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.
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.
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.
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) 981-8555 or fill out our online contact form.