Articles Posted in Estate Planning

Many Californians are well-aware of the hassles of going through the probate process, which is why they are usually willing to consider estate planning alternatives that allow them to avoid it. One option you may want to learn more about is the transfer on death (TOD) deed, which is available to qualifying property owners. You should rely on a knowledgeable California estate planning attorney to provide advice tailored to your specific circumstances, but a summary of TOD deeds should be useful.

Overview of the Transfer on Death Deed Statute

The TOD deed is covered under California’s Revocable Transfer on Death Deed statute, which became effective in January 2016 and is temporary in nature. Through January 1, 2021, you can transfer residential real estate to a named beneficiary via a TOD deed without the asset going through the probate process. By executing a TOD deed in accordance with the legal requirements, you enjoy all ownership rights and retain title until your death. Upon that date, ownership transfers to your designated beneficiary by operation of law. Plus, you can revoke it at any time if you so choose.

Q. My father’s home was in his Trust and the home was sold. The money from the sale was deposited into the Trust account. In cleaning out my father’ home, we found a monthly statement for a home loan but did not know the status of the loan. We learned that there was no Deed of Trust recorded on the home Related imagewhich is why nothing showed up on the title search when the home was sold. We have tried to contact the bank to inquire as to the status of this loan and pay any remaining balance. We left messages for numerous managers at the bank but no one returns our calls.  My father died almost a year ago and we want to settle and close the Trust. What should we do?

A. As the Trustee, you are obligated to plan for payment of your father’s debts and obligations, such as income taxes, gift taxes, credit card debts, and mortgage payments. If an estate tax is due, these debts can be deducted for estate tax purposes. But, as Trustee, you are not legally required to notify your father’s creditors of his death.

Conversely, you are required to notify various state agencies that may have claims such as the State Board of Equalization, Franchise Tax Board, Department of Human Resources Development, Department of Mental Health, Department of Health Care Services and Medi-Cal.

Last November, Google began providing one-gigabit-per-second fiber optic internet service to homes in Kansas City, Kansas. These residents will be the first people in the world to test out Google’s new service. When Google first announced its nationwide Google Fiber project three years ago, over 1,000 cities and towns across the country applied for the chance to get the service, and Kansas City won. The new high-speed service carries data at speeds more than 100 times faster than the average American internet connection. One of the reasons Google chose Kansas City is because the city is home to many startups and tech-friendly organizations, such as the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, the world’s largest foundation dedicated to entrepreneurship, which develops and generously supports numerous efforts to provide entrepreneurs the knowledge, skills, and networks they need to start and grow businesses.

Not surprisingly, entrepreneurs have taken notice of the high-speed connection and Kansas City has become the epicenter of a thriving startup community. Three things make the high-speed connection so attractive to startups: (1) it is relatively inexpensive; (2) engineers are able to upload large sequences of data almost instantaneously; and, (3) startup founders and executives are able to easily and seamlessly video chat with investors and partners all over the world. And one neighborhood in particular has become a hub of startup activity. Hanover Heights, part of a the community that has been called the Kansas City Startup Village (KCSV), was the first neighborhood in Kansas City to receive access to Google’s high-speed internet, and the influx of startups and entrepreneurs that followed the installation has spawned what one venture capitalist has termed the “Homes for Hackers” program. The program offers serious entrepreneurs and their startups a rent-free home equipped with Google Fiber. Some startups have even purchased their own homes in KCSV in order to take advantage of Google’s high-speed internet connection and to foster an environment of collaboration.

Collaboration and sharing physical office space is particularly important to startups. While many businesses have been started and run successfully from anywhere in the world, startups are more likely to succeed in an environment where employees and/or founders are able to meet and interact in person. Google, Twitter, and Groupon are prime examples of startups that began in such a way. Risks of working remotely include, employees missing interaction with colleagues, employees becoming drained by extensive travel, and thus unhappy with their employment situation and more likely to be recruited by other companies.

It’s a dreaded reality that some business owners may have to face. In fact, in some areas of the California, it’s a reality that a firm majority of new businesses have to face. We’re talking about the prospect of closing. And whether you’re making the decision to close the business because it isn’t bringing in the profit you had hoped, or whether you’re planning to retire with no one to take up the reigns, closure of the business has several serious legal implications.closed.jpg

First and foremost, you will need to break the news to your employees. Depending on the structure of the business, those employees may be entitled to severance pay, temporary health insurance benefits, and notice of the date of their final paycheck. Regardless of the time of year in which you close, your employees will need to be provided with W-2 forms for whatever portion of the fiscal year they worked. The bad news is best delivered sooner than later so that employees can begin the job search process as soon as possible.

Another legal implication has to do with existing contracts. If, for example, a failing restaurant has an existing contract with a food supplier for fresh vegetables each week, the company operating the restaurant still has the obligation to adhere to the terms of the contract for the duration of the contract period. Contracts are legally binding promises that usually do not expire just because one of the parties becomes insolvent. An experienced California small business attorney can help renegotiate contract terms in this situation so that you’re not paying for deliveries of fresh vegetables well beyond your closing date.

Amidst all the planning for their future and the excitement of turning 18, estate planning for your recently turned adult child is the last thought on a parent or child’s mind. But when a child turns 18, this is one meeting that must be scheduled. Why? Because once your child reaches age 18, you no longer have the legal authority to make medical decisions on your child’s behalf, or to manage your child’s finances.

Part of your child’s new independence is the responsibility to make responsible decisions about their future. For example, what would happen if he or she were in an accident and suffered a debilitating injury that prevented them from making their own decisions? Before the parent (or any other person) could communicate with the doctors, make decisions concerning medical procedures, or access bank accounts to make sure that your child’s bills are paid; you would have to petition the court to be appointed as a guardian or conservator. This process loses valuable time in a situation where your child often needs you act quickly on their behalf. Without the legal authority to act on your child’s behalf, these important life decisions will be made by medical staff and other unrelated third parties. Do not leave these important decisions to strangers. Your child should make decisions now on who will be responsible for communicating with doctors, making medical decisions on their behalf, and handling their finances.

A visit to an estate planning attorney will prevent the delay by ensuring that the parent has the power to step in and make decisions in the event the child ever faces a situation where he or she can’t make their own decisions. This is done through an incapacity plan, a set of documents that pre-authorizes the person designated by your child to take certain actions on their behalf. An incapacity plan generally includes the following documents: