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Camarillo Estate Law And Real Estate Law Blog

Mistakes can derail your estate planning efforts

Planning for the future and preparing for long-term care is not always an easy process. This is a smart step for California readers of all ages and income levels, yet there are a few common estate planning mistakes that can derail a person's efforts and cause complications down the road. Of course, one of the most common mistakes that people make regarding their estate plans is to do nothing or assume they do not need one.

Another misstep that can lead to issues in the future is to treat each children exactly the same in an estate plan. California parents often do not want to play favorites, but there are many reasons why it is beneficial and practical to be specific when designating assets in a will. Along the same lines, it is not necessarily always the best choice to establish joint ownership of assets in order to pass them directly to a spouse or children.

What can you do about property line dispute with your neighbor?

Land in California is precious. While disputes about where a property line falls can happen anywhere, these disputes may get particularly heated in California. This is especially true if your homes are close together.

Disputes may occur because one neighbor is looking to build an addition, a fence or replace an existing structure. Here is what you need to know about settling boundary line issues in California.

Can your HOA help with barking dogs?

Living in a California housing community can be a great way to share the responsibilities of home ownership at a reasonable cost.

There are some potential downsides in these arrangements. One of the most common issues homeowners face with their neighbors is loud pets. Specifically, the ones that bark. But how do you know if your HOA has any recourse for a continually barking dog?

A living revocable trust is a popular estate planning tool

The will, sometimes called a last will and testament, remains the most common and recognizable tool that people in California and other states use to create their plan for asset distribution to their beneficiaries and for related purposes. However, living trusts have increasingly grown in popularity and are worth considering when one sits down with one's estate planning attorney to work out a plan. The revocable living trust is set up by the person called the grantor or settlor, and that person appoints a trustee to govern and administer the trust. In many instances, the settlor and the trustee are one in the same.

The revocable trust is a legal entity that owns assets during the settlor's lifetime. A will becomes effective only at the death of the maker and the assets in the maker's name do not go into the estate until the maker's death occurs. Because the trust owns the assets already, there is no need to probate the trust property at the settlor's death.

Estate planning steps for the newly divorced

Divorce will bring many changes to a person's life, including finances, retirement and more. In a time of upheaval and transition, it can be easy to overlook some of the things a California resident may need to do after divorce in order to truly protect his or her interests. One of these things is to make estate planning adjustments.

Significant life changes likely merit changes in an existing estate plan. Often, this means changing things in a will and other documents that a person drafted either before marriage or during marriage. In addition to changing the names of beneficiaries and heirs in a will, it may be necessary to also adjust any trusts included in an estate plan.

Drafting a power of attorney to help parents with finances

Many California children have to help their parents manage their finances as they get older. This can be a complex task, and there are many financial and legal factors to consider. It can be beneficial to consider certain types of estate planning documents, such as a power of attorney, to help with this process and reduce the chance of complications.

Even if an elderly person is still physically capable of signing paperwork and making decisions, it can be beneficial to go ahead and draft documents in case things change in the future. A durable power of attorney can give a child the legal right to make financial decisions and take care of certain transactions on behalf of his or her parent. A durable power of attorney is a document that names a specific person to perform certain tasks, such make health care decisions or do financial tasks. 

There is no need to fear the estate planning process

If you prefer to avoid conversations regarding your own mortality, you may relate to many California residents who say they don't even like to think about the topic, much less talk about it. On the other hand, you might be among those who understand that, even though such discussions may be somewhat uncomfortable, it is important to at least speak to loved ones about your wishes. It is also helpful to connect with an experienced legal advocate to place your wishes in writing and use the estate planning process to your benefit.

When executing an estate plan, you can customize the documents you include to address any and all of your medical and financial needs, as well as long-term care issues, inheritance matters and other issues, as well. Whether your priorities include designating someone as guardian of your children, setting up a trust or stating what type of medical care you want or don't want in a life-threatening situation, you can choose appropriate documents to state your wishes in writing. It is always best, especially when naming others in estate documents, to speak with those people ahead of time to make sure they clearly understand their roles.

Homeowners' association cannot enforce discriminatory covenants

Most people are familiar with the musical genius of Nat King Cole, who was a California resident at the time of his death in 1965 at the young age of 45. He was the father of singer Natalie Cole and the creator of universal favorites such as "Mona Lisa" and "Unforgettable."  In the late 1940s and thereafter, the entertainer had to contend with the evils of racial discrimination in housing that was engineered against him and his family by a homeowners' association created just to keep him out of a stately Los Angeles neighborhood.

Cole purchased an elegant Tudor mansion in the exclusively white neighborhood of Hancock Park for $85,000. The neighborhood was filled with old-line Los Angeles money, consisting of scions from the oil, banking and real estate industries. Residents of the neighborhood met and formed the Hancock Park Property Owners Association. The association pointed out that the deeds in the area, made out mostly in the 1920s, had restrictive covenants which stated that no nonwhites would be able to purchase a home in the specified geographical area.

HOA hides behind CC&R to practice religious discrimination

Nothing sparks the holiday spirit like a glowing tree covered in colorful lights or a lawn display of the nativity scene. However, for those who live in California communities managed by homeowners associations, such displays may violate the Covenant, Conditions & Restrictions they agree to when they purchase homes in that community. At this time of year, it is not unusual for homeowners to lock horns with an HOA regarding their holiday decorations. However, one family recently prevailed when their HOA stepped over the line.

The family in another state had just moved to a new home in an HOA community. Previously, they had a reputation for constructing elaborate Christmas displays in their yard that drew spectators from across the state to see the display that included a choir of carolers, a nativity scene with live animals and over 200,000 lights. The new community was not pleased with the busloads of people that came to see the display, and the family claims they and their spectators suffered threats and harassment.

Homeowners' association may regulate members' short-term rentals

California and other states are attempting to find a middle ground where private homeowners can rent their properties out on a short-term basis but where such rentals will be limited in time and scope. In some communities, the homeowners' association has come forward to put restrictions on short-term rentals. Homeowners complain that short-term rentals deflate the value of the homes by bringing transient residents with detrimental practices into the neighborhood.

The negative factors may include increased alcohol and drug use, barbecuing on front driveways, intensified street traffic and an influx of young children with the accompanying noise and increased accidents. The effort is directed at homeowners who are using their properties as Airbnb listings or in a similar format. Many homeowners associations may have governing documents that already contain prohibitions against short-term rentals.

If you are concerned about this issue in your association, you should consider amending your governing documents. 

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