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Torrance Elder Law Blog

Outside factors that can affect the probate process

When it comes to probate, many different issues are frequently taken into consideration, from the wishes of a loved one who passed away to the proper way to handle a dispute. It is important to bear in mind that other factors may affect the probate process also, even if they have nothing to do with probate whatsoever. Moreover, these challenges can increase the likelihood of a dispute surfacing and other challenges appearing at some point. For example, high levels of job-related stress, health problems and addiction to drugs or alcohol can all affect someone with respect to the probate process.

If you are struggling with other hardships in your life, such as college classes that are demanding, problems related to your job or difficulty finding work, it is important to try and separate these matters from the probate process if you are working through both issues simultaneously. You should look for ways to bring your stress levels down and to improve your chances of a positive end result if you are going through a probate dispute.

Probate disputes with stepparents

For many stepchildren, there are a number of issues that may arise with stepparents from time to time. However, some are especially upsetting and can be very draining for all parties, such as probate disputes. If you have found yourself in the middle of a probate dispute with your stepparent, you may be struggling with more than just anxiety over the estate and uncertainty. You could be feeling betrayed or emotionally bitter because of your stepparent's behavior. It is crucial to carefully think your options through during this time and try to minimize conflict if you can.

Unfortunately, some of these disputes have shattered the relationships that stepchildren have with their stepparents. Probate disputes can generate all sorts of negative emotions, such as anger, depression and stress, and they can also have a lasting impact on a family unit for months or even years, in some instances. Probate disputes may also surface as a result of friction between biological children and stepchildren, or disagreements between siblings, among numerous other causes. Whenever a probate dispute arises, it should be handled with care, no matter why people are in disagreement.

Reviewing California's views on no-contest clauses

The last thing that you want is for there to be discord amongst your beneficiaries once you are gone. Not only to you want to avoid and familial tension, but the thought of the administration of your estate being slowed and have to pay out more in probate cost may concern you. Some might suggest avoiding the potential of disputes altogether by putting a no-content clause in your will. Many have come to us here at The Law Office of Matthew C. Yu after having received such advice wondering if it is a valid option. The answer to that question depends largely on the context in which a dispute arises. 

Prior to the past 10 years, those who sought to challenge the validity of a will could petition the court to determine if doing so would invoke its no-content clause. However, legislation presented by the California State Senate in 2008 took away that right by better defining the scenarios in which your no-contest clause might be enforceable. These include: 

  • A direct contest of your will that is not supported by probable cause
  • Accusations that property transferred in your will is no longer yours to transfer (again, not backed by probable cause)
  • The filing of a creditor's claim (if your no-contest clause expressly prohibits this)

Choosing the most appropriate guardian for your kids

Your children are the most precious part of your life. You likely spend most of your time trying to make their lives good and happy, including working to provide them with the things they need, setting aside money for their futures, and making sure they are safe and healthy. Now you are ready to take the important step of establishing an estate plan in case you are unable to continue these labors of love into their adulthood.

One of the primary goals of a parent's estate plan is making sure to choose an appropriate guardian for the children in case an accident or illness should cause you to become incapacitated or pass away while your children are still minors. Of course, no one will be perfect because no one is exactly like you. However, there are some factors to consider to help you narrow down your choice.

How can I tell if a senior loved one needs help?

Growing old can be difficult, especially for seniors who live independently. In this case, family members must be able to identify when a loved one needs additional help, either due to cognitive impairments or because of mobility issues. AARP offers the following advice in this case, which can help you help your elderly relative secure the assistance he or she needs to stay safe.

Documents or bills are left unaddressed

How can I avoid scams targeting the elderly?

Unfortunately for many seniors in California, there are a number of scams and fraud targeting elderly individuals. Falling victim to a scam can lead to a number of financial issues, including depleting assets you’ve set aside for your loved ones after you’re gone. In order to avoid common scams, the National Council on Aging offers the following advice.

Be wary of telemarketing

Should I make my own will?

If you’re currently estate planning in California, you may be tempted to create your own will. While there are numerous resources allowing you to do just that, if the will you create is deemed invalid your estate might end up in probate. The Balance offers the following information on why you should consult with a legal professional when creating your estate plan.

Laws can vary quite a bit

Keeping harmony in the family even after your death

Few people enjoy family feuds. The Law Office of Matthew C. Yu understands that family harmony is important to most California residents, especially when it comes to avoiding probate disputes. You may realize that disagreements among your loved ones are inevitable, but there are things you can do that may lessen the chances of your relatives arguing over your estate after you have passed on.

The AARP team is fully aware of the family fights that can occur when you are planning your estate or when your will is read after your death. A dispute over the will can lengthen the time it takes for your loved ones to receive their inheritance, not to mention create rifts in the family that may be irreparable. You might preclude such issues by considering the following tips:

  • Carefully plan your will and ensure each point is detailed in clear, concise language.
  • Avoid the temptation to leave some of your children a greater inheritance than others, regardless of their circumstances. This might be misunderstood as favoritism, even if your intention is to help a less fortunate child.
  • Hold a family meeting to discuss your end-of-life plans and get your relatives’ input.
  • Give some belongings, such as jewelry and antique furniture, to your relatives while you are alive, so you can participate in their enjoyment of the gifts.
  • If any part of your will is unequal or you disinherit a relative, be sure to fully explain your reasons. This can make your wishes harder to dispute, even if your family members don’t like it.

Should I fear the probate process?

Whether you are preparing for the death of a loved one or getting ready to start your own estate planning, you might have heard the word “probate” mentioned a few times. Most likely, it was said with negative connotations. However, it is important for you and other Californians to realize that the probate process is a normal part of estate law, and it isn’t necessarily something to be afraid of.

As the Judicial Council of California explains, the probate process is the legal step involved in transferring assets from the decedent to the beneficiaries named in the will. The most important parts of this process involve determining whether the will is valid and identifying the executor of the will. If the will is legal and easy to understand and nobody is contesting the terms of the will, the probate process should be relatively straightforward.

Don't try to rush the probate process

Probate proceedings involve the settling of a deceased person's estate. As you can probably imagine, this process is not a simple one. If your loved one named you as executor of the estate, you will have a great deal of work cut out for you when going through the proceedings.

Hopefully, your loved one asked your permission to appoint you to this role, and you have taken the time to explore your duties, at least minimally. Of course, you may still have a long way to go in relation to understanding your role when the time comes to take over.

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Torrance, CA 90505

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