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Newark Family And Estate Law Blog

When you begin the estate planning process in California, you will appoint a personal representative to act as the administrator of your affairs upon your death or incapacitation.

Choosing the right person for the job is essential for making sure your end-of-life care meets your standards and your assets go to your beneficiaries according to your wishes after your passing.

Responsibilities of an estate administrator

As administrator of the estate, your personal representative takes on several duties. He or she must actively work to inventory and protect your assets, settle your debts with creditors, file your taxes, distribute your property to beneficiaries and finalize your case in probate court. Therefore, you must choose a qualified, capable and responsible individual.

Traits to look for in your personal representative

Integrity: Your representative will have access to your assets and accounts. It is important that he or she is trustworthy.

Resiliency: Settling an estate is hard work, especially for someone dealing with the emotional pain of loss. Your representative should be confident, comfortable and able to keep the probate process moving along on schedule.

Availability: Handling your affairs may take considerable time and effort, depending on the complexity of your estate. Your chosen administrator should understand and agree to the time commitment ahead of the appointment.

Your last will serves as your final commitment to your loved ones. The last thing you want is tension and conflict in your family. Therefore, you should do your due diligence and carefully consider your options when choosing your personal representative.

California’s Probate Code recognizes surviving spouses as rightful heirs of a deceased’s estate. The California Legislative Information website notes that the probate court may verify the end of a marriage by a divorce decree.

Although a legal separation could have taken place, the separation document may not generally confirm that a couple divorced. When a spouse dies before the divorce proceedings end, California’s probate court may act based on the contents of an existing will.

Who may inherit my property?

As noted by the Judicial Council of California, the executor named in your will introduces it to the probate court after you die. Your executor gathers your assets and pays your debts. The probate court may review your will and verify your assets’ titles before transferring them to your named beneficiaries.

If you and your spouse own property together, your death may result in your spouse taking ownership. As described by, surviving spouses generally become sole owners of properties that name couples as “joint tenants with survivorship.”

Who may inherit my assets if I die without a will?

If a spouse dies without a will, the probate court may distribute property under California’s intestate succession laws. explains how surviving spouses may inherit all assets acquired during marriage. This type of property distribution could occur when a California couple is childless and the deceased does not have a surviving parent or sibling.

With a surviving child, parent or sibling, however, a surviving spouse must divide half of the deceased’s separate property when no will exists. Separate property includes gifts or inheritances received during a marriage. It also includes assets obtained before the wedding date.

Divorce may require careful planning when facing an illness or a life-threatening injury. To avoid property distribution under California’s intestate succession statutes, you may create or revise an estate plan to fulfill your wishes.

In the time before you officially get married, you and your soon-to-be spouse may have many questions. One of the possible topics you both may talk about is getting a prenuptial.

Learning about why people choose to craft this agreement and how it can impact them is essential for a couple who feels interested in writing one.

Handling debts

According to Psychology Today, one spouse may have a significantly higher amount of debt than the other one. In some cases, you both may agree that the obligation to pay this off if a split happens should fall to the person who originally had the debt.

Having a prenuptial crafted means that, in the event that you both decide to divorce, the debt stays with the spouse who had it first. Staying out of debt may be one way to protect yourself or your business, if you own one.

Securing assets for your children

People who have children from past marriages or relationships often look for a way to make sure they can pass on what assets they have after their death.

Whether this is property or family heirlooms, having an agreement in writing that your children will get your assets and property instead of your new spouse can help you feel secure about their future.

Clarifying for the future

Some people may wish to prevent future fights or disagreements before they begin. If you both worry about what will happen to your own savings in the event of a divorce, you may avoid many arguments or time in court.

Learning about the reasons why people seek out a prenuptial can help you both make the best choice for you.