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Camarillo Estate Law And Real Estate Law Blog

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. 

Estate planning with the environment in mind

If you are eco-conscious or want to avoid wasting resources in your estate planning, it is important to communicate your wishes with family and estate planners alike. With careful attention to detail, you can leave a legacy of stewardship of the earth and one another.

Principles of estate planning help set the contours of the plan

Estate planning in California is not a difficult process, but it should be done under the guidance of an experienced attorney and a qualified financial planner where appropriate. The risks of mistakes and the erroneous adoption of incorrect provisions taken from the internet are too great. This article shares some important points to keep in mind about the importance and structure of estate planning devices. 

One's estate will include a last will and testament and in many instances living trusts. There are also testamentary trusts that may be included in the will itself. Trusts are useful for tax savings in some circumstances, and the living trust can be used to avoid probate and keep ones finances private during life and after death. In both wills and trusts, the maker will designate one or more beneficiaries. Always provide for contingent beneficiaries in case there are unexpected circumstances.

Trust administration dispute may include an uncooperative trustee

California trust law and procedure is pretty straightforward as set forth in the state's statutes. Whenever an individual knows that he or she is included as a beneficiary in a trust, that individual has a right to know what is in the document. Occasionally, other family members may be possessive over the documents or not be transparent in some way or another. Usually, this is due to an error in communications or to human mistake about one's duties with respect to trust administration.

Whether it is a living trust or one created in a decedent's will, the beneficiary who is anxious to know the provisions of the document can simply call the person in charge of the trust and pose a series of prepared questions. A personal upfront discussion will usually reveal all and result in a copy of the trust instrument being turned over to the previously uninformed beneficiary. It does happen rarely that the person handling the trust, i.e., the trustee, may have sinister intentions or could be holding a grudge of some sort against the inquiring beneficiary.   

The power of attorney prevents chaos in the event of incapacity

California estate planning attorneys recommend the inclusion of a durable power of attorney in a typical estate plan. This legal instrument authorizes an appointed agent to act for the individual in his or her financial and personal affairs should the individual become incapacitated to perform such tasks. Probably the most important aspect regarding the power of attorney is deciding who to appoint as one's attorney-in-fact.

More specifically, that person is authorized to sign the incapacitated person's name and to do so in connection with the person's checking, investment and other accounts. This may include also the power to dispose of assets such as real estate. The appointed agent may also be charged with the authority to run the daily affairs of the individual's small business.  With such broad authority, the choice of who to appoint may be a difficult one.

Real estate transactions involve give and take by both sides

Real estate transactions in California follow a pattern that is generally similar throughout the country. There may be unique requirements from state to state but the general steps for completing real estate transactions follow a common contour. The real estate agent for each party usually plays a key role in bringing the parties together and assisting in negotiating the terms and purchase price.

The agreement of sale is the main legal document that signifies that the parties have a legal obligation to complete the real estate transaction. The closing date will be included in the agreement. Soon after signing the agreement, the purchasers are obligated to obtain financing by a certain date in at least the amount listed in the mortgage contingency clause of the agreement. If financing is not obtained after the buyer makes a reasonable effort to apply, then the downpayment will be returned and the contract voided.

Reviewing and revising an estate plan over time

Planning for the future is most often not a one-step process. Designating benefactors and executors, drafting a durable power of attorney and writing a will are some of the important elements on long-term planning, but each requires consistent revisiting and revision.

For prudent estate planners in California, it is crucial that you continue to maintain your plans throughout the course of your life. While taking the steps to create estate plans is a wise decision, thinking you've finished planning after that one step is a potentially devastating mistake. 

I recommend a review of your estate planning documents every three years.  If changes are necessary due to changes in laws or your personal circumstances, those changes can be made as part of the review process.  Even if no changes are necessary, you will have peace of mind knowing that your estate planning documents are still up to date.  

Who is complaining to HOA boards?

A successful homeowners association must provide an equal balance of benefit and responsibility. California homeowners who choose to live in HOA communities must understand that they will be making certain sacrifices to comply with the covenants they sign. In exchange, they expect their board members to maintain an aesthetically pleasing and tranquil environment. Nevertheless, HOA boards regularly deal with complaints about a variety of issues.

An HOA board is comprised of residents elected by their neighbors to serve. It is a difficult office, and HOA meetings can become chaotic when tempers flare and residents feel the board is not adequately addressing their concerns. In fact, one recent study shows that those living in certain communities may be more aggressive in their meetings than others. For example, residents of a townhome community seem more prone to physical altercations at HOA meetings than those living in condos.

Real estate transactions will be digitalized to benefit consumers

A leading title and real estate settlement provider is bringing the inevitable innovation to California and nationally: a digital real estate transaction called eClosing. It is said to be a comprehensive process, which boasts a host of consumer-oriented benefits to make the experience of buying, borrowing and closing on residential real estate transactions much more rewarding and palatable to today's home buyers. There are already a number of digital apps and components on the market that take one segment of the process and make it a wholly electronic experience. 

The result is said to enhance and improve the efficiency and value of real estate transactions for home buyers. The eClosing solution is touted to provide such benefits as mobile notary scheduling, electronic documents processing and eSignatures for innovative closings. Mortgages are obtained and processed digitally. The developers promise to increase efficiency while lowering the risk of errors. The programs are designed to serve both lenders and consumers in a comprehensive digital process.