What is a California Estate Plan?

A comprehensive California estate plan should be specific and customized to fit your personal circumstances.  It  generally includes a Living Trust, Powers of Attorney for Property and Healthcare, a “HIPAA” authorization, a Living Will/Advance Healthcare Directive,  a Pour-Over Will, Deeds to your properties, Beneficiary Designations on life insurance, annuities, IRAs, 401 (k)s, Guardian Nominations for minor children and perhaps more.  Sounds like a lot?  Well, there can be many advantages to getting everything in order while you are in good health and capacity to make the many decisions involved in preparing these documents.  This article will give you an overview what each of the pieces of the Estate Planning puzzle are and how they can help you.  

What is a California Living Trust?

A California Living Trust protects you while you are alive.  During your lifetime, you have complete control over the Living Trust to change it, and you will have the right to use the property during your lifetime with no restrictions.  However, upon incapacity or death, the Living Trust puts the power into the hands of your heirs, generally with no requirement to go to court.  It can have advantages for tax planning and avoiding creditors.  You can find more information on Living Trusts here:  https://www.scscourt.org/self_help/probate/medical/living_trust.shtml#what

What is a Living Will/Healthcare Directive?

A California Living Will is more commonly knowns as an Advanced Healthcare Directive, and it helps your loved ones know how to carry out your wishes when you are no longer able to make your own decisions.  It can direct them on tough decisions such as breathing and feeding tubes and other end of life dilemmas.  You can find more information here: https://oag.ca.gov/consumers/general/care#advance

What is a California Durable Power of Attorney for Property and Healthcare?

A Power of Attorney is a document that authorizes someone to represent you.  A Power of Attorney can authorize another person to make bank transactions, trade stocks, pay your bills, buy or sell your property, file your tax returns, hire people to take care of you, apply for benefits on your behalf and more. You can find more information here:  https://www.scscourt.org/self_help/probate/medical/poa.shtml#what

How do I designate a guardian for my children in California?

If you have minor children, it is likely a great concern for you to determine who will take care of your children if you pass away or become incapacitated. When both parents are dead, the court will decide who the guardian will be as per what is the best interest of your children.  The court will ask the children what they want and consider your guardianship wishes.  Alternatively, while you are alive, if you have legal custody, you can obtain a joint guardianship, and then when you pass away, the legal custody will transfer to the other joint guardian usually without additional hearings.   You can find more information here: https://www.courts.ca.gov/1215.htm?rdeLocaleAttr=en

What is a California Pour-Over Will?

A Pour-Over Will works hand-in-hand with our Living Trust.  It  covers everything that may not be in your Living Trust at death to your trust.  For example, if you took your home out of your trust to refinance and forgot to put it back into the trust, you Pour-Over Will would make sure that the home is distributed under the terms of the trust.  You can find more information here: https://www.scscourt.org/self_help/probate/medical/living_trust.shtml

What is a HIPAA Authorization?

A HIPAA authorization allows the people you designate to have access to your healthcare documents.  This can be important for your family members to get updates on your condition, view diagnostics such as lab reports or test results, and to make more informed healthcare decisions on your behalf. You can find a HIPAA form here:  https://www.dhcs.ca.gov/services/Documents/Authorization%20for%20Release%20of%20Protected%20Health%20Information%20DHCS%206247.pdf

How can the Law Office of David Knecht help you personalize your estate plan?

Depending on your specific circumstances, you may need other documents.  If you are anticipating bankruptcy, divorce, or certain types of lawsuit, you may need strategic planning to protect your beneficiaries.  An estate plan goes further than a checklist of documents, but should be approached with a unique plan just for you that provides the best tax strategies and plans to carry out your wishes with exactness. The attorneys at the Law Office of David Knecht, have extensive experience in all aspects of estate planning and can help you create a plan that is complete and advantageous.  Contact us at 707-451-4502 for more information.  

3 Important Reasons Why a HIPAA Authorization Should be in Your Estate Plan

For a many people, when they hear “estate planning,” they think simply of a will, but a complete California estate plan is much more than that.  This article will explain what a HIPAA Authorization is and three important reasons why it is an important part of your estate plan. 

What is HIPAA?

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, is a law relating to the privacy of health care records.  Having a HIPAA authorization in your estate plan is important to make sure that the people who are important to you have access to your health care records and can communicate with your medical care providers.  Your doctor and other health care providers are not able to talk to your loved ones on the phone about your condition, share lab or diagnostic reports, or release other medical information with family members or friends unless you have prepared a HIPAA Authorization. 

What are the 3 important reasons you need a HIPAA Authorization?

The HIPAA  Authorization has these advantages:

  • Allows your family access to medical records.
  • Gives family members ability to receive updates about your condition.
  • Enable loved ones to access your medical bills to ensure they are paid.  

What is the difference between a HIPAA Authorization and a Living Will/Healthcare Directive?

A HIPAA authorization provides certain people with the right to give and receive medical information about you that would otherwise be protected as private.  For example, they can ask the doctor what medications you are taking or let the doctor know about side effects you may be experiencing.  They can receive information about test results, etc.  They can also talk to the provider about billing issues on your behalf.  The Advance Healthcare Directive goes further as it is more encompassing than the HIPAA Authorization.  The Advance Directive can give the person you select the right to talk with medical personnel but beyond just hearing about your condition, this document gives them the right to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are incapacitated.  For example, if you were in a coma, the Advance Directive would give that person the decision-making power to allow or give up on certain treatments. 

How do I create a HIPAA Authorization?

The easiest way to create HIPAA authorization is to contact an attorney who is experienced in estate planning and include it in a comprehensive estate plan.  A HIPAA Authorization will generally meet these requirements:

  • State that it is a HIPAA Privacy Authorization Form
  • Include your name
  • Define the scope of authorization – for example authorize all medial information or contain exceptions
  • Include the effective date it goes into effect as well as the date of expiration of the Authorization

What attorney can help me create a HIPAA Authorization and an estate plan?

The attorneys at the Law Office of David Knecht, have extensive experience in all aspects of estate planning and can help you create a HIPAA Authorization and all other documents necessary for a complete and customized estate plan.  Contact us at 707-451-4502 for more information.  

First Steps in Dealing with the Estate when Someone Dies

When a person passes, the family and friends left behind will often wonder what to do.  This article will provide an overview of how to deal with the estate.  Source: https://www.courts.ca.gov/8865.htm.  It isn’t uncommon for people to feel completely overwhelmed with the task of figuring out the estate when they are already overcome with grief and pain from the passing, so feel free to reach out to the Law Office of David Knecht for a consultation on how we can help you through this difficult time. 

 

  • Find out who will be the estate representative. 

 

The first step is to find out who will be the estate representative.  If there is a will, then the person named as executor in the will is the representative.  If there is no will, there are two possibilities:  Under certain conditions, the estate can pass through simplified procedures informally, and under other conditions, the case has to go through a formal probate court case where the court appoints an administrator. 

 

  • The estate representative should start gathering information and fulfilling duties. 

 

The role of the estate representative is to  are many important steps the estate representative is to take care of the estate and make sure it is distributed correctly.  This can include many steps, a few examples of which are as follows:  Get certified copies of the death certificate, find the will, collect and safeguard assets such as bank account funds, life insurance proceeds, veteran’s benefits, Social Security death and survivor benefit, real property (homes, cabins), collect the mail and any important papers, cancel credit cards and subscriptions, and manage digital assets (like a social media profile), notify the Franchise Tax Board, notify the Social Security Administration if the decedent was receiving monthly social security, prepare the decedent’s final income tax returns.  It’s a challenging task to identify and manage all of the duties involved. 

 

  • Identify the heirs and beneficiaries. 

Identifying the heirs and beneficiaries can be challenging.  It is usually decided by the terms of a will (if there is one), by state law if there is no will or if there is a problem with the will, or by other estate planning documents like beneficiary designations, living trusts or join tenancy arrangements.  There can be problems with a will.  For example, if a will is out of date, and a beneficiary has already died.  Many people find that an attorney can provide assistance in this key step of identifying heirs and beneficiaries. 

 

  • Inventory the property of the person who has died.

Make a list of assets and debts, which includes real property like a home or a farm, and personal which can be tangible property like cars, furniture, etc or intangible property, like stocks and bonds.  Find out how it is owned and the value of the property or debt on the date of death.  Consider whether the property is shared with perhaps a spouse or a business partner. 

 

  • Determine the best transfer process. 

 

When you’ve made your list of all the property, to whom it should be transferred, and what the value of it is, then final step is to determine the procedure for transfer.  There may be simplified procedures available or it may have to be done formally in probate court. 

Conclusion

Death is difficult, and the legal process for handling the estate can be confusing and stressful to deal with on your own. The Law Office of David Knecht, at 707-451-4502, can help you navigate the sometimes complex and confusing steps in settling the estate when someone dies.  Contact us today. 

 

Can You Use Simplified Procedures to Transfer an Estate?

When a loved one passes and you face the task of settling their legal and financial affairs, you may be wondering if you need to go to probate court to obtain title to the property.  The answer to this question can be complex and depends on a variety of factors such as the amount of money involved, the type of property and who is claiming the property.

Did the decedent designate a beneficiary? 

 

If the person who passed (called a decedent), named on or more beneficiaries to receive the asset, then a simplified procedure may be used to transfer the property.  Common examples of this situation would be life insurance proceeds, retirement accounts, pensions, annuities, bank accounts, stock accounts or property in a living trust. 

How was the property owned?

 

Another important factor is looking at the type of title ownership, or in other words, how the property was owned.  For example, was the property owned in a joint tenancy such that the surviving owner gets the entire property?  Was the property community property with the right of survivorship, such that the surviving spouse or partner would likely get the entire asset

Was the property community property?

 

The community property analysis may not be as simple, however.  An example is if the asset appears to community property without an explicit right of survivorship and whether a will designating that the property be divided in other ways.  It’s important in community property situations to ensure that the property was not somehow changed to separate property through agreement or otherwise. 

What type of benefit is involved?

 

Certain types of benefits can usually be collected without probate court.  These include benefits such as social security survivor benefits or benefits as a dependent of a deceased veteran. 

Find Answers to Your Questions

California Courts have publicly available resources explaining the probate process at https://www.courts.ca.gov, but these resources are often insufficient to answer every question.  Contact the Law Office of David Knecht, at 707-451-4502. We have extensive experience and can help make this process easier to navigate.