3 Estate Planning Resolutions for the New Year

With another year behind you, it is a great time to review your estate plan. If you do not have an estate plan, it’s a great time to start one. Here are three estate planning resolutions you should consider for 2019:

Estate Planning Resolution #1: Have the Talk

There is no easy time to bring up estate planning with your partner or children. Estate planning gets a bad reputation for being associated with death, however it does not need to be a dark subject. There is much more to estate planning than what happens to your assets after you pass away. Your estate plan could include important information about child custody, medical decisions in the event of incapacitation or the future of your home or business.

You could bring it up this way: an estate plan protects your family and intentions. Discussing an estate plan as a family gives everyone a chance to speak about their intentions and understand their role, so no one is caught off-guard in the event of death or an emergency situation.

If you die without an estate plan, then California’s intestate succession laws will govern the division of your property. Any specific wishes you may have had for your family will not legally mean anything and your estate will become a public matter.

Estate Planning Resolution #2: Review Life Events

Did anything big happen in your life during 2018? Reviewing your existing estate plan could give you an idea of anything or anyone you may have left out. In some cases, you may want to amend part of your estate plan. A few examples of events to consider include:

  • Marriage
  • Separation or divorce
  • Birth of a child
  • Death of a loved one
  • Property acquisition or sale

Again, keeping your estate plan updated protects your family and wishes.

Estate Planning Resolution #3: Organize Your Passwords

Technology has become an institution within our everyday lives. Any pictures you save online, online bank accounts, social media profiles or owned web domains are your digital assets. In this day and age, they should have a spot in your estate plan. In the event of death or incapacitation, your loved ones could have a difficult time obtaining your digital information without legal permission and instruction. Start getting organized by writing down your passwords to:

  • Electronic devices
  • E-mail accounts
  • Social network accounts
  • Website accounts
  • Online bank accounts
  • Online bill-payment accounts

Need a Ventura County Estate Planning Attorney?

Our California estate planning attorneys help clients in Oxnard and the surrounding areas of Ventura County with a complete range of trust and estate services. We could help you figure out the best course of action for your estate and create a legally valid plan under California law. Call Lowthorp, Richards, McMillan, Miller & Templeman, APC today at (805) 981-8555 or contact us online for more information.

How to Incorporate Your Digital Life into Your Estate Plans

In this modern age, our digital life has become almost as important as our normal everyday lives. Our online accounts, emails, social media profiles and digital subscriptions are all a part of our daily routines, so it’s natural to think about what will happen to them when you pass away. An estate planning attorney can help you navigate through the complicated online user agreements and laws that may restrict how others can be in control of your account through your estate plans.

Early last year, California passed the Revised Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act, which allows trustees and executors to obtain disclosure of someone’s digital assets after the primary user’s death under specific conditions. Before this law, it was very difficult for executors and trustees to obtain access to digital accounts without a court order.

This new law allows for a requirement of prior consent before disclosing this important information. It also made it easier for executors and trustees to prove that the decedent had consented to the disclosure, which allowed them to have access to the digital information.

What’s Included in My Digital Life?

Your digital life can include:

  • Email accounts
  • Social network profiles
  • Blogging sites
  • Photo-sharing sites
  • Shopping accounts
  • Banking and bill-payment accounts

How Can I Ensure My Digital Accounts Are Protected Now?

  1. Take inventory of all the accounts and websites listed above. For each account, make sure you state the login and password information in your estate plans, as well as any answers to “secret” questions.
  2. Write down where you have stored this information and the master password needed to gain access to it. Place this information in a safety deposit box or with your estate planning attorney.
  3. Consider drafting and signing a statement that authorizes the companies that hold your digital information to disclose that information to your executor or another representative of your estate. You can draft this with your estate planning attorney as well.
  4. Update your will with pertinent information related to your digital assets.

If you have any more questions about what should belong in your estate plans, contact an estate planning attorney at Lowthorp, Richards, McMillan, Miller & Templeman, APC today.

What Are the Benefits of Micro Estate Planning?

Traditional estate planning can reduce your taxes, eliminate large probate fees, and give you security for the future. However, you might be unfamiliar with a brand-new estate planning term: micro estate planning.

What Is Micro Estate Planning?

Long-term planning is important, and it should still be considered in your overall estate planning process. However, it is also important to consider what will happen to your assets in the hours or days after your (or your spouse’s) passing.

This is where micro estate planning can help; it can help establish short term plans and information. For example, if you and your spouse go out and do not return home, how will the babysitter be contacted? If you are a parent, questions like these have probably crossed your mind, but you were probably unsure of how to execute a plan. Other scenarios can include questioning who will pick up your children from the house, where they will live short-term, and other circumstances.

As part of the rest of your long-term estate plans, you, your spouse, and your estate planning attorney can draft an additional document that outlines these short-term scenarios and information.

Micro estate planning can help you and your family tremendously and provide even further security in case of a sudden accident. If you have underage children, or if you are just generally interested in drafting an estate plan, you should contact an estate planning attorney at Lowthorp, Richards, McMillan, Miller & Templeman, APC for more information.

Aretha Franklin’s Death Without a Will is a Reminder to Think About Your Estate Plans

According to documents filed in probate court, Aretha Franklin left no will or trust behind when she died. Without proper documentation of her assets, a net-worth estimated beyond $80 million and rumored debts, figuring the true worth of Franklin’s estate will likely be controversial and take time.

If Franklin voiced any wishes for her estate and legacy prior to her death, they will not likely be fulfilled. Neither will the wishes of her immediate relatives. Without a will, her estate will be distributed under Michigan law, which means her assets should be divided equally among her four sons. In respect to future accrued assets from Franklin’s legacy, Franklin’s niece, the appointed representative of the estate, has sole legal power over how the estate will be administered.

You may feel like estate planning does not apply to you, but it applies to everyone. There is much more to estate planning than allocating assets. Estate planning can help you address many issues you might face at incapacity or death. Do you want to sell your business after you pass? How would you want your family to take care of you if you became disabled? Who would you choose as guardian to your children if you became incapacitated? These are tough questions, but having a legal plan in place is the only way to truly preserve your intentions and protect your loved ones. Without proper legal documentation, a person’s estate, no matter the size, is administered based on guidelines set from the state in which that person lived.

There are multiple routes you can take within an estate plan. The best options for you depend on factors such as personal goals, assets and health. To ensure that your intentions are covered and comply with your state’s laws, working with an experienced estate planning attorney is recommended. At Lowthorp, Richards, McMillan, Miller & Templeman, APC, we perform the complete range of trust and estate legal services for our clients. We can help you decide the best course of action to take for your interests, develop your estate plan, and leave you with peace of mind for your future.

Contact our estate planning attorneys at (805) 981-8555 for more information.

Will I Get My Spouse’s Inheritance?

Inheritance laws help control the rights of the decedent’s property and how much is inherited by each of his or her survivors. California is a community property state, which means the law presumes all property acquired during a marriage is owned equally by both spouses. However, property one spouse owns alone before a marriage or acquires by gift or inheritance during a marriage is considered separate property.

But just because inheritances are generally considered separate property does not mean that this cannot change. It is possible to invalidate separate property in California if you do not do your due diligence in managing that property. Commingling is a term that refers to one spouse’s separate property becoming mixed with a couple’s marital property. This means that if you do not manage your inheritance properly, it could be considered marital property under state law. For example, if you were to inherit a large sum of money and deposit that money into an account you hold jointly with your spouse, that inheritance loses its status as separate property.

Divorce and Inheritance

If you and your spouse are divorcing, you should look into your state’s laws regarding divorce and inheritance. You may also seek a free consultation with an attorney that can provide assistance to help you figure out what will happen to your inheritance once you pass away.

Questions About California Inheritance Laws?

If you have more questions about inheritance laws pertaining to you and your spouse, contact a lawyer for legal assistance. Call the trusted estate planning attorneys at Lowthorp, Richards, McMillan, Miller & Templeman at (805) 981-8555 or fill out our online contact form.

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