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The pros and cons of probate

Any sort of discussion revolving around one's will can quickly become challenging. For those with family members without wills, that discussion can be all the more difficult. Californians who have found themselves in the middle of these plans may have endless questions. The below information highlights the importance of having a will in the first place, as well as the pros and cons of probate altogether.

ThinkAdvisor recognizes the stigma that surrounds probate, and delves into those advantages and disadvantages. Despite its negative connotations, ThinkAdvisor reminds readers that this process is simply a way of determining one's will. After all, these processes must nevertheless follow the terms of the will itself. Although probate can take years in some cases, it does not always have to be as time-consuming; in many cases, probate can take no longer than six months. Those with smaller estates may find probate to be a relatively simple process, as individuals without major assets generally need less complicated plans. One more clear advantage to probate, according to ThinkAdvisor, involves creditors. The process may depend on the unique situation, but probate usually places limits on the timeframe creditors are allowed to make claims.

The steps to naming a guardian for your children

If you are like many parents, you are particular about the people you choose to care for your children. It may have been months before you left your newborn for a night out with your spouse. You reluctantly allowed your own parents to babysit and spent months, maybe years, investigating daycare providers.

The thought of choosing a guardian for your children, someone to care for your precious ones if you and your spouse should meet an untimely end, is likely something too painful to consider. Nevertheless, it is one of the most important decisions you can make as a parent. Providing well for your children may spare them uncertainty and confusion and can also offer you some peace of mind.

Uncovering probate: What you should know

If you have been named the executor of a recently deceased loved one’s estate, you might have several questions regarding the probate process in California and what it entails. Although probate may have a stigma of being overwhelming, the process may vary in degrees of difficulty depending on the circumstances surrounding the case. Once you received the deceased’s will and trust documents, you may be required to enter into court before you are able to distribute the heir’s property to the people he or she intended to have it.

According to California Courts, probate may handle several different issues, including determining whether a will is valid, transferring property and finances to beneficiaries named in the will and finalizing any financial expenses left by the estate. As the executor, you may be responsible for collecting all of the deceased’s property, assets and belongings, paying debts and expenses left by the estate and then dividing the remaining property to the rightful owners. All of these tasks are overseen by the court as part of the probate process, and may take anywhere from six months to one year.

How will the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act affect your estate plans?

The Trump Administration has made many changes since taking over the Oval Office. One of those major changes has been the introduction of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. According to CNBC, this tax reform may affect your estate plans and you should adjust them accordingly to avoid any issues. 

This Act made some fairly large changes to the tax code. The last major tax code changes happened in 1986, so it has been a while. With this change comes concerns about how your estate plans should be adjusted because of changes to tax brackets, exemptions, deductible expenses and credits.

Will you have to pay estate tax?

Many in Los Angeles may subscribe to the idea that there are only two inevitabilities in life: death and taxes. Yet few may view those as being associated in any way. However, when you die, your estate could indeed be subject to a federal estate tax. This may come as extremely disheartening news given the effort you put into building your estate for the express purpose of it benefitting your heirs when you die. However, you may not need to worry; with the proper planning, you may be able to avoid the estate tax altogether. 

What is more, many do not understand that most estates will not even come close to having to pay an estate tax. Estate tax reform was included in the federal tax bill signed into law late last year. Although it stopped short of the President's expressed intentions of abolishing the tax altogether, Forbes Magazine points out that it did succeed in effectively doubling the estate tax threshold from $5.49 million in 2017 to $11.2 million in 2018. What this means is that you can pass on any amount under that to another without it being taxed. 

The new tax bill may mean you need to reevaluate your estate plan

California readers know the new GOP-sponsored tax bill changes many things for many Americans. From spousal support to estate plans, you would be wise to carefully review how this bill could impact you and how you can protect yourself from any negative impact. For you, this may mean taking your current estate plan into careful consideration. 

It is prudent to reevaluate your estate plan from time to time, especially after major life changes. From remarriage to deaths in the family to divorce, major changes in your life require major adjustments in your existing estate plan. Failure to take the new tax plan or other factors into consideration could result in issues and complications for your loved ones in the future.

The tricky details to inheritance disputes

In a time that is likely already laden with mixed emotions, an inheritance dispute can only add to the stress. Despite these sensitive times, siblings in California and across the nation find themselves knee-deep in a battle over the will of a deceased loved one. Are there ways to go about this process in a healthy manner, or even avoid the dispute altogether? 

MarketWatch highlights one common angle of sibling wars over inheritance: that of a seemingly imbalanced will. When a parent does not divide a will evenly among siblings, an inheritance disagreement could likely be right around the corner. Ultimately, the sibling with the most inheritance benefits takes on the hefty role of dispute mediator. In fact, MarketWatch points out that a significant number of inheritance fights occur between siblings -- with 44 percent of disputes taking place among surviving brothers and sisters. Most disputes involved property or land, while roughly 21 percent involved jewelry or memorabilia. MarketWatch suggests that siblings in these tough situations could ask themselves what their mother or father would have likely done; they can also check wills to observe what happens to money that has been disclaimed.

When a probate dispute involves family members

During the probate process, a number of challenges may appear. In some instances, disagreements can lead to hostility between family members and complicate matters further. Moreover, disputes between beneficiaries and the executor may also arise, which can be particularly contentious if loved ones are involved. Whether you are a beneficiary, an executor, or the member of a family that is involved in a bitter dispute related to probate, it is essentail to identify any ways to minimize conflict and secure an outcome that is most favorable.

When it comes to probate, no two cases are exactly the same. For example, you might be an executor who is struggling with a family member falsely claiming a breach of your fiduciary duties. Alternatively, you may be a beneficiary who is upset with the way in which the executor is handling certain affairs. For example, you could believe that your rights have been violated because you did not receive property that was supposed to be handed down to you. Either way, it is vital to go over any relevant matters and ensure that you handle things properly.

My loved one died and I'm the executor. What am I supposed to do?

When your loved one approached you about serving as the executor of his or her estate, you may have felt honored and quickly agreed. Even though you know that everyone dies, for some reason, you never really thought you would need to serve in this capacity.

Now, your loved one has passed away, and you face carrying out the duties of an executor. The problem is that you have no idea what to do. Fortunately, you don't have to do it alone. With the right advice and guidance, you can administer the estate of your loved one as efficiently, quickly and smoothly as possible.

Determining a lack of capacity

Many in Los Angeles will often joke that a person's mind is the first thing to go. However, mental illness and incapacity is no laughing matter, as they can render countless people incapable of caring for themselves. One of the major issues encountered in estate planning is the capacity of one to make decisions regarding the management of his or her property and assets. A common claim heard in estate disputes is that a person's lack of capacity may open him or herself to undue influence. 

Diminishing mental faculties is a problem many may encounter in their advancing years. The World Guardianship Congress lists schizophrenia and dementia as being among the most common forms of mental illness diagnosed in the U.S. One might argue that those suffering from any of these ailments lacks the ability to comprehend important estate planning matters. Fortunately, the law has established guidelines to determine a lack of capacity. 

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