Are you a “Successor Trustee”? Here’s a checklist of responsibilities to help!

When the Successor Trustee takes over the role of Trustee – whether due to the death or incapacity of the original Trustee – generally speaking the initial work is outlined below:

checklist21Determine what the assets are.

Determine the liabilities.

Change title to reflect the new trustee.

At that point – if the change in the office of Trustee is due to incapacity, then the ongoing duties of the Successor Trustee are to manage everything for the incapacitated person.

If the change is due to death, then once the assets have been marshaled and liquidated if necessary, and all final expenses and debts have been paid, and potential liabilities have been calculated, the Successor Trustee will distribute the remaining assets according to the terms of the trust for the remainder beneficiaries.

Additionally upon a death, review the following actions as a guide to help you in the first few weeks of administration of the estate.

  • You need to secure the assets and personal belongings consider removing valuables from the residence and place of business and store safely.
  • Consider changing locks if any property is not occupied by the spouse or a primary beneficiary.
  • Determine immediate cash needs for any beneficiary, never give a beneficiary money without first getting advice from an attorney; identify accounts where cash is immediately available; determine if any immediate expense must be paid (Hint: there are not many).
  • Request Postmaster to forward mail.
  • Inquire and determine about utilities (gas, electricity, telephone).  Don’t have these shut off yet.
  • Cancel charge accounts, credit cards, and newspaper, magazine subscriptions, internet, cable tv etc. and ask for refunds, if applicable.  Also inquire as to possible insurance benefits.
  • Make certain that property and casualty insurance coverage continues on personal effects, automobiles, real estate and any goods in storage.  NEVER say that a home is VACANT.  It is simply UNOCCUPIED, if in fact there is no other person currently living there.
  • If you have personal access to a safe deposit box with the deceased, do not remove the contents; the box should be inventoried in the presence of a bank officer and only then should the contents be removed.
  • Gather personal records, including checkbooks and statements for the last three years; obtain copies of income tax returns for the last three years.
  • Contact individuals who owe money to the deceased and arrange for continued collection.
  • Gather all life insurance and accident insurance policies; don’t forget to check travel clubs, alumni associations, trade associations, and any other organization that might make life insurance available to its members.
  • Contact Social Security and VA if applicable.
  • Hold any Social Security received after the date of death.  Don’t close a bank account into which automatic deposits may have been paid for awhile.
  • Check fire insurance on dwelling (does it cover if dwelling is vacant/UNOCCUPIED?

Have questions or want some help dealing with these responsibilities? Contact my office and we can assist you! 650-503-3770

You can leave a legacy like César Chávez

written by California Estate Planning Attorney Carmen Rosas. 

Live a life you're proud of

Live a life you’re proud of!

I spent Sunday afternoon watching the new César Chávez movie. As a granddaughter of an immigrant who initially came to the states as a farm worker, this story hit home and in honor of César Chávez day in California (March 31st), I thought today would be a good time to discuss how you too can leave a legacy.

Mr. Chávez worked tirelessly to improve the working conditions of migrant laborers.  He has left a legacy that includes recognition from U.S. Presidents, and parks, streets, university buildings, public schools, a college and a Navy ship named for him.  His greatest legacy is in the eyes and hearts of the many people whose lives he helped elevate.

Not many of us reading this blog will be as well known as César Chávez.  And not everyone who has followed his activities has agreed with every one of his positions.  However, there is no question that he has left a legacy.

In our own lives, most of us want to leave a legacy.  We might not aspire to have a postage stamp in our image, or to win the Presidential Medal of Freedom, or to have great structures named after us, but we hope that the fruits of our labors will be recognized, appreciated and well used by those who succeed us.

The organizing efforts of César Chávez that became effective and that had a lasting effect took careful planning and execution.  To leave our own legacy, we must also engage in effective planning.  One great opportunity we have is in creating and carefully maintaining a proper estate plan.  The worldly means and the principles we stand for can be left in an effective manner to bless generations to come.

If you have questions or would like to feel free to give our office a call at 650-503-3770 or send me an e-mail via our contact page.

Happy César Chávez Day!

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

Written by Silicon Valley Estate Planning Attorney Carmen Rosas
 
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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 110th Birthday Dr. Seuss!

written by Silicon Valley Estate Planning Attorney, Carmen Rosas

 

happybdayseuss

One fish, Two fish, Red fish, Blue fish

Yup, a childhood favorite, Dr. Seuss is 110 years old!

While we won’t likely live to be 110, its important to create a plan for the life we live and the life and loved ones we leave behind.  So, in celebration of good ol’ Dr. Seuss, do something that will protect your children.

Some options are:

  • Appoint a Guardian
  • Create a Will
  • Set up a comprehensive Estate Plan (Will, Trust, Guardian Appointment, Health Care Directive and Power of Attorney)

And…. Don’t forget to have a little cake!

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!

Don’t let your child’s guardian be an embezzler!

Over the weekend, I came across an article about a guardian who was sentenced to serve 30 years in prison for embezzling hundreds of dollars from an account he was a guardian of.

Attorney Michael Brown was sentenced to 40 years, with 10 suspended, on two counts of embezzlement related to the estate left to the grandson of late civil rights leader Aaron Henry. Henry led the NAACP until he passed away in 1997 and left his estate to his only daughter, who died in 2000. One of Henry’s grandsons was a minor at the time and Brown was appointed by the court to be a guardian of the estate. Rather than keeping the funds in a separate trust, and placed it in an escrow account.

You can read more here, but the moral of sharing this story is: “Select a Guardian YOU can trust!” 

Don’t leave assets in your minor child’s name. Doing so subjects those assets to be dealt with in court and possibly in the hands of an individual who may embezzle from your child.

As mentioned in our previous posts, selecting a guardian is one of the BARE MINIMUM things you can do as a parent.

If you haven’t already selected a guardian, you can do a few things to get started:

1) Request our 12 Tips for Selecting a Guardian (which is free- just shoot us an e-mail);

2) Keep an eye out for our Guardianship Workshop to learn how to appoint a guardian; or

3) Schedule your own workshop with friends/families/parent groups to teach you how to appoint a guardian.

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!

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!