April 24

Three Types of Wills

A Will is a terrific device whose purpose is to protect the wishes and property of an individual, long after an individual can no longer do so for them self. That said, not all Wills are created equally. Most people living in California are unaware that there are three kinds of Wills that our state recognizes: Holographic Wills, Statutory Wills, and Attorney Drafted Wills. This article will describe in detail these three types of Wills.

The Holographic Will is rarely used except in cases of emergency, due to the ease in which it can be contested. A Holographic Will does not have to be notarized or witnessed. The Will must be entirely in the author’s handwriting. The document must be legibly handwritten. In addition, if the author types anything into the Holographic Will, it may cancel the entire Will. The intention of the Will must be clear. There can be no question of what the author is leaving and who will receive it. In two words, this kind of Will is “high maintenance”. But, if you find yourself in dire circumstance with no time to spare, and no attorney to consult, it could arguably be better than not having a Will at all.

Statutory Wills are prewritten Wills created by the state legislature, and written into state law; meaning that you have to use the Will exactly as they are drafted and without amendment. If you are a state resident, you may use this Will at no cost by simply filling in the form. As a rule, their inflexibility, and inability to change the language or add clauses makes them a secondary choice. Yet, if you need a very simple, straightforward Will, then a Statutory Will might suit you.

The Will that most people are familiar with, is a will drafted by an Estate Planning Attorney. A “drafted” Will is created to suit individual needs. A properly drafted Will meets California legal standards while allowing for the addition of provisions to fit individual needs. For example, if a person wants to exclude a family member from receiving benefits, name a guardian to raise children in the event of death, establish and fund a Trust for surviving family, choose between burial and cremation, or name their own Executor as opposed to having one appointed by the state, they can. The freedom provided by this kind of Will makes it easy to see why “drafted” Wills are the most popular.

Whether it is drafted or prewritten, make certain you choose a Will that is right for you. When planning a Will, consult with an Estate Planning Attorney. An Estate Planning Attorney will be able to answer any questions and ensure the Will meets your goals. In addition, most attorneys provide a free consultation. A good attorney will use that time to bestow their knowledge and explain all options with clarity.

April 15

Make Sure Your Assets are in Your Trust!

After your estate planning attorney has drafted a Living Trust that perfectly fits your particular needs and you’ve signed the Trust agreement, you’re done, right? … Almost. Simply signing the Trust agreement isn’t enough for a Living Trust to function properly. After the agreement is signed, your Trust must be “funded.” If you don’t do it, then your Trust will have no effect.

This isn’t anything that should greatly worry anyone working with a good estate planning attorney, as the attorney should help you. Yet, here is where things have the potential to get tricky.

Let’s say you have found a great estate planning attorney. For argument sake, let’s say that you have even hired our own Debra Leffler Streeter, the 2014 North County Bar Association President. Madam President has worked with you to fund the trust immediately (as most good attorneys will). You shake hands, part ways, and expect that everything is okay. And it is okay. Until … Story time …

We recently met with a client who created a Trust, funded the trust, and later discovered upon meeting with our attorney, that her house was no longer funded in the Trust. How in the world did that happen you might ask?

The answer is that the client had refinanced her home after having the Trust prepared. The lender required that she remove the home from the Trust. Unfortunately, the client was unaware that once removed from the Trust, the home would need to be transferred back into the Trust.

In my telling of the story there is a happy ending. We caught the mistake within her lifetime, updated her Trust, and everyone lives happily ever after. Whew!

Sadly, the real story is a little different. The client was actually the daughter. The Living Trust belonged to her mother, and the solution was going to court to fix the problem. If the error had been caught while mom was still alive, then we would not have gone to court. Preventing court involvement was a major reason for having the Living Trust drafted in the first place. This cost the family thousands of dollars and months of a delay that could have been avoided.

If you have a Living Trust you might be asking, how was she able to remove the house to begin with? How do I prevent this from happening to me?

Well, the answers are, that you can remove from or transfer into your Living Trust as frequently as you like. Why would you do that? Let’s say that you sold your house. Clearly you would want to remove that asset. A little further down the road, you buy a new home and you need to transfer that new property into the Trust.

The moral of the story is: The best advice that anyone can give to someone with a Living Trust, is to have that Trust reviewed regularly, every couple of years. Any change in the Trust, i.e. adding or removing a property, is cause for an update. This will keep your plan safe, and will also keep you up to date should there be any changes in the law that might affect you.

March 31

President Streeter

DLS Sworn in w NaresIn January, 2014, Attorney Debra Leffler Streeter took the seat as President of the North County Bar Association (NCBA). As the lead attorney at Streeter Law Group, Ms. Streeter helps families and businesses plan for the future, offering services in estate planning, elder law, and asset protection. She shows a commitment to her local community by her involvement in many organizations and is second-to-none when it comes to supporting her family.

Ms. Streeter grew a law practice different from most. Clients continue to comment on her thorough detail oriented results, and her attentiveness. Her emphasis on personal service guarantees that each client feels confident with their planning decisions.

Debbie is also active in the following organizations: State Bar of California, Medicaid Practice Network, California Association for Nursing Home Reform, California Care Planning Council, and the National Association of Elder Law Attorneys. She provides educational speeches on issues involving elder law and estate planning, and is held in high regard by other attorneys on these matters.

While she maintains a successful career – based on helping other families, Debbie remains committed to her own family. Both of her children having expressed interest in becoming lawyers “like mom” when they grow up. Obviously, her positivity and dedication showed through in every part of Debbie’s life.

Debbie’s dedication to her profession, knowledge of the law, and commitment to her clients makes her the perfect person to be named 2014 President of NCBA. So, whether you are starting a family or a business, rest assured that Debbie, and Streeter Law Group will be there for you, providing the highest level of personal service.

March 31

Five Misconceptions of Estate Planning

Webster’s New World Finance and Investment Dictionary defines Estate Planning as: “Creating an orderly plan to disperse a person’s assets upon the person’s death.” Drafting a proper Estate Plan, one that is specific and right for you, can also protect your quality of life should you become incapable of making decisions for yourself. In addition, it can free your loved ones from the burden of having to decide what is best for you and your Estate.

So if Estate Plans are so great, why statistically speaking does less than a third of the population have them? Typically most people love the idea of an Estate Plan, but they fall victim to one or more of five common misconceptions.

Misconception number one: Estate Plans are only for the wealthy. Not true – Estate Plans are for anyone who has assets that they wish to protect and/or pass on after death. Let’s face it – regardless of your net worth, your money and assets are important to you. You’ve worked hard for them, and you deserve to decide what happens to them. If you die intestate, which is to say without having a proper Will, then your assets are left to the mercy of State laws – the result of which may lead to fighting among family members and the potential for an expensive and unnecessary court battle.

Misconception number two: Everyone knows my wishes. Even if you have discussed your wishes with family and friends, not everyone is clear on them. It’s kind of like the game of telephone where you whisper into one player’s ear, they in turn whisper into the next person’s ear, and so forth and so forth, until the last player repeats back to you something completely different from what it was that you originally said. Adding grief, loss, and unresolved issues into the mix just adds to the possibility of further distortion in regards to your final wishes. On the other hand, you can avoid this with clear, properly drafted, lawful, and indisputable instructions.

Misconception number three: Everything will take care of itself. This is a big one because really, it isn’t a misconception at all. In reality, if you do absolutely nothing to prepare, then everything will in fact resolve itself in time. The question is whether the resolution will reflect your intentions, and also, just how big of a strain will be left on the surviving members of your family?

Misconception number four: Estate Plans are too expensive. True, Estate Plans aren’t inexpensive, but in most cases the cost is a mere fraction of the value of the assets which you are hoping to protect. If that wasn’t true, then you wouldn’t be considering an Estate Plan to begin with. It’s as simple as that. Let me make this analogy – No one likes paying costly auto repairs, so why do we pay them? We pay them for the purpose of security. We pay because we don’t want to find ourselves stranded in the middle of nowhere. We pay because we have invested a lot of money into our automobile, and we want to get the best return on our investment. Estate plans aren’t so different. You, yourself are the greatest investment – why wouldn’t you want to invest in your own security? The security of knowing that your loved ones will be provided for, that your home will not become a tax burden for someone else, or that your most treasured asset will go where you intended without compromise or complication.

Misconception number five: I want an Estate Plan but I can draft it myself. Again, this is another one that isn’t really a misconception. You can draft an Estate Plan, and if you have the knowledge, experience, and the legal know how, then there is a good chance it will turn out fine. On the other hand, if you aren’t an experienced attorney, why would you gamble with your Estate? Let’s bring back that mechanic analogy for a moment. If you are not an experienced auto mechanic, then there is a reason why you’ve chosen to pay someone else to repair your car – because you want it to run properly. Estate plans that aren’t drafted correctly and in accordance with current laws can be disputed, often leading to costly probate proceedings. As our office paralegal once said, “it’s better to pay once for a good Estate Plan than to have others pay later for a messy Probate.”

Taking the time to meet with an experienced Estate Planning attorney, and drafting a plan according to your wishes and your instructions, can be the difference between knowing your wishes will be fulfilled as you intended, or hoping they will. Between leaving your family provided for and able to grieve properly, or leaving them uncertain, stressed out and potentially at odds with one another. Between preserving what you feel is the dignity of life, or trusting that someone else knows your needs better than you. Meeting with an experienced attorney, asking questions, being a part of the planning process, and having an Estate Plan drafted properly means security for you and your family. It is no misconception that you and your loved ones deserve as much.

NEWER NEWER 1 2 19 20