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Newark Family And Estate Law Blog

Estate planning includes naming a trusted individual to serve as your estate’s personal representative. While many individuals choose a spouse or an adult child, you may require an administrator experienced in managing complex or varied financial matters. In California, your estate administrator is also known as your personal representative.

Under California’s laws, your representative must submit your will for probate after your death. As noted by the AARP, he or she also oversees the payment of your outstanding debts and taxes. You may prefer an estate administrator with whom you can comfortably share your financial secrets.

How much confidential information may I share with my representative?

Before the probate court distributes assets and property to your heirs, your representative typically settles your financial obligations. You may need to share the location of your will and a list of all your financial accounts.

If you bank online, for example, your representative needs access to your accounts. You may leave your username and password with your chosen administrator and provide instructions regarding how to update or close your accounts. Your representative may also dispose of items such as personal letters or prescriptions that you prefer your heirs not see.

How may an administrator begin the probate process?

The probate process begins with your representative ordering copies of your death certificate from the California Department of Public Health. Financial institutions, for example, generally require a copy before transferring your account’s remaining funds to a beneficiary. Your representative may need to contact creditors and lenders to settle unpaid debts from your estate’s funds.

A skilled administrator may sell your property and distribute the proceeds to your creditors and heirs. By leaving specific instructions in your will and naming your beneficiaries, a trusted individual may effectively carry out your wishes.

If you find yourself in the fortunate position to consider leaving a financial legacy to your heirs, you might want to consider attempting to have a wider reach. A multi-generational estate plan seeks to provide money that will have benefits for several future generations.

While this kind of thinking is often the realm of the ultra-wealthy, it can also apply to those individuals with moderate wealth.

The importance of careful planning

Kiplinger stresses that creating a multi-generational estate plan requires careful planning, communication with heirs and a degree of investment savvy. The goal is to make your money last for decades, perhaps even longer. In this way, it can help your children, your grandchildren and perhaps even your great-grandchildren lead better lives.

While it is true that much of estate planning concentrates on leaving your assets to the next generation, it does not have to have such a narrow focus. You can create a mindset that expands your focus.

One key to accomplishing this is writing down your vision. This written strategy is in addition to the traditional estate planning documents. Depending upon your assets, there might be room left for you to leave specific gifts to your children and grandchildren.

The need to discuss strategies with your family

A multigeneration estate plan is not for everyone, and it falls outside what many people expect. Therefore, it requires a bit of discussion with your family to make sure everyone is on the same page. Serious discussions could even alter your goals.

If you decide this is the right direction for your assets, it requires a specific legal framework. The details will determine in part how successful your plan becomes.

Understanding how probate works in California can help inform your estate plan. With this legal process, the court supervises your designated executor as he or she distributes assets according to your will, pays final expenses and otherwise settles your affairs.

These considerations will help you understand whether your estate may need probate in California so you can plan accordingly based on your objectives.

Probate vs. non-probate assets

Only some assets require probate. California exempts items you own in joint tenancy with someone else and property held in a living trust. You can also avoid probate for bank and investment accounts by naming a payable on death beneficiary.

Your estate must go through probate if non-exempt assets have a total worth exceeding the state limit, currently $166,250 in 2021. With smaller estates, your heirs can claim property by filing an affidavit with the court.

What happens during probate

While probate has a lengthy, costly reputation, California has a shorter and more affordable process than in many other states. The state requires probate to remain open for at least four months so that creditors can file claims against the estate. Your executor must distribute assets to your beneficiaries within 12 months of opening the estate or 18 months if your estate owes final federal taxes.

Careful estate planning will influence whether your estate requires probate. For example, if you want to avoid probate, you can open a trust and transfer the bulk of your assets to its ownership. Naming a trustworthy executor can help ensure that the process of settling your estate goes smoothly.

After a messy divorce, some parents try to use their relationship with their children as weapons against their former partner. According to Healthline, parental alienation occurs when one parent uses different strategies to force a distance between the child and another parent.

Here are some signs that your ex may be trying to alienate you.

Your ex stops communicating

When you share custody of your child, communication is critical. Unfortunately, alienators try to reduce communication. For example, if he or she takes your child to the doctor, you may hear nothing about it. When it comes to important details in your child’s life, your ex may try to keep them from you. For example, friends, activities and even grades at school may be kept secrecy. The idea behind this behavior is that the less you know, the less your child will want to speak to you.

Your ex plans fun activities during your days or weeks

While it is normal for divorced parents to compromise and allow children to spend time with the other parent on special occasions, if you notice your ex planning tempting activities whenever you have your children, it may be a sign of alienation. He or she will not talk to you ahead of time and instead will ask your children what they think of the idea so that they may pressure you into allowing the children to stay longer. If you refuse, they hope it makes the children upset with you.

Parental alienation involves any activity that may turn your children against you. For example, your ex may bring up inappropriate stories or blame you for the split.