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Torrance Elder Law Blog

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Singleton, who passed away in Los Angeles in April 2019 at the age of 51 after a sudden stroke, left behind only a long-outdated will.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.

Family members and others are interested parties in probate

During a California will contest, it is not always clear which persons qualify as interested parties. There may be a number of people who are interested parties despite not being listed in the relevant last will and testament. Generally speaking, all people who are members of the decedent's family qualify as interested parties, or they will be actual parties in a will contest. This is true whether or not they are named in the last will and testament.

People who are listed in the will but who are not family members of the decedent also qualify as interested parties in most cases. Additionally, people who were named in previous versions of the will that is being contested may qualify as interested parties. For this reason, in a case where a person is initiating a will contest, he or she is required to examine previous wills to determine whether there are potentially interested parties named in them.

Getting ahead of the paperwork when a parent passes away

Like most California residents, you may have trouble processing the death of a parent even if it was anticipated due to a long-term illness. As you deal with your grief, you realize at some point that you need to turn your attention to winding up his or her affairs.

If you get ahead of the paperwork as soon as possible, the process could go more smoothly. It begins even as you start making funeral and burial arrangements. Keeping receipts for everything could help later since the estate can pay these expenses. This is just one of the first in a long line of paperwork needs that go along with the administration of an estate.

Addressing spouse omissions from estate instruments

Many of the clients that have come to see us here at The Law Office of Matthew C. Yu in the past are worried due to their loved ones not having updated their wills following their divorces. If you share the same concern, it likely comes from the assumption that if your now-deceased spouse did not specifically disinherit their ex, then the ex-spouse still stands to inherit their assets. You do not need to worry about this particular issue. Once your spouse's divorce was finalized, any provisions in their will pertaining to their ex-spouse were invalidated. 

This does not mean that there should no cause for concern on your part, however. If your spouse never updated their will after your marriage, then the question of your stake in their estate may arise. Fortunately, this exact scenario has been addressed in California's Probate Code. Per the law, even if you are not mentioned in your deceased spouse's estate planning instruments, you are automatically entitled to the following: 

  • One-half of their community property
  • One-half of their quasi-community property (any property the two of you acquired outside the state)
  • The same share of their separate property you would have been entitled to if they had died intestate (without a will) not to exceed one-half the total value of said property 

Selecting a probate homestead

One of the main reasons why the estate planning process is so important is ensuring that loved ones are cared for once a decedent is gone. Part of that care includes having a roof over one’s head. If, after the death of one on whom you relied for support, the issue of where in Los Angeles you will call home comes up, know you are not alone in such a struggle; many have come to us here at The Law Office of Matthew C Yu with the same concerns. Fortunately, state law has made it possible for you to retain your homestead even after your loved one’s death.

Per Section 6520 of California’s Probate Code, the court can select a property to serve as the probate homestead in your case. You are entitled to continued use of the homestead (regardless of your loved one’s will or financial situation when they died) if the decedent was your spouse (a decedent’s minor children are also entitled to the use of the probate homestead. The designation of a property as a probate homestead only lasts until your death (of you are the decedent’s spouse) or you reach the age of majority.

What should be included in a living will?

Living wills are an essential part of an estate plan. While they don't provide instructions on your assets, they do afford vital information to your medical team should you be incapacitated by illness or injury. Not only does this ensure your end-of-life medical care wishes are honored, it also prevents the burden from being thrust upon your family when the time comes. The Mayo Clinic explains a few of the decisions that can be addressed within a living will. 

The goal of palliative care is to provide comfort to a person while stopping short of performing any life-preserving measures. Because it consists of so many different procedures, it's important to spell out your palliative care vision explicitly. For instance, you might prefer to remain at home with your family instead of being in a hospital. You might also request the administration of pain medication, which can help you remain comfortable during your care.

Replacing a personal representative

When you are an interested party to the estate of a family member or friend in Los Angeles, you know how important the role of the personal representative is in the administration process. It should come as little surprise, then, to see proceedings come to a dramatic halt if said office is vacated. A personal representative can be removed from their role for any number of reasons: they might become physically or emotionally unable to handle the duties that it entails, or they may be removed for breaching their fiduciary duty. Whatever the reason, many of those dealing with such a situation have come to us here at The Law Office of Matthew C. Yu with the same question: now what? 

Per Section 8521 of the California Probate Code, if there have been multiple personal representatives appointed to manage an estate, the duties of whomever has vacated the role will be handled by those remaining in the group. Yet what if the personal representative removed from the estate that you are party to was the only one serving in that capacity? 

Approaching probate after a loved one passes away

We have covered a lot of different topics that frequently arise for those who are in the middle of the probate process, from reasons behind disputes to other complications that are not uncommon. For some families, however, simply approaching the probate process, in general, can feel overwhelming, especially for those who are having difficulty recovering from the loss of someone they love. This can be a time of great uncertainty and stress, not to mention sadness. However, it is critical to take the right steps to ensure that things move forward smoothly.

First of all, there are a number of questions that will have to be answered regarding your loved one's estate. Every family is in a unique position when it comes to probate, and some cases can be especially complicated. Whether you expect to receive assets from your loved one's estate or you have been placed in charge of their plan, this can be a stressful time. By having a clearer idea of what to expect and how the process will play out, you may be able to handle these issues better and minimize potential complications.

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