Receiving an inheritance from a family member may seem like a blessing, but sometimes it can feel like a curse. In the next three to four decades, $30 trillion will transfer from baby boomers to their heirs. A lump sum of money may seem like it will last you a lifetime, but most people go through it in just a couple of years. Continue reading
When you create a will or estate plan you may assume that your money will go to the intended heirs. But inheritance theft can happen right in front of your heirs, and the thieves will probably get away with it if the proper measures aren’t put into place to stop them. Since the thieves are usually family members, the fallout is not only about money, but also previous family tensions.
Here is what you need to know about the problem of inheritance theft, and how you can protect yourself and your heirs from inheritance thieves:
Forms of Inheritance Hijacking
Inheritance hijacking takes many forms, including outright theft. It is not unusual for valuables such as antiques or jewelry, to disappear from your home after you die. Missing items could have been taken by a stranger breaking into your home, or even someone close to you. A family member may want to grab a treasured item before someone else gets the chance. Even an in-home caregiver could take valuable items as a sort of do-it-yourself severance payment.
Denigration of fellow heirs is a frequent tactic used to increase an inheritance. Sometimes heirs are so focused on what they can do to increase their chunk of estate that they forget about the bond they have with their fellow heirs. One may lie about the other heirs, claiming that one sibling cannot be trusted with money, and make false promises. This kind of talk can persuade you to change your will in favor of the lying heir.
Undocumented loans are another type of inheritance hijacking. Family and friends who borrow money from you may say that the money was a gift. If there is no loan document in place, the heirs have no recourse to get the money back from the borrower on your behalf. The only way to protect your heirs from this tactic is to insist on loan documents whenever you loan out a large chunk of change.
Heirs or advisors might also prepare a fake will or amendment to a real will, giving the forger a larger piece of estate. For example, if you leave a larger piece of your estate to one heir, and another sibling destroys the will, then you would be considered to have died “intestate”. If this happens, your money would be distributed equally between your children.
Protecting Your Estate
If you take certain steps while preparing your will, you can greatly increase the odds that your assets will reach the intended heirs. A will or estate-plan document you prepare yourself is more likely to be successfully contested than those created by an experienced estate-planning attorney.
Discussing your estate plan with your entire family present will ensure everyone is on the same page. If the whole family knows about your assets and how you intend to divide them, it is much more difficult for any lying, arguing, or confusion to happen.
Appointing two executors to your estate will minimize the chance of your executor taking advantage of their position. Make one of the two executors a non-family professional, such as a trust company, a financial planner, or an attorney.
Another way to ensure that there is no inheritance theft involved is to give assets to your heirs before your will goes into effect. Another benefit of this tactic is that you will be able to see your heirs enjoy the gifts you have given them.
Insist that your executors share details with all of your beneficiaries about the estate’s expenses, assets, and financial transfers. Your estate-planning attorney can write this requirement into your will. This requirement makes it harder for an executor to hide theft.
It’s important to also reconsider your estate plan before you get remarried. You may assume that your spouse will treat the children from your first marriage fairly during the estate-distribution process. In reality, your intended heirs may receive a much smaller share of the estate than you intended, or even nothing at all. The new spouse or the new spouses’ heirs may put their own financial interests first.
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 can 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.
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:
- 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.
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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.