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San Diego Probate & Estate Administration Law Blog

How to prep for an estate planning session

Estate planning is all about preparing for the future and making sure that your goals are met. However, good estate planning often takes time.

If you're prepping for a session with your attorney, take a few moments and gather up what you'll need to make the process easier.

Did new tax laws make estate planning obsolete?

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 doubled the exemptions that apply to estate taxes. Federal estate taxes won't apply to individual estates unless their net worth exceeds $11.18 million. For couples, the exemption is $22 million. This means that nearly all Americans — except for the few who have net worths exceeding $11 million — will not have to worry about estate-tax planning. This might beg the question: Is estate planning obsolete?

No, estate planning is not obsolete. Americans still need to plan for the day when they're no longer here or no longer able to make decisions for themselves. A well-planned estate could benefit families in numerous ways, such as:

  • Prevent or reduce the chances of family infighting.
  • Lower the costs and time associated with probate proceedings, or eliminate the need for probate altogether.
  • Offer clear guidelines about how to distribute an estate to heirs.
  • Make a plan for protecting assets from creditors.
  • Make a plan for protecting the assets of those with special needs.
  • Distribute wealth to heirs gradually over time with a spendthrift trust.
  • Set up health care proxies, powers of attorney and living wills that go into effect in the event of incapacitation.
  • And much, much more, depending on your situation and needs.

You must be very sure that you want an irrevocable trust

You're thinking of setting up an irrevocable trust for your heirs. You're interested in a multitude of benefits, from the tax advantages -- which you do not get with a revocable trust -- to the control it gives you over how your heirs get and use their money.

These trusts can be incredibly helpful. A trust is created with your specific situation in mind, so you know that it's a flexible tool to give you control over your assets. You can save on taxes, make your wishes known, prevent future financial catastrophes and ensure that your plans for your wealth are followed.

How people can contest a will

Are you worried that someone might contest your will?

It's a common issue. Family dynamics can sometimes give rise to a lot of strife -- and that can boil over in the midst of grief. Other times, people intentionally leave a potential heir out of their will and just know that person is going to be unhappy about it.

A spendthrift trust can protect heirs from their own habits

You love your children, but you know that they're not great with money. Growing up rather wealthy, they take money for granted, not realizing how hard you had to work for it.

You're worried that leaving your wealth to them directly is a recipe for disaster. You're reminded of people who never learned how to deal with money properly, won the lottery for $20 million, and blew through all of that money in a matter of years. They were left with nothing. You don't want your children to do the same thing with their inheritance.

3 reasons families fight over estates

In a perfect world, your family will appreciate your estate plan, divide up your assets, and avoid any conflicts. Perhaps they'll even use some of the money to go on a family vacation in your honor, growing closer and enjoying their time together.

In reality, families often fight over estate plans and inheritance money. Sometimes, these fights push family members apart and cause emotional wounds that never heal. Below are three reasons this happens:

  1. The distributions seem unfair. For instance, perhaps your daughter makes $100,000 per year while your son is on welfare. You may think leaving your son more money, since he needs it more, is fine. However, your daughter may see that as incredibly unfair and that it's penalizing her for being successful.
  2. There is no estate plan and no will. In these cases, it's up to your heirs to decide what must be done. This can lead to plenty of accusations that one person is being selfish and only looking out for himself or herself -- and, in some cases, these accusations may be warranted. Either way, it can create a rift between family members.
  3. Other siblings don't agree with your choice of executor. If you pick one child to do everything, will the other children think he or she is handling the money in a fair manner? Possibly, but it can cause problems if not.

Understanding conservatorships in San Diego

Protecting your loved ones later in life is a top priority for just about everyone. It can be very difficult seeing your parents and grandparents struggling with health issues, financial issues and other problems as they age. Their retirement years are supposed to be filled with love, laughter, travel and relaxation. Some will not get to enjoy any of this due to their health. When the time comes, it might be best to create a conservatorship for an older loved one.

Your elder law attorney needs to file a petition with the court requesting that a conservatorship be created. The petition must name the person in need, who is called the conservatee, and the person who will be given authority by the court to operate the conservatorship, who is the conservator. Conservatorships are created when someone is not physically or mentally able to care for themselves.

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