September 4

Florence Griffith Joyner

In life, Florence Griffith Joyner (Flo Jo as she was known to fans) was famous for her long painted fingernails, hand-made body suits, and of course, for running really fast. In the late eighties she set Olympic records in both the one hundred meter and two hundred meter, earning herself another nickname, “the world’s fastest woman.”

Sadly, on September 21, 1998, Joyner suffered an epileptic seizure and died in her sleep. She was thirty nine years old.

After her death, Joyner’s family searched in vain for her will. They never recovered it and it was never filed with the court.

As a result, Joyner’s estate went into probate. Her mother and husband found themselves embroiled in a bitter legal battle; Joyner’s mother claiming Joyner promised she could live out the remainder of her life in the Joyner home. Joyner’s husband claiming his wife never made any such promise. With the will missing, it was impossible to determine the truth. In the end, the judge appointed a third party to administer the estate.

Had Joyner’s will been recovered her family could have been spared the personal and financial expense of a lengthy probate. Instead, her estate paid unnecessary legal fees, while two of the people most important to her feuded in court for the better part of four years.

It goes without saying that for a person’s estate planning to be effective, it must be accessible. A trusted person must know where the planning documents are and be able to retrieve them.

However, life does happen and disasters occur. It is possible for a person’s planning to be lost or destroyed. As a result, many firms (including Streeter Law Group) keep a copy of the client’s most recent plan because you never know.

For more information about wills, trust or other estate planning documents, please contact a qualified estate planning attorney.

August 3

Planning to Preserve Our Children’s Relationship

Planning to Preserve Our Children’s Relationship

Ozzie and Harriet Nelson were a real family leading a fictional life on radio and television in the 1950’s and 1960’s. As parents, we like to believe the fictional version of our family rather than facing the often messy reality.
What is the goal of estate planning? The primary purpose is to preserve our assets and direct their disposition when we are gone. However, taking a long-term view, the preservation of our children’s relationships with each other is equally important. This may be facilitated through taking an honest look at our family and planning accordingly.
If David and Ricky have squabbled like cats and dogs since they were old enough to argue, it is not a good idea to name the two of them to serve together to manage our assets. Likewise, if David has never been able to hang onto his money or keep his records straight, it makes no sense to name him as the first person to manage our affairs just because he happens to be our first-born. If Ricky has always resented what he perceives to be his big brother trying to control his life, he will most likely resent David if David is the one controlling the timing of distributions.
After we are gone, our children will no longer have us as a buffer. Effective estate planning will go a long way in helping our children maintain their relationships. It is important to take an honest look at family dynamics when setting up an estate plan.
In the long-term interest of helping our children remain civil to each other, a better choice may be to name a Private Professional Fiduciary to manage our assets when we are no longer able to do so. These licensed professionals will follow the directions set forth in our estate planning documents. At first glance, this is a more costly option than having a family member take on these responsibilities, but this cost is only financial. What price can be put on preventing a fractured relationship between David and Ricky?
For more information on estate planning, please schedule a consultation with a qualified estate planning attorney.

June 8

Death of a Loved One – Now What

Death of a Loved One – Now What?

Your loved one has died – now what happens? How are a decedent’s assets transferred to the appropriate people? The answer lies in how title to each asset was held.

Sole Name. In California, if the total gross value of assets are less than $150,000, a beneficiary may use a small estate affidavit to claim the asset after forty days have passed.
If the total gross value of assets held exceeds $150,000, a probate administration will be necessary. The Court will appoint an Executor or Administrator to marshal the assets and manage the affairs of the estate. This person must submit a report to the Court, as well as an accounting, before any distribution may be made. This may be a very lengthy and costly process.

Trust. The successor Trustee, who is named in a Living Trust, is responsible for trust administration and distribution. Generally, trust accounts must be transferred to the name of the successor Trustee and a new tax identification number must be obtained before distributions may be made. A Trustee is usually required to present an accounting to the beneficiaries.

Joint Tenancy. Assets held in joint tenancy may be transferred to the surviving tenant with a death certificate and an affidavit. While this may sound like the easiest approach for the survivors, joint tenancy assets may deprive the surviving joint tenant of tax advantages offered by other forms of ownership.

For more information on estate planning or post-death administration, please schedule a consultation with a qualified estate planning attorney.

May 7

Who Will Take Care of Your Children?

Who will care for your children in the unlikely event that your death occurs while your children are still minors? This question can keep parents awake at night. Your brother Bob would be great at managing money on behalf of the children but the kids think he’s a cold fish. Your friend Sue is the kids’ beloved honorary aunt with whom they already spend considerable time. However, Sue is a confirmed shopaholic and can never seem to keep any money in the bank.
The good news is that Bob could be named as guardian of your children’s estate, the manager of the money, and Sue could be named as guardian of the person who is in charge of the children’s daily lives. The only caveat would be to make sure that both guardians can work together for the good of your children. It is also important to discuss your plan with all the parties involved including your children, depending upon their ages, to make sure your plan is acceptable to everyone.
Now that you’ve made this tough decision, how do you make sure your wishes are known and followed? The answer lies in effective estate planning. You may either name the guardians in your last will and testament or in a separate stand-alone document. Whichever method you choose, it is imperative that the adults involved know where you’ve placed these important documents so that they may be easily accessed in an emergency.
For more information about guardianships, please contact a qualified estate planning attorney.

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