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) 804-3848 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) 804-3848 or fill out our online contact form.

The Importance of Having a Living Trust in California

How Will You Prevent Lengthy Probate Proceedings?

The basic purpose of a living trust is to ensure that an appointed trustee of your choosing gains all property or other assets upon your passing or incapacity. If the individual who is in control wants to change details of the trust, they can apply for a revocable living trust. In California, the probate code is not modeled after the Uniform Probate creating complicated process later. A living trust is used by many individuals in California to help their families bypass lengthy probate court proceedings.

Essential Facts About Living Trusts

Here are some vital facts to think about when preparing your living trust:

  • When creating a document, make sure to list who your trustee will be as well as any properties you would like to grant them .
  • If you create a living trust, you will still need to create a will document for any property and assets that are not being granted to your trustee.
  • You can fund a living trust through financial assets such as bank accounts, retirement funds, stocks and bonds. Each of these financial assets has a specific procedure to ensure your trustee is granted them. For example, you can change the legal title of your cars and real estate over to your trustee whereas clothes, jewelry and other valuable items don’t have a legal title. Retirement accounts and life insurance requires you to change over your beneficiary status to your trustee.
  • Have your official living trust document notarized.
  • It’s important to have a estate planning lawyer to help with lowering or eliminating taxes on your estate when your assets are transferred to your trustee.  

Questions About Living Trusts?

Our blog only covers some of the essential information about living trusts. There are more complicated  If you want more information about creating a living trusts, contact the trusted estate planning attorneys at Lowthorp Richards law office. Call (805) 804-3848 or fill out our online contact form.

5 Important Estate Planning Lessons You Should Know

According to research conducted by the University of Pennsylvania, only 29.3 percent of Americans have a healthcare directive specifying their end-of-life wishes. Perhaps even more stunning, a survey from Caring.com found that less than half of adults in the U.S. have prepared estate planning documents, such as wills or living trusts.

Here are five tips for estate planning that you should follow – and if you are one of the many Americans who has not made plans for your estate, you might want to take notes.

  1. Understand probate. Probate varies from state to state and comes with a variety of risks. Probate is expensive and can reduce the value of your estate (on average, by about 5 percent). Probate can take years to complete. And probate is a public process, meaning anyone who desires it can look into your personal financial matters.
  2. Always have a backup plan – before and after death. You should have multiple contingency plans to cover any unlikely scenarios, such as a trustee dying before the author of an estate plan. An estate attorney can help you set up these backup plans.
  3. Create a roadmap of your assets. It can be difficult for your family members to navigate the complex web of your finances once you pass on. By consolidating your accounts and leaving behind a roadmap, you will take some of the pressure off your family.
  4. Remember how taxes will affect your estate. The new tax code signed into law by President Donald Trump raised the estate and gift tax exemption from $5.5 million to $11 million. You should know how changes like this may affect your estate.
  5. Check on your plan regularly, especially after a major personal life event that could affect your assets. Otherwise, you may end up having to go through unnecessary probate actions that could cost you.

You can meet with one of our estate planning attorneys for a comprehensive analysis of your estate planning objectives

Your Will – And Other Important Estate Planning Documents

Your will is an important document that can ensure that your property will make it into the right hands once you pass away. Without a will, your property is at risk of being divided according to California’s rules of interstate succession. While these rules will mean that your property will be passed down, it is likely that this property division would be different from how you would have wanted the property divided. For a will to be effective, it must go through the probate process, which can be lengthy and pricey. Probate can be avoided, though (and often is), by combining a will with another important component of estate planning: the living trust.

A living trust is created during life and places property in the possession of a designated trustee. The trust agreement specifies how property is divided upon death as well as who should take over as a trustee, should the creator of the agreement become incapacitated. You may think of living trusts as a simpler, cheaper version of probate that does not require anyone to go to court.

There are two more important documents you must be aware of to ensure that your estate planning goes smoothly: general durable power of attorney and advance health care directive. General durable power of attorney grants another person control over your property and financial transactions, even after you have become incapacitated. It is important to choose carefully when granting someone general durable power of attorney, since that person will be the only one who can make decisions for you if you become incapacitated.

Advance health care directives, like powers of attorney, allow you to dictate specific medical decisions in the event that you:

  • Suffer an accident or condition that will lead to death in a short period of time
  • You become unconscious and it is not likely you will recover
  • The risks and burdens of treatment outweigh the benefits.

Our firm is located in Oxnard, California and has achieved the highest possible legal rating in the national attorney directory of Martindale-Hubbell. Our partners are members of the American Board of Trial Advocates. We represent clients in a variety of practice areas and have recovered multimillion dollar verdicts and settlements. If you need the guidance of an estate attorney in California, call Lowthorp Richards at (805) 804-3848 or fill out our online contact form.

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