Casey Kasem + End-of-Life + Step-Children

Casey KasemAfter two weeks of being in a hospital in Washington, Casey Kasem has passed at the age of 82.

His passing did not come without notoriety. The pubic battle over his health care began in October 2013 when his oldest children protested in front of their father’s home after their step-mother would not allow the children to visit with Kasem.

In 2007, when Kasem found out he had Parkinson’s, he signed a Health Care Directive granting authorization to his two oldest daughters to make decisions for him.

This document, which snubbed Kasem’s wife, set the stage for the legal battle that would erupt six years later as his health deteriorated and his children accused the stepmother of shutting them out of their father’s life. It would serve as a legal basis for his daughter to have doctors discontinue infusions of water, food and medicine.

So, what can we take from this public and emotional battle:

  1. A health care directive is helpful to give instructions and appoint an agent to act on your behalf.
  2. A health care directive does not however, guarantee that no one will contest it.
  3. A health care directive allows you to pass on your wishes regarding life support so a judge can use it to make determinations in court if the issue arises.
  4. A situation like this is one reason why blended families (especially) should have a comprehensive estate plan.

May Mr. Casem rest in peace.

 

Appointing a Guardian After Divorce

All families need to appoint a guardian if there are minor children involved.

However, in cases of divorce, when one parent dies the other parent will get custody of the child, even if they did not previously have primary custody. In cases like this, it is VERY important that parents create a plan especially where the other parent may be deemed “unfit,” negligent, or in cases of abandonment.

In a guardianship proceeding after the death of a child’s parents, California court typically looks first to the desires of the parents as expressed in their wills.

SPECIAL ISSUES FOR DIVORCED OR REMARRIED COUPLES

After a divorce, if either parent dies, then the surviving parent normally will have full custody of the children (even if the deceased parent had primary custody) unless a court finds that the survivor is not a “fit and proper person” to have custody. If one parent believes that the other should not have sole custody, he should plan in advance.

Other family members might need to be prepared to petition the court for a third-party guardianship in the event of the custodial parent’s death.

In addition, if a deceased parent fails to name a Trustee or “Guardian of the estate” for any property inherited by a child, the surviving parent will normally be appointed to manage and control the money. Since many marriages fail because spouses do not agree about financial matters, divorced parents often prefer to leave a child’s property to him in a trust managed by a third person, working with an institutional trustee.

INTESTACY AND DIVORCE

Like intestacy for married or single people, where there is no will, your assets can potentially fall into the hands of your ex.

If you were to die intestate, leaving one or more children who are not also your surviving spouse’s descendants (most commonly, children from your prior marriage – whether or not they live with you, and whether or not they are adults or minors), under California law your children (and grandchildren whose parents have died) would split two-thirds of your estate at death, while your surviving spouse would take only one-third. Moreover, your surviving spouse would be required to apply to the court to be appointed as a guardian of any property left to any minor children of you and your spouse.

Without appointing a guardian of the estate (for the “stuff”) your ex will be in charge of handling your child’s inheritance.

For more info, check out our previous blog posts on estate planning and divorce- HERE and HERE.

And if you haven’t RSVP’d for our workshop on HOW TO APPOINT A GUARDIAN, click here to join us!

Prepare for the unexpected

As many of you have heard, actor James Gandolfini passed away Wednesday, unexpectedly. CNN reports that the cause of death is unknown but his managers say it may have been the result of a heart attack. Gandolfini was a great actor and his loss is shocking to people everywhere.

When someone passes unexpectedly, it can be a very traumatic experience. There is no real chance to say your “goodbyes” or even “prepare yourself.” For this reason, it is important that you and your family have an estate plan that prepares you for the unexpected.

Some points to consider:

  1. Gandolfini left behind a wife, young child and a son from a previous relationship. Without an estate plan, Gandolfini’s property will likely go to his wife and could ultimately leave his teenage son with nothing. If you are part of a blended family, this is something you should consider.
  2. Death or incapacity can happen at any time. Be sure you plan and prepare your family to handle your affairs when you no longer can.
  3. Create a plan that ensures your wishes and desires regarding your property and your remains are followed.

If you would like more information on how to create an estate plan, contact our Redwood City Estate Planning Attorney for assistance.

Keeping Gandolfini’s family in our thoughts and prayers as they mourn their loss.

Don’t be a Fool this April- Plan ahead!

1300137640fZ1a4THappy April Folks!  We hope everyone enjoyed their Easter holiday (if it was celebrated)! Our office has been busy assisting clients with estate planning issues, probate hearings, child visitation modifications, writing a new e-book, working on an “Estate Planning 101” Basics seminar, working on our Vlog  and podcast series, and revamping our website! So we have been just a little bit busy!

How have you been? Have you been busy and completing your Estate Planning Homework Assignments? Have you made an appointment with an estate planning attorney in your area? (We have experienced estate planning attorneys in California, specifically Redwood City and San Jose AND we have a virtual law office to serve the rest of California 🙂 ) Are you just starting assignment #1? Don’t wait too much longer- you don’t want to be the April Fool who waited too long to create an estate plan (insert fake laugh here!).

So as promised here is some discussion about one of the Must Have Documents– a will. This scenario can apply to individuals either in their first, second or third marriage, or just have children from previous relationships; It can also be considered where there are issues of separate property and inheritance.

WHAT WILL YOU PICKReciprocal and Non-Reciprocal Wills

When thinking about your will, decide whether you and your spouse will execute reciprocal wills. Reciprocal wills are wills executed by husband and wife, which are exactly alike. This means that each will leaves the same asset(s) to the same person(s) in the same proportion. For example, Jane and John, each on their second marriage are married to one another, and each has one child from a previous marriage. They both execute wills, which leave everything to the other, and in case the other is deceased, one-half of the estate to Jane’s child and one-half to John’s child. Some things to keep in mind when deciding whether to execute reciprocal wills.

When executing RECIPROCAL wills, your spouse is free to change his or her will at any time. For example, John and Jane, each on their second marriage are married to one another, and each has one child from a previous marriage. They both execute wills, which leave everything to the other, and in case the other is deceased, one-half of the estate to Jane’s child and one-half to John’s child. Jane dies, and John inherits the entire estate. He then may change his Will to leave the entire estate to his child, and disinherit Jane’s child.

When executing NON-RECIPROCAL wills, you will need to determine what assets belong to each of you so that there is no confusion about what property each party may leave to his or her heirs. If you experience any difficulty reaching an agreement concerning ownership of your property, a pre-nuptial agreement or your state’s marital property, laws may dictate ownership of some or all of your property for you.

Your spouse is not required to inform you of changes made to his or her will.

Whether executing reciprocal wills or not, your spouse is free to change his or her will at any time and is under no obligation to inform you of the change. This means that he or she may remove your children as beneficiaries and leave their entire estate to their own children, without your permission or knowledge.

Feel free to contact our office if you have any additional questions! Enjoy this beautiful Spring weather!

The TOP 4 (MUST HAVE) Estate Planning Documents

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If you follow us on Facebook or Twitter, you have probably seen the weekly Friday “Homework” in preparing for your estate planning meeting. If you don’t follow us, you should!

So, what is this “Homework?” Well it’s basically a list of things to consider before meeting with our Redwood City estate planning attorney.

The last two weeks were 1) the financial information you should gather and 2) if you’re a parent, some things to consider when selecting a guardian (See our past post here).

In addition to our weekly “Homework” assignments, we have decided to post on the TOP 4 (MUST HAVE) Estate Planning Documents to help you stay even more organized!

TOP 4 (MUST HAVE) ESTATE PLANNING DOCUMENTS

1. Will: A will gives instructions for distributing property that you own, upon your death, through the probate process. A will is essential if you have minor children, as this is the only way you can name a guardian for them. Some wills are simple, while others may include complex planning provisions, depending on each particular circumstance.

2. Advance Health Care Directive: An Advance Health Care Directive or AHCD is a document that designates someone to act for your regarding medical care should you become incapacitated. This document will also determine if and how long you stay on life support. So, if at some point you can’t state your wishes regarding health care, someone you love and trust will be assigned to make those decisions for you.

3. Durable Power of Attorney: A Durable Power of Attorney or a DPA gives someone the authority to handle all of your finances and property should you become unable to. This document will allow a person of your choosing to sell, invest, spend and otherwise manage your finances for a specific time identified in the document. The agent you select will be able to handle everything without needed a court order.

4. Living Trust: By transferring your assets to a living trust, you are able to protect your assets if you pass away. Assets that are properly placed in a trust avoid probate- this is key and that’s why a will alone is not sufficient to avoid probate. Generally, you are the trustee for your trust and if something happens to you, you will have already named a successor trustee to handle your affairs. (You ask why is MUST HAVE in parentheses? Well, because if you don’t own property or have certain assets, you probably don’t need #4).

At the Law Office of Carmen M. Rosas, we design plans specific to your needs. Not every client is the same and not every client has the same story. We want to hear your story!

If you liked this post, subscribe, and never miss a post again. And, if you really liked it, shoot us an e-mail and request one our other handy dandy reference guides for FREE(Please let us know which ones you want!)

  • 12 Tips for Choosing a Guardian
  • Things to Consider in Selecting a Guardian

And stay tuned for our e-book, coming soon!

Tight Budgets Need Quality Representation

You want a divorce but don’t know how to manage with an already tight budget. Or maybe you need help with a custody issue but are worries about the cost of hiring a lawyer. To be honest, hiring an attorney is just simply more than you can afford right now. Well, good news- there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Whether Limited Scope Representation is right for you, depends on how complicated your issue is. Often times clients don’t need to hire on an attorney for the full range of services. At the Law Office of Carmen M. Rosas we work with our clients to package services that not only fit the needs of the client, but their wallet too.

Some examples of matters we handle under a limited scope representation include:

  • Drafting of Marital Settlement Agreements
  • Custody/parenting plan requests, hearings, and negotiations
  • Department of Child Support Services (DCSS) hearings
  • Settlement Conference
  • Non-DCSS support modification requests and hearings- Request for Orders

When representing our clients in limited scope, we prepare a fee agreement stating exactly what services are included in the cost. This avoids any confusion as to what is included and what is additional to the cost quoted. And, if there is a hearing in which an attorney will be present, we prepare the Notice of Limited Scope for the Court so they know our attorney is representing you at that hearing only.

“Does hiring an attorney in limited scope mean I can’t hire the attorney for full services?”- No! The limited scope representation is usually a starting point for many clients. Sometimes, if their budget permits or legal issue requires, clients will hire on our attorneys for the full range of services our office provides.

If a client does decide to hire our attorney for more comprehensive representation, we simply draft a new fee agreement stating such.

Getting Help– at the Law Office of Carmen M. Rosas we have a compassionate and experienced attorney in Redwood City and San Jose. Contact Carmen Rosas today for knowledgeable and trustworthy representation. Call us at (650) 503-3770 or e-mail us at carmenrosaslaw@gmail.com

You Don’t Have to Be Elizabeth Taylor….

Liz and her husbands

Liz and her husbands

You don’t need to be Elizabeth Taylor to be on your second, third, or even fourth or fifth marriage. If you have had more than one spouse, you have special estate planning needs, especially if you have children with each spouse. If you avoid these issues, it is almost certainly a way to create a less-than-desired result in the event of illness, incapacity, or death. The best way to have a smooth transition upon disability or death is to create a comprehensive strategy before you aren’t here to execute the papers.

Remarriage may result in cordial, but often not close, step relations. Frequently, such people thrown together by marriage simply tolerate each other until the biological parent dies or becomes disabled, or divorce occurs.

On the death of the biological parent, what happens? If proper estate planning isn’t done, the surviving spouse and step-parent has the option to take all that you intended to leave to your biological child.

By working with an estate planning attorney, you can ensure that both your new spouse and your children receive what you want them to. This can be done through either a prenuptial agreement and/or a fully funded trust (new post coming soon regarding “funding”).

Contact our San Jose, Fremont, or Redwood City Estate Planning Attorney. We will be more than happy to help you create the plan that best suits your needs or update the one you currently have.

Happy Holidays!

Hi All! Just wanted to check in. We were away visiting with family and celebrating the Christmas holiday! We will be back in action tomorrow.

Stay tuned for our Estate Planning Basics 101 presentation. It will be free and refreshments will be served. The date and location is still TBD.

We hope all of you had a wonderful couple of days with your loved ones!

Remember the new year is just around the corner- if you would like help finishing the year off right with an estate plan or starting the new year ahead of the game, contact us!

Are you unintentionally disinheriting your child??!!

brady_-844Today I met with a new client who was concerned about a letter she received regarding her mother’s estate. It was from an attorney representing her step-brother. Her step-father died a few years back and her mother passed this year.

At the step-father’s death, her mother made changes to their trust and created a brand new one- ultimately disinheriting her step-son.

If you have children from a previous relationship or marriage it is very important that you have an estate plan in place that ensures your children are not disinherited if you die before your spouse!

Proper estate planning can help prevent your new spouse from disinheriting your children from a previous relationship or marriage.

It is very common these days to have “blended” families and you can avoid disinheriting y our children as long as you plan ahead.

And just because you plan ahead, doesn’t mean you don’t trust your new spouse! I mean we can’t all be the Brady Bunch. You are just taking the necessary precautions.

If you have any questions regarding estate planning with blended families and you are in California, feel free to contact our office.