Want to avoid probate?

estateplanningYou may think that if you have a will and in it you name the person who should inherit your home, that’s all you have to do.  Yes, it is if you’re willing to have the home go through a probate process.  That probate process will cost the beneficiary a lot of money as well as time and will be a public record.

However, there’s now a way that many can avoid the whole probate process and that’s thru the use of a transfer on death (beneficiary) deed.

There are several states that have a similar law and California just joined their ranks in January of this year.

If you live in one of these states, you now have the option to complete a Revocable Transfer On Death Beneficiary deed and name a beneficiary for your home.    After your death, the beneficiary can directly claim ownership rights to the property without involving the probate court and paying probate fees.

The deed can be completed and filed without hiring a lawyer or paying a third party to record the deed with the county recorder.

For some homeowners, a TOD Deed can be a cost effective way to avoid probate on the death of the last owner.   If you own a home and have it listed in your will, you might want to consider this new option.

For more information about probate and estate planning, go to www.diesmart.com.

Just living together can cause unwanted estate planning problems

k11782415Many couples, especially those who get together later in life, are just living together.  For whatever reason, they’ve decided not to get married.  Living together, they accumulate stuff but who owns what?

One of the biggest problems with just living together is estate planning.  If you’re one of these couples and you’re not careful, your loved ones might end up losing their home and getting nothing.

If a partner dies without a will, this is called dying intestate.  In this instance, state intestacy laws determine who will inherit that partner’s assets.  In most cases, that means a biological relative may inherit those assets, not the surviving partner.  This is probably not what either of the partners really wanted.  To alleviate this problem, a will should be drafted and executed by each of the partners.   It should include a statement that directly disinherits biological relatives and leaves the assets to the surviving partner.

Another document each partner should prepare is an advance  healthcare directive and durable power of attorney.  Unless these documents specifically name the other partner to make their medical decisions for them, a physician will not follow the instructions of anyone except a biological relative because of potential family objections.

A further document that should be considered – a revocable trust.  This will enable the partners to transfer property and money between them and will allow one partner to transfer control of his or her assets upon death.

A last point you should be aware of – the unlimited marital estate inheritance exclusion.  This exclusion cannot be used by an unmarried couple.  Instead, there may be sizable inheritance tax repercussions if estate planning is not done correctly.

It would be smart for any couple living together without the protection of marital laws to consult an estate attorney to find out what the best plan of action is for them.

For more information about estate planning, check out our website www.diesmart.com.


Your never to young to write a will.

yelchinAnton Yelchinleft, the Star Trek star, died a few months ago in a bizarre automobile accident.  He was 27 years old.  His assets were about $1.4 million….and he had no will.  He also had no spouse or children.  Therefore, his parents are asking the probate court to make them administrators of his estate.

He may not have wanted his parents involved in his estate.  He may have wanted someone else to handle his affairs.  But we’ll never know.  Accidents do happen and you need to be prepared.  Write a will today.  Make sure that people know what your wishes are so that they can be carried out after you’re gone.

For information about estate planning, check out our website, www.diesmart.com.

Where does your Pokemon go after you die?

PokemonEveryone today has several online account and is part of the digital world.  Are you one of the millions of people playing Pokemon?  Are you using real US dollars to make in-game purchases?  Do you place a real value on your game progress?

Well what happens to your account when you die?  According to a recent Forbes article, if you have online accounts for things like Pokemon, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Gmail,  the answer is not a simple one.

First  you need to look at federal and state law.  At the federal level, there isn’t any direct authority related to digital assets.  At the state level, some states have enacted legislation to allow an estate’s executor to gain access to some digital assets upon the death of their owner.  However, this legislation does not extend to all 50 states and is not totally consistent in its direction.

Once digital assets are treated more like physical assets, then your will, trust or state succession laws will determine how these accounts are transferred.  However, you may not want all of these assets transferred; you may want them deleted on your death.  For example, you may not want your spouse to read all of your emails or private Facebook messages.  You will need to indicate your wishes in your estate plan.

If you have online accounts at places like Home Depot or Lowes, you may want to direct your executor to pay any outstanding balance and then delete that account so that it can’t be hacked.

Have you read the service agreements that you clicked “okay” for when you signed onto Pokemon Go or Facebook or Gmail.  They put restrictions on your ability to share passwords or to transfer the account.  “In fact, Pokemon Go’s contract gives you a ‘limited nonexclusive, nontransferable, non-sublicensable license to the application.”  What this means is that when you die, your Pokemon Go account is dead as well.

As you can see, online accounts are governed by documents as well as state laws.  You need to carefully read the agreements that you “sign” so you can understand what you really have….or don’t.  When you prepare your estate plan, make sure that you include a list of the names of all of your online accounts, their passwords and usernames so your family can access your accounts when you die.  Develop a plan for the disposition of those accounts when you die.  It is an important part of any estate plan.

For more information about your digital estate, check out our book, Access Denied: Why Your Passwords Are Now As Important As Your Will.

Who gets your bible and your jelly jar collection?


Do you have a tangible personal property memo as part of your estate plan?  I just read a Forbes article that really makes a good case for why one is necessary.

An example they used is as follow, “When a widow with incapacity issues and squabbling adult children died, the executor she named in her will rushed to her home and changed the locks just as one son showed up to take things left in her will to his siblings.”

“in another case, an elderly woman who lived in a run-down house despite having millions of dollars in securities in the bank, had told various nieces, nephews and friends from church that she would give them specific pieces of costume jewelry, the family bible and her collection of homemade jams.  What they were fighting over were these sentimental, valueless items because they had an emotional attachment to them.”

How can you prevent these kinds of squabbles at what is already a very emotional time in your family’s life?  Put everything in writing.  Don’t must make oral promises.  Spell out who gets what in a will, trust or personal property memorandum.  That way, there won’t be any guessing games or arguments.  Your executor will distribute specific items to those who you wanted to have them.

For more information about end of life planning, check out our website at www.diesmart.com.