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Los Angeles Probate & Estate Administration Law Blog

Don't just lock away your advance health care directive

An advance health care directive is one of the most crucial elements in your estate plan. Even if you don't have a full estate plan in place, by having this document, you can let your medical providers know about your wishes regarding what measures you want taken (or not taken) to keep you alive if you suffer a serious injury or illness and are unable to speak for yourself.

However, this document should not just be drawn up and stored away in a locked desk drawer or a safe deposit box that no one else can access. It needs to be available to the appropriate people should the need arise. If you have a close encounter with an overly-friendly giraffe on a photo safari in Africa and end up in the hospital in a coma, an advance directive locked in your safe in your Los Angeles home isn't going to give the doctors any direction if no one can get to it.

When is it time to choose assisted living for your loved one?

Admitting that the health and abilities of your loved one is deteriorating can be hard to do. However, when a person is suffering from ill health more frequently or they are having falls often, it may be time to explore the best interests of your loved one.

Family members often believe that they can care for their loved one from home. While this can be a viable option for a certain period of time, if the health of the elderly person worsens it can be a very stressful responsibility that can become a 24-hour job.

What is California's Uniform Trust Decanting Act?

Your mother named you the executor of her estate. She had a detailed estate plan when she died. However, she hadn't gotten around to updating her plan to take into account some issues that arose after the plan was put in place.

For example, your brother has developed a serious drug problem. You're concerned that he'll use the many thousands of dollars she left him in a trust to buy drugs and further harm himself.

Why people put off estate planning — and why they shouldn't

People have all sorts of reasons for postponing their estate planning. Unfortunately, too many people postpone it for so long that they die without any estate plan in place — even a simple will. They don't intend to, but they leave their family members with the stressful, time-consuming and often expensive task of dealing with their assets and debts in probate court.

Many people avoid putting an estate plan in place because they just don't want to think about death. Some may even believe that by planning for it, they're tempting fate. Of course, there's no avoiding it.

How to choose the right nursing home for a loved one

It's nothing you look forward to, but there may come a point when you need to choose a nursing home for a loved one. For example, an elderly parent may require care after surgery or for the rest of their life.

Regardless of where you live, you're probably familiar with a few nursing homes in your local area. While anyone can choose a facility, you don't want to make a rash decision that could result in additional stress in the future.

Young rapper reportedly had his estate in order when he died

As we discussed in a recent post, Aretha Franklin, despite her considerable wealth, age and poor health, died without an estate plan in place. It might be surprising, then, to learn that when 26-year-old rapper Mac Miller died earlier this month, he had an estate plan. In fact, it was reportedly similar to the one Michael Jackson had when he died in 2009.

Miller, whose real name was Malcolm McCormick, is suspected to have died from a drug overdose. However, that hasn't yet been confirmed by authorities.

Is adding a family member to your deed a good idea?

Many people who are seeking ways to simplify things for their loved ones after they're gone consider adding one or more of their children or other family members to the deed to their home. If you add an adult child, for example, to your deed, they become a co-owner of the property while you're alive. They can then inherit it when you die, and it doesn't need to go through probate.

If you choose this option, it's essential to do it correctly. The best way is to create a new deed listing all of the owners as "joint tenants with rights of survivorship." If you simply add someone to your current deed, they become a co-owner, but they may not have rights of survivorship, and the property may still need to go through probate.

How can you prevent family conflicts over your estate?

No one wants their family to fight over their assets after they're gone. However, even when there's an estate plan in place, family members and other beneficiaries (or people who believe they were left out) may try to dispute the will and other documents in court.

One Los Angeles attorney says that in 90 percent of estate contests, none of the warring parties comes out ahead. Their legal costs may exceed whatever assets they managed to get reallocated to them.

The 'Queen of Soul' reportedly died with no estate plan

Most people would assume that someone as wealthy and successful as Aretha Franklin would have had a detailed estate plan in place when she passed away recently. However, the "Queen of Soul" reportedly died without even a will — let alone any other documents detailing how she wanted her assets divided among her family and others.

The same happened with another music icon — Prince — when he died two years ago. Reportedly, his estate has still not been settled.

Recognizing dementia and the end of testamentary capacity

When your loved one creates a will, or even if you create one, one thing that can't happen is for changes to take place after you lose testamentary capacity. If you've never heard of this before, it simply means that you can't make changes to your will or other estate documents if you're not mentally sound.

This is a protection that prevents people from taking advantage of you during time of confusion. It also helps prevent changes due to hallucinations or confusion. Testamentary capacity is necessary for anyone to change a will or estate plan.

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