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Fresno County Probate and Estate Planning Law Blog

Interpreting a will or trust

This blog has in many cases discussed the types of probate litigation with which Fresno, California, residents and those who live in the surrounding area are most familiar, that is, those situations in which a will or trust is challenged outright as being invalid or somehow worthy of being ignored.

However, litigation also arises when, although everyone agrees the document is valid, a will or a trust is inherently confusing in the way it is written and thus, capable of having more than one interpretation or incapable of being clearly interpreted at all. Lawyers use the words "ambiguous" and "vague" to describe these situations, and either situation can lead to problems when one person wants the will or trust to be interpreted one way but other interested parties prefer a different interpretation.

Dealing with debts after your death

If you are savvy about the importance of estate planning, you may have already taken steps to prepare for the time when you are no longer here. You may have a will signed and witnessed according to the laws of California. Perhaps you have designated your power of attorney and made an advanced directive to address any financial or health issues that may arise if you should become incapacitated. You may even have purchased a cemetery plot, arranged your funeral and ordered a headstone or urn vault.

There may be one thing left to do: pay off your debt. Many have an incorrect notion that their debts die with them. However, if you have numerous creditors, you may be leaving your loved ones with a troublesome burden that could eat away at the estate you have so carefully planned.

3 speed bumps that could slow down the probate process

Once you accept the position of executor or personal representative for a loved one's estate, you may not think about it much afterward. Of course, after your family member passes, you may find yourself thrust into a position of duty that requires you to carry out many tasks in order for the estate to close properly. The majority of the tasks will likely relate to the probate process.

The probate process involves various legal steps, and you will need to contact different people in order to ensure that the process moves along as it should. However, depending on specific details of your loved one's estate plan and the other individuals involved in the legal proceedings, probate could prove time consuming. Therefore, you may wish to prepare ahead of time to determine your options for handling the following speed bumps.

Using the LLC as an estate planning tool

This blog has previously discussed how residents of the Fresno area might consider creating a limited liability company, or LLC, when forming a new business. The LLC offers attractive incentives to new entrepreneurs, including some tax benefits and, perhaps more importantly, legal protection of one's personal assets from claims in the event the business fails.

What some Californians might not know is that, when properly used and in the right circumstances, an LLC is a great estate planning tool that can help a Fresno resident pass on his or her wealth to his or her loved ones without paying hefty taxes.

What's the right entity choice for your small business?

Starting a business in California is a complex process, and there are many important decisions that you have to make in the beginning stages. One of these is determining which business entity is ideal for your situation. There are multiple factors that go into deciding the choice for you, and you may find it useful to seek help when making this decision.

The legal structure of your business will have an effect on your taxes and your personal liability in case your business closes. There are several things to consider, and it is very useful for prospective business owners to discuss the pros and cons of every choice with a knowledgeable professional.

What is regulatory compliance and why does it matter?

Regulatory compliance might strike some, even those Fresno County residents who have some knowledge of business law, as a relatively new legal phrase that may have limited meaning for them. Moreover, business owners may not totally understand why compliance is an important thing for them to think about as they go about growing and sustaining their businesses.

Perhaps more so than in the decades gone by, both the state and federal governments have taken a keen interest in how businesses, sometimes even smaller businesses, are operated and have promulgated lots of rules that cover a variety of topics, including things like financial and other reporting, trade sanctions, employment law issues, licensing and environmental regulations. These rules serve the purpose of making sure businesses have the opportunity to compete fairly in an open market but do not use that liberty to abuse or take advantage of the general public.

How can I prevent my kids from fighting over my estate?

You know the importance of planning your estate, but you may be at a loss about where to begin, especially if the family dynamic is less than ideal. If you have visions of your children fighting and litigating over your assets, you may be tempted to leave everything to charity and be done with it.

While you certainly want to hand down your legacy, you may already see the signs that things will not go smoothly. Perhaps you remember feeling grateful, even humbled by the gift your parents left for you. So why is it so different with this generation?

Putting a value on the family business

A previous post on this blog discussed the important task a personal representative of an estate faces when he or she goes to put a value on both the overall estate of a recently deceased person. Equally important is the process of putting a value on each asset or debt within the estate, particularly those assets that do not have any easily identifiable value.

One asset which can be very hard to put a precise value on and which can also lead to a lot of controversy is the family business of the deceased person, or even his or her portion of that business. While there are experts available in the Fresno area and throughout California who make a living putting values on businesses, it is still helpful for a personal representative to know how best to estimate a business's value, particularly if the family wants to sell the business and especially if the sale is going to be to another family member.

Is it more difficult to contest a will or a trust?

Individuals can utilize different tools when it comes to creating an estate plan. Most California residents have heard of wills, understand that they have benefits and commonly use them as part of their estate plans. Many people also know that trusts can work as useful tools, especially for parties who want to avoid the probate process or protect assets for future generations.

Though these tools can prove useful as your loved one creates an estate plan, you may wonder how the different documents could impact litigation proceedings if you believe an issue exists with part of the plan. For instance, is it more difficult to challenge a will or a trust?

Representing your business succession needs

For an owner of a family business in the Fresno area, estate planning can have an extra layer of complexity. This is because these people have a lot of their wealth tied up in their business, which often also represents a lifetime of big dreams and hard work.

Getting ready to hand on a business to the next generation, or even to a friend or professional associate, entails a lot more than just naming a successor in one's will or trust document. As a previous post on this blog discussed, succession planning takes a lot of careful thought and involves making some big decisions.

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