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Estate Planning Blog

Did Aretha Franklin Die Without a Will?

Yes. According to court records filed this week by her family, the Queen of Soul joins the long list of celebrities (think of Prince, Sonny Bono, Jimi Hendrix) with no written Will or estate plan. ...
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When a CA senior with a joint bank account dies, do the funds belong to the decedent's estate or the co-signer?

California courts have long grappled with this issue -- when a California senior dies with joint bank account, who does the money belong to? Is it the decedent's estate, or the surviving joint ...
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Can my Will leave a gift to someone on the condition that he or she get divorced?

In California, probably not. It's fairly common for a person to want to leave an inheritance to someone, "but not if he or she is still married to that monster." A gift conditioned on ...
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Did Mickey Rooney's widow really contest her late husband's Will?

Yes. According to her attorney, Mickey Rooney's widow just filed a contest of her late husband's Will, in the probate department of the Los Angeles Superior Court. The complete story can be ...
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How can I obtain a Federal Tax ID Number (TIN or EIN) for a Trust?

Applying for a federal Employer Identification Number (EIN) or Tax Identification Number (TIN) is a free service offered by the Internal Revenue Service. Beware of websites that charge for this free ...
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California Supreme Court determines No-Contest Clause Unenforceable

In its most recent ruling about wills and trusts, the California Supreme Court in Donkin v. Donkin (December 26, 2013) ruled that a challenge to a Trust does not trigger the Trust's ...
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Will the IRS give me an extension of time to file my portability election?

The short answer? Yes (for some estates without a filing requirement). The slightly longer answer? The IRS recently issued Revenue Procedure 2014-18 which: "...provides a simplified method for ...
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May I lodge my original Will with the Court for safekeeping?

No. Only a decedent's Will may be lodged with the Superior Court ( California Probate Code §8200 ). If you're still alive, the court will reject the document for filing. You're better ...
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What should I do with the decedent's original Will?

According to California Probate Code §8200, the custodian of the original Will must, within 30 days after having knowledge of the death of the testator (that's the person who wrote the Will), ...
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Do your New Year's resolutions include estate planning?

The untimely deaths of some celebrities ( Paul Walker, James Gandolfini and Cory Monteith, to name a few) in 2013 underscore the need to create your estate plan now. So is one of your 2014 resolutions ...
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We're Moving

Dear Clients and Friends, Effective today, Tuesday, December 17, 2013, we've officially moved offices to our new location at The Ridge in Agoura Hills: Stephens Law Group 30200 Agoura Road, Suite ...
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I'm a Trustee? What happens if I don't send a §16061.7 notice?

If the Trustee of a California Trust fails to send the required Notification by Trustee (also called a California Probate Code §16061.7 Notice ), or fails to properly serve the Notice on its ...
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I'm a Trustee. How may days before I have to send the §16061.7 notice?

In most cases, California Probate Code §16061.7 requires that the Trustee send the Notification by Trustee within 60 days of the triggering event (usually the death of the Trust's Settlor). ...
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What information must a §16061.7 notice contain?

When the Trustee of a Trust is required to send a §16061.7 Notice (also called " Notification by Trustee "), according to California Probate Code §16061.7(g), it must include 5 ...
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What is a §16061.7 notice?

Under Section 16061.7 of the California Probate Code, certain Trustees are required to send a legal notice to the Trust's beneficiaries and other interested parties. In estate planning law, this ...
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What's the difference between a Settlor, Trustor, and Trustmaker?

A good question. And the answer is quite simple. As used in estate planning law, the terms " Settlor ", " Trustor " and " Trustmaker " are all interchangeable. They all ...
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Where can I get a free copy of "Seniors and the Law"?

Another good question from many of our California clients; and here's the answer: http://www.calbar.ca.gov/Public/Pamphlets/Seniors.aspx Seniors & the Law — A Guide for Maturing ...
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Is my Will a "Pour-Over" Will?

A " Pour-over Will " is one that leaves your otherwise probatable assets to your Trust. But rarely will you see the words "Pour" or "Over" in the title of your Pour-Over ...
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What are the inflation-adjusted 2014 estate and gift tax exclusion amounts?

The IRS recently published Rev. Proc. 2013-35, which sets the inflation-adjusted exclusion amounts for 2014, for estate taxes and gift taxes. Estate Tax Exclusion Amount : For an estate of any ...
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"Portability" - what's that got to do with the new 2013 IRS Estate Tax Return?

The IRS recently released its new Form 706, U.S. Estate Tax Return, here: http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f706.pdf Thanks to the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 (ATRA), and its new $5.25 million ...
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Do I need a Living Trust?

We get this question a lot. And the California State Bar Foundation (one of our favorite providers of free, easy-to-read consumer guides on many legal subjects) does a good job providing the answer: ...
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Do I have to give a copy of my Trust to the bank?

Your Trust is a private document. It usually contains confidential information about you, your family, and even the people you're disinheriting. You probably don't want the bank knowing who ...
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What does it mean to "fund" a Trust?

When attorneys talk about "funding a Trust", they're talking about the process of transfering assets to the Trust. A Trust (sometimes called a Family Trust, Living Trust, or Revocable ...
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Can the County reassess my property taxes like that?

Can the County Assessor reassess our property taxes, if all we did is change a joint tenancy to a tenancy-in-common? The short answer? Yes (according to at least one California court). The ...
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How does a Trust avoid probate?

A Trust is essentially a relationship, or contract, among three parties: A Settlor who creates the Trust; A Trustee who manages the Trust assets; and A Beneficiary who receives the Trust assets. ...
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