Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Why Do I Need A Written Estate Plan?

In California, everyone has an estate plan even if they have no Will or Trust. That is because California law provides a detailed scheme of who is entitled to your property when you die. However, very few people would be happy with the results under the law because the law does not take into account an individual's wishes or family situation.

Regardless of who you are, how much money you have, who you want to inherit your estate or when you want them to receive distribution, your wishes are likely very different from the basic disposition provided under California state statutes. For instance, if both spouses ultimately die from a common accident but one outlives the other, even for a short time, all of the property of both spouses could go to the survivor's family rather than be split between the heirs of both spouses.

Having no estate plan can also be a problem for those with minor children. For example, if a couple with children died, California law provides that the children would be entitled to full ownership of the property, including any businesses, at age 18. Most people consider age 18 far too young an age to receive a full inheritance.

However, with a well thought out Estate Plan you can make sure that your children are well cared for (food, clothing and schooling) by a responsible adult trustee and that your minor children receive their inheritance at an age when they are more mature and less likely to blow through their inheritance on frivolous items.

Proper estate planning is important as a means of avoiding Probate Court. When you die without a Will or with a Will but no Trust, your heirs are required to bring the matter to Probate Court. Until such time as someone is appointed by the Probate Court, your assets are frozen and your heirs are unable to access your accounts to pay any bills and expenses.

In addition to being costly, Probate Court is time consuming and many acts require Probate Court approval. Even the most basic of estates can take over one year to close. Moreover, all documents filed in Probate Court are fully accessible by the public.

Another pitfall with the no estate plan philosophy is that lack of clarity most often breeds disputes and heirs tend to fight over the smallest of estates. These disputes are expensive to litigate and the fees incurred by the estate come from the estate's assets.

A properly drafted Will and Trust can avoid both the application of California's default provisions, as well as unnecessary expenses and the inconveniences of Probate Court. Not only does this keep the estate administration private, but it ensures that your wishes are followed and done so in a timely fashion.

We encourage you to contact an experienced estate planning lawyer to create an estate plan or to review your existing estate plan and determine whether changes should be made. For a complimentary 30 minute telephonic or in-person consultation, you can e-mail Hank Moravec at hm@moravecslaw.com or call him at (626) 793-3210.

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 J. Moravec, III. Henry (Hank) Moravec is a partner at Moravecs, A Professional Law Corporation, and 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.

The firm website is http://www.moravecslaw.com/. The firm is located at 2233 Huntington Drive #17, San Marino, CA 91108. There is ample free parking adjacent to the firm's office.
The firm is a boutique estates and trust law practice specializing only in Estate Planning, Probate, Trust Administration, Beneficiary and Trustee Representation, Tax Law, and Nonprofit Law. 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 appears in probate court throughout Southern California

Thursday, July 8, 2010

L.A. Times Opinion Article Favors Congress Passing Estate Tax This Year

The estate tax is controversial and the fact that it is not settled is making it to the opinion page of the nation's leading newspapers including the Los Angeles Times. This article by Boston law professor Ray Madoff entitled "Inherited Wealth Shouldn't Get A Free Pass On Taxes" argues that the wealthy should pay estate taxes. As estate lawyers, we seek to minimize all taxes to our clients and plan for the avoidance of taxes.

Nevertheless, it is important to keep up with the issues even when we may disagree with the views expressed in this article. Professor Madoff does not address the fact that taxes have already been paid on the income earned by the wealthy but this is his opinion on inherited wealth passing to the next generation. The article addresses the amount of money generated by the estate tax. Opinions such as this one and the current federal budget crisis are some of the reasons why we believe that Congress will act and pass an estate tax within the next year.

Inherited wealth shouldn't get a free pass on taxes - latimes.com

Posted by Henry (Hank) J. Morevec III. With respect to tax and estate planning, Hank Moravec has over 20 years' experience as one of the best Los Angeles estate and trust attorneys and is available should you need legal advice regarding your own or a family member's situation.

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.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Advance Health Care Directives: L.A.Times Article On California Program That Helps People Record Wishes At End Of Life

Part of our basic estate plan is helping our clients draft Advance Health Care Directives. 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.

On July 2, 1010, the Los Angeles Times had an article entitled "California program helps people record wishes at end of life." This article is about a program used in California to help nursing home and terminally ill patients express their wishes regarding treatment at the end of life.

Efforts to increase awareness about the program are being led in California by the Coalition for Compassionate Care of California and the California HealthCare Foundation. Information and opportunities to learn about the program can also be found on this web site.
The program is called Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) and has been adopted in many nursing homes, hospitals and long-term care facilities in California beginning in January, 2009. The program involves an innovative medical form, that is signed by a doctor, allowing patients to specify what kind of care they want at the end of life, such as feeding tubes and other medical interventions. The form was designed 20 years ago in Oregon because of concerns that traditional Do Not Resuscitate orders and advanced directives do not fully communicate patients' wishes for many situations and types of treatments.
POLST forms are different that advanced health care directives. However, advanced health care directives can help your family members complete the POLST forms in the event that you are incapacitated and are evidence of your intentions. Here are sample POLST forms in a variety of languages.
POLST forms address when and if there should be (1) cardiopulmonary resuscitation when the person has no pulse is not breathing or if there should be a DNR [do not resuscitate]; (2) medical interventions when the person has pulse and/or is breathing ranging from only comfort, limited interventions (such as IV or antibiotics) or full treatment (intubation, defribillation, intensive care); and (3) artificially administered nutrition. This form can be modified at any time as long as there is capacity. When there is not capacity, the advance health care directive can demonstrate intent. POLST forms are signed by the physician at the hospital.
In order to prepare for determining your intentions, I would suggest that you read an Advanced Health Care Directive or read the information available on these websites, and think about the following questions:

(1) Who do you want to make health care decisions for you when you can't make them?

(2) What kind of medical treatment do you want or don't want?

(3) How comfortable you want to be?

(4) How do you want people to treat you?

(5) What would you want your loved ones to know about your health condition?

It is an excellent idea for those executing Advance Health Care Directives to speak openly and honestly with the person or persons they designate and go through the different situations that might come up. While no one can anticipate every medical situation, a thoughtful and reasoned discussion can cover the more likely scenarios.

Posted by
Henry (Hank) J. Moravec, III, a partner at Moravec, Varga and 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.

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