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Torrance Elder Law Blog

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.

Add trusts to your estate plan

Many people believe that having a last will and testament is the only document you need for California estate planning. While it is generally considered the centerpiece, other tools exist that can help distribute, manage and protect your assets.

According to SmartAsset, a trust is a legal arrangement between yourself and your heirs. Similar to a will, you can name charitable organizations, friends and family members as beneficiaries. The charities or individuals can receive assets that you designate, such as bank accounts, real estate, business interests and investments.

Should I update my estate plan?

Having a valid estate plan in place is a must. However, even if your wills and trusts currently meet your needs, how can you rest assured that they will continue to do so in the future? This question highlights the importance of reviewing your estate plan every few years or so to ensure it's still sound. According to Forbes, you should also look over your estate plan after these major life occurrences. 

Life changes

Does your autistic adult child still need your help?

The number of children who suffer from autism has risen dramatically in recent years. If your child is one of them, you more than likely spend a good deal of your time caring for your child. While he or she was under the age of 18, things were simple because you were legally considered your child's natural guardian.

Now that your son or daughter has turned 18, the law considers him or her an adult who can make decisions alone and without your interference. However, your child is not able to handle that kind of independence. He or she still needs your care.

How do you disinherit an heir?

Disinheriting an heir from your will is a very serious decision. Not only can it cause a rift in your family, failing to take the proper steps can also result in your will being contested in court. In order to prevent a poor outcome, The Balance offers the following advice. 

Disinheritances are usually predicated on unfavorable behavior by an adult child. For instance, if your child experiences drug problems or is not living up to his or her potential, you might feel reluctant to provide a large influx of money. In this case, consider implementing a trust to have more control over the way your heir receives an inheritance. You can specify certain criteria within the trust that must be met before assets are passed along. Your trustee will be responsible for ensuring the terms of your estate plan are carried out. 

What does a personal representative do?

While creating a will is crucial, choosing the right personal representative is equally important. After you're gone, this person will be obligated to perform many essential tasks regarding your estate, including dispersing assets to your heirs according to your wishes. The Balance explains some of the many duties of a personal representative so you can make the best decision when selecting a candidate. 

If you die with debts, your representative will be responsible for locating creditors. There are a number of ways this can be accomplished. For known creditors, official notice must be sent informing them of your death and presenting the opportunity to file a claim for any outstanding debts. Of course, some people have creditors that are not readily known to friends and family. In this case, some representatives choose to post notices in a local newspaper make news of your death public knowledge. 

Explaining temporary possession of estate assets

After the impact of one's death in Los Angeles has had a chance to sink in, their immediate family members will often share the same question: "Now what?" Specifically, when one leaves behind a family, they typically want to know what will become of the decedent's estate, including their home and other personal property. Who maintains ownership of those assets? Who becomes responsbile to settle any unresolved debts? The uncertainty that can come with such questions can often compound what is already a difficult situation. 

Hopefully, a decedent took steps to ensure that their surviving spouse maintaines ownership of assets such as their home and personal property. Yet even in the event that their may be questions as to whether such assets may indeed transfer ownership during the estate administration process, the law allows those that were utilizing them at the time of the decedent's death to continue to do so until such matters are well on their way to being resolved. Indeed, Section 6500 of the California Probate Code states that a person's surviving spouse and minor children are entitled to continue to retain possession of assets such their home and personal property after their deaths and even up to the point of their estate inventory being filed with the court (as well as 60 days thereafter). 

Fiduciary duties and probate administration

The probate process can be challenging for multiple reasons, not only for those in charge of an estate but for beneficiaries as well. As if the emotional toll of losing someone you love is not hard enough, stress related to the probate process can be overwhelming. As a result, it is imperative to do what you can to minimize these difficulties and prevent complications. Unfortunately, disputes arise for many reasons, and if you are the executor of an estate you may find yourself in a tough position if you have been accused of failing to respect your fiduciary duties.

Executors have a number of responsibilities while administering an estate, such as dealing with debts and creditors, handling tax matters and ensuring that the assets of an estate are distributed appropriately. They may be accused of neglecting their fiduciary duties for a number of reasons, such as a disgruntled beneficiary who is unhappy with some aspect of the estate plan or the way in which it is being managed. In some instances, a beneficiary may try to get revenge by accusing an executor of wrongdoing even though they are innocent. For example, someone may be upset that their loved one distributed property in a particular way or that they were not placed in charge of the estate.

Challenging a will over dementia

There are a number of reasons why wills are challenged, but in this blog we will take a closer look at will contests due to dementia. Whether you are in charge of a will as the executor and a beneficiary has decided to contest the will, or you are a beneficiary who is upset with a will that you do not believe is valid, it is imperative to handle this situation carefully. When a will is challenged, the outcome of the contest may have a significant impact on an entire estate and could significantly affect you and your loved ones.

When someone is struggling with dementia, they may be unable to create a will properly. They may not have the ability to fully understand the impact of their decisions with regard to estate planning, and they may be subjected to undue influence by someone who wants to take advantage of them due to their mental state. Dementia can make life incredibly challenging, and many different challenges may arise when someone's mental state deteriorates in this manner. Moreover, our law firm fully recognizes how difficult the probate process can be, especially when a will is contested.

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Torrance, CA 90505

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