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Camarillo Estate Law And Real Estate Law Blog

What are some mistakes first-time home buyers make?

Many people dream of buying a home for the first time. Investing in a home is indeed gratifying, but it also comes with quite a few risks. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to ensure the transaction progresses as smoothly as possible. Bankrate explains common home buying mistakes and how you can work to avoid them. 

Preapproval entails applying for a mortgage before actually shopping for a house. While this seems counterproductive, it's actually quite reassuring to sellers. Preapproval entails a check of your financial background, including your credit score. That way you and the seller can rest assured that you have the funds available to actually purchase the home. This is very helpful in crowded housing markets, where you may be in fierce competition for a single property.

Three situations where you need a living will

Most people do not like contemplating their passing, especially after tragic circumstances. But estate planning is a crucial aspect of aging. However, there are documents in estate plans that affect your life right now, including a living will.

A living will is a legal document that specifies detailed instructions if you need medical treatments but cannot make advocate your decision. There are three specific situations where a living will is necessary.

Incorporating taxes into your estate plan

When they begin creating an estate plan, many people come across the phrase “death taxes” online or in conversations with others planning for the future. Generally, “death taxes” refers to estate taxes, gift taxes, and inheritance taxes. And every estate plan should account for both federal and state versions of these taxes.

For those residing in California, you’re in luck: California has no state gift or estate taxes. However, there are still federal taxes to consider – as well as new proposed state taxes.

When is it a good idea to disinherit a child from your will?

One important part of the estate planning process in California is determining what you leave to your children. Because an estate plan is hopefully created long before you die, situations may change with your beneficiaries and you may need to update your will. For example, if you have a child that you want to disinherit, this is a big step and one you should consider carefully, but it can be done if you determine that is the best thing to do.

If your child's behavior is frustrating you, you do not want to use the inheritance to change the behavior. For example, some parents do not want to leave large amounts of money to kids who have substance abuse problems or who spend irresponsibly. Threatening to withhold their inheritance is an almost guaranteed way to create friction and tension in your family, and not a great way to change the child's behavior.

What does the probate process entail?

If you have just lost a close friend or family member, you may be dealing with many emotions. In addition to grieving the loss, you may be faced with distribution of your loved one's estate, including any property, possessions and assets he or she had. You may be faced with the need to open a probate estate in the Superior Court for the county where the decedent resided.  The process of finalizing the deceased's estate and distributing property to the beneficiaries named in the will or heirs if there is no will can be difficult during this hard time. The probate process is designed to organize this process and to ensure everything is handled properly.

During the probate process, the estate administrator if there is no will or executor of the will is given the last will and testament, death certificate and other important documents. The estate administrator/executor must notify certain entities, such as life insurance companies and the beneficiaries named in the will, that the person is deceased. The estate administrator/executor must then round up all of the items in the estate and determine the estate's value. Any remaining debts and expenses owed by the estate are then paid out of the estate assets. During this time, the estate administrator/executor must protect the property and assets from theft and/or vandalism. Finally, the remaining assets and property are distributed to the heirs or beneficiaries named in the will after obtaining court approval for the distribution.

Who gets what when one dies without a will?

As the initial sadness that often accompanies the death of a loved one begins to abate, new concerns may rise up amongst you and others impacted by their loss. One of them may be the distribution of their estate. Such concerns can easily be resolved provided that your family member or friend left behind a trust or will detailing their wishes, yet what if they did not? In such a case, it is said that they died "intestate." The state has established guidelines that specifically deal with intestate succession

These guidelines can be found in Section 6401 of the California Probate Code. Here, it stipulates that if you are the spouse of the decedent, then you are automatically entitled to one-half of your spouse's share of your community and quasi-community property. As to the separate property belonging to your spouse, you would be entitled its entirety if your spouse has no living descendants or immediate family members. Your portion would be reduced to one-half if your spouse left behind a single descendant or was survived by their parents. Your share would be one-third of the separate property in any of the following scenarios: 

  • Your spouse is survived by multiple children
  • Your spouse is survived by one child and the children of one more deceased children
  • Your spouse is survived by the children of two or more deceased children

How long has it been since you have reviewed your estate plan?

Your estate plan should not be static because your life is always changing. You may have put great care into the initial formation of your plan, but if you have not recently reviewed it, your plan is probably outdated.

Some people get into a routine of reviewing their estate plans every year or two. This can be beneficial because laws are frequently changing. As laws change, your estate planning strategy may also change to help you make the most of your estate plan.

What to bring to the table when creating an estate plan

There are many factors to consider when creating an estate plan and organizing those factors may seem daunting. You may feel stressed when faced with the task of gathering your information and getting your wishes in a legal document that will carry on after you pass. When meeting with an estate planner, there are some essential items you should have ready in order to simplify the process.

Before going to your estate planning appointment, you may want to think about who you want to appoint as your estate executor, as well as the beneficiaries to your estate. It is important to consider whether the person you choose as your administrator can handle all of the responsibilities assigned to the position.

Estate planning may benefit adults of all ages

Most California residents know that estate planning involves creating a legal structure for dispersing one's finances after his or her death. A will may also provide instructions for health care preferences, funeral arrangements and power of attorney. While it may seem that these issues primarily affect people in older age brackets, there are numerous reasons to create an estate plan at a younger age.

Many people start to think about estate planning when they achieve certain milestones, such as getting married, having children or retiring. As many Millennials are taking longer to reach these milestones, a young person who does not have a spouse or significant financial assets may not think estate planning is necessary. However, dying without a will may have unintended consequences. According to FindLaw, when a person dies without a will, the state distributes that person's assets according to existing laws. If there are no relatives that meet the requirements for receiving the estate, all assets then go to the state.

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