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Camarillo Estate Law And Real Estate Law Blog

New tax laws may require changes to estate planning programs

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (TCJA) will bring many changes to people's personal income tax returns in California and elsewhere. Many of the changes are effective in the 2018 tax year, and will be reflected in people's tax returns filed in 2019. The far-reaching changes may necessitate revisions in the estate planning programs that people have established, so that it is important to check with the estate planning attorney and any tax specialist who assisted in establishing one's estate plan.

The changes made by the TCJA are far too voluminous and complex to fully discuss in this article. It is possible, however, to identify a few of the highlights and give some general ideas of their import. It can be noted, for example, that the standard deduction for individuals and that for married couples will just about double in 2018 over 2017. At the same time, personal exemptions have been eliminated up until 2025.

Basic offices and duties of an HOA board of directors

Living in a community with an active Homeowners Association (HOA) has many benefits, including regulations to ensure the community’s safety and rules for cleanliness to keep the properties looking their best. Depending on the community, an HOA can also provide amenities for members such as tennis counts, playgrounds or pools.

In order to function, a HOA needs a leadership team to make executive decisions and manage basic operations. A HOA leadership team is generally comprised of four positions: a president, a vice president, a treasurer and a secretary. Board members generally serve for a few years and are replaced following elections.

Homeowners' Association will enforce landscaping rules

In California, gated communities with posh amenities may require some central management that can manage numerous administrative tasks on behalf of the homeowners. A Homeowners' Association, however, is not an organization that is without controversy.  It often has to deal with homeowners who do not appreciate the attempts at conformity that usually motivate the HOA. These dynamics exist not just here but in all states where HOAs are found.

One family in a gated community is currently battling an HOA over the issue of trees. When the couple moved in 20 years ago, the trees were a selling point. But some of the trees near their house are so huge that they have come to bear down on their rooftop. Such a situation has caused their homeowner's insurance premiums to go up. They and a neighbor both petitioned the HOA for permission to cut the trees down, but they were denied.

Estate planning process includes several key legal documents

In California and elsewhere, people tend to be confused when discussing the difference between a will and a living will. It is important to know how the two documents differ so that one can see how each of these legal instruments is vital to a full estate plan. When meeting with an estate planning attorney, all of the different documents that make up the arsenal of legal protections will be explained and discussed.

A person's last will and testament is a testamentary instrument that sets forth various actions that are to be taken by the appointed persons after the testator's death. It specifies who will act as the executor of the estate to manage all matters through to conclusion. It identifies each beneficiary who will receive a share of the estate and lists the assets and/or the percentages thereof that each beneficiary will receive.

What does being an executor entail?

If you have been asked by a loved one to be the executor of their estate you might be wondering what your eventual responsibilities will be. In the most basic sense, you will be responsible for ensuring that property and possessions are distributed according to someone’s will.

While it can be an honorable position, it can also be extremely stressful to deal with the role’s responsibilities during a period of grief. Tempers run hot and old grievances can rear their head. Before committing, make sure you are up to the task. Even the logistics of handling the deceased’s current bills and final income taxes will fall to you. The basic duties of an executor are outlined below.

Real estate transactions include HOA notifications if applicable

In California and other states, a certain amount of paper work must be completed with respect to one's homeowner's association when a home is being sold. The seller is required in such real estate transactions to inform the HOA that the transaction is going to occur. As a double-check on assuring that transfer of information, the title company or closing attorney will usually get in touch with the HOA for notification purposes and to inquire whether any outstanding fees are due by the current owner.

If the seller has paid the dues in advance, the closing agent will want to determine the amount paid and the dates covered by the payment. That amount will be prorated between the seller and buyer, which will be reflected on the HUD-1 settlement statement that is distributed to the parties at closing. At the closing, the buyer will be informed by the closing agent regarding the prorated amount and the date when the buyer will have to pay the dues.

Estate planning can be important to provide for minor children

Estate planning in California is not something just for the wealthiest residents of the state. All adults need to consider an estate plan due to a number of very practical reasons. For one thing, when there are minor children, a couple can hardly fail to take some basic estate planning steps to assure a secure future for the children should both parents die unexpectedly while the children are minors.

Setting up living trusts and/or testimonial trusts is a helpful way to resolve that problem. In a living trust, the benefactor puts assets into the trust while still alive. This can be done by a couple with young children. The vehicle most used under these circumstances would be a revocable living trust, which means that the maker of the trust can retract and dissolve it at any time if desired. In cooperation and under the guidance of an estate planning attorney, most or all assets will be selected and included in the trust corpus.

End-of-year reviews may include one's estate planning documents

An estate plan for a California resident is a dynamic program that continues to change and grow with the individual's family and financial goals and needs. Estate planning is a dynamic process that includes areas of preparation for the future and even for the maintenance of one's current finances. With living trusts, for example, one's assets may be turned over to a trust that will function in accordance with the maker's wishes while the maker is still alive.

Estate planning also includes setting up a design for the distribution of one's assets through testamentary documents, such as a last will and testament. That document may play a minor role where the maker of the will has provided for the bulk of the estate to pass by way of the living trust mechanism. However, in many cases, the individual will prepare a will and make major distributions at the time of death through the probate process.

Estate planning for seniors is critical and still achievable

California has a large population of seniors, many of whom do not have any estate planning documents prepared. It is crucial for persons in that age demographic to act quickly to evaluate and maximize the use of whatever estate planning tools may yet be available. Another large group of senior citizens may have estate planning documents, but they may be decades old and in serious need of revisions and updating.

In either event, seniors will benefit by obtaining a consultation with an experienced estate planning attorney to either update their existing documents or to create a new estate plan. With respect to updating, beneficiaries and appointees may have died or become unavailable in the years since the documents were last checked. It is also important for the individual to check all insurance and retirement or investment papers to determine the status of the beneficiary designations.

Estate planning organizes one's affairs during and after life

People in California and elsewhere go through all kinds of gyrations to escape the suggestion that they may want to get their elder law planning in order. For most people, that is a feared subject that brings up the very end of life and the horrific possibility of dementia or other disability. It is possible, however, to view the need for elder law estate planning as a time-saving, financially wise, and necessary function to best take care oneself and one's heirs when the time for doing so arrives.

It is will be critical for maximizing one's protection should a disability arise. Estate planning for disability can be as simple as preparing a power of attorney that will give a trusted friend or family member the authority to sign the individual's name to legal instruments and checks in the even of a total disability. Estate planning for elder law issues like institutional care, home care services and medical care are a bit more complex. In any event, the intended goals should be worked and planned out in cooperation with an experienced estate planning attorney.