3 of the Worst Things Your Kids Can Do with Their Inheritance

If you are considering estate planning, one of the important aspects of the future that is probably on your mind is how to make sure your children do not squander what you are leaving them.  At the Law Office of David Knecht, we have extensive experience in estate planning and can help you think through many of the important issues, and especially a plan to help your heirs utilize their inheritance effectively. 

Business Insider highlighted a few of the worst things that can be done with an inheritance, and this article will summarize a few of those topics to help you begin to strategize the best estate plan for your family. See https://www.businessinsider.com/personal-finance/worst-things-inheritance-financial-planner-2021-1.

Sitting on the money—often better to invest the money.  

There are a few risks of sitting on the money:  inflation, opportunity cost, and the temptation to spend.  A quote attributed to Warren Buffett is “The one thing I will tell you is the worst investment you can have is cash. Everybody is talking about cash being king and all that sort of thing. Cash is going to become worthless over time. But good businesses are going to become worth more over time.”  See Warren Buffet quotes at https://www.insightssuccess.com/a-compilation-of-warren-buffett-quotes-that-will-add-perspective-to-your-investorlife/?gclid=Cj0KCQjwqKuKBhCxARIsACf4XuH2NAAwThinvlMnBvwSJIYXWAcNoskp5xpFzFZjtQWMq7SrlSmTRfkaAnu5EALw_wcB

Cash is an excellent asset for heirs to receive in an inheritance because it is so flexible, so it is not a negative in an estate plan.  However, you may consider providing your children with instructions, education or just simply helpful advice on how to invest after you are gone so that they can make the most of what you are leaving them. 

 

  • Holding onto an inherited property that the heirs can’t afford – often better to sell or rent. 

 

If an heir inherits a property, they may not want to sell or rent it for sentimental reasons.  For some, the desire to keep it “as is” can prevent the best financial utilization of the property.  There can be maintenance costs, taxes, and other expenses that the heirs may not have the funds readily available to cover.  One strategy for estate planning is to anticipate in advance how the property will be used and maintained and to leave sufficient cash to cover the potential expenses the heirs may face in keeping the property.  This is just one plan, but there are many other choices here as well to make the transition smooth and effective.  

 

  • Putting all of your money in one place – often better to diversify. 

 

Your heirs may not be as experienced in money management as you are and one common mistake with inherited assets is to put the money all in one place.  Many financial planners recommend diversification rather than putting all your eggs in one basket, and this holds true for inherited assets as well as assets that are obtained other ways.  The idea behind diversification is that a variety of investments will yield a higher return and investors may face a lower risk by investing in different vehicles.  See https://www.investopedia.com/articles/03/072303.asp.

Consult with the Law Office of David Knecht

At the Law Office of David Knecht, at 707-451-4502, we have extensive experience in estate planning in California.  We can help you create a plan that is right for you and can help make the transition smooth for your heirs.  Contact us today!

 

Why Is Estate Planning Important for Unmarried Couples in California

Estate planning is especially important for couples that are not married in the state of California because unless an unmarried couple has certain documents in place, the surviving spouse typically will have no inheritance rights upon the other spouse’s death.  If one spouse becomes incapacitated, the results can also be complicated.  However, with a comprehensive estate plan, an unmarried couple can have everything in place for the future, which will give you security and peace of mind. 

 

  • What is the purpose of a Durable Power of Attorney?

 

  • A durable power of attorney gives your partner authority to handle important aspects of your life if you are unable to do so.  It’s a tool used to delegate financial affairs to a loved one or to appoint their partner as a healthcare proxy to make important life-or-death medical decisions. 

 

  • What are some of the ways a Durable Power of Attorney can be used?

 

  • A Power of Attorney lets you authorize someone to handle a specific task such as making bank deposits, trading stocks, paying your bills, buying or selling property, hiring people to take care of you, filing your tax returns, arranging the distribution of retirement benefits, or signing contract.  Your agent can do almost anything the Power of Attorney permits.  

 

  • What is a letter of instruction?
  • A letter of instruction is not legally required, but it can be a useful tool to assist your significant other in obtaining and distributing your assets upon your passing. 

 

  •  How can a letter of instruction be helpful? 
  • A letter of instruction can be helpful to communicate important information such as: accounts, passwords, location of important documents or keys, contact information of beneficiaries, specific funeral arrangements, etc.  

 

  •  What should unmarried couples consider in estate planning? 
  • Unmarried couples can set up an estate plan to protect each other from the unintended consequences of incapacity or death.  
  • At the Law Office of David Knecht, at 707-451-4502, we have extensive experience in estate planning in California.  We can customize a plan for you and your loved ones.

 

 

Equal or Equitable:  Should Each Child Get the Same in a California Estate Plan?

Dividing assets among your children is not always an easy question.  Should each get an equal share or should you look at the totality of the circumstances to create something not equal, but in fact fair and equitable?  This article references an Investopedia analysis of this topic and highlights questions to consider:  https://www.investopedia.com/articles/personal-finance/102215/advice-wills-should-each-child-get-same.asp

  1. Equal Division.  

In many cases, and equal division of assets is conventional and seems to be the most logical choice.  Such is the case when each child has similar needs.  This often happens if they are similar in age, in earning capacity, in responsibility, in mental and emotional maturity, etc.  One advantage of an equal division is that it typically appears fair on it’s face to outside observers and perhaps the heirs themselves. If you want to leave children different assets, but to give them equal value, then it makes sense to assign values to each of the assets and to ensure equality in the overall monetary division.  

 

  • Equitable but not Equal Division. 

 

There are many situations in which you feel more comfortable or fair by giving children unequal but equitable divisions.  For example, if one child has been a caregiver, then perhaps you want to reward that child for his or her sacrifice during your lifetime with additional assets in the inheritance.  Or perhaps you have given certain children more financial assistance during your lifetime and want to even out the distributions after your death. If you have a family member who cannot care for themselves, then you may want to leave the bulk of your estate for the care of that heir. You may have a blended family and want disparate amounts to go to children depending on which children have a biological connection to you.

Consult with the Law Office of David Knecht

Whether you are leaning to an equal distribution or an equitable plan, the Law Office of David Knecht, at 707-451-4502, can help. We have extensive experience in estate planning and can help you create a plan that addresses the needs of you and your family and accomplishes your goals.  

 

Estate Planning for Blended Families in California

Blended families are very common, but estate planning for a blended family can come with a set of challenges to consider.  This article will summarize 5 blended family mistakes to avoid, with content referenced from:  https://www.aarp.org/retirement/planning-for-retirement/info-2021/blended-family-estate-planning-mistakes-to-avoid.html

Not Changing Beneficiaries.  

One of the most common mistakes is failing to update wills or beneficiary designations.  It’s not unusual that the ex-spouse may be inadvertently left as a beneficiary.  Make sure that you have properly updated the beneficiary on all stock accounts, life insurance, bank accounts, and all other type of account with a beneficiary designation. 

  • Treating All Heirs Equally. 

It’s important to give extensive thought to the needs of each of the children and the assets that you have.  For example, you may have some children with different ages, earning capacities, or lifestyles.  You can treat heirs equitably without treating them all equally. You may see that one possible heir might have special needs or disabilities.  One spouse may have greater assets going into the marriage than the other and want some of those proceeds to go to certain heirs.  Every person’s situation is different, but careful consideration of your heirs and their needs will help you plan wisely. 

  • Waiting Until You Are Gone to Give. 

You may want to give your heirs a gift when you are alive to see them enjoy it.  You can gift up to $15,000 a year (in 2021) without a tax consequence.  See https://www.irs.gov/businesses/small-businesses-self-employed/frequently-asked-questions-on-gift-taxes

Skipping the Lawyer

If you are older and on your second marriage, it’s likely that your estate plan may be somewhat complicated.  Ex-spouses, blended families and comingled assets can add to the complexity.  For this reason, investing the time and money in getting a thorough estate plan may give you the comfort of knowing that the plan you have is sound and solid.  

Consult with the Law Office of David Knecht

At the Law Office of David Knecht, at 707-451-4502, we have extensive experience in estate planning and can help you create a plan that addresses the needs of you and your family and accomplishes your goals.

 

Estate Planning Tax Advantages for Married Couples in California

Estate planning is a hot topic in 2021, and creating a plan with taxes in mind is especially important.  Taxes are a very important part of estate planning and this article will focus on a narrow slice of that large pie from a legal point of view as we discuss the estate planning tax advantages for married couples.  Of course, these advantages apply to both same sex and different sex couples, and understanding how they work can be helpful background information for you as you consider your overall estate plan.  If you are interested in learning more from an investor’s perspective, this article on Investopedia may also be a helpful resource.  https://www.investopedia.com/terms/u/unlimited-marital-deduction.asp   

  1. Unlimited Marital Deduction.  As per federal law, you can give assets by gift of inheritance to your spouse, and the taxes on that transfer are deferred until the death of the second spouse.  This is a powerful tool because there is not a limit on the amount that qualifies for the marital deduction.  
  2.  U.S. Citizen Requirement.  It is important to be aware that the unlimited marital deduction only applies when both people are U.S. Citizens.  If the survivor is a non-citizen, then federal estate taxes must be paid on an estate that is above the federal estate tax exemption. 
  3. Qualified Domestic Trust (QDOT).  If you are a U. S citizen wanting to pass assets to a non-U. S. Citizen spouse to defer federal estate taxes, a QDOT may be the right mechanism for you.  A QDOT allows the spouse who dies first to defer all federal estate taxes until both spouses have died and also allows that spouse to retain control over where his or her estate will be distributed after both die. 
  4. Qualified Terminable Interest Property Trust (QTIP Trust).  A Qualified Terminable Interest Property Trust (QTIP trust) allows a person to create a trust upon his or her death that grants a life estate for the spouse that survives.  The advantage here is that it can be done without incurring federal estate taxes.  This trust will be included in the surviving spouse’s estate for federal estate taxes, but it is distributed according to the wishes of the spouse that died first.  The surviving spouse cannot change the QTIP Trust.  

 

Consult with the Law Office of David Knecht

There are many ways to effectively utilize estate planning to effectuate your wishes with tax advantaged methods. For a thorough discussion of issues relating to estate planning and taxes, please contact the attorneys at the Law Office of David Knecht, at 707-451-4502.  

 

3 Simple Steps to Get Started on Estate Planning

If you are a senior, you may be feeling the urgency to get your affairs in order, but you may not have the time or the energy to take big steps.  This article will provide a small checklist on ways you can get started that do not require a lot of time or preparation. 

 

  • Beneficiaries

One relatively easy first step to take is to get your beneficiaries updated and designated.  If you have had these accounts for a long time, you may not have the right people or all the people that you want on these records. 

  • Checking and savings accounts at each bank 
  • IRA accounts
  • 401K accounts
  • Life insurance policies

 

  •  Advance Healthcare Directive

 

You have the right to give instructions about your own healthcare or to name someone else to make healthcare decisions for you.  You can also express your wishes regarding donation of organs.  The Office of the Attorney General for California has provided a form as a helpful resource to help you.  You can find the Advance Healthcare Directive form here:  https://oag.ca.gov/sites/all/files/agweb/pdfs/consumers/ProbateCodeAdvancedHealthCareDirectiveForm-fillable.pdf

 

  •   Consult with an Attorney

 

If you are serious about estate planning, an effective step would be to set up an initial consultation with an attorney who has experience in estate planning.  You can go in without any preparation and your attorney can guide you in what you need to think about and do.  These are some areas of estate planning that may be discussed:

  • A Living Trust
  • Powers of Attorney for Property and Healthcare
  • HIPAA Authorization
  • A Living Will/Advance Healthcare Directive
  • A Pour-Over Will
  • Deeds to Your Properties
  • Beneficiary Designations
  • Guardian Nominations for Minor Children

Consult with the Law Office of David Knecht

For a consult with a knowledgeable and professional attorney about your questions relating to estate planning, do not hesitate to reach out tot he attorneys at the Law Office of David Knecht.  We have extensive experience in estate planning and we will help you understand what needs to be done and how to do it.  Contact us at 707-451-4502 for more information.  

 

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.