Friday, January 20, 2017

What Is Estate Planning and Is It Useful?


Estate planning creates a plan for distribution of your assets after you die. Most of us are familiar with a common product of estate planning: the will. Featured in TV shows and in everyday conversations, sometimes, the discussion surrounding this popular topic is not favorable.

We've seen people contesting wills, challenging their family members, feeling cheated by the administrators of wills and by the law and we've seen them arguing through lawyers about what wills mean how they should be executed. Other forms of estate planning exist to reduce the amount of conflict surrounding decisions.

Health care decisions can be included in estate planning; a health care proxy exists so that a chosen person can act out the desires of an incapacitated person still under medical care.

When it comes to the distribution of their wealth and medical decisions, multiple measures exist to enable the dead and the severely injured a means of executing their own desires. However, even in the case where no formal plans are made, heirs do receive some forethought in terms of the law.

The law of intestacy communicates that even if no measures are taken to distribute assets by a deceased party, those assets will still go to the deceased person's heirs. The law of intestacy has the most staying power in situations where it is least likely to be challenged by those wanting more. For insurance, according to Attorney Sean W. Scott of Virtual Law Office, this law works with a small number of assets and a with a small number of heirs.

In each of these cases, one can imagine there would be less conflict involved. With less to fight over, less fights can ensue. The same is likely true with less beneficiaries; as heirs likely know one another well when smaller in number, less family tension can arise. Less instances of certain heirs feeling more worthy than others to certain possessions may exist. The likelihood that an individual or set of siblings would usurp others' belongings may be reduced. And general confusion arising from miscommunication and a lack of cemented durable relationships may possibly decrease with a smaller set of heirs. None of these suggestions are set in stone, yet corresponding data would be a more than interesting dinner topic.

Scott emphasizes the financial advantages of estate planning, sharing that taking certain precautions can save money for heirs receiving portions of estates. As lawyers stay on the job, working to settle issues between family members or between the state and family members, their tabs continue running. Evaluating the multiple options may familiarize you with the best decisions for your situation, reducing stress and increasing savings for your loved ones after you pass.


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Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Easily Misused Estate Planning Terms


Wills and Living Wills

Wills and Living Wills are key parts of any good estate plan. However, though the two sound similar they serve very different purposes. A Living Will states your choices for the kind of medical care you want to receive if you become sick or injured and are unable to talk. A Last Will and Testament, often referred to as just a Will, deals with your property and how you want it distributed if you should die. Therefore, a will is only effective after you die and a living will is only effective before you die and when you incapacitated.

Advance Directive vs Advanced Directive

A Living Will is a type of advance directive. All advance directives are documents a person creates that state what his or her choices are in the event he or she becomes incapacitated or otherwise unable to communicate with other people. Advance directives, such as Living Wills or health care powers of attorney, typically address financial or medical situations and can state specific choices as well as nominate someone else to make decisions on the incapacitated person's behalf.

These documents are referred to as "advance" directives because you make them in advance or in preparation for the possibility that you become incapacitated. Some people mistakenly use the term "advanced" directive, implying that the documents are somehow more complicated or important than others. This is not true, and anyone can make advance directives fairly easily as long as they ensure the documents comply with state law.

Probate Estate vs Trust Estate vs Taxable Estate

An estate is a general term used to describe an area or amount of property. It is sometimes used when referring to assets that are part of the probate estate at someone's death, or assets that are not payable to another person at the owner's death or not part of a trust estate. If an asset is part of a trust estate, then generally the asset will not be part of the probate estate. Further, when considering the taxable estate of an individual for estate tax purposes the IRS will consider the gross estate of the decedent to include the value at the time of his death of all property, real or personal, tangible or intangible, wherever situated. If property is part of a trust estate, it may or may not be part of the gross estate for federal estate tax purposes depending on certain facts about the trust.

Medicare vs Medicaid

Medicare is a federal program attached to Social Security. It is available to all U.S. citizens 65 years of age or older and it also covers people with certain disabilities. It is available regardless of income.
Medicaid is a joint federal and state program that helps low-income individuals and families pay for the costs associated with medical and long-term custodial care. Unlike Medicare, Medicaid has strict eligibility requirements.

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Tuesday, January 17, 2017

What Is Probate in Relation to a Will?



A will is a legal document that outlines what one would want to happen after their death in terms of their funeral, care for their children and most important of all, distribution of their estate. When a person dies having drafted their will, they are said to have died testate in legal terms. The opposite of this would be dying intestate. A will usually specifically states the name of an executor, a person entrusted by the testator or testatrix with the task of executing the will after their death. An executor could be a close family member, a relative, trusted friend or even an attorney. An executor is usually referred to as a 'representative of the estate in probate' in a will in order to cover executors of both gender.
A will is very important because it makes things a lot easier for the family of a deceased person especially when it comes to estate distribution issues. A will reduces the possibility of disagreement or misunderstanding between family members when trying to figure out the deceased's death wishes. Administering a will is however not as easy as it may sound. This is because the law requires wills to be validated by a court which could take a couple of months to do. Validation of a will is done by the executor by applying for a Grant of Probate in a probate court.
Probate is the legal process of identifying, validating and distributing the estate of a deceased person under strict court supervision. The probate process includes payment of outstanding debts to creditors and payment of outstanding taxes such as death and inheritance tax. A probate court is a special court that interprets the will and validates any claims on the estate made by third parties such as the creditors of the deceased. The court oversees the probate process right from when the executor files for a grant of probate, up to when it is granted and ownership of the estate is transferred to the beneficiaries.
For the executor of a will to be granted probate, they will have to first present to the probate court registry, the deceased's will and a solicitor approved oath. The oath shows that the executor is committed to administering the wishes stated by the deceased in the will. The executor named in the will is usually not recognized by the law until the probate court officially appoints them as the representative of the estate in probate.
If a will was properly drafted, it takes the court a shorter time to grant probate. Incase the beneficiaries are not completely satisfied with the court's decision, probate law allows them to contest the validity of the will in the same court. In such a case the estate remains frozen until the court makes a validity judgment. In the event of intestate death, or if there is no executor is named in a will, the grant of probate is referred to as a 'Letter of Administration'. It is also acquired through a court process and is issued to the person that the court deems fittest to execute the will or distribute the estate.

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Monday, January 16, 2017

Advance Directives - "The Living Will" and Other Issues


Advance directives are legal documents prepared in advance to accomplish a task at a later date. These documents can be instructions or permission granted for a specific usage such as life support or even financial issues. There are two types of advance directives. A durable power of attorney for health care allows you to name a (patient advocate) to make decisions on your behalf. A living will allows you to state your wishes in writing, but does not specifically name a person to assume the role of advocate. Regardless of which one is used, the court system can still intervene and make an overriding decision if situations arise.

Most people who choose to prepare advance directives do so to remove any doubt of their wishes in the event of a situation where they may be deemed unable to make decisions.
Considerations of the advance directive would be who you would want to assume the responsibility for decision making. Important decisions could be about ventilators (and other life extending machines) resuscitation, surgery, feedings (tube, food and water) and prescription drugs.

A Durable Power of Attorney for HealthCare is a legal document that allows you to name another adult (18 or over) to make your health decisions for you. Most people choose a family member but often a trusted advisor is selected. If end of life issues are in play, you may instruct your appointee to refuse any and all treatment and let you die. You would state this in writing that the person you select has the power to make that decision. The durable power of attorney only goes into effect once you are unable to make any decision yourself.

The power of attorney and the living will are both reversible. At anytime you may change your mind both as to treatments and who is the appointee. The only real component of either of these agreements is that at the time you execute the agreements you are considered a competent adult. This means that you are capable of making the choice of your own free will and without outside influence.

It is always best to seek legal advice when considering important decisions. Numerous sources exist to provide you with basic information about how these agreements work and how they may affect you and your heirs.

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Sunday, January 15, 2017

LLC Or Corporation - Which is Best For My Business?



Both the LLC and corporation are legal entities that provide liability protection for their owners. While the corporation has been around longer, the limited liability company was created to offer the same level of protection. However, an LLC is designed specifically to cater toward the small business owner. It offers the same liability protection as a corporation but allows a much more simple operational structure with a lesser number of formalities.

LLC v. Corporation - TAX MATTERS

The limited liability company offers more tax choices than a corporation. Owners of an LLC can elect for profits to be taxed pursuant to a pass through structure (single layer of taxation) or pursuant to a C corporation (double taxation) or S corporation structure (single taxation but with many requirements and ongoing compliance requirements).

The corporation only has the choice of C corporation or S corporation taxation. Small business owners many times prefer the LLC pass through taxation because it allows them to avoid double taxation of profits and in many cases be able to take business losses to reduce taxes from other income WITHOUT having to worry about meeting a laundry list of S corporation requirements.

While the S corporation structure is available to both types of entities, it only allows a certain # of owners, all owners must be persons (so no entities) and US or permanent residents of the United States. There are other requirements as well so check with your accountant for the specific details.

As a business evolves, things change and with an S corporation tax status, you always need to be on top of the latest S corporation requirements. The failure to meet a requirement, even if accidental, can result in disastrous tax liability and penalties.

The S corporation can have some tax benefits over the standard pass through when it comes to self employment. In these cases, you have the option of S corporation taxation with either the LLC or corporation.

LLC v. Corporation - OWNERSHIP STRUCTURE COMPARISON

An LLC also gives an LLC business much more flexibility when it comes to ownership structure. The LLC laws allow for the company to tailor what each owner gets in terms of voting control and distributions.
 The corporation has a set ownership structure. Ownership is defined by a share of stock and each share of stock provides a set right when it comes to voting and profits rights. The LLC can choose this standard structure but does have the flexibility to customize it if needed without having to create multiple classes of ownership.

Accordingly, an LLC is more attractive when it comes to bringing in investment capital or services partners because it offers more options to address specific business situations.

LLC v. Corporation - MANAGEMENT STRUCTURE

In addition, a limited liability company can have a very simple single layer of management (known as member-managed) or the management structure can be structured with a central governing body (manager managed).

When it comes to operations, the LLC is not required to meet the same level of formalities and paperwork as a corporation.

The corporation laws generally impose a set management structure for a corporation which requires a Board of Directors as a central body of management. In addition, in most states, there are required meetings and certain governance documents that must be entered into each year.

While it is still recommended that an LLC have some simple governance paperwork to document major business decisions, it is comforting to know that the laws do not require it for the legal entity to qualify as an LLC and get LLC benefits.

In deciding LLC or corporation, the LLC offers the same management structure imposed upon for a standard corporation but also allows for a much simpler one or a more complex one if needed to protect investors or the business.

SUMMARY

Given the simplicity and flexibility of the limited liability company, the LLC was designed to offer all the benefits of a corporation but without the disadvantages. As a result, the number of LLC formations each year greatly surpass incorporations when it comes to small businesses.

However, there are some situations where the corporation may be the better entity choice. If you plan on taking your business public with an initial public offering, you should use a corporation. Also, if your business requires professional company investors such as venture capitalists, the venture capitalists will generally require that your business be a corporation.

As noted above, the decision of LLC or corporation depends on your specific situation and the best person to advise you is a competent attorney after having met with you to discuss your particular circumstances.

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Saturday, January 14, 2017

Features of a Revocable Living Trust


Financial advisor Ric Edelman discusses why a revocable living trust is a key part in the estate planning process.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Advance Directives: A Special Insurance Policy That Everybody Needs



What is insurance? A thing providing protection against a possible eventuality.

Given the advances in medical technology, there are many possible circumstances in which my body may be kept alive even if my mind may have ceased to function. This could result from accident or disease. It could occur in the near or distant future. Under these circumstances, I have very specific desires of things that I want to be done and others that I want to stop or prevent from occurring. Can I take out an insurance policy that will protect me against institutions or people taking actions that are against my wishes? Yes, it's called an Advance Directive.

This form of insurance can be acquired without an agent or attorney. To get this coverage you must invest some time and energy to get your state's forms and fill them out. This is usually a two-part form with the first section designating who can make health care decisions for you in the event that you are not capable. This is usually called a Medical Power of Attorney designation. The second part, sometimes referred to as a living will, is where you are able to give physicians and family specific instructions regarding your care. The forms can be downloaded on-line from several different sources or can be picked up from any hospital in your area.

The mechanics of the process can be a little difficult and uncomfortable. This small discomfort allows for procrastination to jump in and convince you that this is a good idea and you really should do it someday, but not today. Maybe you'll do it next week or next month. One way to help you get over the hurdle of procrastination is to really look at some of the many benefits that you get from completing this task.

Three benefits of Advance Directives:

  • Peace of mind from knowing that you have insurance in place.
  • A huge gift will be given to your family and loved ones. In the event that it is needed, they will be greatly helped and assured that you are guiding their decisions.
  • Protection of your estate and financial assets. Medical institutions are allowed to utilize their technology to prolong life even when the outcome may be futile. This process can drain your financial resources and possibly impoverish your family.

When you discipline yourself to create an advance directive, set aside adequate time to consider specific details. The more specific you make your wishes, the better the quality of your policy. After completing the process you will enjoy a deep sense of satisfaction. So set a deadline to help you guide the process and make it happen.


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Thursday, January 12, 2017

How to Expunge a DUI Record


Getting behind the wheel while you are under the influence of alcohol or drugs is a very stupid decision. This mistake can cost you a hefty fine or your freedom. You can get arrested for drunk driving and this charge may result to expensive fines, community service, jail time and a permanent record.

A DUI conviction in your record can have a negative impact which may affect many areas of your life. Even after you have paid the fines, attended drunk driving classes, and served your sentence, you may realize that a DUI conviction on your record can become a form of punishment on its own. For instance, a permanent record can keep you from getting a job, a loan, or from renting a decent apartment. To that end, you may want to have your DUI record expunged.

What Is Expungement?

When the court agrees to expunge a criminal record, it basically means that the conviction is sealed or erased. To that end, when a background check is performed, the record won't appear. This is very helpful for those who are seeking employment, applying for a loan, or for other purposes.
Remember though that the record is not completely erased. It can still be seen by law enforcers and court officials to check whether the person has previous run-ins with the law. But an expungement will keep the permanent record from ruining the individual's life.

How To Expunge A DUI

1. Understand what it means to expunge a DUI record: As previously mentioned, DUI is a permanent record. If it gets expunged, all the information about the case, including the files, records, and criminal charges will be sealed. This means that in case you apply for a job, you can tell your potential employer that you have never been arrested, charged, or convicted of DUI.

2. Learn about the laws involving the expungement procedure: You need to understand that expungement process may vary from state to state. To that end, you must check with your country's court or law enforcement agency where the arrests are expunged. Ask about the requirements, such as a certificate that proves you have completed probation and how many years before you can get your DUI expunged. There are some states that allow immediate expungement for some cases, such as a first offense in DUI.

3. Complete the process: It is crucial to fill out all the necessary forms and requests for expungement, such as the Motion to Expunge. After filling out the formal request, you will need to submit the application to the court and pay the fees necessary. You must then attend the expungement hearing once it is scheduled by the court. Lastly, you may also need to appear in front of a judge.

If everything went well, the judge will agree to the expungement plea. He will then give a court order to expunge the DUI record.


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Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Uncontested Divorce Made Affordable - By the People



Divorce is probably never easy, but it doesn't have to be expensive. Rene of By the People in Fairfield CA talks briefly about help with uncontested divorces with our without children. Rene or Tammy will be happy to answer all your questions. Call them at 707-428-9871 and you can visit the website at http://bythepeopleca.com

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

How to Properly Use a Power of Attorney


A power of attorney is a legal document that authorizes one person to act on behalf of another in the legal or business dealings of the person authorizing the other. This type of document has a lot of relevance when, for example, somebody needs to execute some business or legal matter but is unable to do so for whatever reason. In the absence of the person, another person may be authorized to execute the matter through use of a power of attorney, which in common law systems or in civil law systems, authorizes another person to act on behalf of the person so authorizing the other. The person authorizing is known as the "principal" and the person authorized is called the "agent". The agent may, on behalf of the principal, do such lawful acts such as signing the principal's name on documents.

An agent is a fiduciary for the principal and, as this is an important relationship between principal and agent, the law requires that the agent be a person of impeccable integrity who shall always act honestly and in the best interests of the principal. In case a contract exists between the agent and the principal for remuneration or other form of monetary payment being made to the agent, such contract may be separate and in writing to that effect. However, the power of attorney may also be verbal, though many an institution, bank, hospital as well as the Internal Revenue Service of the USA requires a written power of attorney to be submitted by the agent before it is honored.

The "Equal Dignity Rule" is the principle of law that has the same requirements of the agent as it does to the principal. Suppose that the agent has a power of attorney that authorizes him or her to sign the sales deed of the principal's house and that such sales deed should be notarized by law. The power of attorney does not absolve the agent from the necessity of having the sales deed notarized. His or her signature to the sales deed must also be notarized.

There are two types of powers of attorney. One is the "special power of attorney" and the other, "limited power of attorney." The power of attorney may be specific to some special instance or it may be general and encompasses whatever the court specifies to be its scope. The document will lapse when the grantor (principal) dies. In case the principal should become incapacitated due to some physical or mental illness, his power of attorney will be revoked, under the common law. There is an exception. In case the principal had in the document specifically stated that the agent may continue to act on his behalf even if the principal became incapacitated, then the power of attorney would continue to enjoy legal sanction.

In some of the States in the USA, there is a "springing power of attorney" which kicks in only in case the grantor (principal) becomes incapacitated or some future act or circumstance occurs. Unless the agreement has been made irrevocable, the agreement may be revoked by the principal by informing the agent that he is revoking the power of attorney.

Making use of standardized power of attorney forms helps in framing a legally sound and mutually beneficial relationship for principal and agent. With the ease of use and ready availability of such forms, it is highly recommended that they be utilized when thinking of granting a power of attorney to someone. However, care should be taken not to let unscrupulous persons defraud innocent persons such as the elderly through ill-conceived agreements.

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