Getting Older…. It’s not THAT bad!

written by Bay Area estate planning attorney Carmen Rosas. 
 

Getting-older

So, yesterday I celebrated my 30th birthday! I was really nervous about this big birthday since, 30 means being a real “grown-up”, right?  Anyhow, I spent the weekend with friends and had a nice dinner with my parents and brothers last night. I’m excited about this new decade!

Just a reminder, the entire month of December, we are offering 30% off ALL estate plans and updates. Just be sure to schedule your appointment before 12/31/13 to take advantage of the discount.

-Carmen

P.S. Keep warm out there! 🙂

Baby, It’s Cold Outside!

written by California Estate Planning Attorney Carmen Rosas.

 

I hope everyone is staying warm! It’s been extremely cold here lately in sunny California! I woke up to pictures of thermometer readings on Facebook this morning. That’s when you know the temperature is extreme for the Golden State! Although there isn’t any snow, it’s still pretty close to freezing!

Anyhow, I’m going to take a moment this morning to remind you a little bit about how probate can be just as cold as this 30 degree weather. Now, that’s not to say that for some people, probate may be beneficial, but for most of us out there, probate is frightful subject (nothing delightful there! Horrible, I know!)

Probate is long and lasts at minimum (with budget cuts and what not) one year. That’s one year without access to funds for funeral/cremation expenses. One year without access to money to pay last bills, the inability to transfer homes, and the inability to mourn/celebrate the life of a loved one because of logistical issues with probate.

With the cold, icy weather upon us, and possibility of rain and sleet, accidents are more likely to happen. And no I’m not saying because the weather is crappy, you’re going to get in a car accident, but the chances increase. I just want you and your family to be protected.

If ANYTHING happens to you or your spouse/partner/baby’s parent, and neither of you could care for your minor kid, do you know what happens? No, they don’t get to go to grandma and grandpa or auntie or uncle. They risk going in to foster care until a judge can decide where the minor(s) should go. This is a scary situation, especially for little ones.

So, if the length and annoyances of probate aren’t enough, or your children going to foster care isn’t enough, then how about giving away $10,000 of your hard earned money to an attorney and the state? Didn’t think so.

This is why estate planning is ESSENTIAL. And, unless you have a really complicated estate and are a gazillionaire, your estate plan will be about 1/3 of what probate costs, it will be PRIVATE, and your loved ones will have an easier time dealing with the logistics/technicalities of your incapacitation or passing.

So, on that note, stay warm and get to work- make an appointment with an estate planning attorney (yes, even if it isn’t me)!

Happy {Belated} Thanksgivukkah!

written by California estate planning attorney, Carmen Rosas
 
Happy Thanksgivukkah

Happy Hanukkah and Happy Thanksgiving- all in one!

I hope all of you who celebrate, either or both holidays, had a wonderful time with your loved ones! I did, hence the belated well wishes 🙂 I’m definitely full of turkey and stuffing and love.

This is actually my favorite time of year. The winter (technically fall) holidays alway seem to bring my family closer together and there is so much to celebrate. On top of that, December is my birthday month. Champagne and cupcakes are welcomed all month!

Anyhow, as we take the time to appreciate our loved ones and the time we spend together, I always encourage clients or future clients to consider either updating or creating their estate plans. At a time of the year, where all the dysfunction that we call family, gets together to appreciate each other in our lives, show your loved ones how truly loved and thankful you are for them.

I always emphasize how estate planning isn’t just for you- its more about the loved ones you will leave behind. Give them instructions, guidance, and love to help them through the tragedies of life. Let them know that the “what-ifs” of life were anticipated and that they are protected.

As you enjoy the beginning of Christmas shopping season with Black Friday and Small Business Saturday, my office is offering 30% off an estate plan (including updates) when the design plan is scheduled in December. It doesn’t have to be a gift for someone else, it can be your own estate plan. As a way to 1) show you how thankful I am for wonderful clients (past, future and present), 2) celebrate my favorite month of the year (because of Christmas and my birthday!) and 3) help you think of the perfect holiday gift, I decided to give 30% off any estate plans or updates. Yes. 30%. So, hurry and send me an email carmen@carmenrosaslaw.com or give the office a call 650-503-3770 to schedule your planning session.

And in case you didn’t know, I offer a FREE 30 minute “get-to-know-me” consultation via telephone.

Happy Holidays!

P.S. don’t forget to share this post with all your loved ones in California! We offer planning throughout the state!

A Funeral Full of Strangers

written by Bay Area Estate Planning Attorney Carmen Rosas
 

As I was watching the news last night, I heard about a man named Harold Percival. The attendees at his funeral were all strangers. Mr. Percival, age 99, died in a nursing home last month. He did not have any close family members, nor was he married.

The thought of this made me both heartbroken and relieved. Heartbroken, because I could not imagine what it would be like to live to be 99 without having family or friends that would attend my funeral (or present in my life for that matter!) Relieved, because there are still people out there who would honor a man they have never met.

“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.” -John Donne

Have you thought about your funeral arrangements? Would you want to be cremated? It’s not a topic everyone is anxious to discuss, but it’s important.

Have you thought about the legacy you want to leave behind? Are you a d0-g0oder who volunteers? Are you a workaholic? A veteran? How do you want to be remembered? legacy

I think too often we all forget how quickly and unexpected death can come. It’s important to live our lives exactly how we want to. Be happy. Do your best to not get angry. Love, just love. But most of all be true to yourself and the legacy you hope to leave behind.

When you pass away, years down the line those who remember you will talk, and say “I remember ____(insert name). He/She was such a ______”- what life are you living and what will those blanks be?

And if for some reason you live beyond your friends and family, the life  you live may touch the hearts of strangers- so much that they will attend your funeral.

A little ray of hope in humanity has been restored!

Making Changes- Baby Boomers are editing their estate plans.

Image courtesy of PAE300

Image courtesy of PAE300

In a recent Reuters article, a common trend among baby boomers was discussed.

Parents are making children wait until they are older to receive trust distributions. Due to the economy many parents have adult children moving in with them. That means at 20 and 25, children are living at home and might not necessarily need or use the money as intended.

Baby boomers have been updating and making changes to their will to distribute money to their children at 30 and 35 instead of outright at 18, 21 or 25.

Making these staggering distributions allows parents to ensure that children have funds to cover major life events like going to college or buying a first home.

In the meantime, a family member or trusted individual would act as trustee until the age of final distribution.

The trustee can still make distributions for various needs. For example if your child wants to buy a home, they can. The trustee will purchase it out of the trust assets.

There are numerous reasons for creating a trust and postponing distributions, but beware that an adult at 30-35 may have issues being told they cannot have access to the trust funds. But, just remember you aren’t necessarily trying to make your beneficiaries happy- you are trying to ensure you are a good steward.

So, if you haven’t already updated your estate plan, you should!

What are your thoughts on waiting until children are older to distribute funds? Pros? Cons?

Share your thoughts with us!

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!

How do you explain death to a child?

As an estate planner, I often help clients deal with the steps in planning for death. I also face the spouses or children of those clients once their loved one has passed.

 A client, whose mother passed away and was in my office to administer her mother’s trust, asked, “how do I help my child deal with the death of their grandmother?”

 When a loved one dies it’s difficult to know how to help kids cope with the loss, more so while you deal with your own grief.

How much a child understands about death varies greatly depending on their age, life experience, and personality. Not all children cope with grief the same way.  There are however, a few important things to remember.

BE HONEST

Explain the best way you know how and encourage questions. Although you may not have all the answers, it’s important to create a comfortable atmosphere that allows for openness and allows the child to understand there is no right or wrong way to feel.

As children get older, they begin to understand that death is final and may “wish” that someone would not die. Children ages 6-10 tend to deal best with death when given accurate, simple, clear, and honest explanations about what happened.

As kids mature into teens, they start to understand that every human being eventually dies, regardless of grades, behavior, wishes, or anything they try to do.

EXPLAIN WHAT DEATH IS

You may need to explain to a child what “death” or “dying” means. For example, you can explain that a person’s body stopped working. If the deceased is elderly, you could explain that the body became old and the doctor’s couldn’t fix it. Or in cases of a sudden accident, you could explain that the event was so sad the body just stopped working.

Young children often have a hard time understanding that all people and living things eventually die, and that it’s final and they won’t come back. They may continue to ask where the loved one is and although it may be frustrating, you may have to explain that the person has died and won’t be returning.

Avoid using euphemisms, such as telling kids that the loved one “went away” or “went to sleep” or even that your family “lost” the person. Because young kids think so literally, such phrases might inadvertently make them afraid to go to sleep or fearful whenever someone goes away.

REMEMBER CHILDREN’S QUESTIONS MAY NOT BE AS DEEP AS YOU THINK

Remember that kids’ questions may sound much deeper than they really are. For example, a 5-year-old who asks where someone who died is now probably isn’t asking whether there’s an afterlife. Kids might be satisfied hearing that someone who died is now in the cemetery. This could be a good time to share your beliefs about an afterlife or heaven if that is part of your belief system.

However as teens, children may begin to question mortality or vulnerability and the meaning of life. A teen may ask “why” it happened, not in the literal sense, but as a way for them to understand life. If a 16-year-old has a friend who died in a car accident, they may be less inclined to want to get behind the wheel or ride in the car. Your best approach is to empathize with the your teen and explain that you understand how frightened and scared they must be. This will also be a good time to review safe driving habits- no texting or talking on the phone while driving, always wear a seatbelt, or not to get into a car with someone who has been drinking.

MOURNING THE LOSS

A question often asked is whether or not it is appropriate to take a child to a funeral. There is no right or wrong answer- it depends on you and your child. It is best to explain what the funeral or memorial is and let them decide.

It’s important to prepare the child for what may occur- the open casket, individuals speaking, others crying, as well as other mourning processes. Explain your spiritual beliefs and the meaning behind the mourning rituals.

If you think your grief may interfere with explaining the death to your child, ask a friend or a family member to care for and focus on your child during the service.

Many parents worry about letting their kids witness their own grief, pain, and tears about a death. Don’t — allowing your child to see your pain shows that crying is a natural reaction to emotional pain and loss. And it can make kids more comfortable sharing their feelings. But it’s also important to convey that no matter how sad you may feel, you’ll still be able to care for your family and make your child feel safe.

GETTING MORE HELP

As kids learn how to deal with death, they need space, understanding, and patience to grieve in their own way.

They might not show grief as an adult would. A young child might not cry or might react to the news by acting out or becoming hyperactive. A teen might act annoyed and might feel more comfortable confiding in peers. Whatever their reaction, don’t take it personally. Remember that learning how to deal with grief is like coping with other physical, mental, and emotional tasks — it’s a process.

Nevertheless, watch for any signs that kids need help coping with a loss. If a child’s behavior changes radically — for example, a gregarious and easygoing child becomes angry, withdrawn, or extremely anxious; or goes from having straight A’s to D’s in school — seek help.

Seek out help from a school counselor, doctor, or mental health professional. One of these professionals may be able to suggest books or videos to help manage grief.

Although parents would like to shield their children from the sadness and losses of life, they can’t. Helping them cope with their emotions and building resources that help them understand their feelings will give them tools to manage throughout life.

What tips do you have for explaining death to a child? What has helped you? 

“I only own a house, I don’t need a trust!”

Let me tell you a story……

Mike’s daughter Jessica came to him one day after attending a seminar on living trusts, and told her father that he needed a living trust.   “Why do I need a living trust,” Mike replied, “all I have is the house your mother left when she died.”

Here are some of the reasons that Mike should strongly consider having the home put into a living trust:

1.       Mike didn’t realize that ownership of a house or any other real estate in California with a market value of $50,000 or more (as of January 1, 2012) was sufficient to require that a Probate proceeding in the Probate Court would be necessary in order for him to pass the family home on to his daughter at his death.   Because the house is worth $600,000, well over $50,000, Jessica, will have to go through a Probate proceeding that could end up costing court filing fees, publication fee, court appraiser’s fee, and attorney’s fees of thousands of dollars, perhaps as much as $10,000 to $15,000 or more.   Also, because the Probate process has many time delays, it would probably take her at least 1 year to 2 years or more before Jessica would actually own the family home or receive the proceeds from the sale of the home.   Owning the home in a living trust will avoid much of the lost time and expense of Probate;

2.       If Mike becomes disabled and it becomes necessary for Jessica to take over Mike’s finances to help him out, without a living trust owning Mike’s house, Jessica will have to start a Conservatorship proceeding in the same Probate Court, incurring thousands of dollars of additional expense in attorneys fee, filing fees, Court Investigator’s fees, and accountant’s fees.   With a living trust and a document called a Durable Power of Attorney, Jessica can handle things for her father without getting the Probate Court involved;

3.       Additionally, if Mike becomes disabled and needs medical care, Jessica will likely have to use the same Conservatorship proceeding to request authority to make medical and health care decisions for her father, again incurring the lost time and expense noted above.   An additional document called an Advance Health Care Directive can grant Jessica the authority she needs to handle her father’s medical and health care needs without getting the Probate Court involved.

To sum this story up, a comprehensive estate plan involving the use of a well-drafted living trust, pour-over will, Durable Power of Attorney, and Advance Health Care Directive is essential for Mike to make sure that his daughter Jessica does not have to spend thousands of dollars and countless weeks waiting to inherit Mike’s house.

Unfortunately, self-help books and legal websites are inadequate to prepare a good, comprehensive estate plan.  Mike needs the help of a qualified estate planning attorney who can ask the hard questions and craft a plan that is unique and suited to his needs.

If you or your loved ones need more FREE information regarding estate planning design, contact our Redwood City estate planning office to assist you.

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!

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