Legal Representation In San Mateo, California

San Mateo Legal Issues Blog

Spouses need to access usernames and passwords

In California and across the United States, women need to know how to access data regarding their financial accounts. This knowledge is especially important if a husband passes away. A woman should have access to her husband's online passwords, usernames and answers to secret security questions. If a spouse dies without leaving his wife these types of vital keys, the situation may turn into a financial dilemma. For example, the wife may not have the ability to find out information about cellphone payments or online shopping accounts.

In today's modern computer and cellphone era, paperwork is not always available. Plus, many women permit their spouses to handle all the financial matters of their household. Even the most knowledgeable technician is not always capable of getting into the storage area of a computer's hard drive. Since statistics show that women typically live longer than men, it is critical for wives to obtain financial information before their husbands become ill or die.

The importance of revisiting an estate plan

For many successful people in California, passing on a legacy to their family members and loved ones is an important goal. However, there are many pieces to a complete estate plan, especially when significant assets are involved. By planning for the future, people can help to avoid family conflicts and work to ensure that their assets are used in the way they envision. While many people want to avoid discussions about death, these conversations can provide an important framework that improve peace of mind for everyone involved.

Even people who have already drafted wills, trusts and other estate documents should take care to revisit their plans on a regular basis. A check-in after several years can help people highlight potential problems due to changes in the law or in their family situations. For example, people may leave in place bequests that persist even after the recipient has passed away or after a divorce or other estrangement. In addition, tax laws change on a regular basis, and reviewing and updating an estate plan to reflect them can help people to save their family members substantial sums.

Accounting for family dynamics while estate planning

Raising children and dealing with family drama can be hard for anyone in California. However, it can be even more complicated in families that have a significant amount of wealth. Parents or grandparents typically have to contend with the fact that each heir has different needs or desires. Therefore, it isn't uncommon for siblings to get into squabbles or for family members to snipe at each other on occasion over the terms of an estate plan.

Siblings may be more likely to battle with each other if one is financially stable and the other is not. However, in some cases, brothers and sisters fight because it's just how they relate to each other. It is a good idea for parents and grandparents to actively communicate why an estate plan is structured as it is. It can also be a good idea for an individual to have a letter of intent that will be read after he or she passes.

Tips to avoid partnership disputes

Most business partners in California know the importance of establishing a partnership agreement early on in their venture. However important a written agreement is, it will not always prevent disputes from erupting between partners. 

These disputes do not always have to lead to time-consuming and expensive litigation. Here are some tips to avoid partnership disputes or prevent them from escalating.

Making arrangements for digital assets

California is one of the states that has adopted the Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act. Under this law, if a website has a digital tool that allows a person to specify what happens to the account in case of the person's death, this is the course the courts will follow. However, if there are no tools and nothing in a will or a trust regarding digital assets, the state may distribute them like any other assets.

This still fails to address several problems that can arise regarding digital assets. One of the main problems is what happens to cryptocurrency after a person dies. A family could lose out on a significant inheritance if no one has access. There are a few possible solutions for dealing with cryptocurrency and other digital assets. One is a so-called dead man's switch. This might involve setting up a monthly email that triggers distribution of assets if it is not responded to. However, this could leave cryptocurrency vulnerable to hackers.

Why a trust may be a better choice than a will

Some California parents may assume that a will is sufficient for passing assets to their children, but there may be some good reasons to consider a trust. A trust is a very different instrument. While a will only takes effect on a person's death, a person may set up and control a revocable trust while still alive. An irrevocable trust is also a possibility although it offers its creator, or grantor, less control.

Many people prefer the privacy of a trust. A will has to pass through probate and is a public document as a result. Assets cannot be distributed until the probate process is over. With a trust, people can get assets immediately. However, one of the reasons parents may want to set up a trust is so they can control when beneficiaries receive assets. They may have an adult child who is still too young to receive a large lump sum and manage it responsibly. With a trust, distribution can be delayed, or it can be done in small amounts.

Fixing gaps in an existing estate plan

It's a good first step for someone in California wishing to protect assets or provide for future generations to have an estate plan in place. However, if an existing plan is not updated or being regularly reviewed, there may be gaps or instances where current wishes are not reflected. For this reason, individuals with an estate plan are often advised to be proactive about making appropriate adjustments.

One sign that estate plans may need attention is the absence of important plan components, such as an advanced medical directive or financial power of attorney. Beneficiaries need to be periodically updated as well to account for changes with family situations, such as new births or deaths. Also, if an executor is deceased or unable to carry out duties and no successor is named, the court will appoint another person, usually one of the other beneficiaries.

Who should be the executor of my estate?

Planning your estate is the responsible thing to do, and planning who will be the executor of your estate calls for extra thought.

While most people choose children, siblings or friends to execute their will, you should give thought to the qualities that make a good executor. You should also consider where your executor lives - in many cases, an out-of-state executor will need to post a probate bond to act on another person's behalf.

Preparing for taxes after death

When people in California pass away, they will often name an executor in their will. In other cases, the probate court may appoint the representative. However, death does not put an end to tax obligations. Instead, it leads to the need for a new tax assessment of the deceased's gross estate. The estate includes all the property that a person owned at the time of his or her death. There are several different types of property involved in assessing a total gross estate, including bank accounts, investments and real estate. The estate also includes lifetime gifts, overseas property, joint property with a right of survivorship and some types of community property. It can even include certain types of life insurance proceeds.

The executor of the estate will add together all a person's assets that count toward the gross estate. This amount, in addition to the adjustments available for taxable gifts made from 1977 onward, is compared to the federal estate tax exemption. If it is higher, the executor must file an IRS form 706 to report on the estate. This is true even if no taxes are necessary as transfers between spouses are generally exempt.

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