Over the years, I’ve seen a lot of mistakes made when people use do-it-yourself living trusts in California. What’s more, is that I am not alone. That is, I’ve had many discussions with other attorneys about all the mistakes people make when they try to create a living trust all by themselves. Given the frequency of mistakes, sometimes devastating mistakes, and the fact that the legal profession is highly regulated, for a long time I have really wondered: why isn’t anyone complaining about, or consumers suing over, or State Bars coming in to regulate, do-it-yourself legal document companies?
THE CALIFORNIA SENIOR NEWS BLOG
In both my traditionally based law practice as well as through my online portal, The Trust Store, clients sometimes tell me that their circumstances are simple and they ask me why can’t they just use a Legalzoom living trust to accomplish their goals. Of course, the question is a loaded one, so I am never quite sure how to answer. I mean, here I am instructing them on what they need, and there they are wondering, “Can’t I use a Legalzoom living trust for that?” Naturally I can come up with lots of reasons why it doesn’t make a lot of sense to use a do-it-yourself company like Legalzoom, but I know that any reason I give people just sounds like me, “the competition” (you know, a trained experienced estate planning attorney that works with these matters every day), complaining about computer software, e.g., Legalzoom, which produces forms that magically do the “same thing” as me.
After the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 was passed, there was still one lingering question in every estate planning attorney’s mind: How much is the 2013 COLA adjusted estate tax exemption going to be for 2013? And that question has just been answered. That is, in Revenue Procedure 2013-15, the IRS revealed that the COLA adjusted estate tax exemption is $5,250,000 per person for 2013. That means a married couple can now leave $10,500,000 to beneficiaries without having to worry about paying any transfer taxes. It also means that over 95% of the U. S. population does not (now and probably ever) need to worry about “death” taxes. If you are lucky enough to have to worry about this problem however, please contact us to discuss unique and effective transfer tax reduction techniques by clicking here.
Oftentimes people wonder about the pros and cons of creating their own living trust through a do-it-yourself company such as Legalzoom, Nolo, or Rocket Lawyer. With regard to such, Consumer Reports conducted their own study of do-it-yourself estate planning and found that living trusts created at do-it-yourself companies are unlikely to achieve everything that people want and could even lead to unintended results. Some might conclude from the Consumer Reports study that such document services don’t really work. On the other hand, countless individuals do indeed, rely on do-it-yourself legal documents. Presumably the people who use do-it-yourself trust services are undeterred by the warnings or are otherwise unaware of the dangers associated with attempting to complete their estate planning on their own.
It’s the final days of 2012 and our office is handling an increasing number of appointments from concerned taxpayers about what the transfer tax landscape will look like in a few weeks. That’s because the law is slated to change on January 1, 2013. Today everyone can give away $5,120,000, without having to worry about paying any transfer taxes. But the law is supposed to revert to 2001 law as of the end of this year. If no new laws emerge, a person will again only be able to give away a total of $1,000,000 (at death or during life) before they face transfer taxes. Moreover, that transfer tax could be as high as 55%.
Websites such as LegalZoom, Nolo, and Rocket Lawyer can help you create your own will, power of attorney, and other important legal documents.
The Eisner Foundation has established the annual Eisner Prize for Intergenerational Excellence that includes a $100,000 cash award to the individual or non-profit organization it decides is doing the best work to help senior citizens and young people help each other. The first recipient, the Intergenerational Center at Temple University, offers a variety of programs from its base in Philadelphia to communities ranging from rural Minnesota to Southern California. The organization’s founder, Nancy Henkin, will receive the award from Eisner on Oct. 27 at the Grantmakers in Aging conference in McLean, Va. Eisner’s foundation, which allocates about $7.5 million each year, was created by the former Mouse House executive and his family 15 years ago to benefit children in Los Angeles County. But over the years, Eisner said, it was noticed that seniors, with ranks swelled by aging baby boomers, were often at the same risk as disadvantaged children of being ignored by society. “The bubble growing in seniors in this country, the kind of siloing of them, ghettoizing of them, the lack of financial support from all sectors, including the government, makes this issue almost a crisis issue,” Eisner told The Associated Press. For more on this story, click here.
A recent study in the journal Age found that the paternal age of death was linked to dispositional optimism in adult offspring. In other words, parents who lived longer had offspring with higher levels of optimism. Previous studies have proposed the idea that longevity in families may be based on some inherited characteristic. With this notion in mind, the present study investigated the association of longevity and optimism between two generations, parental longevity and dispositional optimism in their adult offspring. But is the longevity due more to genetics than environmental factors? On this point the study is unclear. But evidence from earlier studies supports the role of environmental factors on both parental longevity and offspring’s optimism. Still, offspring may mirror healthier habits and mental attitudes learned from their parents leading to both parental longevity and optimism in offspring. Optimistic adult offspring may also contribute to parental longevity by providing a more supportive environment than those with lower levels of optimism. This could influence their parent’s ability to effectively cope with the stressors associated with aging. For more on this interesting story, click here.
California Makes It Easier To Avoid Probate By Increasing The Limits For Small Estate Probate Procedures
California has raised the limit for small estates from $100,000 to $150,000. This means that if the value of all the property that would otherwise need to go through probate is not more than $150,000, inheritors can collect the property through simplified probate procedures or by using an affidavit (sworn statement) to collect it without any court proceedings. For more information on California Small Estates Affidavits, click here. The limit for transferring real estate of small value (for example, a timeshare or unimproved lot) has also increased — property valued up to $50,000 can be transferred to inheritors simply by filing an affidavit in superior court. In addition, a surviving spouse will be able to use an affidavit to collect up to $15,000 in salary owed to the decreased spouse. These changes take effect January 1, 2012. That means that in some cases, waiting until that date to begin estate procedures may help to avoid the costs and delays of a formal probate proceeding. To ensure your family avoids probate, regardless of the size of your estate, and to have your California estate planning documents drafted at a reasonable price, click here.
Elder abuse victims have a new poster child: Actor Mickey Rooney. Last week the actor and his court-appointed conservator filed a lawsuit claiming Rooney’s stepson has stolen millions from him. The nightmare first came to light back in February, when Rooney voluntarily asked a court to appoint a conservator to help him regain control over his finances and protect his personal interests. In the February court filings, Rooney and his attorneys alleged that stepson Christopher Aber was verbally abusive, forced Rooney to sign financial documents without having the opportunity to read them, had confiscated the actor’s passport and other ID, kept Rooney from leaving his house, and restricted his access to food and medications. At the time, the court granted Rooney’s request for a temporary conservator. A conservator is a person who’s appointed by the court to handle another person’s finances and certain legal issues. The conservator’s primary responsibility is protecting the interests of the other person. The conservator regularly reports back to the court and must seek court approval before some actions. Typically, loved ones will ask the court to appoint a conservator for someone who can’t manage their own finances. The fact that Rooney asked for a conservator is a sign of the seriousness of Rooney’s situation. It also highlights the importance of choosing trustworthy agents in California for your durable financial power of attorney, advanced health care directive, and revocable living trust. For more on this story, click here. And to have California estate planning documents created that will protect you, click here.