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San Diego Probate & Estate Administration Law Blog

A Message To Clients

Dear Clients and Prospective Clients,

Although our physical office is temporarily closed, our virtual office is up and running! If you have been thinking about starting or changing your trust or will, now is the time to do so. The entire process can be completed from the comfort and safety of your home. We are also available remotely to service your probate and trust administration needs. Please email or call us today to schedule your appointment.

Estate planning is wise with the COVID-19 pandemic

Estate planning is always wise, and life is unpredictable. About 40,000 people die in car accidents every year, and none of them anticipated that happening at the beginning of the year. The goal of estate planning should always be to get it done in advance so that the plan is ready if something unfortunate and unexpected does happen.

That said, the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic has brought this idea a lot closer to everyone's minds. It is hard to tell exactly how far it will spread or how many lives it will take, but some of the estimates are quite high, and it does spread fast. On top of that, some people are at high risk, including:

  • The elderly
  • Those already dealing with serious medical conditions
  • These medical conditions include things like lung disease, diabetes and heart disease
  • Those with weakened or compromised immune systems, such as those getting chemo for cancer

A Message for our Clients, Potential Clients, and Visitors...

With the recent updates and news about Covid-19 (the coronavirus), we want to share the measures that our office to taking to ensure the safety and well-being of all our clients, potential clients, and visitors.

The first line of defense starts with you, our valued clients, potential clients, and visitors. While we love to greet our clients, we are no longer shaking hands or giving hugs. If you are feeling ill, we encourage you to stay home or seek appropriate medical assistance, even if your illness is not related to Covid-19. We require all employees to stay home if they are sick, or to immediately leave the office if they develop illness during the workday. Our conference room and office entry door handles are sprayed and wiped down after each meeting. Several times a day, we spray and wipe down shared office tools, such as copiers, refrigerator, counterspace, etc. 

What is it called when you pass away without a will?

Many people put off writing a will. Say you do so for a few decades, thinking you still have time to get your estate plan together. Then, just before you actually get that plan down on paper, you pass away unexpectedly from a heart attack or in a car accident.

Life is unpredictable, and this does happen to many people every year. When it does, it is known as "dying intestate." This refers to the fact that you have no will, you have no estate plan and you have left no real guidance for your heirs.

What is an owner-dependent business?

There are many different types of businesses in the United States, and small businesses -- the most common type -- tend to fall into one of three broad categories. These are owner-dependent, multigenerational or marketable. Let's take a moment to consider the first two.

An owner-dependent business is one that was founded by one person and that is generally run by that person. When that individual passes away or retires, the business generally closes.

What is one of the biggest estate planning mistakes?

Estate planning is very important, as mistakes can have a negative impact on your family. Unfortunately, people still make some avoidable mistakes, often because they simply don't realize it at the time. To help you avoid this potential pitfall, let's look at one of the biggest mistakes: Failing to update the will.

The trap here lies in thinking that simply having a will is enough all on its own. Once you complete your will, you assume that your estate planning is done.

Creating a trust that plans for the unexpected

When you create a trust, it is important to think about the unexpected -- about the things that may happen that you cannot predict. You do not want to accidentally keep money from your heirs when you would have preferred to pass it on to them. You can't change the trust after you pass away, so you must plan for all possible outcomes in advance.

For instance, say you create an educational trust for a child that will just pay for school-related expenses like books, tuition, room and board and other such costs. However, your child gets married while in school, and then their spouse gets sick. They quit school to take care of them. Do you really want to say they cannot have money they may desperately need just because they're not paying tuition with it?

Understanding testamentary capacity

One question that the court may ask when determining the validity of a will is if the person who did the estate planning possessed the testamentary capacity to do so. It's very important to understand what this means and how it can impact an estate plan.

Overall, testamentary capacity is simply the ability to understand and fully comprehend the estate planning process. It is sometimes referred to as "being of sound mind," but it does go a bit further than that. It's the process of making sure the person's real intent lines up with the estate plan. They need to understand things like:

  • The will's overall purpose
  • The fact that they are signing a will at all
  • The fact that the documents will help pass their assets and property on to their beneficiaries

A trust can be used for more than education

Say that you want to set up a trust for a grandchild so that they can pay for their education. It's a wise use of your money, and creating that trust can be part of your estate planning.

As you do it, though, remember that you can create a trust that the child can use for multiple purposes. It does not have to be constrained to education alone.

Not liking a will is not grounds to challenge

Your parent's will arrives, and you just don't like the terms. Maybe you thought that you'd get a specific asset or maybe you thought more money would go your way. You have been looking forward to it, and now you're disappointed. Can you challenge the will?

You may be able to, but remember that you can't do it just because you don't like it. Your parent was not obligated to write a will that you would like. In fact, they can even leave you out of the will entirely if they want. You may feel angry or frustrated about this, but that's not enough for a challenge on its own.

Law Office of Suzanne P. Nicholl, PC
6165 Greenwich Dr.
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San Diego, CA 92122

Phone: 619-894-8552
Fax: 858-373-5556
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Suzanne P. Nicholl
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