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Fresno County Probate and Estate Planning Law Blog

Under what conditions can you contest a will?

Even when the death of a loved one is expected, it can still cause emotional fallout. As you grieve, you may take comfort in the fact that you will receive some keepsake or other property as an inheritance. However, when you discover the will does not reflect the conversations you had with your loved one, it may make you wonder what happened.

You may decide to dig a little deeper and begin to believe that something is wrong with the will. You may have legal standing to contest the will as an heir. The question is whether you have a valid legal reason to do so.

How the elective share works in California estates

Like most other states, California has provisions in its law that protect the spouse of a person who dies from getting disinherited, especially if it is the result of an accident or an oversight. Among other things, the law allows a spouse to take what is called the elective share.

When doing estate planning, it is important for Fresno County residents to understand how the elective share works so they can account for it in their plans. Since California is a community property state, if a person dies, his or her spouse can sometimes opt to take one-half of any property that is community property. Additionally, the spouse can take up to half of all property that is considered separate and belonging legally to the spouse who died.

What is a spendthrift trust and why would you want one?

There are many different kinds of trusts Fresno County, California, residents can set up for the benefit of their loved ones or their favorite charities. Each of these trusts can serve an important purpose, and many if not most trusts have certain tax advantages and the ability to simplify the probate process.

For example, a spendthrift trust, as its name implies, is designed for the benefit of a child or other loved one who is a spendthrift, that is, someone who just isn't able to hang on to their money is highly prone to overspending, taking on too much debt and making other critical financial mistakes.

Helping clients with estate valuation questions

As previous posts on this blog have discussed, one of the hardest things to do in the probate process is to place a value on the deceased person's assets. This is a particularly complicated task when the property involved is hard to value, such is in the case of antiques and collectibles, intellectual property like copyrights and, especially, the value of a small business that does not trade on the public markets.

Sometimes, disputes about how much an asset is worth can spill over into litigation. While this litigation can involve family members or other heirs who do not feel an estate is being divided fairly, in other cases, the litigation may involve a taxing authority who feels that the value of the estate, and thus the tax owed, is understated.

Should you have contracts with your employees?

Much of the success of any California business lies in the people who do the work. If you start a new business, you may need to hire employees. Depending on the type of business, you may need employees with certain skill sets.

As part of the hiring process, you may consider having certain employees sign employment agreements. These agreements outline the nature of the employer-employee relationship. They can protect you and your business, but they can also do more harm than good. When deciding whether to have someone sign such an agreement, it may be beneficial to explore the advantages and disadvantages of doing so.

The basics of joint ventures

An entrepreneur in the Fresno area has a number of options when it comes to organizing and structuring his or her business. Although many Californians know a little about or have at least heard of things like partnerships and corporations, there are other, less common business organizations that might be advantageous to someone trying to start and develop a company.

One such lesser known organization is a joint venture. In the broader sense, a joint venture refers to any cooperation between two or more other businesses in an effort to achieve a common goal or purpose. The key is that joint ventures are for limited and definite activities. As such, they are not partnerships, mergers or acquisitions.

Simple mistakes could derail your estate planning efforts

You may know that you would greatly benefit from a thorough estate plan, but many in California think that simply having a will is enough. In reality, there are several mistakes and missteps that could not only make things complicated for your beneficiaries but could derail the entire estate planning process.

Fortunately, avoiding mistakes with your estate could be as simple as securing help and guidance along the way. Experienced guidance is an important factor in ensuring that you have the estate plan you need that actually meets your goals and objectives. Many people fail to adjust their plans over time, or they fail to have a will and basic documents drafted. By taking a few simple steps, you can make things easier for your loved ones and give yourself peace of mind.

Funding is the important second step in creating a trust

As this blog has discussed previously, many Fresno residents will at some point consider creating a living trust as they start to think about financial and estate planning. Although not for everyone, there are many good reasons a person might set up a revocable living trust as a means of passing down their legacy to loved ones and others, perhaps the most attractive reason being that it can keep an estate out of a lengthy probate process.

Creating the trust itself is the first step, and that involves preparing a detailed trust document that covers all legal bases and accounts for any contingencies in one's plan. Usually, Fresno residents will go to an estate planning attorney for help with preparing these documents and to make sure they are legal and will accomplish the person's goals.

3 estate administration mistakes to watch out for as executor

Acting as the executor of a recently deceased individual's estate can have many challenges. Though you may feel honored that your loved one trusted you to take on such an important role, you may wonder whether you feel truly up to the task. This feeling is not unwarranted as you must attend to numerous obligations as the estate moves through the probate process.

If you have limited knowledge on what to expect when working to settle your loved one's estate, you may fear making mistakes during the process. Unfortunately, this potential does exist, and you could find yourself on the hook for addressing any issues that may come about. Therefore, you may wish to watch out for these estate administration mistakes.

Overview of California's intestacy laws

One of the basic steps a Fresno, California, resident can do in term of estate planning is prepare and properly execute a will. While doing so does not guarantee that all will be well after the person dies and it comes time to distribute the person's property, it is a positive step in that direction which many people, even very wealthy people, never take.

When someone dies without a will, though, the estate, if it is of any significant, will still go through probate court, as the property still has to be distributed. However, the estate will get divided according to California's "intestacy" laws, which the state has in place to account for the fact that many times, Californians do not have wills.

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