian ad litem, giving him authority to speak on behalf of the daughters.

Takeaway Lesson for Estate Planning from this Case

One lesson to be learned from this case is that there are potential estate planning strategy decisions that can be made when setting up a trust. For example, a person may consider whether a family member is the best trustee or whether a neutral non-family member might be a better choice. This case also involves a trust that was changed, and it’s the validity of those changes that are being challenged. Another strategy decision that could be considered for a party that is making a change to a trust would be to revoke the original document and rewrite it with the incorporated changes. 

Contact an Experienced Estate Planning Firm

Another lesson that can certainly be learned from the Lisa Marie Presley dispute is that even for the wealthy, estate planning can have unforeseen pitfalls and challenges. For this reason, finding an experienced law firm to assist you is essential in making sure that your wishes are effectuated after you are gone. At the Law Office of David Knecht, we want to help you create a current and accurate estate plan that will help you achieve your goals. Contact us at 707-451-4502.