Estate Planning Lessons from One Woman’s Journey with her Mother’s Cancer

A recent article published on Kiplinger.com was authored by an estate planning attorney whose own mother received a terminal cancer diagnosis. It was a poignant perspective from a woman who was a veteran in the estate planning field, only to have to call on that knowledge for her own family member.  

This article will summarize the takeaways from the unique perspective of an estate planner who had to plan for her own family member.  

 

How has the Schiavo case influenced estate planning?

  • Terri Schiavo was a woman who suffered a massive heart attack in 1990 and was left in a permanent vegetative state. Her husband and parents had a complicated and bitter legal battle over whether she would have wanted to be maintained in that vegetative state. 
  • This case was a horror story of what can happen in the absence of a clear advance medical directive. 
  • The number one lesson from this case is that the battle between the husband and the parents was preventable, had Schiavo properly prepared by making her wishes known and documented. 
  • Here you can see more details about the Schiavo case.  

 

Why might estate planning be particularly important for those of a particular faith?

  • In the Schiavo case, the role of faith played prominently in the push and pull of the end of life debate. 
  • Similarly, the author’s mother was part of a faith-based community and therefore had very strong beliefs about what her end-of-life care should look like and how her body should be treated in the final moments. 
  • The takehome lesson here is that family members can benefit from directives as to what the person wanted, what customs to follow, and what preferences to adhere to.   
  • The author’s experience with her mother helped her realize that the stress and emotion of a tough diagnosis are draining, so it can be particularly challenging to start on estate planning when someone’s health is in the declining stages.
  • It’s much easier to plan ahead during times of health.

CONTACT THE LAW OFFICE OF DAVID KNECHT TO GET STARTED ON ESTATE PLANNING

If you need help getting started on estate planning, or if you are looking to update or expand on work already completed, contact the  Law Office of David Knecht. We have extensive experience with estate planning in California. Contact us at 707-451-4502 for more information.  

 

Child Custody FAQ’s from the California Court

There are some questions that come up so often related to child custody that the California Courts have actually established an FAQ page with the answers to these common issues. This article will highlight some of the questions and answers that are often asked, but the entire FAQ page can be accessed here:  

 

Does joint legal custody mean that we have to agree on everything?

  • Joint legal custody means that both parents share the right and responsibility to make decisions relating to the health, education and welfare of the child. 
  • As per the Court FAQ’s, since both parents each have the right to make decisions, they can make them alone. However, both parents should communicate and cooperate with each other in making decisions. 

 

If we have joint physical custody, do parents have to spend exactly 50% of the time with each parent?

  • There are several physical custody options: 1) joint, where the children live with both parents, 2) primary, where the children live with one parent most of the time and visit the other parent, and 3) sole, where the children live with only one parent and rarely visit the other parent. 
  • Joint physical custody does not necessarily mean that the children must spend exactly half of their time with each parent because splitting the time with mathematical exactness can be challenging. 

Will I pay less child support if I have the children more often?

 

  • The amount of time that the children are spending with you is a factor in calculating child support. 
  • In general , the more time you have with your children, the less child support you will have to pay under the theory that you are spending more money to support the child when they are with you. HOWEVER, the child support formula is not based only on time, but also other factors, such as the other parent’s income. 

CONTACT THE LAW OFFICE OF DAVID KNECHT FOR HELP WITH A CALIFORNIA DIVORCE

Do you have questions about child custody or child support in California, or do you need help with other issues in a California divorce?  Contact the  Law Office of David Knecht. We have extensive experience with family law in California including divorce, child custody, modifications and more. Contact us at 707-451-4502 for more information.  

 

Overview of a California Divorce

If you are considering divorce, you may want a general overview of how the process works. This article will summarize the basic steps, with information derived from the California Court’s.

 

You get a divorce by initiating a court case. 

  • You don’t have to have a reason for wanting to get divorced or prove that anyone is at fault. California is a no fault divorce state where you can base the divorce solely on irreconcilable differences. 
  • You can get a divorce even if the other person doesn’t want one. 
  • If you’ve been married less than five years and have no children, you may qualify for an easier process called a summary dissolution. More information can be found here:  

 

California residency is required for a California divorce. 

  • You must have lived in California for the past 6 months.
  • You must have lived in your current California county for the past 3 months. 

 

Filing Fee.

  • You will have to pay a filing fee to initiate the divorce. 

 

 Service

 

  • You have to inform your spouse that papers have been filed. The formal way to do this is by service of process. 

 

Waiting period

 

  • There is a six month waiting period for the divorce to be final. 

 

 Information Sharing

 

  • You will have to share information with your spouse

 

 Familial and Financial Issue Resolution

  • You will either need to resolve child custody issues and financial issues with your spouse by agreement between the parties or through a decision by the court, which will be an order

 

CONTACT THE LAW OFFICE OF DAVID KNECHT FOR HELP WITH A CALIFORNIA DIVORCE

If you need help with a divorce in California, contact the  Law Office of David Knecht. We have extensive experience with family law in California including divorce, child custody, modifications and more. Contact us at 707-451-4502 for more information.  

 

67% of Americans Have No Estate Plan, Here Is How to Get Started

A recent article published on CNBC.com highlighted a surprising trend:  although the Covid-19 pandemic has greatly increased awareness and conversations regarding estate planning, Americans are still not taking action, with 67% of Americans without any estate plan according to sources cited by the CBNC.com article.  See This article will summarize the CNBC report on what Americans are missing and how to get started on planning for the future. 

What does the research show as the reason why 67% of Americans are leaving what happens to them and their assets in the case of disability or death up to others?

  • A study from Caring.com showed that the main reason for the apathy toward estate planning is just procrastination (approx. 40%). 
  • Meanwhile, about a third of respondents didn’t think they had enough assets to pass on to their loved ones, and about 10% said that estate planning was too expensive or that they didn’t know how to get a will. 

How has Covid impacted estate planning motivation?

  • 41% of people age 18-34 report seeing more need for estate planning after the pandemic. 
  • Even with Covid providing increased motivation, there are opportunities to do better: the Caring.com study found that only 48% of people who had severe Covid have an estate plan in place. 

What is the recommendation from the CNBC report on how to get started on estate planning?

  • The first step is to become as informed as possible and consult with a financial advisor or estate planning attorney. 
  • For those with fewer assets, online resources may be useful for planning.
  • California Residents – With online resources, be sure to confirm whether they are valid and binding in California 

CONTACT THE LAW OFFICE OF DAVID KNECHT TO GET STARTED ON ESTATE PLANNING

If you need help getting started on estate planning, or if you are looking to update or expand on work already completed, contact the  Law Office of David Knecht. We have extensive experience with estate planning in California. Contact us at 707-451-4502 for more information.  

 

Making a 529 Qualified Tuition Plan Part of Your Estate Plan

You may have heart that a 529 ,“qualified tuition plan,” is estate planning magic and wondered what the advantages are with this planning mechanism. This article will explain what a 529 plan is and why it can be very beneficial as an estate planning tool, with an introduction about 529 plans summarized from https://www.sec.gov/reportspubs/investor-publications/investorpubsintro529htm.html.

  • What is a 529 plan?

A 529 plan is a tax-advantaged savings plan. It is designed to encourage saving for future education costs. They are known as “qualified tuition plans” and are sponsored by states, state agencies, and educational institutions.

  •  What are the two kinds of 529 plans?

The two kinds of 529 plans are prepaid tuition plans and education savings plans. With the prepaid tuition plan, the account holder purchases credits at participating colleges/universities for future tuition for the beneficiary. With education savings plans, the saver opens an account for the beneficiary’s future tuition, mandatory fees, room and board. The saver can choose various investment portfolio options to grow the initial investment.

  • Why is flexibility one of the benefits of a 529 plan for estate planning?

One of the main benefits of a 529 plan for estate planning purposes is the unparalleled flexibility. The saver can remain the owner of a 529 plan and retain the power to change the beneficiary to a qualifying family member (which includes children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews and others). This is better than another estate planning tool, the irrevocable trust, where the saver cannot act as a trustee and cannot retain the power to change beneficiaries.

  • How does the “front load” factor in as a benefit of a 529 plan for estate planning?

The annual exclusion from gift tax allows a grantor to transfer a set amount per year, per person. This amount is $16,000 in 2022 (See https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/irs-provides-tax-inflation-adjustments-for-tax-year-2022)

The saver can make five years of annual exclusion gifts in a single year and use no transfer tax exemption. If the saver is married and chooses gift-splitting, the couple can transfer $150,000 to a 529 plan in a single year and use no estate and gift tax exemption. See your attorney or tax professional for more details as the proper elections must be made to take advantage of this benefit.

CONTACT THE LAW OFFICE OF DAVID KNECHT

If you need assistance with understanding a 529 Plan or estate planning in California, contact the  Law Office of David Knecht. We have extensive experience with estate planning and can set up a customized plan that’s right for you and your loved ones. Contact us at 707-451-4502 for more information.

 

Temporary Spousal Support in Solano County, California

An important issue in a divorce is temporary spousal or partner support. When one spouse files for divorce in California, either spouse/partner may request from the court an order for temporary spousal support.  This article will summarize important information published by the California Courts here, https://www.courts.ca.gov/1038.htm, which relates to temporary spousal support

  •  What is temporary spousal support?

Temporary spousal support is also commonly referred to as alimony. Before a divorce is final, upon the request of one of the parties, a judge may order that one spouse will pay money to the other spouse.

  •  What temporary spousal support formula is used in Solano County, California?

In Solano County, the courts use the “Santa Clara” formula, which comes from Rule 5.30, which can be found at the link below.  Some of the cities in Solano County include Benicia, Birds Landing, Dixon, Elmira, Fairfield, Rio Vista, Suisun City, Vacaville and Vallejo.

For more information about the rules applicable in Solano County, see this site: https://solano.courts.ca.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/Solano_County_Local_Rules_Effective_2021-01-01_-_Rule_05.pdf

  •  How does the Santa Clara formula work for calculating temporary spousal support?

The support is generally calculated by taking 40% of the net income of the payor, minus 50% of the net income of the payee, adjusted for tax consequences. If there is a child support, temporary spousal or partner support is calculated on net income not allocated to child support and/or child-related expenses.

Resources for more information:

CONTACT THE LAW OFFICE OF DAVID KNECHT

If you are concerned about your ability to meet your daily expenses and need temporary spousal support or if you are the wage earner with questions about a potential request for temporary support, contact the  Law Office of David Knecht. We have extensive experience with divorce in California. Contact us at 707-451-4502 for more information.

 

Estate Planning for New Parents

If you are a new parent, you may be missing sleep and staying very busy caring for your new little family member. However, this is not the time to forget about estate planning because your new bundle of joy is depending on you to plan for their future. This article will highlight the top three estate planning priorities for new parents and give resources for more information.

  • Beneficiary designations

Updating your beneficiary designations is often a fast and easy way to get started. This could be your beneficiary for bank accounts, stock accounts, life insurance or any other type of account with a beneficiary. You can often update these online and it’s a quick and easy process.

  •  Guardianship

With a new baby here, you will want to designate who will take care of the baby if both parents pass away. This person will have legal and physical custody or your child and will make any decisions about the care of the child that a parent would make. For more information about guardianship, see https://www.courts.ca.gov/selfhelp-guardianship.htm.

Here are some things you may want to consider when selecting a future guardian for your child/children:

  1. Shared values – you may want someone to rear your child as you would, with your values in mind. This may include a religion, philosophies of life, geographical location and preferences, similar education beliefs, etc.
  2. Financial security – you may want someone who has the financial security to give your children the attention and care that they need.
  3. Longevity – you may want someone who is at an age that they can be an influence in your child’s life for a long time to come, so considerations about age and health may be important here.
  4. Character – you may want to consider the character and habits of the person, for example, if the person you are considering has a long history of addiction or has criminal history, they may not be a good fit for a guardianship role
  •  Advance Healthcare Directive

An advance healthcare directive allows you to give instructions about your healthcare and designate someone to make healthcare decisions for you in the event that you cannot make them for yourself. As a new parent, you now have a child depending on you, so your healthcare preferences become even more of a priority.

To access a healthcare directive form, go to https://oag.ca.gov/sites/all/files/agweb/pdfs/consumers/ProbateCodeAdvancedHealthCareDirectiveForm-fillable.pdf

CONTACT THE LAW OFFICE OF DAVID KNECHT

If you are a new parent who wants an experienced attorney who can help identify and advise on your estate planning needs, contact the Law Office of David Knecht. We have extensive experience with estate planning and can set up a customized plan that’s right for you and your new little one. Contact us at 707-451-4502 for more information.

 

Changing Spousal Support in California

With time, comes many changes, and this is often true of the circumstances in the years following a divorce. Many people find that their lives have changed significantly at some point after the divorce is final and they realize they need to change the spousal support order that is currently in place. This article will provide some basic information on how that is done and why it may be beneficial for you with information about changing spousal support in Caliofrnia summarized from ca.courts.gov: https://www.courts.ca.gov/1250.htm.

  • Can I change spousal support after the divorce is final?

Yes, you can change spousal support after the divorce is final if there has been a change in circumstances, but it is important to keep paying the full amount under your current order until you get the order changed, even if your situation has changed. Only the court can release you from your obligations, not the underlying circumstances. This is typically accomplished via a stipulation between the parties that is signed by the judge or a motion to the court requesting a modification of the spousal/partner support amount.

  • What is a change in circumstances to justify a change in spousal support?

A change in circumstances means that something significant has changed since the spousal or partner support order was made. This could be a variety of circumstances:

  1. perhaps the person paying has had a significant drop in income and can no longer afford the amount of support
  2. perhaps the person receiving the support has had a change where the support is no longer needed
  3. perhaps the person getting support is not making a good faith effort to become self-supporting
  •  Can the parties agree to a change in spousal support?

If the spouses or domestic partners can reach an agreement on the new amount of spousal or partner support, they can draft is up as an agreement/stipulation. It will then go to the judge for signature.

  •  Why is asking for a new court order right so important?

Spousal or partner support cannot be changed retroactively. This means if you wait, you will not be able to change the amount as to the date that your income went down. If you lost your job six months ago, but are only filing the paperwork now, the judge will not be able to go back to the date that you lost your job. The judge can only make the modification from the date that you filed the papers. Often people think that they might get a new job, or they may be too stressed or worried to prioritize changing the order, or they may have impediments like being in jail or out of state which may impede their ability to get the new order. While these are valid reasons for not requesting a new spousal support order, they will not be effective in changing the support modification to a retroactive date, so that is why it is very important to ask for a new court order right away.

CONTACT THE LAW OFFICE OF DAVID KNECHT

If you need assistance changing a spousal support order or if you have any other family law related questions, contact the  Law Office of David Knecht. We have extensive experience with family law in California. Contact us at 707-451-4502 for more information.

Feeling Powerless in a California Divorce? How to Take the Power Back

If you are feeling powerless in your divorce, you are not alone. It is common to feel depression, anxiety and stress during a divorce. Some studies even show that a divorce can lower your lifespan, so if you feel sad or helpless, you are not alone.  https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23284588/ 

On the bright side, though, there is also research to indicate that quality of life post-divorce can be much better than it was during the marriage. https://www.connectedwomen.co/magazine/the-brighter-side-of-single-mom-life-why-more-women-are-living-happily-ever-after-divorce/

This article will highlight three ways to break the cycle  of feeling powerless and help you take the power back during your divorce. 

  •  Become informed. 

It’s axiomatic that knowledge is power, and this is certainly true when it comes to divorce. For many, the intimidation of the process can be daunting, but there are many online resources that can help. 

One we recommend that is unbiased and thorough is the website published by California Courts.  It can be accessed here. https://www.courts.ca.gov/selfhelp-divorce.htm?rdeLocaleAttr=en

This resource has self-help tools, information, forms and general guidance on divorce and California, and it’s a good place to start to get educated on what may lie ahead. 

  • Get organized. 

You can anticipate that assets and liabilities are going to be important in your divorce, so it’s important to get the information organized and easily accessible. Some things to consider might be:

  • What are the balances on your credit cards?
  • How much do you owe on your vehicle?
  • What is your mortgage payment?
  • How much student loan or other debt do you carry?
  • How much do you earn?

Getting information together will help you feel more in control and will make the process go more smoothly down the road. 

  •  Obtain Legal Advice. 

An attorney who is experienced in family law and empathetic to your concerns can help you feel more in control of your divorce. At the Law Office of David Knecht we have extensive experience with divorce in California. We will listen to your concerns and seek to understand how to customize the divorce to your needs. Contact us at 707-451-4502 for more information.  

How to Give Your Heirs Quick Access to Your Accounts When You Die

A recent article published by MarketWatch, https://www.marketwatch.com/story/how-to-give-your-heirs-quick-access-to-your-bank-accounts-when-you-die-11633038931?mod=home-page,  answered the question of how to give your heirs quick access to your accounts when you die.  This article will summarize the information in that article and give insights into various other estate planning tips for California estate plans. 

  •  Transfer on Death (TOD), Payable on Death (POD)

When opening a bank account or amending an existing account, you fill out a form either online or in person to make someone the payable on death beneficiary of the account. 

  • What if you have more than one person you want to designate?

Typically, you can designate as many people as you desire and you will allocate a percentage of the account that will go to each person. 

  •  What is the advantage of the TOD/POD?

While there is still some process involved (the beneficiary has to show the bank a certificate of death and the beneficiary’s identification), the advantage is that probate is avoided for this particular account. This saves time, money and inconvenience. 

  •  What about making your heir the joint owner on your account?

Another strategy is to designate your heir as the joint owner on your account. This has some advantages and disadvantages. On the upside, the heir can withdraw the money upon your death right away. The downside is that the heir can also withdraw the money anytime during your lifetime. It also subjects those funds to creditors of your heir during your lifetime. Because of these risks, a joint ownership plan is not the best for some families. For relationships with a very high level of trust, it might make sense. 

How to Help Your Loved Ones

There are many choices with estate planning in California, but the first step in helping your loved ones is to become informed of your options and get a plan in place. You’ll want to make sure any paperwork related to estate planning easily accessible to your loved ones and that it is up to date with any changes needed. At the Law Office of David Knecht we have extensive experience with estate planning in California and can help you get started or update your existing plan.  Contact us at 707-451-4502 for more information.