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Saturday, August 28, 2010

Tax Season Is Here: Estate Planning And Tax Issues


As we head into the fall, Tax Lawyers and Accountants know that this time of the year, more so than the spring April 15 deadline, is really Tax Season -- the time when Congress typically passes new law to be effective the following year.

This "Tax Season" is especially interesting (well, it's "interesting" if you follow tax laws for a living) since (i) many general provisions of the pre-9/11 2001 Tax Act are set to expire at year end, and (ii) among those provisions is the Federal Estate Tax, currently repealed but set to return at a very low exemption amount $1,000,000 per person. Throw in a weak recovery from a recession and a fairly serious Federal Deficit (and, for us in California, what can only be described as a continuing budget crisis), and there is a lot of potential for laws which could effect large swaths of taxpayers in a material way.

Of course, its also a mid-term Congressional election year, which means both parties will be due to issue "highly tactical" if not always "technically accurate" statements about tax law.

Here is a short list of what might make the front page of the papers this fall:

1. At what rate will the Estate Tax return? With so much of the year gone by, the odds of any sort of retroactive tax appear to drop by the day. However, Congress may be tempted to simply let the law switch back on January 1st, and if that happens a $1,000,000 exemption will mean that many taxpayers who did not have to concern themselves with Estate Taxes at all will need to do so.

2. Will income tax rates return to something approaching Clinton-era rates? For taxpayers in the top bracket, this means about a 4 to 5 percent increase. The debate about whether that should or will happen would require quite a bit of space (maybe a couple of blogs?) but what it may well mean is that if there is an opportunity to take income this year as opposed to next year or later, the savings could be material.

3. Will the Social Security and Medicare tax rates change? There is no area of tax more misunderstood than this one, mainly because neither political party has any interest in boring taxpayers with the actual details when so many votes can be had by getting everyone fired up with policy debate.

The fundamentals are:
(i) Both programs are more than 70 years old,
(ii) for the first 40 or so years, they were "pay as you go" the rates of tax were based on the payouts of the programs on an annual basis,
(iii) in the mid 1980's it was decided that workers should be, essentially "over charged" to build up a "reserve" for the baby boom generation bulge.

I put "over charged" and "reserve" in quotes because both terms are highly subjective, the reality is that if Social Security paid out $X since 1985 all of the taxpayers were charged about $2X during that time. Why? Well, this excess did not technically go into a big mattress, but went to basically reduce overall Federal Government borrowing (i.e., we own less to China and more to "ourselves").

So, when anyone says "the Social Security Trust fund will run out" it actually means that general tax revenue will need to start paying back the excess revenue borrowed since 1985. This is sometimes portrayed as a disaster, but in actuality its about what the Iraq occupation has cost. This will not happen in the short term (i.e., this fall), but there are going to have to be some adjustments somewhere in the system, and the information given to taxpayers is going to be far from the basic facts needed to make an informed decision -- it's just too easy to demagogue this issue.

4. Will California adjust its own taxes at some point? We don't talk about State taxes much, especially since California does not have a separate Estate Tax. However, with the state budget crisis seeming to persist year after year, how long will it be before California considers it?

Posted by Henry (Hank) J. Moravec, III, a partner at Moravec, Varga & Mooney. For a complimentary 30 minute consultation (telephonic or in person), you can e-mail Hank Moravec at hm@moravecslaw.com or call him at (626) 793-3210 or (818) 769-4221.

He focuses his practice on Estate Planning, Trust and Probate Administration, Beneficiary and Trustee Representation, Probate Litigation, Tax Law, and Nonprofit Law. He represents clients throughout Southern California and his offices are conveniently located for clients in the Los Angeles, Orange, Santa Barbara, Riverside and San Bernardino Counties.

The firm website is http://www.moravecslaw.com/. The firm has two offices and consultations and meetings can be held at either office.

The San Gabriel Valley office is located at 2233 Huntington Drive, Suite 17, San Marino, California 91108. Telephone: (626) 793-3210.

The San Fernando Valley office is located at 4605 Lankershim Boulevard, Suite 718, North Hollywood, California 91602-1878. Telephone: (818) 769-4221.

Announcing Merger And Second Office in North Hollywood, California To Better Serve Our Clients


Moravecs, A Professional Corporation, and F. Bentley Mooney, Law Corporation announce their merger. The new law firm will become Moravec, Varga & Mooney, a Partnership, maintaining the strong reputation each firm has established in Los Angeles and Southern California.

The decision to merge is about the firm's commitment to our clients’ needs, not about numbers. “This is a strategic merger designed to increase the depth of the legal service we provide to clients,” said Henry ("Hank") Moravec.

“The Mooney firm shares our core values and commitment to unparalleled client service. Combining these two great small estate, tax and probate law firms in Los Angeles will benefit each firm and our clients as we expand the reach and depth of our practice areas." Moravec says that the Mooney firm has an excellent reputation among the courts, clients and other lawyers.


“This is a great pairing of two Los Angeles-founded estate planning and probate law firms,” said Linda M. Varga, one of the Moravec firm’s original co-founders. Varga added: “We also complement our geographic footprints. We had long considered expanding our practice west into the San Fernando Valley where the Mooney firm has an established office. Los Angeles is geographically large and we needed a second office to better serve our clients. ”

The firm website is http://www.moravecslaw.com/. The firm has two offices and consultations and meetings can be held at either office.

The San Gabriel Valley office is located at 2233 Huntington Drive, Suite 17, San Marino, California 91108. Telephone: (626) 793-3210.

The San Fernando Valley office is located at 4605 Lankershim Boulevard, Suite 718, North Hollywood, California 91602-1878. Telephone: (818) 769-4221.

The firm focuses its practice on Estate Planning, Trust and Probate Administration, Beneficiary and Trustee Representation, Probate Litigation, Tax Law, and Nonprofit Law. They represent clients throughout Southern California and their offices are conveniently located for clients in the Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino Counties.

Posted by Henry (Hank) J. Moravec, III, a partner at Moravec, Varga & Mooney. For a complimentary 30 minute consultation (telephonic or in person), you can e-mail Hank Moravec at hm@moravecslaw.com or call him at (626) 793-3210 or (818) 769-4221.

Friday, August 20, 2010

FAQ: Do I Need To Hire A Probate Lawyer? What Is Probate Court Litigation?

Do I Need To Hire A Probate Litigation Lawyer?

If you think you need a probate lawyer, it's probably because a relative or someone close to you has passed away (called the "decedent"). This is not an easy time to try to find a lawyer, but it must be done.

If you're involved in a lawsuit over an estate -- or if you think you may end up in a lawsuit -- look for a probate attorney who also handles litigation. There are basically three types of probate lawyers:

(1) those who only handle the administrative side of probates and drafting of will, trust and estate documents (who can loosely be called transactional lawyers);

(2) those who only represent clients in fights over who gets the estate (called probate litigators); and

(3) those estate and trust firms which do both.

Our firm, for example, does both. If you anticipate litigation, it is not a good idea to hire only a transactional attorney since at some point you will need to bring in another attorney who will need to get up to speed and this can increase your or the estate's legal fees. A probate litigation attorney may also be better at positioning you or the estate for the anticipated lawsuit.

A related question is what is probate court litigation?

What Is Probate Court Litigation?

Probate Court is the court that handles matters concerning wills and estates, such as the distribution of property or money to those named in a will. In California, the Probate Court also handles guardianships and conservatorships.

The terms “contested matters” and “litigation” are often used interchangeably. Both refer to situations that may require the Probate Court's action to resolve a dispute or fix a problem. Some contested matters do not involve animosity between the parties, while others do. If the matter surfaces because of a person's death or mental incapacity, then any necessary court proceeding will usually be filed in a court that has “probate jurisdiction.” Most of the matters handled by probate courts, such as admitting wills to probate and appointing executors, are routine and not contested.

Routine probate matters can be handled very efficiently. “Contested matters” handled by probate courts (also known as “probate court litigation”) is a broad term that includes a variety of situations, including, but not limited to:

■ Will contests (a challenge to the validity of a will);

■ Will and trust construction suits (a request that the Probate Court make a determination regarding the legal meaning or effect of particular wording used in a will or trust);

■ Guardianship contests. An example includes a fight over:

(1) whether a guardian should be appointed for a particular individual who allegedly has lost his mental capacity (and did not do any advance planning, such as executing powers of attorney), and (2) if so, who should be appointed as the guardian to make medical decisions and handle financial matters for that mentally incapacitated person);

■ Trust modification and trust reformation suits. This is a proceeding that requests the Probate Court to change (or "fix") the terms of a trust because something is wrong with the way the trust is worded);

■ Trust termination suits. This is a legal action brought to terminate a trust because the purpose of the trust has been fulfilled or can no longer be fulfilled; and

■ Breach of fiduciary duty actions. These are lawsuits by beneficiaries against an executor, trustee, guardian, or agent alleging that the fiduciary failed to act in accordance with the law and/or the instrument appointing her and thereby caused damage to the beneficiaries).

Needless to say, the best way to prevent most probate litigation is by good planning. Good planning is what estate planning is all about. We will address ways to prevent probate litigation in other articles in this blog. The old statement "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" is especially true in estate planning and probate litigation. All litigation, however, cannot be prevented even with excellent planning. In those circumstances, you need a probation litigation attorney.

Posted by Henry (Hank) J. Moravec, III, a partner at Moravec, Varga & Mooney, A Partnership. For a free 30 minute consultation (telephonic or in person), you can e-mail Hank Moravec at hm@moravecslaw.com or call him at (626) 793-3210 or (818) 769-4221.

He focuses his practice on Estate Planning, Trust and Probate Administration, Beneficiary and Trustee Representation, Probate Litigation, Tax Law, and Nonprofit Law. He represents clients throughout Southern California and his offices are conveniently located for clients in the Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino Counties.

With respect to probate, Hank Moravec has over 20 years' experience as one of the best Los Angeles probate attorneys and Los Angeles probate litigation attorneys and is available should you need legal advice regarding your own or a family member's situation. For a consultation, You can e-mail Hank Moravec at hm@moravecslaw.com or call him at (626) 793-3210 or (818) 769-4221 to request a consultation.

The firm website is http://www.moravecslaw.com/. The firm has two offices and consultations and meetings can be held at either office.

The San Gabriel Valley office is located at 2233 Huntington Drive, Suite 17, San Marino, California 91108. There is ample free parking adjacent to the firm's office.

The San Fernando Valley office is located at 4605 Lankershim Boulevard, Suite 718, North Hollywood, California 91602-1878.

The firm represents clients throughout California and its attorneys appears in probate court throughout Southern California (Pasadena probate attorney, Los Angeles probate attorney, Santa Monica probate attorney, Pomona probate attorney, Torrance probate attorney, Long Beach probate attorney, Van Nuys probate attorney, Santa Barbara probate attorney, Orange County probate attorney, Riverside probate attorney, San Bernardino probate attorney).


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Can My 401(k) Or IRA Be Part Of My Estate Plan? Can I Designate My Trust As A Beneficiary?


No longer are traditional pensions the norm. Today is the age of the 401(k), Roth 401(k), 403(b), 412(i), the SIMPLE, the SEP, the IRA, and the Roth IRA, among others. In our practice, we help our clients incorporate their varying investment vehicles into their estate plan and understand how to designate and change beneficiaries to be consistent with their estate and trust plans.

Common Question: Can I designate my trust, multiple individuals or favorite charity as a beneficiary in my 401(k) or IRA?

Answer: Yes, but each designation comes with separate issues which are discussed below. In addition, designations set forth in a will or trust are generally ineffective unless the proper designation forms have been completed with and submitted to the investment company.

What Do I Need To Bring To My Estate Planning Session Regarding 401(k), IRA And Similar Plans?

1. Bring copies of current 401(k), IRA and related investment plan statements. All the information you provide to us is confidential and attorney-client privileged. We need the statements so we can obtain:

(1) the present value of 401(k) or similar assets;

(2) the name of their managing institution;

(3) the name of the investment representative, if any; and

(4) respective contact information.

In addition, this helps us educate our clients about the true nature of their investment vehicle. Sometimes a client may believe they have a 401(k) but it is really an annuity, IRA or other investment vehicle, and possibly subject to different rules.

2. Contact your plan manager prior to our planning session and determine the current primary and alternate beneficiary of record. The proper contact is usually found in the upper right or left portion of the 401(k) statement.

3. Begin the process of determining the percentage of assets you want to allot to each beneficiary. This information will be finalized and provided before the estate plan is finalized.

Beneficiary Designation Form

If you recall, as a participant in a 401(k) or other plan, you probably designated a beneficiary using a "beneficiary designation form." Forms typically require the name, relationship and date of birth of the beneficiaries. Designating individuals, estates, trusts and charities is permissible.

And married participants designating someone other than their spouse will require spouse approval. However, each designation comes with separate issues, some of which are discussed below. Additionally, designations set forth in a will or trust are usually ineffective. Investment companies require original signatures and often signature guarantees from a financial institution (i.e., bank or brokerage); notarization may not be acceptable.

If you "never" received a beneficiary designation form should contact your investment representative for assistance. Beneficiary designation forms are often available online. However, execution in the presence of a professional (or review by a professional) prior to submission is highly recommended to ensure proper execution.

What Are The Default Rules In Your 401(k), IRA Or Other Plan?

Sometimes clients have simply not completed a designation form and relied upon the plans' default rules that are in place in each plan. General rules place the spouse first, children second and the estate third. Still, each client should research his or her plan's hierarchy before relying upon defaults. An uninformed decision could wreak havoc upon the estate and estate plan.

When relying on default provisions, we educate our clients so they understand both the legal and practical effects. For example, the definition of "spouse" affects plan participants differently. Someone in a long-term relationship or same-sex relationship (or marriage) may not benefit from a default definition, unless it specifically encompasses his or her set of circumstances.

Likewise, a perceived husband in a "common law marriage" might not receive his wife's assets if the default definition does not consider him a spouse. In either event, plan assets could pass from the deceased owner to someone other than the "intended" beneficiary. Thus, we help our clients understand default provisions before using them.

Multiple Beneficiaries, Allocations And Contingent Beneficiaries

One thing that can happen is that clients have designated less or even more than 100% of their IRA or 401(k) plan's assets. Active designation of beneficiaries requires disposition of 100% of the assets. Allotment in excess of 100% often results in the payment of proceeds in proportion to the proposed allocations.

For example, when two primary beneficiaries are named and each is supposed to receive 100% of the assets, each ultimately receives 50%. Also, when two or more primary beneficiaries are named and one predeceases the plan owner, all assets should pass to the survivor beneficiary.

Clients often do not know, or understand, this possibility. Therefore, clients looking for relief from the contractual standards should consider the use of estate-planning instruments.

In addition, failure to name contingent beneficiaries results in distribution pursuant to default provisions. Without designations, assets are paid to the deceased participant's estate unless otherwise determined by law. Allocations up to 100% are required. Also, the death of one of the two or more contingent beneficiaries leaves the survivor receiving all assets.

Designating Your Trust As A Beneficiary

Participants with a trust, of any kind, can designate it as the beneficiary by inserting the trust name in the form. Designating a trust allows the plan participant to:

(1) avoid probate or administration delays and expenses;

(2) possibly enjoy creditor protection of assets; and

(3) further the trust's stated purpose using additional funds.

Depending on the terms of the trust a lump sum distribution may be required, causing a taxable event. Each situation differs.

A trust holding net, lump sum proceeds will have flexibility in management and investment. Alternatively, a trust that is eligible to continue the plan or roll it over may defer taxable gains, albeit while investing in the respective plan's products.

Conclusion

Clients participating in 401(k), IRA and other plans must make informed decisions when designating their trust, estate, charities or individuals as beneficiaries. At our firm, we take the time to review the effect of beneficiary designations with our clients.

We inform them of the positives and negatives of defaults, specific designations or using a combination of both. We discuss what happens, for example, if beneficiaries predecease the plan owner, under certain default situations, or if specifically named. We review distribution under those circumstances. We remind our clients of the ability to name trusts and charities as beneficiaries.

We handle the technical and legal aspects. Our clients do not need to become expert in these issues or feel bogged down in them since we are the experts. Instead, we focus our clients on their intent and provide them with the methods of achieving their goal.

Posted by Henry (Hank) J. Moravec, III, a partner at Moravec, Varga & Mooney. For a complimentary 30 minute consultation (telephonic or in person), you can e-mail Hank Moravec at hm@moravecslaw.com or call him at (626) 793-3210 or (818) 769-4221.

Mr. Moravec is a very experienced Los Angeles estate planning attorney, Los Angeles trust attorney and Los Angeles probate attorney. He has more than 20 years' experience in estate planning and is extremely dedicated to his clients and helping them create a plan that is tailored to their wishes, finances, helps avoid probate and takes into account their families' unique situation.

He focuses his practice on Estate Planning, Trust and Probate Administration, Beneficiary and Trustee Representation, Probate Litigation, Tax Law, and Nonprofit Law. He represents clients throughout Southern California and his offices are conveniently located for clients in the Los Angeles, Orange, Santa Barbara, Riverside and San Bernardino Counties.

The firm website is http://www.moravecslaw.com/. The firm has two offices and consultations and meetings can be held at either office.

The San Gabriel Valley office is located at 2233 Huntington Drive, Suite 17, San Marino, California 91108. Telephone: (626) 793-3210.

The San Fernando Valley office is located at 4605 Lankershim Boulevard, Suite 718, North Hollywood, California 91602-1878. Telephone: (818) 769-4221.


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Health Care Directives - Recommended New Yorker Article On Hospice Care: "Letting Go: What Should Medicine Do When It Can't Save Your Life?


One of my favorite physician writers is Atul Gatwande, a practicing physician in Boston. He recently wrote a 15-page article in the New Yorker titled titled "Letting Go: What Should Medicine Do When It Can't Save Your Life?" which focuses on the use and application of hospice care in terminal patients regardless of disease and/or condition.

In creating trusts, drafting estate plans and health care directives, we encourage our clients to think about these end-of-life issues. What would you do if you are hit with news of a terminal illness? How do you think you and your family will react as treatment choices are made or when non-treatment is chosen? How should hospice/palliative care be defined? Do you want to incorporate your wishes on these subjects into your health care directive or estate planning?

If you are given fewer than 90 days to live, do you want to "fight death" as long as possible? It may be impossible to know how you really feel about these issues unless you or another family member have gone through it. This article addresses the fact that medical insurance (including Medicare) does not pay for doctors to have extensive conversations with the family about the options and whether "fighting death" at all costs for a month or longer is worth it and how such a fight could affect the quality of life in those last months.

In our practice, we see that in our society we are often not good at helping people sort out what is most important to them when they are facing a terminal illness and helping them achieve it. This is why advance health care directives have become popular in estate planning.

In our practice, the Advance Health Care Directive identifies the individuals that you desire to act for you if you become unable to make medical decisions for yourself. The most common decision involves when, and under what circumstances, extraordinary measures should be used to prolong life. There are also sections of the Advanced Health Care Directive which deal with whether or not you desire to be an organ donor. This is part of our basic estate plan package.

It is an excellent article and it will help you think about these issues,

Hospice medical care for dying patients: newyorker.com

Posted by Henry (Hank) J. Moravec, III, a partner at Moravec, Varga & Mooney, A Partnership. For a free 30 minute consultation (telephonic or in person), you can e-mail Hank Moravec at hm@moravecslaw.com or call him at (626) 793-3210 or (818) 769-4221.

He focuses his practice on Estate Planning, Trust and Probate Administration, Beneficiary and Trustee Representation, Probate Litigation, Tax Law, and Nonprofit Law. He represents clients throughout Southern California and his offices are conveniently located for clients in the Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino Counties.

With respect to estate planning and probate, Hank Moravec has over 20 years' experience as one of the best Los Angeles estate attorneys and Los Angeles probate attorneys and is available should you need legal advice regarding your own or a family member's situation. For a consultation, You can e-mail Hank Moravec at hm@moravecslaw.com or call him at (626) 793-3210 or (818) 769-4221 to request a consultation.

The firm website is http://www.moravecslaw.com/. The firm has two offices and consultations and meetings can be held at either office.

The San Gabriel Valley office is located at 2233 Huntington Drive, Suite 17, San Marino, California 91108. There is ample free parking adjacent to the firm's office.

The San Fernando Valley office is located at 4605 Lankershim Boulevard, Suite 718, North Hollywood, California 91602-1878.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Lesson In Why Not To Put Off Your Estate Planning - MSN Article "46 Days to Live: What's Your Plan"


MSN's financial writer Chuck Jaffe had a recent article on his family's experience with estate planning. See Chuck Jaffe, 46 Days to Live: What's Your Plan?, Market Watch, July 22, 2010. This article is a good reminder of why we should not procrastinate the seemingly tedious task of estate planning.

The article is about how advanced estate planning helped one couple enjoy the last months of life after the husband was diagnosed with a terminal illness and given a short time to live.

Two years before the diagnosis, Chuck Jaffee's brother Rob knew there were health issues in his family and forced his wife Eileen to go with him to get their estate planning done. When Rob was ultimately diagnosed with a terminal illness, Rob asked his brother to write about him after he died, informing people that they shouldn’t wait to take care of the important things in life. Rob only lived 46 days after his terminal diagnosis.

Rob asked the question, “If you had only 46 days to live, what would you not want to do and not want to worry about?” Rob was very thankful that he and his wife took care of their affairs at a time when they were healthy and thinking clearly, and he thought that having to focus on death after being diagnosed would be unimaginable. He was thankful to not have to waste a minute of his life “having to do estate planning or worrying that I live long enough to get documents filed or whatever garbage comes with it.” He wanted his story shared so that others can enjoy their last days as he did his.

Most sophisticated estate planning attorneys, such as our firm, quote a flat fee and there are no products being sold or conflicts of interest in advising you on the best estate plan for you and your family. Refer to my prior post on "What Does Estate Planning Cost?" for information about our firm's flat fees for estate plans.

Posted by Henry (Hank) J. Moravec, III, a partner at Moravec, Varga & Mooney, A Partnership. For a free 30 minute consultation (telephonic or in person), you can e-mail Hank Moravec at hm@moravecslaw.com or call him at (626) 793-3210 or (818) 769-4221.

He focuses his practice on Estate Planning, Trust and Probate Administration, Beneficiary and Trustee Representation, Probate Litigation, Tax Law, and Nonprofit Law. He represents clients throughout Southern California and his offices are conveniently located for clients in the Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino Counties.

With respect to estate planning and probate, Hank Moravec has over 20 years' experience as one of the best Los Angeles estate attorneys and Los Angeles probate attorneys and is available should you need legal advice regarding your own or a family member's situation. For a consultation, You can e-mail Hank Moravec at hm@moravecslaw.com or call him at (626) 793-3210 or (818) 769-4221 to request a consultation.

The firm website is http://www.moravecslaw.com/. The firm has two offices and consultations and meetings can be held at either office.

The San Gabriel Valley office is located at 2233 Huntington Drive, Suite 17, San Marino, California 91108. There is ample free parking adjacent to the firm's office.

The San Fernando Valley office is located at 4605 Lankershim Boulevard, Suite 718, North Hollywood, California 91602-1878.



Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Estate Planning For Your Pet?

Estate Planning For Your Pet?

Most of the articles we write are about protecting one's family, loved ones and children. However, there is the issue of what happens when our pets outlive us. For many, their pets are part of their families. Some pets, like parrots and horses, have long life-spans.

Last year, I wrote an article entitled: "Frequently Asked Questions About Including Provisions For Pets In Trusts." This article (which I am reposting for the convenience of our readers) addresses the statutory framework for pet trusts in California.

In July 2008, California's permissive pet trust statute was amended with a more modern statute with enforceable provisions. See California Probate Code Section 15212. As pet owners, we can certainly relate to some of our clients' wishes to plan for the future care of their pets.

California Probate Code Section 15212

Here is a summary of this relatively new statute:

■ A trust for the care of an animal is deemed to be for a "lawful noncharitable purpose."

■ "Animal" is broadly defined to include pets of any type as well as domestic animals.

■ The trust terminates when the last animal dies that was alive when the settlor died (unless the settlor provided otherwise in the trust instrument).

■ The court must liberally construe the trust. Extrinsic evidence is admissible to ascertain the settlor's intent.

■ Trust funds may be used only for the benefit of the animal unless the trust instrument provides otherwise.

■ When the trust ends, the balance of the trust property passes (1) according to the terms of the trust (i.e., to the remainder beneficiaries), (2) if none and the settlor created the trust in a non-residuary will clause, under the residuary clause, or (3) in other cases, to the settlor's heirs.

■ The settlor may name a trust enforcer in the trust. The court may appoint a trust enforcer.

■ Anyone interested in the welfare of the animal and any nonprofit charitable organization that has as its principal activity the care of animals may petition the court to enforce the trust.

■ If the settlor did not name a trust or if the named trust is unable or unwilling to serve, the court must appoint a trustee.

■ Accountings must be given to the remainder beneficiaries (or those who would take upon the death of the animal) as well as to any nonprofit charitable corporation that has as its principal activity the care of animals and has made a written request for accountings.

■ Trusts with property valued at $40,000 or less are exempt from accountings, filings, reportings, and other requirements which normally apply to trusts under California law.

■ Upon a reasonable request, the animal and the trust records may be inspected by any beneficiary, the trust enforcer, or a nonprofit charitable corporation that has as its principal activity the care of animals.

How Your Estate Planning Attorney Can Help

As noted above, the laws of the state of California allow for trusts for the care of pets or domestic animals for the life of the animal. We will work with you to design the legal documents to take advantage of these laws for your pet’s protection. Proper planning can provide for the care of your pets not only in the event of death, but also for incapacity or temporary emergencies. Planning can lead to peace of mind, so you can rest assured that your pets will be cared for in the way that you desire.

You can provide directions regarding your pet’s medical conditions, health care, exercise needs, dietary needs, preferred veterinarian, and burial. Provisions for immediate access to your home for caregivers can be made. You can also appoint a different person to oversee the ongoing care of your pets to ensure that the caregiver is treating your pet in the manner that you set out in the trust.

Posted by Henry (Hank) J. Morevec III. With respect to estate planning and pets, Hank Moravec has over 20 years' experience as one of the best Los Angeles estate and trust attorneys and Los Angeles pet trust and is available should you need legal advice regarding your own or a family member's situation. He is also a devoted pet owner and understands the needs of his clients to take care of their pets in their estate planning.

For a free 30 minute consultation, you can e-mail Hank Moravec at hm@moravecslaw.com or call him at (626) 793-3210 to request a consultation. The firm website is http://www.moravecslaw.com/. The firm is located at 2233 Huntington Drive, Suite 17, San Marino, California 91108. There is ample free parking adjacent to the firm's office.

The office is located in San Marino, California, a suburb of Los Angeles in the San Gabriel area located 20 minutes from downtown Los Angeles. The firm represents clients throughout California and its attorneys engage in sophisticated estate planning for clients throughout Southern California.