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.


Do’s and Don’ts of Estate Planning During a Divorce

Written by Silicon Valley Estate Planning Attorney Carmen Rosas

Over the past few weeks, I have had a few client’s contact me regarding making changes to their estate plans while they are going through the divorce process. Some things can be changed, while others can’t.

For example wills and powers of attorneys can be changed to reflect someone other than your spouse as the agent or executor. You might not want your soon-to-be ex making decisions regarding life support or important medical decisions while the divorce is pending!

Below is a list of common assets that get overlooked after a final divorce decree is signed (i.e. “loose ends” that are never tied up):

  1. Beneficiary designations on life insurance policies
  2. Beneficiary designations on retirement accounts (IRA, 401(K), etc)
  3. Payable on Death or Transferrable on Death designations on bank accounts and investment accounts (meaning this account transfers immediately upon death to the person named)
  4. Title to real estate — did you execute a new deed for property you received or that your former spouse was to receive pursuant to a divorce decree?
  5. Title to vehicles
  6. Owners and signers of safety deposit boxes
  7. Beneficiary and Executor designations under a Last Will and Testament
  8. Trustee and Beneficiary designations under Trust agreement
  9. Agent designations under a Statutory Durable Power of Attorney (financial power of attorney) or Medical Power of Attorney

If you would like to update your estate planning documents or have questions about what you can change while your divorce is pending, give our office a call at 650-503-3770 or send me an email at carmen at carmenrosaslaw dot com.

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 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!

4 Estate Planning Tips for Unmarried Couples

written by Bay Area attorney Carmen M. Rosas 

Estate Planning for Unmarried Couples

I have had quite a few clients contact me the past week, wanting to create an estate plan for their partners. These clients are unmarried and don’t intend to get married. So what does that mean? Well, it means that if they don’t necessary steps, their assets will go to their next of kin, not their partners.

If you have a long time boyfriend/girlfriend/life partner  or whatever tittle it is you call each other, and you don’t intend to tie the knot , there are some steps you can take.

  1. Name each other as beneficiaries on all pensions, retirement accounts and insurance policies. Of course there are tax penalties when those plans are distributed to a non-spouse. Just check with your institution and financial advisor to see the best way to handle this.
  2. Create a will (and a trust). If you do not have either of these documents, your stuff can pass to a sibling or parent. So, if you want your partner to inherit your assets, be sure to create at minimum, a will.
  3. Create a Durable Power of Attorney and Health Care Directive. If there is an emergency situation or accident, you will be unlikely to make any decisions. f you don’t appoint your partner — in writing — someone in your family or the state can appoint someone else to make your health and financial decisions.
  4. Plan for a Breakup. Well, not all relationships last whether it’s married or unmarried couples. Sometimes living together without getting married seems easier, but when there is a breakup, unmarried couples split, there isn’t a court proceeding. Draft up a “Living-Together Agreement” that dictates what happens upon a break up. Just be sure not to mention anything about sex since it could be deemed to be a contract for prostitution (and that would open up a whole other can of worms!)

Hopefully theses tips helps you start the process. As you may see, #1-4 are basic estate planning documents and are important for any individual- single, married, co-habitating. If you have any other questions, feel free to contact my office at 650-503-3770 and we can schedule a FREE 30 MINUTE CONSULTATION.

I just want to be a millionaire! (Doesn’t everyone?)

As I mentioned a couple weeks ago, estate planning and financial planning have a lot more in common than you think. See my blog post here.

Many young professionals are hesitant to create an estate plan because “they don’t have anything.” (I can relate because I WAS one of THOSE people!) So your little estate, thats a little bit of a problem, right? WRONG!

Although your “estate” or “stuff” isn’t millionaire status, it’s still worth protecting. I mean you have your health (do you want to be on life support or have your organs donated?); you have your “stuff” (your grandmother’s flask and your grandfather’s sewing kit, your pet, and all those clothes!); and you have a bank account (even if it is EMPTY, oh and that 401(k) thing your employer matches). It’s worth having a plan for all of these important things, even if it does get donated to Goodwill or the Salvation Army.

An estate plan is like a cool treasure box- you throw all your stuff and money into it and when you die or hit the looney bin, all your stuff is in one place for your loved ones to access.

Any how, why wouldn’t you want to create a plan NOW when things aren’t so complicated? You create an estate plan with your basics mentioned above and as you get older and get more things of value (i.e. more MONEY!), you will have a place for them.

I bet your next question is “HOW can I make more money?!”- well, I don’t have THE answer, but I do have some tips on how to take control of your personal finances so you can try to get to millionaire status. Read it here!

Since it’s Friday. I’m going to go enjoy the weekend and if I have more cool tips for you, I’ll post them Monday. Either way, you should join my e-mail list so you never miss a beat and you’ll get all the fun extra goodies I send out just go here or here!

P.S. September 1st is our BIRTHDAY! The law office will be 1!! Keep an eye out for a special edition of our newsletter and the offers we have to celebrate our birthday!! Have a great weekend!

Friday nights with Steel Magnolias

Steel MagnoliasI spent my Friday night at home relaxing with my miniature poodle, Lucy, and watching an all time classic- “Steel Magnolias”. If you’ve never seen it, I highly recommend it. Here’s the wikipedia link to find out more about it.

So as I was crying my eyes out watching the beautiful Shelby (played by Julia Roberts), M’Lynn (Sally Fields) and Jackson (Dylan McDermott) in the hospital scene, the attorney in me jumped up and thought “I hope she had a health care directive! What if she doesn’t want to be on life support!”

Well, Shelby was on life support and her loving husband had to sign off to remove the machines. Now, I know if the love of my life was on life support it would be very difficult for me to “pull the plug.”

Have you thought about what would happen if you were all of a sudden in a coma? If you were in an accident and couldn’t make decisions for yourself? If you suddenly had a stroke and were deemed incapacitated?

I’m sure this has crossed your mind at one point or another but you quickly disregarded it because it’s not something ANYONE wants to deal with!

Would your spouse or loved ones know what to do? Would you want to be on life support?

Well, in California, in order to authorize an agent to have access to medical records and make decisions on your behalf, you need a health care directive and a HIPPAA release (if the language isn’t in your HCD).

Letting go is hard to do and although becoming incapacitated is not a glamorous topic, reality is, it happens.

When selecting someone to be your agent- whether it is your spouse, parent, sibling, or friend- be sure that the individual understands your wants and needs.

Have you thought about who you want as your agent? What qualities do you think are important for the agent to possess?

If you want more info about creating a health care directive, contact our Redwood City Estate Planning office today!

“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.

“My parents aren’t getting any younger. How do I talk to them about Estate Planning?”

It’s Monday! That means its the start of a new “work” week and time to get things done!

I was talking to a client last week (let’s call her Cristina), a wife and mother of two young children. We were getting her estate plan executed. At the end of our meeting she said, “My parents aren’t getting any younger. How do I talk to them about Estate Planning?” Cristina continued on to tell me how she knew it was important, but couldn’t find a way to begin the discussion with her parents.


Cristina isn’t alone. There are thousands, possibly millions, of people who have reached retirement age and still don’t have estate plans. As a young professional, starting a family of your own, it’s important for you to create an estate plan for your family but it is also very important to make sure your parents have one.

I came across this article this morning from the Guardian Fiduciary Services on the 25 Best Questions to Ask Your Aging Parents. Although this isn’t a full and complete list, its a starting to point to get your parents discussing their plans in regards to estate planning.

When discussing estate plan options with your parents and their plans, it’s important to emphasize the importance of THEIR wants and desires- you and your siblings (if any) want to know how to distribute their hard earned assets in whatever way they want.

It may be hard at first, but GET TALKING! Use the questions above to open up a dialogue. You know your family’s dynamics best, but be sure that everyone that needs to be included in the conversation is present, or at least knows whats going on.

Do you have any suggestions on how to begin this conversation? What has worked for you? We look forward to your feedback!

And if you want to have a one-on-one chat with our San Mateo County, Alameda County or Santa Clara County attorney, feel free to send us a note.

Estate Planning For Young Adults

young adults

As the first half of the school year comes to an end and decisions about what college to attend are being made, what happens once your teen turns 18??

Well, once a child turns 18, parents lose the legal ability to make decisions for their child or even to find out basic information. Being able to receive information about your child’s academic records will be impossible without their permission. A medical emergency takes frustration to a whole other level!

I highly suggest that on your child’s 18th birthday you meet with an attorney to help draft a couple of documents to make the transition into “adulthood” easier for you as a parent.

In the Event of Incapacity

  • A Durable Power of Attorney for Heath Care gives another person legal authority to make health care decisions (including life and death decisions) if you are unable to make them for yourself.
  • A Durable Financial Power of Attorney gives another person legal authority to manage your assets without court interference. (A “regular” power of attorney ends at incapacity; a “durable” power of attorney remains valid through incapacity.) Your attorney can write it in such a way that it does not go into effect until you become incapacitated.
  • HIPPA Authorizations give your doctors permission to discuss your medical situation with others, including family members and other loved ones.

In the Event of Death
Usually a trust and a will would be created where there are substantial assets. However, because most young adults do not have substantial assets, a simple will is probably all that is needed at this time. It allows the child/young adult to designate who should receive his/her assets and belongings in the event of death. Otherwise, the laws of the state in which the young adult lives will determine this, and that may not be what anyone would want.

After the Documents Have Been Signed- Tips for the Young Adult
Once the documents have been signed, it is important that the designated person knows where to find all financial records and passwords if needed. Tidy up your computer’s desktop. Make a list of accounts and passwords (including your computer’s password), print the list and put it in a safe place; a hard copy is important in case your computer is lost or stolen. If you use an online back-up system, be sure to include it. Don’t forget online accounts and social media. If there is anything you don’t want someone (think, parents) to see, either get rid of it now or ask a friend to delete files or remove things if something happens to you. Finally, update your documents as your life changes.