California Estate Planning Blog


February 11, 2013

Estate Tax

This year brings big changes to estate tax, making it more important than ever to engage in estate planning strategies. One of the primary changes is the exclusion amount which declines from $5.12 million to $1 million. Another is the tax rate which increases from 25 percent to 40 percent.

Not only do estate tax changes result in higher taxation, but also effect portability of the federal estate tax exemption for spouses. As of January 1, 2013 spouses will no longer be able to transfer the unused portion of their exemption.

Married couples ought to seek guidance from an estate lawyer to determine the impact of the portability provision. Any unused federal estate tax exemptions available to surviving spouses could be lost, so it is vital to determine if tax changes affect your current estate plan.

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January 05, 2013 | Comments: 0

Will and Testament

Preparing a Will and Testament is one of the best final acts a person can do for their family. Any time someone passes away without writing a Will their relatives have to make decisions they usually aren't prepared for.

Writing a Will and Testament isn't a difficult process and offers many benefits. First of all, the last Will lets a person have a final say in how their property is distributed. Without one, a probate judge has to abide by state law which requires property to be given to the surviving spouse or direct lineage heirs.

Secondly, the Will is needed to designate a probate personal representative to reconcile the estate. This position can be filled by anyone that is of legal age and never convicted of a felony offense. Personal representatives are responsible for all aspects of closing the estate.

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December 11, 2012

Retirement Plan

Developing a retirement plan has become more challenging in recent years. Countless people have lost much, if not all, of their life savings that was invested in the stock market or real estate. Many who planned ahead are now faced with starting over or trying to rebuild their retirement fund.

People who have not yet established a retirement plan are often confused about what needs to be done. While the process can feel overwhelming, there are a variety of tools and resources that can be utilized to sort through details and create achievable goals.

The ideal way to plan for retirement is to establish savings plans as soon as possible. The earlier people start setting money aside the easier it will be to reach their financial goals. Unfortunately, many individuals wait until they are in their 50s or 60s before thinking about how they will live without a regular income.

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November 08, 2012

Succession Planning

Every business owner should engage in succession planning and prepare for the future of their company. This strategy is needed to identify key personnel who will take over at a later time and ensure the company continues to grow when senior management retires or moves on.

Owners who engage in succession planning have a much better grasp on the overall strategies needed to take the company to the next level. Determining key personnel and the positions they qualify for in the future helps guide the entity in the right direction.

There are a variety of approaches that can be used to prepare a plan. Much depends on the type of business involved and the long term goals. It is advisable to work with a business law attorney. Experts can help owners implement succession plans and identify each key position and personnel to fill positions as they open up.

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October 23, 2012

Asset Protection

Any person who owns property or a business needs to engage in asset protection strategies. Otherwise, assets they have worked years to acquire could be taken away in the event of a liability or personal injury lawsuit.

Establishing asset protection not only safeguards property, but also provides peace of mind. Unfortunately, we live in a sue-happy society with thousands of lawsuits filed every day. While this can be good for lawyers, it's not so great for small business owners or property owners who earn a living from the assets they've worked hard to acquire.

If a person or business is sued and the Plaintiff is awarded a settlement, creditors can seize assets and apply the value toward reducing the judgment. Most often, assets are sold at public auction with the highest offer taking the goods.

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September 12, 2012

Asset Management

Engaging in asset management practices is essential for every business owner. Regardless if your organization has real property such as buildings or land, or intangible items such as intellectual property; everything needs to be safeguarded through some sort of planning.

Establishing adequate asset management plans is crucial for ensuring future growth and profits. The initial phase involves documenting everything owned by the company. This includes all real estate, business assets, financial assets, and intellectual property including trademarks, patents, and copyrights.

Owners should include every asset owned by the company that has monetary worth and provides profit or cash flow to the owner. This task can become arduous so it is recommended to invest in asset management software to maintain record of owned, sold, or exchanged property.

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August 19, 2012

Living Trust

People are often unsure about using a California living trust, especially if they don't own a lot of property. This estate planning strategy is a good way to keep assets out of probate and can also minimize or remove federal estate taxes.

As with all estate planning methods a living trust offers benefits, but can also create unwanted problems. It is always a good idea to talk with a law firm that specializes in California probate law.

A primary benefit of setting up a revocable living trust is to bypass the probate process and reduce estate tax. In order to protect assets, individuals must transfer ownership of property to the trust. This is known as the funding process and involves obtaining new property titles made out to the trust.

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July 12, 2012

Family Trust

Setting up a family trust is one of the most common types of estate planning methods. Also known as a living trust, this method involves transferring ownership of personal belongings and financial assets so property does not have to go through probate for settlement procedures.

While it isn't difficult to arrange a family trust, most people find the process somewhat daunting. They are uncertain about terminology and legalese and sometimes fail to properly fund the trust which can result in major problems at the time of death.

The simplest way to setup trusts is to work with estate attorneys. These lawyers have endured years of specialized training to help people protect estate assets and reduce inheritance and estate taxes.

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June 19, 2012

Trusts

People find trusts one of the most confusing aspects of estate planning and with good reason. There are various kinds of trusts used to address individuals' unique needs. Some are to protect inheritance for young children, others are needed for business owners, and yet others are setup to offset estate taxes.

Most people setup trusts to retain control of assets they have worked years to acquire and to minimize estate taxes. Other advantages of trusts are the estate avoids probate and the last Will remains private.

Probate is the mandated process for estate reconciliation in the U.S. One of the leading reasons to avoid probate is all estate property is seized and cannot be sold or transferred until proceedings are completed.

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May 16, 2012

Last Will

Preparing a last Will is necessary with every kind of estate planning. Regardless of if estates pass through probate or are protected by a trust, a Will is needed to provide directives. It is used to appoint a personal representative and name the individuals entitled to personal possessions.

The last Will is very helpful to personal representatives. It supplies information about estate planning strategies taken prior to death and identifies the property each heir and beneficiary should receive.

There are various kinds of Wills. The kind a person needs depends on their lifestyle and the type of assets owned. As an example, people with young children have different requirements than those who have grown children or none at all.

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