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Los Angeles Probate & Estate Administration Law Blog

Putting your parent in a nursing home: Tips and advice

Like most, you do your best to provide your elderly parent (or parents) with the at-home care they need. With this approach, you hope that he or she will be able to remain in his or her home for as long as possible.

There could come a time when you have no choice but to consider the benefits of putting your parent in a nursing home. Although this is a difficult decision, you may have to take control at some point.

Why you need a California Advance Health Care Directive

A thorough estate plan shouldn't just reflect your wishes for what happens after you die. It should also include directions to those caring for you if you become so ill or incapacitated that you can't speak for yourself.

That's why an advanced medical directive should be part of your estate plan and those of your loved ones. In our state, it's called a California Advance Health Care Directive. Sadly, only about 30 percent of Americans have such a document in place.

What can happen if you die with no will and no family?

Would you want local government employees deciding what happens to your belongings and even your body after you die? Virtually no one would. However, that can happen when people die without any type of estate plan in place and no relatives to be found.

Los Angeles and San Francisco, for example, both have Public Administrators' offices that handle affairs for people who die without a will or known heirs or when a named executor "fails to act." A decedent's heir can also ask the Public Administrator to handle the administration of an estate.

Am I entitled to proceeds from the estate regardless of the will?

When a loved one dies, it can be confusing and stressful to find out that they did not mention you in their will. As a close family member, e.g., a spouse or a child, you may qualify as an heir-at-law. This means that you may be able to inherit from their estate even if they do not mention you in their will or if they did not create a will at all.

However, just because you are considered an heir-at-law, it does not automatically mean that you will be entitled to anything, especially when your loved one has written a will without mentioning you. If you do wish to pursue claiming inheritance in this case, you will need to go through the process of contesting the will.

Is a spendthrift trust a good choice for your child?

You and your spouse have worked hard all of your lives. You've given your kids everything they could have wanted and more. Unfortunately, because they've been so fortunate, they haven't learned how to properly handle money. Saving hasn't been a priority for them, nor has sticking to a budget.

You want to pass on your wealth to your children when you're gone. However, you're concerned that they'll spend all of the money on frivolous purchases rather than using it as a nest egg for the future.

Actor's ex-girlfriend loses bid to administer his estate

When Californians don't have an estate plan, there's the chance that people whom they wouldn't want to have any authority to administer their estate may petition to do so. The case of a former television actor is evidence of this.

Mark Salling, who appeared in the TV show "Glee," hung himself earlier this year. This suicide came shortly before he was scheduled to be sentenced to up to seven years in prison on child pornography charges. The 35-year-old actor had pleaded guilty to possession of child porn. He was arrested in late 2015.

What happens to debt after death?

Debt has become such an enormous feature of many people's lives that it is often overwhelming to consider how one might repay the debts of a person who passes away. In some cases, a person's debt may significantly overshadow his or her estate, causing those who may stand to receive some portion of the estate to worry about how these debts may affect the estate's dispersal of assets.

If you have concerns about the debts of a loved one, or worry that your own debts may keep you from leaving your property to those you love, it is important to understand the options available to protect your interests.

Don't forget Fido when planning your estate

Just like parents who wouldn't want anyone taking care of their children after they're gone, you probably have some specific people in mind to take care of your pets in the event of your death. To make sure your animals end up in the right hands after you're gone, you can incorporate your dogs, cats and other animals into your will.

The simplest way is to name a beneficiary who will receive your pet after you're gone. Since the law views your animals as 'property,' it's easy enough to bequeath your animals to a specific person. In addition to leaving this person your pet, you might also want to leave some money to this person, so he or she can use it to provide the highest quality food and best veterinary care to your animal.

What happens if you die 'intestate' in California?

If you live in California and don't have an estate plan -- even a simple will -- in place when you die, the state will determine how your assets are distributed. This is done based on California's "intestate succession" laws.

These laws determine which relatives will receive your assets and how much of them each person will get. Succession laws are based on how closely the heirs were related to the deceased person.

Why should you have a revocable living trust?

Many people think of trusts as something that only people with considerable assets have. However, many California estate planning attorneys recommend revocable trusts for clients who have average-sized and small estates.

Revocable trusts make it easier for executors to distribute the assets of an estate relatively quickly and easily after a person is gone. With a revocable trust, it's easier to keep an estate out of probate. As we've discussed before, probate can be a costly and time-consuming process for heirs. Further, if an estate doesn't go through probate, the information in it isn't made public.

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