Articles Posted in Administration of trusts and probate estates

How did that kid get so much money to blow!

18 is the age of majority

When a child turns 18 years he or she is considered to be an adult under California law. In legal terms, children under age 18 are called “minors” and when they reach age 18 they are called “adults”. Minors and adults are treated differently as far as inheritance rights are concerned. Minors still have rights to inherit but any inheritance which comes to them is subject to certain legal controls because the law presumes that minors are not capable of handling money or property as well as adults.

How Do You Figure Out Who Gets What? – Inheritance with Simultaneous Deaths

LEGAL BACKGROUND: 2 WAYS TO INHERIT

Under California law a person can inherit money or property (1) as a result of being named in a legal document such as a will or (2) inheritance can occur because a person is related by blood or marriage to the deceased if there is no will.

Image of two sisters angry with each other

My Sister is the Trustee and She Refuses to Pay My Share

Trust terminology basics

A trust is created by a written document known as a declaration of trust, and is then funded by transfer of money into trust bank accounts and/or deeding or transferring of properties to the trust.   The creator of the trust is known as the “Trustor” or the “Settlor.”  Trusts are usually prepared by attorneys because each trust is custom for the situation and there are many types of trusts.  The persons who are to receive money and property out of the trust are known as the “Beneficiaries.” The person or institution that takes care of the money and property of the trust is the “Trustee”.  The trustee is bound by law to follow the directions contained in the declaration of trust.

Image of young caregiver assisting woman from car.

Wills benefiting the attorney or caregiver are suspect

Abuses in formation of wills and trusts

In California over the last few decades there have been some situations whereby attorneys or caregivers have had wills or trusts prepared that benefit them. There was a famous case of a 95-year-old lady whose will left the bulk of her fortune to the people taking care of her. It turns out that the people taking care of her, known as “care custodians” had the will prepared under suspicious circumstances such that the 95-year-old lady probably didn’t know what she was signing. This and other similar situations led to recent legislation to correct abuses.

Cut out the heirs who challenge the will using No Contest Clauses

Challenges can occur

Image of a courtroom doorIf a will or a trust does not make an equal division of the estate then an unhappy heir might want to make a challenge. The law does not require you to equally divide your estate equally amongst your children or to give anything to them for that matter. Most children or in some instances brothers or sisters where there are no children feel that they are entitled to an inheritance. Not everybody understands or believes that a person making a will or trust can leave his or her assets to anyone. This has led to litigation challenging the provisions of the will or trust.

Image of confused man just put in charge of administering a Trust

I was just put in charge of a trust so what do I do?

Trust Administration Basics for Newly Appointed Trustees

Events triggering administration.    Trust administration is needed when or both of the Trustors (i.e. persons who created the trust) passes away or resigns voluntarily or becomes legally incompetent.

Letting Some of the Kids Live in Mom’s House May Lead to Costly Litigation

Frequently we run across situations where parents will leave their residences to one or more of their children in their will or their trust. If they only have one child then the situation is usually okay but when there are multiple children and some are living in the house and some are not there can be problems. Allowing some children to live in Mom’s house messes up the other sibling’s inheritance.

Image of smug child who mom like more than sibblings

The Back Story

Image of Tax Basis Increase

Gifting before death may cause huge capital gains taxes

INCOME TAX “BASIS” CONCEPT

Under our system of federal and state income tax, if the property is sold before death for more than what was pay for it then there is a capital gain. There are special rates which apply to capital gains the penny upon one’s tax bracket. To compute capital gains, you subtract the income tax basis of the property from the net selling price. The income tax “basis” is what was paid for the property in the first place minus any depreciation and adding any expenditures for capital improvements.

Reassess Property Tax on Death of an Owner

County assessor will reassess property tax on death of an owner unless prevented

THE PROPERTY TAX SYSTEM

California Property taxes are administered by the County in which the real property is located. The County tax assessor determines the amount of property taxes based upon the fair market value of the property at the date of purchase plus a small amount of increase each year is allowed. The value is called the “assessed value”. The yearly amount of tax is roughly 1.2% of the “assessed value”. Thus, if a property is purchased for $100,000, the annual property tax would be about $1,200 and will increase each year. The county property tax year goes from July 1 through June 30. Tax bills are sent out typically in October and are payable in two installments: December 10 for the first installment and April 10 for the second installment

Doctor Ran Off with his Nurse  =  Lifetime Chase

Image of Doctor and nurseWe handled a case that spread across decades. It started out uncomplicated as we were the attorneys for a conservator who was handling the affairs of his distant cousin. The conservatee, Linda, was formerly Dr. Smith’s nurse. Linda had married Dr. Smith who apparently had a prior marriage and at least one daughter, but Dr. Smith had died many years ago and left his new wife, Linda, about $500,000 to live on.

The conservatee, Linda, became incompetent so a conservatorship was established to handle her money. We had been filing normal conservatorship accounting reports with the court every two years to prove how her money was being spent. When she passed away last year she had about $50,000 of the original $500,000 left and we had to determine how do distribute the estate and to whom.

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