Biddle Law Estate Planning Blog

Monday, September 18, 2017

Frequently Asked Questions About the Probate Process in California

Do I need an attorney if I am named a personal representative?

Probate is the court process through which a deceased person’s assets are distributed to their heirs.  While most of us are familiar with the term probate, few are aware of the intricacies of the probate process.  If you are preparing your estate plan, have been named as a personal representative, or are the heir to an estate in probate, you likely have many question about the probate process in the state of California.  Our

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Monday, September 11, 2017

When Capacity Leads to Trust Litigation

What is the standard for capacity when establishing a trust?

Revocable trusts have become one of the most common estate planning tools.  Revocable trusts hold several advantages over wills in California.  With a trust, you can avoid probate and all of the costs, as well as time delays, that often come with it.  Additionally, you can maintain privacy as trust assets will be seamlessly passed from the trust to its beneficiaries without the need for court involvement, absent litigation.  If litigation over your trust does arise, it will often hinge on the issue of capacity.

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Monday, August 14, 2017

Estate Planning for Families with Special Needs Children

Your estate plan should generally change every time you have a child. However, there are unique concerns that you should address when you are crafting an estate plan with a special needs child in mind. Parents of children with disabilities may need to account for life-long medical care, an inability for the child to earn their own living, and naming someone who cares deeply about the child to be a guardian.

In addition, you will often need to plan so that your child will still qualify for government assistance for health care or income support as well. Funds often should not be left directly to the special needs child because he or she will not be able to manage these funds on their own.
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Friday, August 11, 2017

California Probate Court: An Overview

California probate court is unique because it is a special division of the court system that deals only with probate issues, including managing decedents’ estates, guardianships of minors, conservatorships of adults, and trusts.

There are several probate courts throughout the state.

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Monday, August 7, 2017

The Basics of Pet Trusts in California

You cannot leave money or funds to a pet. Instead, you may want to set up a trust so that your assets or funds can be used for the care of that pet. That way, you know your pet will be cared for, even after you are gone, according to the instructions you have provided in the

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Monday, July 31, 2017

What is Probate?

When someone dies, he or she likely needs to wind up his or her financial and legal matters. They rely on others and any plans that they have created before their passing to complete this task.

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Saturday, July 29, 2017

Accepting Your Job as an Executor

Ideally, a loved one will discuss your role as an executor of their estate long before they pass. This candid discussion will allow you to consider the duties and responsibilities of someone acting in this role. That way you can make an informed decision long before it matters for your loved one. However, those who pass may not always have the foresight or time to have this conversation. As a result, you may have an executor assignment that you did not necessarily agree to carry out.

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Thursday, July 27, 2017

Small Estate Probate in California

Small estates do not need to be probated in California. That means that if you can decrease the total value of your property to under $150,000, you can avoid probate in California altogether.

This process is often referred to as “Summary Probate.” The executor of the estate simply has to file an affidavit or declaration 40 days after the date of death has passed. This document will be used to collect the assets of the estate for distribution.

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Monday, June 19, 2017

The Perils of Probate Litigation: How to Avoid a Will Contest

There are a number of reasons to create a will not the least of which are to protect your assets and provide for your loved ones. Nonetheless, having a will does not necessarily mean your wishes will be carried out. In fact, an estate can be exposed to a will contest if a dispute arises among family members. 
While these disputes may arise when assets are not distributed equally among the beneficiaries, particularly adult children, a will can be contested for a number of reasons, including:

  • The testator lacked capacity
  • There was undue influence on the testator
  • The will was not properly executed
  • The will was prepared fraudulently 

Avoiding a Will Contest: 101

Although will contests are not uncommon, there are steps you can take to avoid a will contest and intervention by the probate court. One of the common mistakes people make in estate planning is procrastinating, and not preparing a will until their health is failing.
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Sunday, June 18, 2017

Making Decisions About End of Life Medical Treatment

While advances in medicine allow people to live longer, questions are often raised about life-sustaining treatment terminally ill patients may or may not want to receive. Those who fail to formally declare these wishes in writing to family members and medical professionals run the risk of having the courts make these decisions.

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Thursday, June 15, 2017

A Primer on Irrevocable Trusts

How do irrevocable trusts fit into my estate plan?

Although many people think that estate planning is only about creating a will, a comprehensive plan considers a number of objectives such as asset protection, avoiding probate, and minimizing estate taxes. One effective tool for achieving these goals is an irrevocable trust.

What is an Irrevocable Trust?

An irrevocable trust becomes effective during a person's lifetime and, unlike a living trust, cannot be amended or modified. In short, the grantor (the person making the trust) permanently relinquishes ownership of property by transferring it into the trust. In this arrangement, a trustee is named to manage the trust assets for the benefit of the beneficiaries.

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