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.

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.

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.

How to Avoid Probate in California

Judge signing a court order In California, the number one goal in estate planning is to avoid probate. California has one of the most rule driven, expensive and time consuming probate systems in the nation. As a result, it makes great sense to avoid probate in the first place.

How does one avoid probate? The best method in California is through the use of trusts. Creating a revocable, or “living trust,” is like creating a corporation. For a couple, think of a trust as a corporation with two shareholders and two managers – the husband and wife. Just like if the head of a corporation dies, the corporation does not cease to exist. The successor managers take over and everything keeps on operating as before. The head of the corporation does not own the assets, the corporation owns everything. The same is true with a trust. Title to assets are held by the trust, so if the individual, or both spouses die, the successor trustee steps in and takes over. There is nothing to probate because title to the assets are held by the trust, not the individuals.

If you would like more information concerning estate planning, including 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.

Probate: Defining Probate

Young hands tending to an elderly personEstate planning can sometimes be presented as a headache or painful task, yet the rewards of properly caring for an estate are many. Consider this fact: when you pass, everything you own must be transferred to someone else. Ideally, you will have established a trust which will clearly outline who is to receive what. But what happens if you pass without a trust? Does having a trust make that much difference?

When a person dies without a trust, the estate enters probate. This includes people who only have a will. The dictionary definition of probate is “the legal process in which a will is reviewed to determine whether it is valid and authentic. Probate also refers to the general administering of a deceased person’s will or the estate of a deceased person without a will. The court appoints either an executor named in the will (or an administrator if there is no will) to administer the process of collecting the assets of the deceased person, paying any liabilities remaining on the person’s estate and finally distributing the assets of the estate to beneficiaries named in the will or determined as such by the executor.” Simply put, the court and law of the state determines who receives the contents of the deceased’s estate. It is a primary goal of most people in California to simply avoid probate.

A probate court is not under obligation to honor any verbal or written wishes a person may have expressed as to the appropriation of their estate. Even if the deceased had told others they would receive certain items of the state, without a will proving such, the claims are invalid.

Setting up your estate properly can be a special way for you to show love and appreciation to loved ones or friends after you are gone, but if you are not proactive in creating a trust now, your estate will be handled in probate court.

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.

Probate: Having a Will vs Not Having a Will

TaxmanDealing with the death of a loved one can be a difficult and painful process. The emotional roller coaster of dealing with death compounds the necessary process of settling the deceased’s estate. One aspect of settling an estate that should be avoided is probate.

Probate is the legal process of settling an estate in a probate court. If a person establishes a will before dying, the executor of the will presents the will to the probate court. The court then determines if the will is valid, listens to any objections to the will (should there be any), and orders the executor to appropriate possessions, lands, monies, and the contents of the will to the proper beneficiaries.

If a will has not been established, the estate is probated according to the law of the deceased’s state of residence and if any minor children are involved, the state determines the caretakers of the children.

The main difference between dying with a will and dying without one is the distribution of the estate. A person with a will has the say of who receives the contents of the estate. A person without a will has no say over the distribution of their estate, but the authority of the estate is given to a court to be distributed in accordance with state law. (Under both circumstances, however, you will not avoid probate.)

Each state differs in probate law, but most are not ideal in following the wishes of a deceased person. Unless a will has been established correctly under state law, the courts have no obligation to follow the deceased’s verbal or written wishes.

If you would like more information concerning probate, www.EstatePlanningSpecialists.com is a comprehensive online resource for personal wealth management solutions through wills and revocable trusts (which allows you to avoid probate). Whether your estate planning goals are immediate or long-term, a California certified estate planning specialist will be able to counsel you on the best options available to you to meet your individual needs. Call us at (661) 945-5868.

Avoiding Retirement Planning Mistakes

seniors having teaI once ran into a retiree who had a considerable amount of wealth and lived very luxuriously. Over the course of our conversation it was discovered that he had spent his entire life working as a janitor of an elementary school. Floored, I asked the obvious, “How did you accumulate such worth in such a moderate career?” He replied, “I just started putting money into a retirement account when I first began work here, a little bit each paycheck.”

How do some people retire in such ease and others struggle to keep up with inflation after quitting work? Sadly, many people fall into some of the most common retirement planning mistakes as are listed below. Take note to these mistakes and be sure to avoid them so you can retire in ease.

Waiting until you’re 55. The number one retirement mistake people face is not beginning planning soon enough. Beginning early makes all the difference in the long run, for if begun early enough, your retirement total will not be as impacted by your immediate salary. Allowing time to compound your wealth will give you a more comfortable retirement.

Decide what percent is enough. Another common mistake people make in planning is assuming too small of a percentage of their yearly income. True, times are tough and money is not at a surplus currently, but if you make retirement planning a priority, your sacrifice now will pay off for years to come. Determining your percentage of investment depends on several factors. Consult a financial planner for help in setting a percentage to invest.

An undetermined goal. True, beginning early is key, but when you begin, take time to set a goal for your retirement total. This step will take strategic planning and help from someone in the business of retirement planning. Not only must you set a goal for a comfortable life after retirement, but you must assume inflation for such a time.

Using retirement monies now. With the downturn of the economy many people were forced to look to alternative means of income for a time. Many looked to retirement accounts and pulled monies saved for the future. If you can ever avoid it, don’t use the monies in your retirement account. Besides the fact you’ll need these monies in the future, often penalties and taxes are charged on monies removed from retirement accounts prematurely.

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.

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