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Los Angeles Probate & Estate Administration Law Blog

Help! Squatters are living in my late parents' home

One of the challenges for estate administrators here in California is dealing with people illegally occupying the decedent's property. Sometimes, the individuals may be strangers — squatters — who assumed illegal possession of the property after the homeowner died.

But other situations might involve relatives of the decedent who refuse to vacate the premises after the death of the homeowner. Perhaps they lived there during the homeowner's lifetime and were their caregiver during their final illness. This might give them a sense of entitlement that they can continue to live there indefinitely.

Why 'comfort planning' should be part of your estate plan

A third of all people over 50 who break a hip die within the following year. That's a frightening statistic. Even if you're among the two-thirds who don't suffer this fate, your overall health can take a turn for the worse after a serious accident or injury in your senior years -- even if you don't get cancer or any number of debilitating illnesses that can strike people as they get older.

We'd all like some say in what happens to us if we become incapacitated or seriously ill. However, too often, people don't put the necessary documents in place because they don't want to think about it or they just assume that their family will care for them.

The challenges of selling a parent's home after they're gone

Did your elderly parent insist on remaining in their home until their death, surrounded by the furniture, trinkets and other items they could never bring themselves to clear out? If so, you may be facing the daunting task of cleaning out that home and selling it.

If your parent had an estate plan that allows for the sale of the home and the property inside it, and you were named the executor, at least you have the authority to deal with the house. However, you've got some big decisions to make. It's a good idea to bring in an experienced realtor to advise you on things like whether it's better to put money into making much-needed repairs and improvements or sell the house as-is for a lower price.

Long-term care, estate administration and your elderly parents

It's never easy to watch your parents get old, but it's something you're likely to face in the future. Since you want to do your best to help, it's important to work closely with your parents to ensure that they have the right long-term care strategy in place.

Not only does this strategy affect your parents while they're alive, but it does the same to their estate when it's time for distribution.

When people won't leave a home that's part of a California estate

Real estate holdings are often  the most coveted assets involved in an estate. When a loved one dies, they may choose to leave the family home to one person or more specific persons. They may also direct the executor of their estate to sell the home and split the proceeds of the sale between the various beneficiaries. In some cases, if the home has historical value, a person may direct that the property be donatd to a historical charity or local nonprofit.

In many cases, the surviving spouse of the deceased will continue to reside in the home until they pass away. If there is no spouse, sometimes other family members may feel like they have a right to live in the home. Unlike a spouse, whose residency rights may be protected under marital property laws, children and other extended family members or friends have little claim to the house of a loved one when they die.

How much info should you give your family about your estate plan?

When you're creating your estate plan, you'll need to determine what details you want to share with family members and what to keep to yourself. Of course, there are some things you'll need to discuss with at least one or more family members. For example, you need to get someone's agreement before making them your executor or trustee or giving them power of attorney or other fiduciary responsibility.

It's also essential that your executor, and perhaps others, can access your estate planning and other important documents and contact information when you die or become incapacitated. This includes access to passwords needed to get into accounts to pay bills. It's also wise to have a copy of your burial or cremation wishes separate from your estate plan and accessible (meaning not in a safe deposit box that's solely in your name).

What you should know when disinheriting relatives

Millions of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people worldwide are celebrating Pride Month along with their supportive friends and family. Too many, however, have become estranged from some family members -- and sometimes from their entire family -- because of who they are.

Many people, for a variety of reasons, create a "logical" family when their biological family has let them down or abandoned them. If this applies to you, creating an estate plan that reflects your wishes is essential. California probate law recognizes biological and marital family ties -- regardless of what those relationships are like.

What should you include in your revocable living trust?

Many Californians make a revocable living trust the centerpiece of their estate plan. It allows them to maintain control over their assets while they're alive and well. Then the assets are transferred to their designated heirs and beneficiaries upon their death.

A revocable living trust is "living" in another sense. The person who establishes it can add or remove assets during their lifetime. Note that these assets need to be titled (or retitled) to reflect the name of the trust.

Choosing the wrong trustee can be a costly mistake

Among the most important decisions you'll make as you create your estate plan is naming the trustees and successor trustees of your trusts. A dishonest trustee can take all of your hard-earned assets and keep them from the loved ones and beneficiaries you intended to leave them to.

When considering whom you want to manage a trust, it's essential to look for someone who not only is honest but has good judgment. You want to be wary of anyone who has financial problems of their own, as they may have problems managing money and/or be tempted to embezzle funds from your trust.

Do you understand what happens during probate?

It doesn't matter if you're creating an estate plan in California or facing the probate process after the death of a loved one, it's critical to understand the finer details to ensure yourself of making all the right decisions.

There are times when the probate process is uncontested, with everything unfolding as planned. Contested probate is also possible, typically because a disgruntled heir is seeking more money or someone feels they were unfairly left out of a person's estate plan.

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