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Torrance Elder Law Blog

What to do if a will hasn't been probated

When a California resident dies, that person's estate may need to go through probate. This ensures that the deceased individual's will is valid, a person's assets can be inventoried and that outstanding bills can be paid. At the time a probate case is opened, an executor will be appointed to represent the estate. The executor could be a spouse, a family friend or an attorney. If the deceased person appointed an executor in his or her will, that person will usually fulfill the role.

Otherwise, a representative can be appointed by a judge to oversee an estate during the probate process. This could also occur if the appointed executor passes on or doesn't want to fulfill that role anymore. If an individual does not fulfill his or her obligations as the executor of the estate, that person could be subject to civil penalties.

Aretha Franklin's estate will have a new executor

Aretha Franklin has likely taught California residents many lessons about the importance of estate planning. Since her death in August 2018, Franklin's niece had acted as the executor to her estate, but she gave up that role in January 2020, citing conflicts with other family members. The former personal representative said that she would not fulfill the role if it led to fractured relationships between family members. She also said that she would give up her position if disputes couldn't be settled outside of court.

In a statement, the singer's niece said that Aretha Franklin valued her privacy. Therefore, she would not have wanted family problems to be broadcast to the public. A hearing is scheduled for March 3 to determine who the new estate executor will be, and Franklin's niece will continue to represent the estate until a replacement can be found.

The probate process

People in California who are considering creating an estate plan or who have recently lost a family member may have heard the word "probate" and wondered what it means. This is a process that involves validating the will, if there is one, and taking care of the person's estate, which could include distributing assets and paying taxes.

If there is a will, when it is validated by the court, the executor can begin the process of dealing with the estate. If there is no will, the court will appoint someone as representative to act in a similar manner. The first step is generally to locate all the assets and have them appraised. It is also necessary to locate any creditors and pay them from the estate. Taxes must also be filed and paid. Finally, assets are distributed to heirs as described in the will. If there is no will, the state determines how they are distributed.

"Knives Out" delves into the world of estate planning

The movie "Knives Out"tells the story of a man who has changed his estate plan just before being found dead. However, it is important for California moviegoers to remember that the movie isn't an accurate portrayal of what happens when a person dies. For instance, there is generally no reading of the will by an executor or attorney after the testator dies. Of course, family members and other interested parties may be able to contest a will even if it's not read out loud.

This may occur if a person believes that a will was changed because of undue influence. Undue influence occurs when an individual is convinced to take an action without having the ability to understand the consequences of doing so. If a judge finds that a person was misled into changing an estate plan document, it could be partially or wholly invalidated.

Understanding the role of a conservator

If you have noticed that the physical or mental capacity of your parent or other elderly loved one may be slipping, you may have many concerns about his or her well-being. In fact, you may have already discovered serious mistakes your loved one has made, such as missing the payment of a critical bill or forgetting to take important medications.

Whether this comes as an upsetting surprise or as something you expected because of your loved one's diagnosis of Alzheimer's or another form of dementia, you know you should act quickly to protect your loved one's estate as well as his or her well-being. Unless your loved one has named you as power of attorney, you may have no legal standing. However, by seeking conservatorship, you may obtain the authority to handle your loved one's affairs.

Wife and daughters of Tom Petty end estate litigation

After musician Tom Petty died in California in 2017, his wife and two daughters from a previous marriage ended up in litigation. The two daughters sued Petty's wife for $5 million, claiming she superseded their rights in managing the estate.

However, on Dec. 18, a press release was issued from Petty's representative saying that they had resolved their issues without going to litigation. According to the press release, they all regretted that their grief over his death had driven them to take actions that harmed one another.

What inheritance theft is and how to prevent it

People in California create an estate plan with the intention of ensuring that beneficiaries receive their intended inheritances. Unfortunately, unscrupulous family members might interfere. This can happen in the form of undue influence, convincing the person that the will or trust should be altered. It can also happen if a person destroys documents or takes some of the money from the estate that is not authorized.

There are things a person can do to prevent this from happening. A solid estate plan is critical. Most people have a will, even if the trust is their main estate planning document. It is important to appoint a trustworthy executor, and if a family member is not suitable, a professional such as an attorney can be appointed. The person may also want to create a financial power of attorney that appoints someone to make financial decisions if the person becomes incapacitated. Finally, the person may want to consider including a trust as part of the estate plan. Two co-trustees could be appointed to help reduce the likelihood of an abuse of power.

The advantages of joint tenancy with right of survivorship

There may be several advantages for some people in California who want to use joint tenancy with right of survivorship to pass on property although certain conditions must be observed as well. This approach can allow property to pass without going through the probate process.

This allows a several people to own a piece of property equally. As an example, three siblings might own a home. If one sibling dies, the remaining two would each own 50% of the home. If one of the surviving siblings subsequently dies, the last sibling alive would fully own the home.

Singleton's lack of will may lead to family dispute

The death of high-profile movie director John Singleton has thrown the need for estate planning into sharp relief. Singleton, who passed away in Los Angeles in April 2019 at the age of 51 after a sudden stroke, left behind only a long-outdated will. As a result of this lack of planning, family members and potential heirs could be locked in a long-running dispute over the distribution of the estate, and a far smaller portion of Singleton's assets than intended may wind up being shared among his heirs.

Many people put off making an estate plan, seeing it as something to be handled when they are older and infirm. However, a sudden health incident or even a devastating accident can tragically take a life at any time. In Singleton's case, the director drafted an initial will in 1993 despite his young age after he first made it big with his hit film "Boyz n the Hood". He had only one child at the time the will was made. However, by the time of his death in 2019, Singleton had five confirmed children. There were also two potential children whose paternity was not yet resolved.

The advantages and disadvantages of e-wills

California residents may be interested in the potential benefits that come from creating electronic wills. The Uniform Electronic Wills Act is allowing individuals in some states to create and sign wills online. Before an individual decides if an electronic will is the right option for them, there are some things they need to know.

An electronic will can give an estate owner the ability to create and execute a will in the comfort of their own home or office. They will never need to use any paper to have this document created. The process involves a person creating a will online and then getting in touch with a notary through the internet. The notary will have a video chat with the creator and ask them a few questions. The document can then be notarized and sent to the user. All of this is done without any paper being exchange from a user or notary's hands.

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