Trusts and Estates Blog

Specialists in Finding Hidden Estate Plan Issues

What Women Need To Know Before They Are Widows

This applies to both men and women, but I titled this the way I did since men die first about 75% of the time.

Animals have these advantages over man: they never hear the clock strike, they die without any idea of death…their funerals cost them nothing, and no one starts lawsuits over their wills. – Voltaire

The following is a short list of the minimum information married couples need to be aware of in order to protect each other when one spouse dies.

a. One spouse typically handles all of the finances in the house, and it is not always the man of the house.

b. About 74% of the time, the husband dies first. Look at any senior ministry in any church or visit a nursing home if you want to verify this fact. Both overwhelmingly consist of women. (In fact, if this were the only guide, one would conclude that men die first at least 90% of the time!)

c. Organize and discuss all of your finances to protect your spouse if you die first. Make sure your spouse knows where everything is and put this in writing! Do not forget to make note of all the bills that come each month.

d. If you pay the bills, have your spouse pay the monthly bills at least once. Losing a spouse is bad enough. Trying to learn how to pay the bills right after your spouse has died is awful.

Failing to Designate Beneficiaries on Assets

There are many ways in which hiring an estate planning attorney can help you to navigate the often treacherous landscape of estate law. One in particular is in understanding the necessity of designating beneficiaries for all of your accounts.

Regardless of how polished your Will might be, or how clearly you have designated and divided your estate among your loved ones, failing to ensure that the right beneficiaries are noted on your retirement and investment accounts could critically disrupt your carefully-laid plans.

If you have created a Will or revocable trust, then you are already taking the right step in securing your family’s financial future in the event of your death.

However, what many people do not realize is that much of their wealth is tied up in retirement and investment accounts – each with their own rules for distributing those assets when the owner (you) can no longer claim them.

If you own such accounts – as most people do – it is important that you sit down with a qualified estate planning attorney and ensure that your desires that are outlined in your Will are reflected in the beneficiary designations of your accounts.

- Contact your account holders, especially those of accounts that have been established for quite some time, and inquire about the beneficiaries listed.

- Discuss with your lawyer the proper methods for changing beneficiaries to reflect the desires you have laid out in your Will.

- Include Life Insurance accounts, bank/savings accounts, investment portfolios, 401k accounts, or any account that requires a noted beneficiary. Your estate planning attorney can help you identify those accounts.

- Discuss with your lawyer the possibility of additional taxes that may be added to your assets if beneficiaries are not properly noted.

Often, when people do an inventory of their accounts with beneficiaries, they find beneficiaries listed whom they no longer wish to receive part of their estate (for example, ex-spouses).

In many cases, the beneficiary listed on an account would be given the assets within that account, regardless of what is stated in your Will. Essentially, the laws regarding beneficiary designation often override those regarding the settlement of a Will.

It is, therefore, always a good idea to discuss with your attorney ways in which you can keep your beneficiaries up-to-date at all times, especially when you cross important milestones such as a new marriage, a divorce, the death of a loved one, or the birth of a child.

Whether your estate planning goals are immediate or long-term, a qualified California estate planning attorney will be able to counsel you on the best options available to you to meet your individual needs.

Kevin Von Tungeln is the Managing Partner of and Thompson Von Tungeln, P.C. Kevin practices exclusively in the areas of estate planning, probate, wills, conservatorships and trust administration.Visit or to learn more.

How to Give Wealth to Your Children

There are Only Two Ways to Deliver Assets to Your Children:

(1) Outright; and

(2) In Trust.

Outright Distribution. Most estates are distributed outright. The trust terminates on the parents’ death, and the assets are given directly to the children once they have reached some predetermined minimum age (age 18 under California law if the Will or Trust does not specify a later age). This method gives your child’s inheritance no protection whatsoever. It is like delivering their inheritance in the back of an old pickup truck.

A Better Way – In Trust. Allowing your children to inherit assets in trust has tremendous advantages. The advantages are so great, that virtually every wealthy family passes on wealth in trust, and so can you.
Armored truck Cash-in-Transit

(1) Property Inherited “In Trust” has Bullet-proof Protection. Letting your children inherit through an irrevocable trust is like delivering their inheritance in an armored truck. Property inherited “In Trust” can be protected from creditors of your children. These potential creditors that can be protected against include:

• Angry ex-business partners who sue your child;

• Greedy plaintiff’s lawyers who try to go above and beyond the insurance your child carries;

• Bitter, vindictive ex-spouses who are set on destroying your child financially.

• Property inherited “In Trust” can be protected even if your child files for bankruptcy.

(2) Property Inherited “In Trust” Can be Protected From Estate Taxes.

• When your child dies, this wealth is passed on to the next generation free of estate taxes.

• Although there is a limit on what can go into an estate tax free trust like this on your death, there is no limit on how much this trust can grow during your child’s lifetime. In other words, if this trust starts out with $3.5 million, and grows to $100 million when your child dies, $100 million passes to your grandchildren free of estate taxes.

Trusts and Estates Blog