To Catch a Thief- How to Prevent Inheritance Theft

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.

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.

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.

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) 981-8555 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

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