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Newark Family And Estate Law Blog

Your parent may ask you to serve as the executor for his or her estate. As executor, you will be responsible for passing your parent’s assets to heirs after your mother or father has died. If you agree to the request, you should know how to locate your parent’s assets when the time comes to take up the duties of your parent’s executor.

Ideally, your parent would provide you with a list of assets and their corresponding locations. Still, it is possible your family member may forget where something valuable is. This is why you should be thorough to the point of considering unexpected locations when you try to locate your parent’s assets.

Check the home of your parent

In the event you put up your parent’s home for sale, be sure to go through each room carefully. U.S. News and World Report explains that sometimes people stash away assets in hiding places. The article mentions instances where individuals discovered a decedent’s assets in places like a bread box or the back of a sock drawer.

Remember that valuable assets such as stock certificates or property deeds are small and are easy to hide. So it may not be enough to move out your parent’s furniture before selling the home. You would probably have to pull out the drawers and check underneath them or inside the furniture for hidden documents. Also consider combing through places like the attic, in closets, a den or a basement if the home has one.

Be aware of unclaimed property

In some instances, a person loses or does not claim property and it ends up in the hands of the government. The government will hold on to the property until someone claims it. Under these circumstances, the government has escheated the property. Common examples of escheated property include safe deposit box contents, uncollected wages, insurance benefits, and stocks and bonds.

You may find out if your parent has any unclaimed property by checking California’s unclaimed property website. If your parent does have escheated property, the state should allow you as the executor to take possession of the assets. Taking steps to look for assets in unexpected places may help you realize your parent’s wishes to the fullest extent possible.

If people fall behind on their child support, it sometimes affects the other parents’ ability to provide for their children’s basic needs. As a result, they may apply for assistance through state or federal programs. In addition to owing their past-due support payments, then, people may also have to pay back the government for these benefits.

Understanding COAP may help people determine if it will aid them in catching up and staying current on their court-ordered support obligation.

Eligibility requirements

According to the Alameda County Department of Child Support Services, parents who owe past-due child support must meet requirements to qualify for COAP. The program’s eligibility requirements include the following:

  • Owing at least $501 in child support arrears to the government
  • Lacking the ability to otherwise pay the past-due balance and interest within three years
  • Staying current on ongoing support

Additionally, parents seeking relief through COAP must provide an honest accounting of their finances and situations, and they cannot have a record of the court finding them in contempt within the last six months for failing to pay child support.

Program benefits

According to the California Department of Child Support Services, the Compromise of Arrears Program gives parents the opportunity to resolve their arrears for less than the full amount owed. Through the program, they will propose a repayment to the state in a lump sum or in a payment plan.

Program limitations

When seeking help through COAP, people should keep in mind the things it will not do. The program cannot alter their monthly payment amounts, reduce the amount of past-due support owed to the custodial parents or forgive entirely the debt owed to the government. Only those parents whose children received public benefits while they were behind on child support may receive assistance through COAP.

The last thing anyone wants as a parent is to fall short of providing for the needs of their children. However, options such as the Compromise of Arrears Program may aid them to pay their past-due balances, helping them to care for their children.

A divorce has ramifications that may reverberate through your life in ways you did not consider. One area you may want to delve deeper into is your tax return.

Filing federal taxes after your divorce may surprise you in both good and bad ways. Get a basic overview of the tax implications you may face after your divorce so you can know what to expect.

Claiming children on tax returns

If you have children together, you and your former spouse will need to decide who gets to claim them on your taxes. Since you will file as a single individual, declaring a child may lower your tax bracket and give you money back. Depending on where you fall on the income scale, not claiming children may create a tax burden, or it may not do much. The higher your tax bracket, the less likely claiming a child will give you relief. However, it is typical for parents with multiple children to split them or rotate who gets to claim them for a given tax year. This gives you equal rights to gain deductions.

Dividing up assets

Some assets may mean higher tax implications immediately after divorce. For example, if you decide to split up a retirement account at the time of your divorce, you may have to pay an early withdrawal fee plus all the taxes due on the total amount. Cash payments or checking accounts do not typically carry tax burdens. The sale of stocks and bonds, however, does. You may want to negotiate lump-sum cash payments or use a trust to keep yourself safe from tax payments.

When negotiating a divorce settlement, knowing how these things will affect your taxes may assist you in compromising. Reaching an agreement may facilitate a healthy move forward in your life.

Traditional divorce proceedings can take up to a year or more before the judge grants the final decree. This amount of time may be very difficult and expensive.

Fortunately, there is a way to expedite the process: through a stipulated judgment. If both parties agree on all terms in their marriage, they can put those agreements on paper. The court will then review the form and if everything checks out, there should be no further proceedings.

Benefits

By agreeing on all aspects of the divorce terms beforehand, couples can avoid arduous disputes in the courtroom. Hot button issues such as spousal support, child custody and property division will already be out of the way. Also, considering that a stipulated judgment comes from a court order, the process is faster because the court will have less paperwork to review.

Stipulations

A stipulated judgment can be very helpful, but only if the couple understands what they are agreeing on. Once the court gets the petition, it is not easy to back out. Each party should carefully consider the terms before signing on to anything. In California, the couple must notarize the document before submitting it. Also, some factors come with added requirements; if a local child support agency works with one of the spouses, for example, a representative may have to sign off on some of the agreements.

Most people want to get their divorce over with as soon as possible. While it is not good to rush and overlook important matters, it helps to have a plan in place before going to court.

When you think of estate planning,  your mind likely goes to will creation. While wills are an essential part of legally-binding estate plans, living trusts are also beneficial.

Despite popular sentiment, trusts are not only for the very wealthy. People with moderate wealth can also benefit from them when it comes to estate planning, provided they have the right information before getting started.

What are trusts?

A trust establishes an agreement between you as the owner of the assets and a trustee, meaning the person who oversees the trust. You fund the trust with assets like life insurance policies, property and bank accounts, and the trustee manages them after you die. This highlights the importance of choosing a responsible and well-organized trustee. You can also select a lawyer or financial institution to serve as trustee, as opposed to a loved one.

Why do people use them?

Most people include trusts in their estate plans to avoid probate. Probate is a legal process that involves proving that a will is valid, paying creditors and distributing assets to heirs. All wills must go through probate before the estate provides inheritances, but a trust allows your assets to pass directly to heirs without probate.

Another benefit offered by trusts is the ability to control the way heirs receive their assets. You can provide inheritances in increments as opposed to one lump sum. You can also establish benchmarks, such as requiring an heir to reach a certain age before they receive their inheritance.

One of the biggest upsides of living trusts is that you can amend them should your estate plan change over the years. Along with revisiting the trust after major life events, you should also review it every five years or so to make sure it continues to meet your needs.