Top 10 Estate Planning Mistakes

As a California estate planning and probate attorney I see both sides.  I see the planning process and I see what happens, after death, when the planning wasn’t done right.  Here is a top 10 list of estate planning mistakes: 10. Name your estate the beneficiary on your IRA, 401k, and other retirement plans. This is a great way of creating unnecessary tax and probate fees and costs. It also will delay the time when your family will have access to the money.  Attorneys and the tax man will love you for it! Your family won’t be so happy with you though! 9. Name your estate the beneficiary on life insurance.  Similar to above it creates unnecessary delay in access to the money and causes costs and fees.  Your family won’t love you for this. 8. Name no beneficiary on your 401k a
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California Insurance Code Section 10113.71 Form

Have you gotten forms from your life insurance companies giving you the option of providing them an alternate person to receive your lapse notices? I love this! It all stems from California Assembly Bill 1747 which became effective January 1, 2013. It was written into law as California Insurance Code section 10113.71. I think it’s a very helpful law. It provides for a 60 day lapse period on policies issued after January 1, 2013. Plus the insurance company must provide notice of the lapse to everybody including your designated person. To me this makes very good sense. With people moving around so much providing the insurance the address of the most stable friend or relative you know can’t hurt. If your insurance company hasn’t contacted you with a form to fill out I encourage you to c
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Does a life insurance beneficiary change by divorce?

How would you feel if your evil ex-husband or witch of an ex-wife received your life insurance after you die?  Talk about rolling over in your grave!? Upon filing for divorce, in California, there are automatic restraining orders. Among them, you are not allowed to make changes to non-probate transfers without the consent of your soon to be ex-spouse. This means you can make a new will (since that’s a probate transfer) but you can not change your trust, IRA, 401k or life insurance beneficiary. Yes, some people die during extended divorce proceedings and their not quite ex-spouse gets the asset. This is not the outcome many want but it’s often unavoidable. However, after the divorce is complete it is avoidable but you might have to take action! Some beneficiary designations are auto
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Joint account ownership

What’s better joint account ownership or trust account ownership? Different account titling is better for different people in different situations.  However, in most cases ownership in the trust is the most flexible and long last answer.  For example, I was talking to a client last week who has a trust. Her adult son is co-trustee with her on the trust. She told me she was opening a new bank account and would name her son as payable on death on that account. I said, ok but what about signing checks NOW?  I told her that a “bank power of attorney” is a good option but can be difficult to arrange at some banks.  She said she would do joint ownership or joint tenancy then. I said that was fine but what if something happened to her son? What if her son had creditor issues?  What if,
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