Estate Planning for Newlyweds

NewlywedsIt’s that time of year! Time for beautiful weddings, fun receptions, delicious cakes, special gifts, and romantic honeymoons.  While this is a happy and joyful time for everyone, it’s also time for you and your new spouse to plan for your future- for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, right?

If you’re recently married or engaged, this post is for you!

Why Newlyweds Need to Plan Their Estates

Why should newlyweds care about estate planning?  Because everyone – young or old, married or single – needs to protect themselves and those they love.

Unfortunately, many couples spend more time planning their wedding and honeymoon than they do planning the best way to protect each other.

What Happens Without an Estate Plan?

This fallout of becoming incapacitated or dying without an estate plan is serious, expensive, and painful.  It often causes financial ruin and family discord, lasting for generations.

Without an estate plan:

  • You will leave your spouse and the rest of your family in the dark – they won’t know what you would want to happen if you became incapacitated or died.  This often leads to family fights as each individual champions for what she thinks you would have wanted.
  • You’ll leave a huge burden on your loved ones to make tough decisions about medical heroics and the withdrawal of life support.
  • The court or state law, not you, will decide who makes health care decisions if you are unable to make those decisions yourself.
  • A judge, not you, will decide who raises your children.
  • The court can lock down your assets so even your spouse has to get court permission before making a financial move.
  • Any assets you leave to loved ones can be taken by their divorcing spouses, bankruptcy creditors, medical crisis creditors, predators, and frivolous lawsuits.
  • You may accidentally disinherit your spouse and your children.
  • Your beloved pet could end up in a shelter or euthanized.

What Should You Do?

We invite you and your new spouse to telephone our office to set up a meeting.  We’ll walk you through how to protect each other and those you love; how to protect your beloved pets; and how to protect your assets and make things easier for you and your families.  Call now; we look forward to hearing from you.

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.


Getting Older…. It’s not THAT bad!

written by Bay Area estate planning attorney Carmen Rosas. 


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.


P.S. Keep warm out there! 🙂

“Screw College! I’m 18 and rich!”

Happy Wednesday folks!

I read an article last night regarding the importance of your children’s age when leaving an inheritance.

When I speak to my clients, I often explain to them that although at 18 an individual is legally an adult, many 18 year olds are just entering college and aren’t thinking about long term financial stability.

They are aren’t thinking about life after retirement or even starting their own families. Very few 18 year olds are mature enough to handle thousands of dollars, or if they’re lucky, millions.

Clients are usually advised to allow the initial distribution at the age of 25, and continue the distributions until about 35. This allows children to go through college, establish their careers, start their families, save and begin thinking about retirement. At 35, the inheritance they receive won’t deter them from the hopes and dreams you have for them or the ones they have for themselves.

But, if you don’t have an estate plan, you don’t have control over this and whatever is left after probate fees, will go directly to your children at the age of 18. Yikes!

What age do you think a child is financially mature enough to receive an inheritance??

How the Supreme Court Ruling will affect estate planning for same-sex couples.

Yesterday marked an important day in history. But how will the Supreme Court’s ruling affect estate planning for same-sex couples?

Well, under the Defense of Marriage Act or DOMA, marriage is defined as a “legal union between one man and one woman,” and spouse as “a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.” Because of this definition, same-sex couples were unable to claim the marital deduction offered to “traditional” couples, which allows spouses to transfer as much as they want to each other, either during life or at death, without having to pay any federal estate or gift tax, provided that the recipient spouse is a U.S. citizen

Same-sex married couples have been forced to pay federal estate tax on their inheritance if it exceeded the tax-free amount. That’s what happened to Edith Windsor, who brought one of the cases (United States v. Windsor) decided by the Court today. Windsor’s partner of 44 years, Thea Spyer, died in 2009 when the federal exemption was $3.5 million and the top tax rate was 45%. The couple lived in New York, but had gotten married in Canada before New York legalized same-sex marriage.

Windsor had to pay $363,053 in federal estate tax. She then filed a lawsuit in the New York district court for a refund, claiming that the definitions of “marriage” and “spouse,” in Section 3 of DOMA, violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution. The District Court agreed, as did the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, ordering that the tax be refunded.

By striking down DOMA’s definition of marriage, it allows about  1,000 federal laws and regulations available to same-sex married couples.

In addition to the marital deduction, same-sex couples will be allowed to take advantage of these additional estate planning benefits:

  • Portability
  • Gift-Splitting
  • Company retirement plans
  • Rollover Rights

If you or someone you know needs assistance creating an estate plan, contact our Redwood City Estate Planning Attorney, Carmen Rosas, for more info. Our comprehensive estate plans include a durable power of attorney, health care directive, will, and trust (if necessary).

Avoid an Estate Battle After You Die

Hi all! I hope everyone is doing well. We have been assisting lots of clients and had the honor of attending a wedding a few weeks ago.

REMEMBER! It is always important to update your estate plan and a marriage, whether it’s your first, second, or third, is definitely a time to make those updates.

This week as I was preparing my monthly post, I came across an article on Huguette Clark, the last surviving daughter of William A. Clark. Mr. Clark made a fortune in copper mining and passed those fortunes onto his daughter, who happened to live until she was  104!

The article posted in the New York Times stated that Huguette’s estate, valued at $300 million is still being litigated due to two wills written 6 years before her death, both within one month of each other.

The first will left everything to 21 distant relatives and the other left her estate to a caregiver, goddaughter and established a foundation for her dolls and other collectibles.

Although it is clear Huguette was a millionaire, her case has some important reminders for those with a lot less of an estate than she had.

Issues presented in litigation were:

  •  Disputing Heirs: wills are being more and more litigated and often times it is by relatives who were not even close to the decedent. People come out of the woodwork and stake claim to an estate, especially when the decedent has less obvious heirs.
  • Leaving a Collectible: if donating a collectible or an item of value to a charity, be sure the charity wants it. Be sure to check with the organization or charity to just to make sure.
  • Preventing Disputes: Huguette could have put all of her estate in a trust. This would have prevented disputes and protected her assets while still allowing her to have access to her money. This makes it more difficult for the disgruntled or excluded heir from arguing that mom or dad were incompetent when the trust was created.

It is important for individuals with estates larger than $150,000 to have a trust. Not only for the reasons above, but because it allows you to ensure disputes are limited when you are no longer here.

Our attorney will be more than happy to meet with you to discuss creating an estate plan.  You can meet at our Redwood City location and learn all about our full and comprehensive estate plans.

Let us know if we can help!

P.S. Are we friends on Facebook yet? LIKE us today and for a chance to receive a FREE consultation.

Our law office serves Redwood City, Menlo Park, Palo Alto, San Carlos, San Mateo, Foster City, Belmont, Burlingame, Mountain View, San Jose, Santa Clara, Sunnyvale and more.

What is probate and why should you avoid it??

Probate is the court proceeding that happens when someone dies without proper estate planning. In California, if an estate is larger than $150,000 and a trust is not created, the estate is subject to Probate.

The general purpose of probate is to collect and account for all the assets of the deceased; liquidate the assets into cash; attempt to negotiate a reduction and then pay all outstanding debts and taxes of the deceased and distribute the monies or assets per a will or to the immediate spouse/children/siblings/relatives of the deceased.

This means a few of things:

  • You don’t get to decide who gets what
  • It costs a lot of money (Probate fees are set by statute, the larger the estate, the higher the fee. An individual estate with one house and bank accounts could easily hit the $10,000 mark)
  • You don’t get to decide who your minor children live with
  • It could take more than a year to get everything settled- and that’s if there are no real complications.

Now, wouldn’t you rather sit down with one of our attorneys and create an estate plan that suits your needs where you get to decide what happens to your estate and children without the added cost to your loved ones once you’re gone?

Schedule a planning session with us by visiting our website, creating an account and scheduling an appointment online, or calling us at 650-503-3770.

Visit our estate planning attorney in San Mateo County, Santa Clara County or Alameda County.

Estate Planning isn’t just for the rich!


Yes, a will is always important but if you have assets, a more comprehensive estate plan is necessary.

While reading the current issue of MONEY Magazine, I came across an article (that’s where the picture came from) and thought it would be a good time to remind my followers and clients that just because you haven’t met your goal of becoming a millionaire, doesn’t mean you don’t need a trust!

Especially now with the uncertainty of the fiscal cliff, if your estate exceeds $1 million dollars and you want to avoid probate, you will need to create a trust.

We offer flat fees for comprehensive estate plans. What exactly does an estate plan entail?? Well, our office includes the following: will, trust, health care directive, and a durable power of attorney.

As the year comes to an end, you should really consider creating an estate plan in order to protect your assets. If you are in our area, we will be happy to answer questions. If you aren’t in California, contact one of your local estate planning attorneys.

Talk to you soon!