Trusts and Estates Blog

Why I Love LegalZoom

Now or Later smallThere are numerous reasons I love LegalZoom. Here are a few:

First, my ideal estate planning clients do not use LegalZoom for their estate planning. The people who use LegalZoom would never go to a lawyer who is not dirt cheap. Unfortunately, experienced estate planners are not dirt cheap. Therefore, LegalZoom certainly is not costing me any business.

Second, people who do their own estate planning, even with the help of some entity like LegalZoom, often don’t get their estate planning and funding right. These people typically never realize their own estate plan is defective, incomplete or unfunded.

Third, once someone dies with a defective or unfunded estate plan in place, the survivors soon realize they need expert help to clear up the problems a defective or unfunded estate plan creates. There is now a legal barrier between these people and their inheritance.

Fourth, at that point, the survivors become my ideal administration clients. My services have now gone from optional (as my services are sometimes seen in the planning stage) to required because the problem is now severe and there is urgency in solving the problem (the urgency is that people cannot get to “their” money!) Luckily for them, I have the skills to solve their problem. And because now I am fixing someone else’s mistakes, my fees are much higher than they would be if I had done the estate planning in the first place.

Yes, I love LegalZoom, I will just not let my friends and family use it, regardless of how much money I make from LegalZoom.

If you would like more information concerning estate planning, contact Antelope Valley estate planning law firm Thompson | Von Tungeln (TVT) at 661-945-5868 or visit their websites at www.EstatePlanningSpecialists.com and www.Medi-CalHelp.com. www.EstatePlanningSpecialists.com is a comprehensive online resource for personal wealth management solutions through wills and revocable trusts. www.Medi-CalHelp.com is a comprehensive online resource for long term nursing home care for the middle class. As Board Certified Specialists in Estate Planning, Trusts and Probate as certified by the State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization, Mark E. Thompson and Kevin L. Von Tungeln are expertly equipped to serve clients with the creative, effective and custom solutions they demand.

Top Scams Against the Elderly

Arrest XSmallPlease take a moment and check out the short article in the link below. Awareness is the first step in stopping crimes against our elderly citizens. Crimes against the elderly are epidemic in our society.

www.caring.com/blogs/fyi-daily/top-scams-against-older-adults Caring.com is a great resource!

If you would like more information concerning how to protect your elderly loved one, or to avoid probate, contact Antelope Valley estate planning law firm Thompson | Von Tungeln (TVT) at 661-945-5868 or visit their websites at www.EstatePlanningSpecialists.com and www.Medi-CalHelp.com. www.EstatePlanningSpecialists.com is a comprehensive online resource for personal wealth management solutions through wills and revocable trusts. www.Medi-CalHelp.com is a comprehensive online resource for long term nursing home care for the middle class. As Board Certified Specialists in Estate Planning, Trusts and Probate as certified by the State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization, partners Mark E. Thompson and Kevin L. Von Tungeln are expertly equipped to serve clients with the creative, effective and custom solutions they demand.

California Estate Planning Attorney Explains How To Manage A Virtual Life After Death

Senior men text messaging Many individuals lead active, virtual lives. They are on gaming sites, social networking sites, have online financial capability, and are active on online auction site. What impact can these activities have on their estate plan? It depends on how familiar the executor and heirs are with the online activity.

A typical consultation with an estate planning attorney will include an inventory of all of the physical assets of an individual for inclusion in his/her estate plan. Cash, financial instruments, property, business ownership interests, etc. are all included in an estate plan. But the virtual world requires additional estate planning, such as how are online assets passed along to heirs in an estate plan?

It may seem esoteric, but many estate planning attorneys are beginning to include passwords to internet domains, online auction site account information, email account passwords and other online information in estate planning documents. Many of these sites have a monetary value – such as web site domains which may be worth thousands of dollars and online businesses. Others have the ability to reduce the size of an estate (e.g. online auction sites where bids are pending) and need to be included in an estate plan. There are also online services that promise to convey all of your digital info to your heirs in the event of your demise. This sounds like a convenient service, but hackers would gravitate to these kinds of site because they contain a treasure trove of information. It is safer to create a hard-copy file with your estate planning attorney and keep all of that information with your estate plan, so that your heirs can have easy access to the information.

As technology progresses, your estate plan needs to keep up with the changes in your virtual and temporal lives. Estate planning has crossed a brave new frontier along with the rest of society. A regular consultation with your estate planning attorney to review your estate plan can make life much easier for your heirs.

Antelope Valley estate planning law firm Thompson Von Tungeln (TVT) offers sophisticated estate planning and administration for the affluent, discriminating client. As Board Certified Specialists in Estate Planning, Trusts and Probate as certified by the State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization, Mark E. Thompson and Kevin L. Von Tungeln are expertly equipped to serve these clients with the creative, effective and custom solutions they demand. For more information, contact TVT at 661-945-5868 or visit their websites at www.EstatePlanningSpecialists.com and www.Medi-CalHelp.com.

Avoiding Probate with a Small Estate Affidavit

empty pocketsLegal planning and estate strategies seem a smart move for those with large estates that take much planning, but what about the family who doesn’t have much of an estate to transfer? What about those with minimal estates? How can they avoid probate?

Thankfully, probate can be avoided no matter the size of an estate through some simple steps that you and your family attorney can take. For most families, a trust is the vehicle to avoid probate. For small estates, there’s a simple shortcut to take to avoid probate using the preparation of a simple document.

Claiming Property with Affidavits

If the total value of the assets you leave behind (excluding real property) is less than $100,000 in California, your family members may be able to skip probate entirely. If the estate qualifies, the inheritor can prepare a document that states he/she claims a certain piece of the estate (such as a bank account, retirement fund, etc.). We will cover the rules for small estates holding real estate in another article.

The document, called an affidavit, is then presented to the entity holding the asset and signed under oath. The inheritor then must present the affidavit to the bank or business from which they are claiming the property who will then release the property.

Again, the procedure will avoid the probate court and the costly process of enduring probate, but be sure you follow the proper steps in preparing and presenting the affidavit.

If you would like more information concerning estate planning, contact Antelope Valley estate planning law firm Thompson | Von Tungeln (TVT) at 661-945-5868 or visit their websites at www.EstatePlanningSpecialists.com and www.Medi-CalHelp.com. www.EstatePlanningSpecialists.com is a comprehensive online resource for personal wealth management solutions through wills and revocable trusts. www.Medi-CalHelp.com is a comprehensive online resource for long term nursing home care for the middle class. As Board Certified Specialists in Estate Planning, Trusts and Probate as certified by the State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization, partners Mark E. Thompson and Kevin L. Von Tungeln are expertly equipped to serve clients with the creative, effective and custom solutions they demand.

LTC Insurance Agent Warns of Major Changes in Industry

This development could have major implications for our clients. As an estate planning lawyer, I am constantly asked for advice on whether someone should buy Long Term Care Insurance. If this writer is accurate, it will most definitely make LTC less attractive in the future. Read the article here.

If you would like more information concerning estate planning, contact Antelope Valley estate planning law firm Thompson | Von Tungeln (TVT) at 661-945-5868 or visit their websites at www.EstatePlanningSpecialists.com and www.Medi-CalHelp.com. www.EstatePlanningSpecialists.com is a comprehensive online resource for personal wealth management solutions through wills and revocable trusts. www.Medi-CalHelp.com is a comprehensive online resource for long term nursing home care for the middle class. As Board Certified Specialists in Estate Planning, Trusts and Probate as certified by the State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization, partners Mark E. Thompson and Kevin L. Von Tungeln are expertly equipped to serve clients with the creative, effective and custom solutions they demand.

No Contest Clauses in Wills – When There is a Challenge to the Validity of the Instrument

Angry young man XSmallThe purpose of a no contest clause that is included in a California will is to discourage frivolous legal disputes of the terms of a will after the testator has deceased. While in many cases a no contest clause does just that–other situations are not so easily resolved, and there are exclusions to the scope of a no contest clause that are often upheld by California courts.

One such exclusion is a valid concern and dispute over the instrument created by the testator. Specifically, to hold legal weight, a will must be in writing, and two witnesses must sign it. These witnesses cannot have any stake in the will–meaning that they cannot be beneficiaries of it–and they cannot be married to, or be a civil partner to anyone who has a stake in the estate for which the will was written. In rare cases in which a beneficiary was also a witness to a will, this fault might not invalidate the entire will, rather only the part that relates to the beneficiary who acted as witness.

The witnesses must also see the testator actually sign the will, and they must sign only after the testator has done so.
Such faulty errors to the actual instrument can be valid reasons to contest a will. A problem with the will instrument itself is generally considered a valid exclusion to a no contest clause, unless that clause includes specific language stating that a dispute over the validity of the instrument falls under the no contest request. Even then, however, the no contest clause may not be enforced if the beneficiary was acting reasonably when initiating such a contest.

If you have a question concerning a no contest clause that you wish to include in your will, or if you are a beneficiary who wishes to understand the scope and limits of a no contest clause, a qualified California estate lawyer will be able to provide more details concerning the recent legislation and current legal state of no contest clauses. As the law is in the process of changing, and such changes might be retroactive to your current situation, it is best to consult an experienced California estate attorney to determine the steps that are best for you to take.

If you would like more information concerning estate planning, contact Antelope Valley estate planning law firm Thompson | Von Tungeln (TVT) at 661-945-5868 or visit their websites at www.EstatePlanningSpecialists.com and www.Medi-CalHelp.com. www.EstatePlanningSpecialists.com is a comprehensive online resource for personal wealth management solutions through wills and revocable trusts. www.Medi-CalHelp.com is a comprehensive online resource for long term nursing home care for the middle class. As Board Certified Specialists in Estate Planning, Trusts and Probate as certified by the State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization, partners Mark E. Thompson and Kevin L. Von Tungeln are expertly equipped to serve clients with the creative, effective and custom solutions they demand.

How Living Trusts Avoid Probate

estate planningThe point of creating a will and planning an estate is to organize your affairs before death so that all monies and properties are transferred efficiently and quickly to the desired recipients. The more prepared you are, the easier the process will be after you are gone. Having your estate enter probate prolongs the estate settling process and costs considerable money, taking away from your beneficiaries. One way to avoid probate is by creating a living trust. (A Will does not avoid probate!)

The probate process involved inventorying and appraising assets that were in your name, paying debts/taxes, and re-appropriating the monies/properties to the estate beneficiaries. But when you create a living trust, all this can be done quickly and without probate. Usually taxes and fees are lower and your loved ones receive more of your money with a well planned and funded trust based estate plan.

    A trust avoids probate because your assets (or most of them) will be held in the name of the trust, not your individual name.

How to create a trust.

A living trust is similar to a will and begins with a document known as a declaration of trust or trust agreement. You are named as the trustee (if you create the living trust with your spouse you are both co-trustees). Next, you will transfer ownership of all (or some) of your properties to yourself as trustee of the living trust. You won’t give up any control because you are the trustee.

In the living trust, you will declare the people, organizations, or charities you wish to receive benefits from your estate after your death. Realize that you can change these beneficiaries at anytime before you pass on.

Also, when you create a living trust, it’s crucial to create a back-up will as well, commonly called a pour over will. This will ensures that any properties not named in the trust will be given to the desired beneficiaries. If you do not have a pour over will will and properties are not named in the trust, the properties could be handed over to the courts to appropriate according to the laws of the state of your residence.

If you would like more help with using trusts to avoid probate, Antelope Valley estate planning law firm Thompson Von Tungeln (TVT) offers sophisticated estate planning and administration for the successful, discriminating client. As Board Certified Specialists in Estate Planning, Trusts and Probate as certified by the State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization, partners Mark E. Thompson and Kevin L. Von Tungeln are expertly equipped to serve these clients with the creative, effective and custom solutions they demand. For more information, contact TVT at 661-945-5868 or visit their websites at www.EstatePlanningSpecialists.com and www.Medi-CalHelp.com.

Why Avoid Probate?

empty pocketsMost people realize that probate is not a favorable process to encounter after the death of a loved one. But why should you avoid probate? What exactly is it about probate that makes it so undesirable? Consider the main drive of avoiding probate—probate fees and the 18 months or so it take to go through the process.

Attorney and court fees in the probate process can take away up to five percent or more of an estate’s value. But it gets worse, your executor is entitled to the same statutory fees as your attorney, doubling the fees. That can take away TEN PERCENT of a $100,000 estate! And that is the starting point of the costs, they only go up from there.

Most of what happens in the probate process is basically clerical, but properties and monies can be tied up in the process for eighteen months or even many years. Even if there is no conflict or petitioning parties in the process, the probate process can be extremely tedious and costly.

For their roles in the probate proceedings, both your lawyers and the will executor will be entitled to a fee paid from the estate. If the executor inherits a substantial portion of the estate, it is normal for he/she to waive the fee owed. However, the probate attorney fees are set by the court (and the amount varies per state).

Many states base the attorney fees on a percentage of the estate value. Routinely, a probate attorney’s fee and court costs for a basic state that grosses $400,000 can total $15,000 or more. (And don’t forget to add in the executor’s fees.) Add in any court costs, appraiser fees, and other random expenses and the cost of the probate process can become extremely costly.

With the dip of the economy, many estates aren’t as large as they once were, and the charges on the estate for probate fees can leave a smaller inheritance even more modest than the deceased hoped to pass on to family. Avoiding probate can help save on costs and make sure all your hard earned money is enjoyed by those you love.

If you would like more help with avoiding probate, Antelope Valley estate planning law firm Thompson Von Tungeln (TVT) offers sophisticated estate planning and administration for the affluent, discriminating client. As Board Certified Specialists in Estate Planning, Trusts and Probate as certified by the State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization, partners Mark E. Thompson and Kevin L. Von Tungeln are expertly equipped to serve these clients with the creative, effective and custom solutions they demand. For more information, contact TVT at 661-945-5868 or visit their websites at www.EstatePlanningSpecialists.com and www.Medi-CalHelp.com.

Should I Avoid Probate?

Senior couple meeting with agentWhen settling the estate of a loved one, most times friends and family will face the reality of probate. While avoidable, most estates enter probate and face a months-long process of settling the estate through probate court. This process can become costly and time-consuming, and can prolong the grieving process for many people.

Many times I’m asked the question of how to avoid probate and is it worth avoiding? In most every case the answer is yes, probate is worth avoiding. Probate rarely benefits loved ones and those handling the estate. Beneficiaries usually suffer and must pay time and money to settle the estate. Probate can be avoided by some careful planning.

When should you spend your time and money on avoiding probate? The simple answer is before you die. However, your age and health will be a factor in how your planning is set up.

Consider a few factors—your age, health, and wealth. If you are young and in relatively good health, planning will generally be very conservative due to the fact that the laws will likely change many times in the decades (we hope) before you need to implement your plan. If you are over 60, in poor health, or have a considerable amount of property, planning now to avoid probate may be a wise investment of your time and money. In this second category, planning will generally be slightly more aggressive, with the likelihood of the plan being implemented sooner under laws that are in effect today. In other words, the sooner your plan will be implemented, the more certainty we have in our planning to lower your estate’s costs and death taxes.

If you would like more information concerning estate planning, including learning how to avoid probate, contact Antelope Valley estate planning law firm Thompson | Von Tungeln (TVT) at 661-945-5868 or visit their websites at www.EstatePlanningSpecialists.comwww.EstatePlanningSpecialists.com and www.Medi-CalHelp.com. www.EstatePlanningSpecialists.com is a comprehensive online resource for personal wealth management solutions through wills and revocable trusts. www.Medi-CalHelp.com is a comprehensive online resource for long term nursing home care for the middle class. As Board Certified Specialists in Estate Planning, Trusts and Probate as certified by the State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization, partners Mark E. Thompson and Kevin L. Von Tungeln are expertly equipped to serve clients with the creative, effective and custom solutions they deserve.

Does All Property Have to Go Through Probate?

Last Will and Testament XSmallMost people fear the probate process and wish to avoid it at all costs. True, the probate process can lengthen the grieving process for the death of a loved one and prolong the settling of the estate, but for the most part it is a necessary process after a loved one has passed on. While it is necessary, you can avoid certain headaches and worries in the probate process by knowing a few simple facts.

“Does all my property have to be claimed in probate court and go through the process of probate after I pass on?” I’ve been asked this question many times, and thankfully there is a welcomed answer for those asking it.

In many states, a set amount of property value does not have to face probate. For example, in the state of California, up to $100,000 in properties can be passed to other family members or beneficiaries without enduring the full blown probate process. If the property is left to a surviving spouse, there is also a simpler transfer process that the state of California allows.

Also, any properties passed outside of a will through joint custody or a living trust does not have to be claimed in probate court and can be settled outside of probate.

If you would like more information concerning estate planning, including learning how to avoid probate, contact Antelope Valley estate planning law firm Thompson | Von Tungeln (TVT) at 661-945-5868 or visit their websites at www.EstatePlanningSpecialists.comwww.EstatePlanningSpecialists.com and www.Medi-CalHelp.com. www.EstatePlanningSpecialists.com is a comprehensive online resource for personal wealth management solutions through wills and revocable trusts. www.Medi-CalHelp.com is a comprehensive online resource for long term nursing home care for the middle class. As Board Certified Specialists in Estate Planning, Trusts and Probate as certified by the State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization, partners Mark E. Thompson and Kevin L. Von Tungeln are expertly equipped to serve clients with the creative, effective and custom solutions they demand.

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