Someone close to you is working on his or her estate plan and has asked you to be the executor. You're honored and a little frightened. What does it involve? Do you want to take on the responsibility? Do you have the time, temperament and skills necessary?
Your great aunt died, and you learn that because you were always her favorite, she left you her home. That may sound like an unexpected bit of good fortune amid the grief of losing a loved one. However, home ownership isn't all it's cracked up to be -- particularly if the house is old, in disrepair and/or simply not where you want to live.
People often put no-contest clauses in their wills because they don't want their family members or others fighting over what they see as an unfair division of assets. These clauses may state that anyone who contests a will and tries to invalidate all or part of it is disinherited completely.
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.
Even people who don't have a will or estate plan can designate a beneficiary on their bank accounts. This is known in the banking world as a payable on death (POD) account. It prevents the account from going into probate and allows the beneficiary to have access to the funds simply by presenting the death certificate of the account holder.
Estate planning attorneys are finding that people are increasingly drafting wills and other estate documents at younger ages than in the past. The unexpected deaths of so many celebrities last year got a lot of people thinking about their own mortality sooner than they might have otherwise. The widespread coverage of terrorist attacks and other violent events that costs people of all ages their lives can have the same impact.
Being named as the executor of an estate or the trustee for a trust is quite the responsibility. It will be your job to interpret and follow the last wishes of a loved one. This could include the division of assets, the allocation of physical items and even clearing out a living space.
It can be a huge hassle for an estate administrator to force his or her own family members to move out of a deceased parent's or other relative's former home. But this might be necessary to manage the property and get it ready to put on the market. Because of familial ties, these individuals may press all the guilt buttons while continuing to squat on the property.
At this very moment, there are hundreds, even thousands, of individuals throughout California who have been handed the awesome responsibility of administering a substantial estate. For each, there are many ways that even the most well-intentioned executor or administrator can allow things to fall through the cracks.
With a Republican president in the White House next year and a Republican-controlled Congress, some people who have considerable assets to leave to their heirs are hoping that the estate tax (sometimes referred to by those opposed to it as the "death tax") will be repealed.