California family members come in all shapes, sizes and degrees of closeness. Step relatives, half-siblings and unmarried partnerships are as common today as they were once scarce. Attorneys caution individuals who are building estate plans to be extremely careful when naming heirs.
Many probate laws ensure that surviving spouses and minor children receive an appropriate inheritance from a decedent spouse or parent's estate, sometimes against the wishes of the deceased. Disinheriting a spouse or child may not be possible when a will is contested because state law protects these rightful heirs.
The man who played the proud, strutting, wealthy George Jefferson on The Jeffersons died last July. Sherman Hemsley, whose 1970s comedy show was filmed in Los Angeles, was never buried. A probate court had to decide whether the actor's will was sound and funeral plans were delayed.
Actor and filmmaker Dennis Hopper was 74-years-old at the time of his death in 2010. Two months before he died of cancer, Hopper celebrated his recognition of celebrity on the Hollywood Walk of Fame with his 7-year-old daughter, Galen -- Hopper's fourth child and the daughter of his fifth wife.
The brothers, sisters and father of legendary pop singer Michael Jackson were not named as heirs of their late brother's estate and now the siblings have publicly, but not legally, challenged the validity of Jackson's will. Many legal experts say the famous siblings' argument would be futile in probate court.
When friends or loved ones are creating their estate plan, it generally involves having a will drafted. Another part of this process is choosing the best person to be in charge of executing the will and ensuring that the details of the will are followed, as well as other important processes. That individual is called an executor or in some states, a personal representative. For many would-be executors, he or she has no idea what responsibilities are involved until after the will goes into effect and at that point, can feel very overwhelmed. A recent article provided some helpful tips for executors to aid them in their obligations.
Wills are rarely hidden from public view. However, some Hollywood celebrities and other famous people request the sealing of a will for privacy.
Planning for our deaths is not high on the priority ladder for most Los Angeles residents. However, as we get older, we begin to come to terms with the inevitable -- our mortality. What more, as parents, it isn't always a pleasant topic of conversation to have with our children.