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Los Angeles Probate & Estate Administration Law Blog

The benefits associated with setting up an incentive trust

Do you wish you could exert more control over the choices your child made in their lives and as they progress through adulthood? If so, you may find that an incentive trust can help ensure that happens.

These types of trusts have become increasingly popular among estate planning clients in recent years because of their ability to reward beneficiaries for living their lives in a certain way, such as engaging in positive behavioral choices,. The way this type of trust works is that the more the beneficiary lives in alignment with the benefactor's desires, the more money the trust pays him or her.

Incapacity planning: Things to keep in mind

There is more to estate planning than understanding what will happen to your assets upon your death. Forget about this for a second and turn your attention to incapacity planning.

It doesn't matter if you are thinking about your own future or assisting a loved one who is going through a tough time, you need to understand the finer details of incapacity planning, including how to make the tough decisions.

Late actor's family battling over terms of trust, prenup

Less than a year after the sudden death of Alan Thicke, the popular actor's two sons are embroiled in a legal battle with Thicke's widow over his living trust and the terms of his prenuptial agreement with his third wife. The 69-year-old, perhaps remembered by most people as the affable dad on the 1980s comedy Growing Pains, suffered a ruptured aorta while he was playing ice hockey in Burbank last December.

Thicke's two adult sons are the co-trustees of a living trust that dates back nearly 20 years. One of them is singer Robin Thicke, perhaps best known for his hit single "Blurred Lines." The two men allege in a petition to the court that their 41-year-old stepmother, Tanya, is trying to get more than the considerable amount left to her by her husband under the terms of their prenuptial agreement. The couple signed the legal document when they married in 2005.

Handling sibling conflict when you're the favored heir

Just because you prepare a will and other estate plan documents that are legally valid doesn't mean that there won't be conflicts among heirs, including siblings. If parents leave their home, for example, to just one of their children, the others may be hurt and angry.

In a letter recently published in The New York Times Magazine, a woman talked about the anger, accusations and threats of lawsuits she'd received from her older brothers after she alone was named the beneficiary of her mother's home. The mother died after her daughter allegedly cared for her for many years. She claims her brothers were so angry that even when she offered to put the home up for sale and divide the profits with them, they would not speak to her.

Inheritance is not a birthright: Your estate plan is the law

When it comes to inheritances and estate plans, if the person who dies creates a legally valid estate plan, then this plan -- in conjunction with California law -- will dictate the dispensation of the estate. It doesn't matter if you're the wife, the son or the lover of the decedent, you are not entitled to receive anything that the estate plan and the law do not assign to you.

That said, some people have the "feeling" that they should receive more than the will or estate plan offers them. Whether these individuals are aware of it or not, this feeling is often tied to the ancient notion of "birthright."

Circumstances in which a home can be placed in a trust

One of the more common estate planning questions that clients ask about trusts is whether their home can be placed into it. You can continue managing your assets if you place them into a family or living trust. However, there are certain conditions that must be met to do so.

If you or your spouse have the mortgage loan in either one of your names, then it's important to know that your repayment obligation won't be able to be transferred into the trust. While you'll be eligible to continue to claim a property tax and interest deduction if you choose to do so, you'll be required to continue to personally back the mortgage loan yourself.

Probate challenges must be handled very carefully

One of the last things that you might want to deal with when your loved one dies is having to handle a probate issue. Many people these days leave behind estate plans that let other people know their wishes for their property.

There are times when someone is going to decide that he or she doesn't think the will is correct. They might feel that someone coerced the person into making provisions in the will that the decedent really didn't want. They might think that the person wasn't in his or her right mind when he or she created the will.

Do I have the right to live in my deceased parents' home?

When it comes to your parents' home, you might think that you have a natural right to live there, even after they pass away or become incapacitated. While this usually does not cause a problem, in some cases, a parent's home may pass ownership to someone else who does not wish for you to live there.

If you do find yourself in conflict with the new owner of a parent's home, whether he or she is one of your other family members or some other person who now owns the home, you must consider your next few steps carefully.

Estate planning involves talking to your children

There's more to developing an estate plan than preparing all of the necessary documents with your attorney. If you're leaving a considerable amount of money and/or other assets to your children, it's important to talk with them about handling the wealth that they will one day inherit.

Few people are comfortable with talking about money, let alone what will happen when they die. That's why it's best when this can be done in a relaxed atmosphere, such as during a family vacation or over the holidays.

How do wills and trusts differ?

When Californians begin the process of estate planning with their attorney, they're often dealing with documents and terms with which they are only vaguely, if at all, familiar. However, it's essential to understand what these various documents are and the distinct purposes that they serve. Two common ones are a will and a trust.

The purpose of the will is to detail who will receive your assets after you die and whom you are naming to be the executor. The executor is tasked with making sure that the terms of the will are carried out as you have designated.

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