Fraud Alert in Response to Recent California Fires

If you were impacted by the recent fires in California, please see the press release from the State Bar of California outlining where to find help and how to be watchful for fraud.

The State Bar of California issued a fraud alert to warn the public to watch out for and report potential fraud in response to the recent fires across the state.

(The fraud alert is also available in Spanish and Chinese.) As a result of California’s ongoing fires, many people may wish to seek legal advice for various reasons, including insurance disputes, landlord-tenant disputes, consumer fraud and more.
A legal hotline is now available for survivors of the wildfires in California in Butte, Ventura, and Los Angeles counties (additional counties may be added). Disaster survivors facing legal issues in Butte County who are unable to afford a lawyer may call the hotline at 800-345-9497. Disaster survivors facing legal issues in Ventura or Los Angeles county who are unable to afford a lawyer may call the hotline at 877-301-4448. Hours are 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Monday-Friday.
The type of legal assistance available includes:

  • Assistance with securing FEMA and other government benefits available to disaster survivors;
  • Assistance with life, medical and property insurance claims;
  • Help with home repair contracts and contractors;
  • Replacement of wills and other important legal documents destroyed in the disaster;
  • Assisting in consumer protection matters, remedies and procedures;
  • Counseling on mortgage and foreclosure problems;
  • Counseling on landlord-tenant problems.

California law prohibits lawyers or others acting on behalf of a lawyer from:

  • Soliciting clients at an accident scene, at a hospital, or on the way to a hospital
  • Soliciting clients who, due to their physical, emotional or mental state, may not be able to have reasonable judgment about the hiring of an attorney
  • Seeking clients by mail unless the letter and envelope are clearly labeled as an advertisement
  • Promising a particular outcome from the legal representation

In the wake of the fires, there is also the risk of victims being approached in person, by mail, email or other means, by people posing as attorneys. Consumers must carefully check that people offering legal services are legitimate and licensed to provide such services.
Before hiring an attorney, Californians should check the State Bar website for the status of an attorney’s license to practice law and whether they have any record of discipline.

Courtesy of State Bar of California, read the entire press release.

Ask Annette

Ask Annette: Living Trusts

Occasionally we receive common questions from clients. This month we wanted to share a few questions we receive about living trusts.

If you have a question about a living trust, probate, wills, or estate planning in general contact Annette Dawson-Davis at annette@dawsondavislaw.com

What are some advantages of having a living trust?

A properly funded living trust keeps your beneficiaries out of probate court, thus saving your beneficiaries thousands of dollars.  A living trust allows your successor trustee to easily manage your assets for you if you lack capacity and cannot manage your assets.  A living trust also allows your trustee to manage funds for your beneficiaries who are not good with money.

What are some of the common mistakes people make when they have made a living trust?

The biggest problem is that some people never get around to putting their accounts or homes into their living trust.  If the accounts do not have a “pay on death” or “transfer on death” beneficiary, a probate may be necessary if the accounts have a cumulative value of more than $150,000.  If a home is not in the trust it will need to be probated unless there is proof they intended the home to be in the trust.  Lenders will sometime make people take their home out of their living trust to refinance, and then the borrowers forget to deed the home back into the trust.

Young-People-talking

4 Estate Planning Tips for Gen X’ers and Millennials

4 Estate Planning Tips for Gen X'ers and Millenials

Estate Planning is not just for the wealthy and it is not just about when you die.  Life is unpredictable.  We have all lost young friends or loved ones. Everyone, over the age of eighteen, should designate someone to manage their assets and make health care decisions for them in case they cannot speak for themselves.  If no arrangements are made for your incapacity, someone must get legal authority from the court in the form of a conservatorship.  It is intrusive and expensive because ongoing court approval is required.  It is much easier and less expensive to obtain a few legal documents that will allow people to help you when you need help.

  1. Older people are not the only ones who get sick and or die.  An Advance Health Care Directive gives someone the authority to talk to a doctor for you and give the doctor instructions about your health care if you are not able to do so for yourself.  Does someone know your wishes and have the authority to express them to a doctor?  Someone also needs the authority to make final arrangements for you.
  2. Anyone who has ever been laid up and unable to deal with financial institutions knows they need a General Durable Power of Attorney for Finances. It allows your agent to manage your financial accounts, buy or sell real estate, sign rental agreements and deal with utility companies.  This document is only valid while you are alive.
  3. HIPAA Release.  Allows your Agent to access your medical records. Your health insurance company may not pay your medical bills if they cannot see your medical records.  If no one is authorized to obtain your medical records, the insurance company will not pay your medical bills and the doctor or hospital can turn your bills over to a collection agency.
  4. A Will leaves directions for who should care for a minor child or how assets should be distributed when you die.  Even if you do not have many assets, it is necessary because it allows someone to collect a small amount of assets in a bank account, cancel a lease, or sell an automobile.
Lottery Winnings_Now what_

What to do When you Win the Lottery

You have just won the lottery, congratulations! Now what?

I would advise all lottery winners to see an estate planning attorney to draw up a trust, a pour-over will, a general durable power of attorney for finance and an Advance Health Care Directive that includes HIPAA provisions.  It is important someone can manage your money for you, if you cannot.

The type of trust you set up depends on any inheritance tax consequences that might arise for your beneficiaries.  There are dynasty trusts that may be set up to provide for your children’s children’s, children.  Depending on the amount of the winning a simple probate savings trust may be all that is needed.

A consultation with a financial adviser would be a wise move, to ensure the income would support you for life.

 

Below is an article from forbes.com which shares some tips on what to do if you were to win the lottery.

What To Do If You Win The Lottery

By Zack Friedman, published on Forbes.com

If you win the next Powerball drawing, you could walk away with $650 million.

It’s easy to imagine how you might spend all that money.

Before you start spending your impending fortune, however, it’s important to ask yourself one question.

What do you actually do if you win the lottery?

Here’s what you need to know and how to execute your lottery financial game plan:

1. Sign the back of your lottery ticket

It sounds so simple, but it is the easiest step to take for granted. Despite the advent of technology, you still need to sign the back of a winning lottery ticket.
Why? Like a check, a lottery ticket is considered a bearer instrument. Whoever signs the winning lottery ticket and presents a valid photo ID can claim the lottery prize.So, sign your ticket right after you purchase it so you protect yourself in case you lose your winning ticket.

 

2. Choose a one-time, lump-sum payment or installment payments

You have 60 days from the day you present your winning ticket to determine how you want to receive your prize.

You have two choices when you win the lottery: you can receive a one-time, lump-sum payment or 30 installments over 29 years.

If you choose the lump-sum payment, you will receive your prize winnings upfront, and immediately will owe income tax on the full amount.

If you choose the installment plan in the form of an annuity, each installment payment will be taxed. Which should you choose? It depends in your personal preference.

Financially, a dollar today is worth more than a dollar tomorrow. If you choose the lump-sum payment, you have the peace of mind of receiving all the funds today and can invest the proceeds to earn a financial return.

However, if you prefer to set an allowance for yourself to help control spending, an annuity payment plan can help instill fiscal discipline.

You should compare the after-tax proceeds and your intended investment return (lump-sum payment) with the after-tax annuity payments and intended investment return (installment payments).

Overall, you will want to consider the time value of money — that is, how much you can earn under each scenario comparing the timing of the payments that you receive.

3. Assemble your financial and legal wolfpack

If you win the lottery, you may need help managing your new fortune. It is critical to have a team of trusted advisors to help you manage an array of investment, accounting, tax and legal issues.Expect to be approached by just about every type of advisor who wants to lend a helping hand.

Invest the time to make careful selections about who you want in your inner circle.

Not all advisors are created equally, so you will want to vet personally each new advisor you retain.

Don’t outsource this function. It’s your money, and you need to protect it.

You should interview each prospective candidate, and make sure he or she understands your goals.

Make sure to check their credentials to ensure they are properly licensed.

Advice is not always free so make sure to understand their fee arrangements before you retain them.

Most importantly, hire a team that tells you “no.”

The last thing you want is a team that says “yes” to every time you want to spend money on large purposes.

It’s your call how you spend your money, but it’s helpful to have a team that gives you honest advice even if it’s not what you want to hear.

4. Don’t abandon your budget

Wait, you just won hundreds of million of dollars. Why would you still need a budget?

Financial discipline doesn’t go away when you become a millionaire.

You may have more money, but that doesn’t mean the same principles of personal finance do not apply.

With more financial resources, there may be more things to purchase.

That’s why budgeting is even more essential.

Develop an action plan that accounts for your monthly and annual spending. Categorize your major expenses. Understand your income sources.

One strategy to instill financial discipline is to live off your income, not your prize winnings.

Therefore, you can preserve principal.

5. Take care of your heirs with an estate plan

If you have an existing estate plan, now is the time to update it.

If you have never put one together, now is the time to create one.

When you win the lottery, or have any major life change, it’s essential to ensure that your estate plan reflects your new reality.

With an estate plan, you will want to protect your estate, institute tax planning and consider how to provide for your heirs.

ESTATE ADMINISTRATION BOOTCAMP

Estate Administration Boot Camp

Everything You Need to Know About Effectively Administering an Estate

Join Annette Dawson-Davis at the Estate Administration Boot Camp on October 10th and 11th held at the Courtyard by Marriott San Luis Obispo in beautiful San Luis Obispo.

Are you fully confident in your knowledge of the latest court and tax rules and the most effective transfer tools to ensure each client’s estate is laid to rest according to the decedent’s wishes, with minimal tax burden? This comprehensive 2-day instruction will give you all the skills you need to administer estates that include trusts and/or business interests without a hitch. Register today!

  • Don’t miss any crucial notice and filing requirements when opening the estate – learn what must be done right away.
  • Get helpful forms and checklists that will help you in administration.
  • Understand how income and estate tax deductions interact and find the most advantageous way to structure the tax returns
  • Learn how to use disclaimers more effectively.
  • Clarify what must be done when the trust becomes irrevocable.
  • Protect your professional reputation with a practical legal ethics guide focused on trusts and estates practice.
  • Prevent mistakes in final petition and ensure each estate is closed quickly and without disputes.

 

Who Should Attend

This two-day, basic level seminar is designed for:

  • Attorneys
  • Accountants/CPAs
  • Certified Financial Planners
  • Trust Officers/Administrators/Managers
  • Paralegals

Course Content

DAY 1 – October 10, 2017

  • Forms of Administration and When They are Used
  • First Steps and Notices, Executor Duties, Opening the Estate
  • Marshalling the Assets
  • Handling Debts and Claims Against the Estate
  • Spouse Elective Share and Disclaimers
  • Key Intestacy Laws You Must Know
  • Trusts That Affect Estate Administration

DAY 2 – October 11, 2017

  • Income Tax Returns
  • Handling Distributions
  • Legal Ethics in Estate Administration
  • Estate and Trust Contests, Disputes, Challenges
  • Business Interests in Estate Administration
  • Portability and Estate, Gift, GST Taxes
  • Closing the Estate and Final Accounting
Ask Annette

What is a Durable Power of Attorney?

“Annette, what is a Durable Power of Attorney for Property Management?
Do I need one of these?  I am a small business owner a homeowner and not sure if I need this. “

A durable power of attorney for financial management allows an individual to provide for continuing management of their assets in case of future incapacity.  The “durable” means that the power of attorney continues to be effective despite the incapacity of the person who signed the power of attorney.  Very old powers of attorney may not be durable, so they are no help if someone becomes incapacitated, which is when you really need them to be effective.

 There are different ways that the “power” becomes effective; either immediately or on the incapacity of the person who executed the power.  Everyone over the age of 18 needs a power of attorney for financial management and an Advance Health Care Directive.

 Who could handle your affairs if you became incapacitated?  If you do not have papers in place, the court will appoint someone to help you and the court will supervise that help, in the form of a conservatorship.

Do I need a will?

Do I need a Will in California?

In California, Everyone over the age of 18 should have a will, even if they do not think they have any assets.  When a death occurs someone needs to have the authority to handle things like cars, rental security deposits, utility bills or insurance refunds.  If there is no will appointing someone to be in charge of the estate, it will be difficult for a loved one to conduct estate business.

In this article from AARP, “Do I need a Will?” by Jane Bryant Quinn, having a will even if you don’t have much in the way of assets is always a good idea.  There seems to always be one forgotten asset that is hard to deal with without a will, especially reimbursement checks that arrive after death.

Does Everybody Need a Will?

The straight answer is yes. That’s true even for people who think they don’t have a dime to leave to anyone. What if you were in an accident and died later of injuries, and your estate won a $1 million settlement? Who gets the money?

Admittedly, that’s a little far out. You might get away without having a will if, say, you’re a renter living on Social Security with no savings. If you have savings, a pay-on-death account will pass that money to named beneficiaries when you die.

But there are hitches to any no-will scheme, says attorney Patrick Lannon of Bilzin Sumberg in Miami. To begin with, a random financial asset almost always turns up. Examples might be a rental deposit that’s returned or a medical reimbursement. Those checks will be made out to the deceased. How do your heirs get them cashed?

If you had a will, you’d have named an executor to cash checks, pay off creditors and distribute any money or property to your beneficiaries. Without one, your heirs will have to ask a court to appoint a personal administrator. Usually, it will appoint your surviving spouse or a child. But you risk a family fight over who should be in charge.

Some couples try to go will-free by putting everything into joint names. Joint assets pass to the other owner automatically. So do assets with beneficiary forms, such as individual retirement accounts. But something is inevitably left out — typically, a car, Lannon says. Heirs would need an administrator to transfer title. Even if the joint-asset strategy works for the first death, what happens when the other spouse dies? He or she should make a will, which you both could have done from the start.

When there’s no will, state law dictates who gets the house, car, savings and other assets. Those laws vary widely. A surviving spouse might get everything in one state but only one-third in another, with the rest going to your children. If you have no children, half might go to a spouse and half to your parents.

Lawyers are the best source for reliable wills. Your lawyer will also remind you that you need a durable power of attorney and a health care proxy, so someone can manage your finances and make medical choices if you’re unable to do so yourself.

Read the complete article.

Courtroom

Stay Out of Probate Court!

One of the greatest gifts you can give the Valentines in your life is to keep them out of probate court.  Probate court can be time consuming, emotionally upsetting and expensive.  Not to mention siblings can be vicious to each other when parents are not around to supervise.   I have an ongoing probate where my client is doing a great job as administrator and her siblings personally sued her anyway.  It is just costing them a fortune in attorney fees.  The case was frivolous.

If you have a trust please make sure your bank accounts, money markets and certificates of deposit are in the trust.  Do not put your IRA’s in the trust, instead name your beneficiaries and name the trust as the very last beneficiary after your spouse and children.

Is your parent’s estate plan up to date?  If you have any questions, please call me at 805.498.0909.

10 Reasons to update your will or trust

10 Reasons to Update Your Will or Trust

Many people will prepare estate planning documents and place them in a safe deposit box and forget about them. There are many reasons to review and update your documents. Below are 10 reasons that should prompt you to review your documents.

  1. The beneficiaries you named in your will or trust are deceased.
  2. New people in your life should be named in your will (e.g. birth, adoption, or possibly marriage).
  3. New laws. You need to periodically check to see if new laws impact your estate planning documents. New Tax laws may make the type of trust you have with your spouse inappropriate now.
  4. If you move to a different state, don’t assume that your will or trust conforms to the requirements of your new state. Each state has its own legal requirements for making a will.
  5. Change in guardians, personal representatives, or trustees.
  6. Children reach the age of eighteen.
  7. A substantial increase or decrease in the value of your estate.
  8. The acquisition or disposition of a significant asset.
  9. You should see an attorney about reviewing and updating your estate plans prior to reaching 70½ years of age if you have an IRA, 401(k), or other qualified plan that requires you to begin taking distributions at age 70½.
  10. The passage of time is reason enough. You should review your estate planning documents every three to five years.

If you have questions about making changes to your will or trust call Annette Dawson-Davis Attorney at Law 805.498.0909 or email: annette@dawsondavislaw.com.

 

Source: www.findlaw.com

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