Modern Estate Planning Adapting to Legal and Digital Changes

The recent litigation surrounding Lisa Marie Presley’s estate underscores the critical importance of maintaining an up-to-date estate plan. Presley’s outdated estate plan led to a legal battle, highlighting how changes in family dynamics and personal circumstances can necessitate regular reviews and updates to ensure your wishes are honored and your assets are protected. A significant aspect of this dispute involved the ownership of Graceland, now owned by Lisa’s daughter, Riley Keough. Graceland remains a valuable asset worth an estimated $400-$500 million, emphasizing the need for clear and current estate planning See https://www.hellomagazine.com/homes/499783/riley-keough-owns-graceland-how-much-worth-today/

Many individuals create an estate plan and assume it is a one-time task. However, numerous factors can render an estate plan obsolete. Changes in family dynamics, financial situations, and state or federal laws can all impact the effectiveness of your estate plan. See https://www.thinkadvisor.com/2024/02/14/why-so-many-estate-plans-are-out-of-date-jamie-hopkins/

What changes can necessitate an estate plan update?

  • Family Changes: Life events such as marriage, divorce, the birth of a child, or the death of a beneficiary require adjustments to your estate plan. Failing to update your plan can lead to unintended consequences, such as assets being distributed to the wrong individuals or loved ones being overlooked.
  • Financial Changes: Significant changes in your financial situation, such as acquiring new assets, selling property, or changes in the value of your investments, necessitate a review of your estate plan to ensure it accurately reflects your current financial status and intentions.
  • Legal Changes: The legal landscape for estate planning is continually evolving. According to Family Wealth Report, recent legislative changes can significantly impact estate planning strategies, especially concerning taxes and asset protection. Staying informed about these changes and consulting with an estate planning attorney is essential to maintaining an effective estate plan.

What are digital assets and how do they impact estate planning?

What are the steps to include digital assets in your estate plan?

  • Inventory Your Digital Assets: Create a comprehensive list of your digital assets, including login information, passwords, and security questions. This inventory should cover email accounts, social media profiles, online banking, cryptocurrency, and any other digital properties.
  • Appoint a Digital Executor: Designate someone trustworthy and tech-savvy to manage your digital assets. This person should have clear instructions on how to handle each asset, whether it involves transferring ownership, closing accounts, or archiving data.
  • Document Your Wishes: Clearly outline your preferences for managing your digital assets. This can include instructions for social media profiles, online subscriptions, and digital financial accounts. Make sure these instructions are legally documented and accessible to your digital executor.

Contact a California Estate Planning Attorney

Keeping your estate plan current requires regular reviews and updates. Partnering with an experienced estate planning attorney can help ensure that your plan adapts to changes in your life and the law. At the Law Office of David Knecht, we offer personal advice, legal experience and ongoing support. Contact us at 707-451-4502.

What is Probate and What Are the Steps?

Probate means that there is a court case that deals with deciding if a will exists or is valid, figuring out who the decedent’s heirs or beneficiaries are, assessing how much the property is worth, taking care o the decedent’s financial responsibilities and transferring the property to the heirs or beneficiaries.  

In a probate case, the executor (if there is a will) of an administrator (if there is no will) is appointed by the court as a personal representative to collect assets, pay the debts and expenses, and then distribute the remainder of the estate to those who have the legal right to inherit.  All this is under the supervision of the court.  The entire case can take between 9 months to 1.5 years, perhaps longer or shorter. 

This article which summarizes information from the California Courts found at https://www.courts.ca.gov/42629.htm,  will give you an overview of the steps you need to take when a case must go through the probate process.  For help navigating the system and answers to your questions, please contact the Law Office of David Knecht, at 707-451-4502. We have extensive experience and can help you fulfill your responsibilities to the estate and to the memory of your loved one. 

  1. Within 30 days of person’s death, take the original will to the probate court clerk’s office and send a copy of the will to the executor or to a person named in the will as a beneficiary if the executor cannot be found. 
  2. The petitioner must start a case by filing a Petition for Probate and any other required forms in the county where the person who died lived (or in the California county where that person owned property if the person lived outside California). 
  3. Certain steps ensue after the case is filed, including a hearing date, notice requirements to various parties, and paperwork review by the examiner or the judge.
  4. The personal representative gathers assets and prepares an inventory and appraisal form.  An appraisal of nonmonetary assets often will also be needed.
  5. Creditors are formally notified and debts are paid.
  6. A final income tax return is prepared for the person who died.
  7. The probate court figures out who gets what property.
  8. The personal representative may be required to file additional forms to confirm the sales of real property.
  9. A final estate tax return is required under certain circumstances.
  10. The personal representative reports to the court on how the estate was handled and a hearing is typically held for the court’s review.

After all the filings are reviewed and the judge is satisfied that everyone received their property properly from the estate, the court discharges the personal representative from his or her duties.

 

 

 

How to Understand the Words Used in Probate Cases

Losing a loved one is heart-breaking, and this time of mourning can be even more challenging for the family or friends that now have the responsibility to manage the property that is left behind.  Probate is the court process for distributing the assets, paying debts, and settling the financial affairs of the person who has passed.  It is an area of the law with its own vocabulary, and understanding the terms will help you navigate the system.  The definitions below can also be found on https://www.courts.ca.gov/documents/Common_Words_Probate_Cases.pdf

The Law Office of David W. Knecht helps trustees and executors administer trusts and probates.  We will spend time with you explaining the process and tasks involved in successfully administering a trust or probate estate.  We also prepare Wills, Living Trusts, Durable Powers of Attorney and Advance Health Care Directives to meet client’s estate planning needs.  Additionally, we represent clients in trust litigation and will contests, representing trustees, executors, beneficiaries and other intended parties.  Contact us at David Knecht Law at 707=451-4502 for help with any probate needs. 

Administrator: the person (usually the spouse, domestic partner, or close relative) that the court appoints to manage the estate of person who dies without a Will. The administrator is also called the personal representative of the estate. 

Beneficiary: a person who inherits when there is a Will. 

Decedent: the person who died. 

Decedent’s Estate: all real and personal property that a person owned at the time of death. 

Executor: a person named in a Will and appointed by the court to carry out the dead person’s wishes. The executor is also called the personal representative of the estate. 

Heir: a person who inherits when there is no Will. 

Holographic Will: a Will that is handwritten, dated and signed by the person writing the Will. 

Intestate: when someone dies without leaving a Will. 

Intestate succession: the order of who inherits property when someone dies without a Will. 

Living Trust: a trust set up during the life of a person to distribute money or property to another person or organization. 

Personal Property: things like cash, stocks, jewelry, clothing, furniture, or cars. Personal Representative: the administrator or executor that the court appoints to manage the estate. 

Probate: The court process for distributing a dead person’s assets, paying debts owed by the dead person, and settling the financial affairs of people when they die. 

Real Property: buildings and land. Successor: anyone who has the legal right to receive property of a person who dies, either under the Will or the Probate Code. 

Testate: when someone dies leaving a Will. Trust: an arrangement where property is given to someone to be held for the benefit of another person. 

Will: a legal paper that lists a person’s wishes about what will happen to his or her property after death.

Contact David Knecht Law at 707-451-4502, we are happy to walk you through what you need to know and guide you through each step of the probate process. 

 

5 Important Estate Planning Documents to Have in Place During the COVID-19 Pandemic

The unfortunate reality of the current global pandemic is that anyone can find themselves sick in the hospital and possibly no longer able to make their own financial or medical decisions. Because of this, the last thing that anyone wants is to become incapacitated without the proper estate planning documents in place.

Read on to discover what we consider the five most essential documents you should either create or update during the current COVID-19 outbreak to protect yourself, your property, and your loved ones.

Will:

 

Your will is the legal document that instructs how to distribute your assets after your death and appoints guardians for any dependents or minor children. Dying without a will leaves your assets and property in the hands of your state’s laws.

It is also recommended that you review all beneficiary designations for retirement plans and life insurance to ensure that they are current.

Healthcare Power of Attorney

It’s essential to authorize someone you trust to make medical decisions on your behalf in case of a medical emergency that leaves you incapacitated and unable to communicate your own wishes. A durable power of attorney for health care permits you to make such an authorization.

Living Will:

 

A living will is sometimes called an advance care directive. This document outlines the kind of medical care you want if you are terminally ill. For instance, you can make it known whether you want to be kept alive on life-support systems, such as a respirator or feeding tube. You can also include instructions for organ donation.

Durable Financial Power of Attorney:

 

You also may want to make sure that your family has some kind of access to your finances in order to pay bills and medical expenses if you are unable to do so on your own. That’s why another important document to prepare is your financial power of attorney. This document gives someone the authority to handle financial transactions on your behalf if you become incapacitated.

HIPAA Authorization: 

 

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) sets federal privacy rules for medical records. However, if you’re hospitalized, you may want your spouse, children, or other close relatives to be able to communicate freely with doctors and nurses and find out how you’re doing. That’s why you may want a release document for records authorizing certain people to have rights to disclosure of your medical records.

Contact Us:

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to actively spread through California, make sure you have the above documents in place and up-to-date, especially if you are an individual at high-risk of serious illness or death from Coronavirus.

David Knecht has extensive experience preparing Wills, Living Trusts, Durable Powers of Attorney, and Advance Health Care Directives to meet your estate planning needs. Contact David Knecht Law at 707-451-4502 today to learn more about these documents or schedule an estate planning consultation. 

 

3 Qualities of a Capable Probate Lawyer

 

The American Bar Association defines probate as “the court-supervised legal procedure that determines the validity of your will.” When an individual dies, their will is filed with the court and the probate process begins. During this process, the estate’s property, debts, and claims are inventoried, appraised, and eventually distributed to beneficiaries according to the will. 

This process can be time-consuming, complicated, and overwhelming, especially when dealing with the recent loss of a loved one. A qualified probate attorney can help you through it all. Read on to learn about some of the most essential qualities that you should look for when selecting a probate attorney. 

 

  • Knowledge and Experience:

A probate attorney should be well-versed in the complex laws and court procedures that are involved in the probate process. You’ll particularly want to work with an attorney who understands California probate law and who has kept up-to-date on the most recent changes to the state’s statutes and case law developments. 

You’ll also want to find a probate lawyer with plenty of experience. Never select a probate lawyer who is just starting out. Look for an attorney who has practiced California probate law extensively and who understands the nuances of your local court, so that you can be sure you have a qualified person handling your case.  

 

  • Effective Communication:

Every lawyer needs effective communication skills. This is particularly true for probate lawyers because the job requires clear communication with a number of people, including the executor, the court, and the client. 

What this means is that you’ll want to find a lawyer who can not only advocate well for you in front of a judge or an executor, but who can also help you understand the probate process. Estate planning can be complicated. The best probate lawyers can answer all your questions and explain the probate process to you in the most simple and straightforward way possible. 

 

  • Empathy 

Losing a loved one is difficult. While you might not want to even think about estate planning and probate while you’re dealing with such loss, these issues need to be resolved quickly and effectively. 

Because of the sensitive nature of the probate process, it’s important for the lawyer handling the case to be compassionate and empathetic towards their client. The best kind of lawyer will be sensitive to their client’s needs, alleviate the stress of handling the deceased individual’s estate, and quickly resolve any problems that arise during the probate process.

With the professional advice and assistance of a California probate attorney, you can ensure your loved one’s estate is properly taken care of. Contact David Knecht Law today to schedule a consultation!