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Southern California Estate Planning, Probate, Trust & Litigation Law Blog

Friday, October 12, 2018

Who Benefits from an IRA Inheritance Trust?

Trying to unravel all the ins and outs of the estate planning process can make your head spin. Most people associate wills with estate planning, but there are so many more legal tools that can be put in place to help plan for the future health and financial well being of you and your family. An IRA inheritance trust is one such valuable legal tool that may be beneficial to you and your loved ones. Find out of an IRA inheritance trust should become part of your estate plan.

The majority of the time, the money held in an IRA account will be distributed to the person you list on the beneficiary designation form. This is one of the forms you will fill out when you open or amend an IRA account. Not many people are actually aware that you do not necessarily have to name an individual as the account beneficiary. You may list a trust as the beneficiary. This trust is what is referred to as an IRA inheritance trust.

When considering whether or not to utilize an IRA inheritance trust, you really need to think about who would benefit from establishing such a trust. This means considering who would be the designated beneficiary of the IRA proceeds. An IRA inheritance trust can be very beneficial if you are considering designating an IRA beneficiary who may:


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Monday, October 1, 2018

The Basics of Powers of Attorney

A power of attorney is an estate planning document that has a variety of uses. There are several types of these documents available, and each one performs a slightly different function. One or more of these plans may be a good idea to include as part of your estate plan.

What is a Power of Attorney?

A power of attorney gives another person permission and authority to make decisions regarding various aspects of your life if you can’t make those decisions yourself or if you just want to hand over control to a friend or loved one for any other reason.

A power of attorney gives someone else, who does not have to be an attorney, the ability to make decisions for you. You are essentially authorizing this other person to act on your behalf either generally or if certain conditions are met.

You must complete a document to give this power to someone else. This document may need to be notarized or go through another type of authentication process.


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Friday, September 21, 2018

Using Your Will to Dictate How to Pay Off Debts

Most people realize that they can use their last will and testament to set out who should receive particular assets or income. However, few people understand that they can also describe how they would like specific debts paid off in their will as well. Unfortunately, many of your debts do not just disappear when you pass away; they are often passed on to your loved ones to address.

Thankfully, some careful planning and forethought now can help your family and friends deal with these issues much more efficiently in the future, cutting down on confusion and stress.  

Types of Debts You May Leave After You Pass

Generally speaking, there are two types of debt. Which kind you have will affect how you can pay these items after your death.


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Friday, September 14, 2018

4 Common Will Contests

A will contest or will challenge questions whether the will is valid or whether specific terms are really what the testator intended. In some will contests, the entire will could be determined invalid. In other situations, only portions of the will may be disregarded.

While there can be any number of validity challenges, will contest typically center around just a few common problems.

1. Lack of Testamentary Capacity

To create a will, you must be of sound mind. That means that the testator must have the mental capacity to understand what he or she is doing. The same requirement exists if the will is being modified or revoked as well.

Being of “sound mind” requires that the testator know what property he or she owns and understands the effects of creating and finalizing the will. This standard is relatively low. However, it can be a real challenge for someone who is suffering from the beginning stages of dementia or has another health issue.

2.  Undue Influence

When you create a will, you are supposed to develop it with no outside influences or pressure. When someone tricks you into including a specific provision, establishing or revoking a will, or altering your will, that can be considered undue influence. These situations are especially prevalent when the testator is vulnerable to outside pressure, such as when they have a health condition.

Having an attorney help prepare the will can help address potential issues with undue influence. For example, the testator should meet with his or her attorney alone so that they can discuss what the testator’s wishes are, not what children or spouses may be interested in.


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Monday, September 3, 2018

Can a Living Trust Replace a Will?

Wills and trusts can be extremely complicated, especially when they relate to one another or feed off of each other. You can certainly have both tools as part of your estate  plan. Depending on your unique financial circumstances and personal preferences, it may make sense only to have a will. Moreover, there are some things that a will cannot do that a trust can, and vice versa. Are there ever situations where a trust can completely replace a will? Probably not.

Why Would I Want a Trust Instead of a Will?

The main reason that people prefer trusts instead of wills is that trusts  do not have to be probated, which can be an expensive and time-consuming process. It can also be difficult for your loved ones in some situations. A probated will is also a matter of public record, which may not be desirable for some people. For these and  and other reasons, some individuals choose to use an estate planning tool that will avoid the probate process -- a living trust.


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Friday, August 24, 2018

Overview of the Ways to Hold Title to Property

You are purchasing a home, and the escrow officer asks, “How do you want to hold title to the property?” In the context of your overall home purchase, this may seem like a small, inconsequential detail; however nothing could be further from the truth. A property can be owned by the same people, yet the manner in which title is held can drastically affect each owner’s rights during their lifetime and upon their death. Below is an overview of the common ways to hold title to real estate:

Tenancy in Common
Tenants in common are two or more owners, who may own equal or unequal percentages of the property as specified on the deed. Any co-owner may transfer his or her interest in the property to another individual. Upon a co-owner’s death, his or her interest in the property passes to the heirs or beneficiaries of that co-owner; the remaining co-owners retain their same percentage of ownership. Transferring property upon the death of a co-tenant requires a probate proceeding.


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Friday, August 17, 2018

Senior Citizens Comprise Growing Demographic of Bankruptcy Filers

It’s called your “golden years” but for many seniors and baby boomers, there is no gold and retirement savings are too often insufficient to maintain even basic living standards of retirees. However, baby boomers are the fastest growing age group filing for bankruptcy. And even for those who have not yet filed for bankruptcy, a lack of retirement savings greatly troubles many who face their final years with fear and uncertainty.

Another study, conducted by Financial Engines revealed that nearly half of all baby boomers fear they will be in the poor house after retirement. Adding insult to injury, this anxiety also discourages many from taking the necessary steps to establish and implement a clear, workable financial plan. So instead, they find themselves with mounting credit card debt, and a shortfall when it comes time to pay the bills.


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Friday, August 3, 2018

Veterans’ Non-Service Connected Pension Benefits

The Veterans’ Administration’s non-service connected pension program can help supplement the income of elderly or disabled veterans. The VA deems any veteran age 65 or older to be permanently and totally disabled. This “disabled” classification entitles senior citizens who are veterans, or their widows, to tax-free pension payments regardless of their actual physical condition, provided they meet the needs-based criteria.

One significant advantage of this program is that, unlike a traditional service-connected pension, there is no requirement that your injury or disability be tied to your time in service. On the other hand, this is a needs-based assistance program, so many veterans may not qualify for benefits.


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Friday, July 20, 2018

Important Issues to Consider When Setting Up Your Estate Plan

Often estate planning focuses on the “big picture” issues, such as who gets what, whether a living trust should be created to avoid probate and tax planning to minimize gift and estate taxes. However, there are many smaller issues, which are just as critical to the success of your overall estate plan. Below are some of the issues that are often overlooked by clients and sometimes their attorneys.


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Friday, July 13, 2018

Joint Bank Accounts and Medicaid Eligibility

Like most governmental benefit programs, there are many myths surrounding Medicaid and eligibility for benefits. One of the most common myths is the belief that only 50% of the funds in a jointly-owned bank account will be considered an asset for the purposes of calculating Medicaid eligibility.

Medicaid is a needs-based program that is administered by the state.  Therefore, many of its eligibility requirements and procedures vary across state lines.  Generally, when an applicant is an owner of a joint bank account the full amount in the account is presumed to belong to the applicant. Regardless of how many other names are listed on the account, 100% of the account balance is typically included when calculating the applicant’s eligibility for Medicaid benefits.    


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Friday, July 6, 2018

Gun Trusts: Targeted Estate Planning

If you have a gun collection, your estate plan may be missing the mark if it fails to include a specially drafted gun trust. The typical estate plan provides for tax saving strategies, probate avoidance and beneficiary designation of various assets. However, some assets pose additional issues that must be carefully addressed to avoid unintended consequences in the future. Firearms, in particular, are regulated under federal and state laws and demand careful attention from your estate planning attorney.

Your gun collection may include weapons used for sport, self-defense or investment purposes. America’s long history with firearms means your collection may include family heirlooms that have been passed down from generation to generation.


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