Four Tips For Effortless Estate Administration

Being put in charge of a loved one’s estate doesn’t have to be stressful. If you are the executor of an estate or successor trustee of a trust, then you have a legal responsibility to manage the assets of the trust or estate in accordance with both the will/trust and applicable State laws. According to Judy Martel at Bankrate, “The executor’s natural inclination is to “make everyone happy and distribute the assets . . . but if the executor rushes and misses some crucial legal steps, he or she could be found personally liable. This is where having an attorney who knows the rules will help.”

Since this can be a difficult task for anyone, here are our Four Tips for Effortless Estate Administration:

One: Locate and Protect All Assets

According to  Foxbusiness  The very first thing an Estate Executor or Trustee should do is determine, locate, and protect all assets. Assets can be property, artwork, bank accounts, and more. This is most likely the first thing your attorney will ask you for.

Two: Decide Who Gets What

Deciding who gets what is often the most stressful part of this process, because often times people have vested interests in certain things due to nostalgia, or value.  Bankrate  says It’s important to remain impartial to all parties involved and follow the guidelines of any wills or trusts. Identify and inventory the decedent’s property, and have that property appraised, Pay debts and taxes, and Distribute the remaining property according to the terms of the Will or Trust.  If there is no Will or Trust you must use your State’s laws of intestate succession (this is usually supervised by the probate Court).

Three: Take Your Time

You don’t have to rush this process. According to  HanleyLaw,  the Executor’s [or Trustee’s] natural inclination is to “make everyone happy and distribute the assets.” However be sure that while doing this you follow the proper legal guidelines in the proper order. Take everything a step at a time. It’s easy to become daunted by how much there is to be done. Divide everything into small steps, and focus on one step at a time.

Make sure to use due diligence with each step in order to make the entire process go as smoothly as possible. Expect there to be a few hiccups along the way, that’s just a part of the job, and prepare accordingly.

Four: Seek Professional Advice

You can avoid mistakes by consulting with an estate attorney who is a State Bar Certified Specialist in Estate Planning, Trust & Probate Law.  Your financial advisor and CPA can also provide  expertise. We encourage you to reach out to the Law Offices of Joel A. Harris for any Estate Administration needs.

How Marriage and Divorce Affect Estate Plans

Having an Estate Plan is the best way to insure that your family is protected from probate, taxes, and the unexpected upon your death. Your Estate Plan will direct how your assets will be divided -and if done right – will leave provisions for covering debt and other expenses, and avoid family fights and other problems.

Marriage and divorce significantly affect your Estate Plan if you have one, and make estate planning even more important if you do not. However, even happily married couples often procrastinate creating an Estate Plan thinking their spouse will automatically get everything – including the responsibility of managing the estate. Here are some things every couple needs to know about marriage, divorce and estate planning.

Getting Married

Marriage proposal. Man with boquet of flowers kneeling and give engagement ring for his girlfriend

First, both newlyweds will need to change the beneficiary on their insurance policies, existing wills or trusts, retirement accounts and health savings accounts. You both will also need to decide if you want to designate a secondary beneficiary in case you both die, or if you want to leave more detailed instructions in a will or trust.

Next, you will need to update any existing wills or trusts. Or, if you don’t have one, this would be the perfect time to get one. It’s important for your new spouse and you to know how you want your assets allocated should anything happen to you both, how much you want parents and children to get and who should oversee your matters should you both become incapacitated. If you have a prenuptual agreement, a new Estate Plan will probably be required to follow the requirements of the prenup (normally there is always a prenup for second or later marriages).

As part of your Estate Plan, you will also need to create financial and medical durable powers of attorney, otherwise your spouse will not be able to handle your individual affairs should you become too ill to do so -being married is not enough in California. Powers of attorney are even more critical for unmarried couples, as you will have no rights to take care of each other without them.

Getting Divorced

Once the divorce process is started, you are restricted from making changes to your Estate Plan, assets and beneficiaries. Your divorce attorney will explain this to you. However, it is important to start updated your Estate Plan, starting with your powers of attorney. You probably don’t want your soon-to-be former spouse able to make your financial and medical decisions during the difficult divorce process.

After divorce, you will need a new Estate Plan. You will replace your old marital Will and Living Trust, update beneficiaries, nominate Guardians for minor children of your choice, determine who will handle your affairs upon incapacity or death, and otherwise insure that your “new” affairs are in order. We cannot count how many times a family has come to us upon a loved one’s death only to learn that their former spouse is still the beneficiary of old life insurance polices and retirement plans – don’t be that person!

Are you getting married or divorced? Or do you just have questions about your Estate Plan? Contact us today to schedule your consultation or Estate Plan review.

10 Warning Signs Your Trust Won’t Work the Way You Intend

As an Estate Planning and Trust Attorney who’s been helping families preserve their legacies and avoid probate for over twenty-five years, I’ve seen it all; family squabbles turned to drawn-out legal battles; grieving children having to deal with lengthy and costly probate and surviving spouses left with the results of a bad or outdated Trust.
I cannot stress enough the importance of not just having a Trust, but having one that’s accurate, up to date and valid. If you or a loved one has Living Trust, these 10 warning signs that it may not work as you expect are a must read:
1. The Trust names dead beneficiaries or trustees – you can’t just write a Trust (or Will) and never look at it again! We have seen many trusts that name beneficiaries who have died and the owners of the trust never made updates. To Do: Look at your trust now and make sure all the beneficiaries and trustees and alive and well. This is also a good time to confirm that your trustees are still willing and able to act for you.
2. There is no “pour over” Will – a Living Trust Estate Plan should always include a back-up Will that directs all your assets to your Trust in case something is left out. The backup Will may still require probate, but at least the assets will go into the trust, and be available to your designated beneficiaries. This also allows for any special provisions or restrictions in your trust to take effect.Reviewing an old estate plan
3. The Trust has a bad asset schedule – one key to a smooth Trust administration is a current, signed and dated asset schedule for the trust. This allows your successor trustee to know what assets are in the trust. This also helps avoid a full probate for assets that are listed in your Trust, but not actually owned by the Trust. A complete asset schedule is not enough by itself – your Trust must also be on title to your real estate, bank accounts and investments (but usually not tax-deferred retirement accounts). To do: Look at your Trust now and be sure all your assets are listed!
4. The Trust is not funded – assets (real estate, bank accounts, stocks, bonds, mutual funds, etc.), that are left out of your Trust may have to go through probate, and may not even go to the same beneficiaries if you don’t have a “pour over” Will. In our experience, when the time comes to administer the trust, we find that most Trusts are missing assets. We have seen many more empty trusts than full ones!
5. The Trustees don’t get along – if you have appointed co-trustees and they cannot work well together, administering a trust can be a nightmare. Even if they work well together, if they live far apart this can be challenging.

6. The Trustees are incompetent – not everyone is competent to handle your affairs. Be sure to select successor trustees who understand how to manage assets, sell property, etc. If you have picked someone who is very good at this, but they become ill, aged, or move away, they may not be competent to handle your trust. Trustees should also be United States citizens. Executors of Wills are required to be citizens.
7. The family can’t find the Trust, or doesn’t know it exists – your Trust (or Will) won’t help your family if they cannot find it when you die. Locking it up in a safe deposit box can be just as good is hiding it away, as banks may require a probate court order to transfer the contents of the safe deposit box! To do: call your successor trustee (or Executor) and let them know where they can find your Estate Plan and be sure they can access it!
8. The Trust is in an old A-B format – older trusts, especially “AB” format trusts, may no longer work well due to changes in the law. If your trust was done before 2012, you may have some work to do. To do: if your trust was created before 2012 contact your Estate Planning Trust attorney and schedule a review.
9. The Trust wasn’t created by an attorney – sorry, if you did your own trust, went to an online Estate Plan Trust service, had a document preparer or other unskilled labor help you, it is probably not going to work the way you would wish.
10. The Trust isn’t signed – We have seen trusts, Wills and powers of attorney that were not signed, witnessed and/or notarized properly, causing the documents to fail. One of the jobs of an estate planning attorney is to make sure this does not happen! To do: Go find your Trust right now and make sure it’s signed! Please!
The death of a loved one is hard enough without inheriting a legal mess. Please, look at your Trust (or Will) now, make sure it is up to date and still makes sense, and contact us if you need a review, or even a second opinion. We’re here to help!

What does the Trump Presidency Mean for HealthCare, Medicare and Estate Planning?

Whether you voted for him or not, we can all agree that the Trump presidency will most likely bring unprecedented change to our country.

Many have concerns about entitlements, healthcare, taxes and civil rights. My clients – Baby Boomers and young families who want to retire comfortably, have affordable healthcare as they age and who want to leave a legacy behind for their children and grandchildren – have concerns about what the Trump presidency means to the Affordable Healthcare Act (Obamacare), Medicare and Estate taxes.

I address those three issues in this blog.

Trump on Affordable Healthcare

One of the most heated debates during the election was whether Obamacare would be repealed by our new president. Trump vowed to repeal the Affordable Healthcare Act on day one of his presidency. However, just last week, Trump nominated Representative Tom Price to head the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) who said, according to an article in Reuters, (“Trump’s health pick defends stocks, says Americans won’t lose insurance”),“Americans will not suddenly lose health insurance.” Price went on to say, “nobody is interested in pulling the rug out from anyone”. Instead, Republicans in Congress will work to repeal the law and replace it with an alternative system. (Source: Reuters)

In an interview with the Washington Post, Trump stated, “We’re going to have insurance for everybody. “[They] can expect to have great health care. It will be in a much-simplified form. Much less expensive and much better.”

The Bottom Line on Affordable HealthCare: While “Obamacare” may be repealed, it seems that neither Trump nor House Republicans want to leave Americans without universal healthcare. I suspect there will be changes to your existing plan, and, according to Trump and his advisers, these changes will make healthcare more available and affordable for all.

Trump on Medicare

Per an article in Forbes, repealing Obamacare will have a major impact on Medicare and Medicaid: the “unheralded Medicare reforms in Obamacare, such as lower operating costs, higher quality care and a sounder financial footing for the program” will be torn apart by the proposed Trump and Republican plans to dismantle Obamacare. Forbes also states that, “it would repeal the expansion of Medicaid, a program that provided more than 12 million low-income Americans with coverage, and replace it with nothing.”

Medicare healthcare seniors

According to Forbes, Health and Human Services (HSS) nominee Price’s “Empowering Patients First Act” would replace the Affordable Care act, “with a 401(k)-like plan where you’d be exposed to the ravages of the private insurance market and be given tax credits based on your age.” (source: Forbes)

Many believe that Price’s proposed reforms could have a major negative impact on Medicare. Not necessarily in the short-term, but in the long term, his reforms could be used to dismantle our current Medicare system and instead, hand out lump sums or “vouchers” to retirees to be used to buy private insurance policies. Would this be helpful or hurtful to our aging Baby Boomers? That is yet to be seen.

I have to wonder if the vouchers would be enough to cover a year’s worth of medical expenses? According to many healthcare and medical experts, “probably not, if (the senior) has a range of expensive or chronic medical issues, as many older people do.” (source Wired)

The Bottom Line on Trump on Medicare. In the short term, it appears there will be no major changes to Medicare. But we need to keep our eye on the details of HSS nominee Price’s “Empowering Patients First Act” and how that could be applied to the future of Medicare. Many believe a voucher system could have severe negative impact on seniors and healthcare.

Trump on Estate Taxes (AKA: “The Death Tax”)

Much hoopla has been made over the Estate Tax, renamed by Republicans in the 1990s as the “Death Tax”. Politicians have used it as a political tool to win over constituents for decades. Democrats want to keep the tax, as a safeguard against the “accumulation of dynastic wealth” (Source: Time) or to prevent the rich from getting richer off the backs of average American and Republicans have tried (in vain) to repeal the so-called “death tax” claiming it penalizes success.

Reviewing an old estate plan

According to the IRS ( the Estate Tax is, “the right to transfer property after your death and it consists of an accounting of everything in your estate” and through a long process of determining what gets included and excluded from your estate (deductions), a value is put on your estate to determine your Gross Estate, and a tax assessed. (To read the full tax law visit the IRS website here). Some say this is an unfair “death tax” that penalizes upwardly mobile Americans wo want to leave a legacy to their children.

Let’s look at the facts about the so-called “Death Tax” (Source: Time Magazine):

  • The current Estate Tax affects less than one half of 1% of American estates
  • $10.9 million is the value of a married couple’s estate EXEMPT from the Estate Tax. That means anything over $10.9 million is subject to 40% tax ($5.45 million for singles).
  • .4% (yes, 4/10 of one percent) of decedents’ estates are subject to the estate tax.
  • $269 billion is raised for the treasury from this tax.
  • Fewer than 5000 estates would benefit each year from its full repeal

Donald Trump and Speaker Ryan have vowed to repeal the Estate Tax n 2017. What does that mean for you and me? If the value of your estate is less than $10.9 million it means absolutely nothing to your personal estate plan. If your estate is worth more, it means your decedents will get all your estate – tax free. It also means our treasury will lose $269 Billion dollars. That revenue must be made up somewhere; either through cuts in services or higher taxes on the rest of us.

The Bottom Line on Trump and Estate Tax:

One possible scenario that could be a part of estate tax repeal is the repeal of the step-up in cost basis that currently occurs on death. Today, if you inherit appreciated assets such as stock or real property, you get a new cost basis as of the date of death. This allows heirs to sell these assets with little or no capitals gains tax. In community property states, the surviving spouse can enjoy a 100% stepped up basis if their assets are titled correctly (such as in a living trust that designates the assets as community property. Joint tenancy does not work for this). A loss of the stepped-up basis will force heirs to trace back the original cost basis of assets they inherit, and pay the capital gains tax on sale. The temporary estate tax repeal under the Bush administration included both a repeal of the stepped-up basis, and the new provision that capital gains tax will also be triggered by death.

The bottom line is that if the estate tax is replaced by a due on death capital gains tax, the majority of estates may become taxable! Careful attention to any new estate tax laws, and careful planning after the laws have gone into effect, will be critical!

The future is as uncertain as ever. How the new administration will affect our lives is yet to be seen. Use the information above to learn and keep track of laws that may affect you.

How Does California’s End of Life Option Act Affect Your Estate Plan?

How does California’s End of Life Option Act Affect Your Estate Plan?

California’s Right to Die Act was born out of California resident, Brittany Maynard’s, decision to move to Oregon to take advantage of that state’s law allowing physician-assisted suicide, after being diagnosed with terminal brain cancer.

On June 9, the California legislature passed into law the right of individuals, “who meet certain qualifications, and who has been determined by his or her attending physician to be suffering from a terminal disease, as defined, to make a request for a drug prescribed pursuant to these provisions for the purpose of ending his or her life.” (source: California Legislature Website)

The law also established guidelines for determining who can exercise this option and how. To take advantage of the End of Life Option, several criteria must be met, including the following:Mother and daughter having problem or quarrel

The terminally-ill patient must:

  1. Be 18 years or older
  2. Be a proven California resident
  3. Have a terminal illness, as certified by an attending physician and a consulting physician
  4. Have mental capacity to make his or her own healthcare decisions. (An agent appointed under a “living will” or advance healthcare directive cannot consent for an incapacitated patient.)
  5. Fully understand his or her medical condition, options, and the nature of the act
  6. Voluntarily request “a prescription for an aid-in-dying drug”

The patient must be able to self-administer the aid-in-dying drug:

  1. The patient’s choice must be properly documented
  2. The patient may have to undergo an examination by a mental health professional if the attending physician or the consulting physician feel there is any indication of mental infirmity, lack of understanding, or undue influence.

Frequently Asked Questions About California’s Right-to-Die Law and Your Living Trust:

Can I use my living trust or power of attorney to direct my Agent to authorize use of an aid-in-dying drug? No, only the patient can request the drug, and administer the drug.

Do I need to make any changes to my existing Living trust?No, but if you would like an End of Life Option you must fill out the Request for an Aid-In-Dying Drug to End My Life in A Humane and Dignified Manner Form” and submit it to your Estate Planning Attorney. Download your form here.

You can click here to get detailed information about the Act or contact us for a consultation on how it may affect you or a loved one.

To Disinherit or Not: Alternatives to Cutting a Loved One from Your Will

As an Estate Planning Attorney, I’ve seen more than my fair share of familial challenges. I’ve had clients dealing with everything from chronic illness and sudden death to troubled children, estranged spouses and greedy siblings. I can’t count how many times a frustrated parent, sibling or spouse has plopped in a chair in my office, demanding that we disinherit someone out of anger and frustration. Usually, it’s because they don’t know other options are available.

Cutting someone out of your Will completely isn’t your only option!

The fact is, there are other ways to deal with errant relatives and disinheriting all together could be saved as a last resort:

Something to Lose

For the real troublemakers, your best option may be to leave them something that will be taken away if they contest your estate, instead of leaving them nothing at all. This will also satisfy the requirement that they are at least mentioned in your Estate Plan and give them a choice: take something or risk everything.Unhappy older man and son

Something to Earn

You can also make heirs earn their inheritance – even after you’re gone! This can be anything from requiring college graduation to successful drug testing before the money is doled out.

Restricted Inheritances

Some people take longer to grow up and get their act together. You can make an heir wait until they are 30 (or 60 if that what it takes!) or give them multiple chances by staging distributions in increments every 1-5 years. You can also Will a restricted annual or monthly payment (similar to a pension).

Limited Use Inheritances

Some kids should never get any money at all, but you can still leave them money to cover medical expenses, education, purchase of a home, etc. This money will stay in a Trust and be distributed by your executor.

If none of these options work for your unique situation, you still have every right to exclude any family member from your Trust or Will. It’s 100% your choice and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. If you would like to discuss this – or any other Trust or Will question, contact us now to schedule a consultation.

The Truth About Living Trust Fees

One concern that may be holding you back from creating a Trust – or worse – leading you to one of those online legal services or a document preparer, is the idea that it may be expensive to create and maintain one through a real Attorney. The fact is, it’s probably more affordable than you think.

To help you take that step to plan for your family’s future once you’re gone, here is a breakdown of what you can expect to invest in creating and maintaining a Living Trust:

Creating the Trust

The only expenses in creating a trust are the Attorney fees associated with creating it and a small recording fee for new property deeds. The cost for an attorney to draft a living trust can range from $1,500 to $2,000 for individuals and $2,000 to $2,500 for married couples. Simple or complicated plans can affect this estimate. The cost of recording property transfer deeds is approximately $20 per deed. Note that living trust estate plans always include a back-up or “pour over” Will, financial power of attorney, advance health care directive, and other related documents.SeniorMoney-262x300

Changing the Trust

Events like marriage, divorce, death of a spouse, beneficiary or trustee, changes in financial or residency status and new tax laws can affect your Living Trust and require changes. Changes are usually billed hourly by your attorney. Basic changes to asset and gift schedules can sometimes be done by you, so long as your share your changes with your attorney.

Reviewing the Trust

It’s a good idea to review your trust with your attorney at least every five years, unless one of the changes listed in #2 occurs, then you should get it reviewed at the time of the event. Reviews, like changes are usually billed by the hour.

If you have an old Trust or Estate Plan and would like to have an Attorney review it – or if you don’t have one yet, contact the Law Offices of Joel Harris and schedule your consultation today.

How Does Life Insurance Work with a Trust?

It’s easy to think Life Insurance and Trusts as two completely different things: one protects your family in case of death, and the other distributes your estate upon your death. Planning ahead is wise when you want to protect your family’s financial future, and it is commendable if you have already established a Trust as well as obtained life insurance. You may have heard that you can or should include life insurance into your plans. But how? Put simply, in most cases you should name your Trust as the beneficiary of your life insurance and here are four reasons why:

1.) Better Control and Management of Your Named Beneficiary. With a trust you have taken the time to create a legal document that is binding and assures your assets will be distributed the way you want. By naming your Trust as beneficiary of your life insurance, you will always have a viable beneficiary to receive the funds. Even if one beneficiary were to pass away, the trust would have already stated the next succeeding beneficiary, together with any special provisions that you want to make for these beneficiaries.

2.) wills and life insurance Not having to worry about the settlement of your estate. As time changes so do financial situations. For example, a realistic scenario that has occurred many times over, is when a Trustee needs funds in order to settle the estate but has no resources to do so. It is easy to imagine the added stress this causes grieving family members. Naming your Trust as beneficiary of your life insurance insures that your trustee will have funds to pay your bills, attend to your funeral and final disposition, and manage your estate until it can be distributed.

3.) Protecting beneficiaries who are minors. Too many people name young children as life insurance beneficiaries without considering the consequences. If the children are under 18, a Court supervised Guardianship is required. This is not the best way to provide for the children. Then a child turns 18, the money is turned over without restriction. This is worse. Naming your trust as beneficiary will eliminate court intervention and avoid younger beneficiaries squandering their inheritance. Most Trusts provide for the care, support, maintenance and education of children as needed, with distribution at a later age, such as 25 or 30.

4.) Protection Against Creditors or Unwanted Beneficiaries. If life insurance pays directly to heirs who have financial problems, health or medical issues, or even incarcerated creditors, the government may be able to claim the money. A trust may protect your heirs, and the proceeds of your life insurance, from creditors and the government!

In addition, it’s noteworthy to mention that naming your Trust, a document that you update throughout your life, protects your life insurance from accidentally falling in the lap of an ex-spouse or someone else you would like to avoid.

Warning: there are also sometimes good reasons not to include life insurance in your trust. This involves more complicated estates when life insurance is used to pay estate taxes or fund a business transition. Don’t change the beneficiaries of these kinds of policies, or of policies not actually owned by you, without consulting your attorney!

Do you have questions about your own Life Insurance or Living Trust? Give us a call now for an Estate Plan Review or Consultation.

My Estate Plan or Trust Is Old, is that a Problem?

Having an older Trust or Estate Plan is not, technically, a problem. The age of the Trust is insignificant. However, whenever I see one that is a few years – or decades – old, I almost always see changes that affect the final plans the person had originally intended.

Recent tax law changes also allow me to make many older trusts simpler and easier to use. If you have a trust older than 2010 than has not been reviewed since, now is a good time for a check-up.
Here are 5 things to consider about your older Trust or Estate Plan:

  1. Are your Asset Schedules up to date? Any Estate Plan or Trust that is more than a few years old almost always has an out-of-date Asset Schedule. Did you buy or sell real estate? Receive an inheritance? Cash out or purchase stocks or other investments? Life Insurance? Retirement accounts? This is an easy fix you can do yourself! Wills, trusts and estate plans
  1. Do you still know, like and trust the people you have appointed to be in charge of your estate? Is your ex-spouse still listed as your Trustee or Executor? Are your trustees still alive and able to act? Are your children now capable adults able to replace other people you may have appointed? These are usually excellent reasons to update your Trust!
  1. Do you still like your beneficiaries? Things change, people change, relationships change. Make sure the people you’ve listed as your beneficiaries are still on your good side. Do you still want to leave your family’s Lake Tahoe home to your EX-spouse? Or your grandmother’s jewelry to your drug-addicted daughter? Are you sure you still want to leave your record collection to your bestie-turned-enemy? Take some time to review your relationships and make sure your original wishes still make sense for your current situation.
  1. Are there dead people included in your will or living people left out? Just like in numbers two and three above – take a moment to review who in your Trust or Estate Plan is no longer with us – and who you may want to add (grandchildren, adopted children, new friends, in-laws, etc.).

Reviewing an old estate plan

  1. Do you have an “AB” trust? Let me be clear here: STAY AWAY FROM “AB” TRUSTS without a property analysis. While “AB” Trusts used to be standard, because of changes in the estate tax laws, they are no longer relevant for most families. If your trust was created by someone who is not an attorney (document preparers, paralegals, online legal services, etc.) double check your trust. Most non-attorneys use “AB” trusts because it’s the only Trust they know how to do. Having an “AB” Trust can often be much worse than a simple trust under current laws. AB trusts are now primarily used for blended families, so that after your spouse dies you can’t disinherit his kids! If you have an AB trust, have an attorney look at it immediately!

You want to make sure that the plan you intended is properly carried out upon your death- that’s the whole purpose of an Estate Plan, after all! Therefore, it’s critical that you have the best possible trustees or executors, that you name the right beneficiaries, and that you have the right kind of living trust.

I urge you to take out your Will or Trust right now and check it for these 5 things. If you need help please feel free to give us a call at 925-757-4605 or contact us by email. I’d be happy to review your estate plan with you.

The Simple Truths About Disinheriting a Family Member From Your Will

There are three certainties in life: death, taxes and someone who can’t wait until you die. Inheritance refers to giving property to an individual upon your death. To disinherit means refusing to leave your property to a would-be heir. For most people, the term “disinherit” is a dirty, cruel word. For you, it may not be a dirty world, but a way to express your final wishes.

Reasons to Disinherit
The reasons to disinherit a family member are extremely personal and range from emotional to business decisions. Some common reasons people disinherit include:

1. Estrangemedisinheriting a childnt between you and a family member
2. Protecting the interest of your birth children over your stepchildren
3. Allocating money and assets to a deserving family member
4. The family member received your money and assets while you are alive
5. You believe your relative only wants your money

Disinheritance Factors to Consider
The threat of disinheriting a spouse or child seems powerful (especially when you see the dramatization portrayed on a television and movie). However, disinheriting immediate family members isn’t always as easy as a subplot in a movie or television series. If you are thinking about disinheriting a child or spouse from your will, you have to do more than just leave their name from the document.

In California, you can’t disinherit a spouse unless:
• You clearly and intentionally explain your decision in your will
• You include evidence that you left property and assets to your spouse outside your will or trust. This evidence must be included in the will.
• Your spouse waived rights to inherit from you in a valid, signed agreement such as a pre-nuptial agreement.disinheriting a spouse

In California, you are permitted to disinherit your children or any other family members from your will as long as your wishes are clearly stated. 

The most efficient way to handle disinheriting someone is to leave a small amount of money to the disinherited relative and include a no contest clause to prevent them from challenging the will.

If you’re struggling with this difficult decision, contact the Law Offices of Joel A. Harris, we can help you make the right decision for you – and your family. You’ve worked too hard to leave your family’s future to chance.