Tuesday, November 28, 2017

CDP Works Remotely for Those Living Outside the Bay Area

For many people these days, working remotely is the way business gets done, and California Document Preparers is able to accommodate clients who live outside the greater Bay Area. We frequently get calls from those who are located in different parts of California or even different states who would like our assistance in creating legal documents.

Last month, “Jo” called to inquire about our Living Trust package. We provided a brief explanation of our services, detailed the pricing and suggested that she come into our office so we could show her samples, review the process, and answer her questions. As it turned out, Jo lived in Calaveras County and driving to our office represented two-plus hours each way. We further explained our process and the documents we would be preparing. She gave us her email address and we sent her our Trust overview, workbook and price list.

Barely one week later, Jo emailed us the completed workbook

She was very impressed with our customer service, paid us by credit card and scheduled a meeting to review and sign the Trust and other estate-planning documents because she had decided it was worth the long drive.
We are always happy to work remotely with our clients by answering questions, forwarding materials and transacting as much business as possible by phone and email. Most of our clients are from the greater Bay Area, so we develop a face-to-face relationship while working on their documents. We look forward to clients from the Central Valley, Southern California and northern counties coming in to complete the signing of their Trusts. It gives us the opportunity to meet them in person, walk them through the contents of the Trust and explain the funding process.

Remote clients can arrange for the Trust’s signing in a convenient location

In those cases where our remote clients cannot meet in our offices for the signing, they can arrange the signing with a local notary. We send detailed instructions for the signing process, highlighting those areas of the Trust and other estate-planning documents that require signatures, initials and dates.

Because of our personal attention and service, Jo’s brother and friends have become Living Trust clients as well. We believe our thoroughness makes a difference. We do not charge for our time and are happy to answer questions. We want our clients to be informed and comfortable about the decisions they are making. Ask any small business owner: the best compliment he/she can receive is a referral of new business from a happy client.

Creating a Living Trust is an important part of your retirement planning

Contact California Document Preparers at one of our three Bay Area offices today to schedule an appointment. We’re helpful, compassionate and affordable.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Consequences of Lost Wills and Trusts; Where to Keep Your Trust

We get a lot of questions about what to do if a Will or Living Trust is lost. Unfortunately, this question generally arises after a loved one has died and the heirs have begun the process of settling the estate.

If you think you’ve lost your Will

  • You can only have one Will, and the one with the latest date will supersede all others.
  • If an attorney prepared the Will, contact that attorney to see if he/she has the original.
  • Contact your Executor(s) to see if you gave it to him/her.

In the eyes of the law, if a Will is lost, it is presumed to be revoked

If someone finds a copy after you die and your heirs are willing to sign an affidavit that you did not intend to revoke your Will, the court will accept the copy. If neither the original nor a copy can be located, your estate will go to your legal heirs, regardless of what was in your Will.

What happens if you have lost your Trust?

Families also contact us about what they can do if a Living Trust is lost or they can’t find it. If you lose your Trust and die, not only will your Successor Trustees be missing valuable information about how you wanted your estate distributed, but they may be faced with moving assets that are titled in the name of the Trust into your Probate estate.
If a Trust is lost, and the decedent has assets titled in the name of the Trust, the court will require that the heirs/Successor Trustees spend a significant amount of time and money searching for the Trust and documenting the search process. This process involves Probate court and all of the expenses and fees associated with Probate—exactly what you hoped to avoid by creating a Living Trust in the first place!
Once any Trust assets are moved into the Probate estate, the full Probate case begins to distribute the assets. All of this translates to more time and more money. This scenario is extremely labor-intensive and expensive. We encourage our clients to keep their Trusts in a secure location and to share that location with at least one other family member.

If you lose your Trust or Will while you are still alive

If you’ve lost these legal documents while you’re still alive, California Document Preparers can assist in creating a new Last Will and Testament and/or Living Trust. You can restate your entire Trust, creating an updated Trust with the same name and origination date as your initial Trustwhich will replace your old Trust.

Where should I keep my Trust?

We always caution our clients to keep the original Trusts in a secure place in their homes or offices. As a backup, you can give a copy to your successor Trustee and/or another trusted friend or family member.

Is a safe deposit box the answer?

A safe deposit box may not be the best solution, as it could require a court order to open the box if it’s in your name without a joint owner. This means your Trustee wouldn’t have immediate access if you became incapacitated or died.
  • Don’t want to name a joint owner? Title the safe deposit box in the name of your Trust. In this way, your successor Trustee could gain immediate access to your safe deposit box if needed.
  • Keep your Trust in a fire/waterproof safe in your home or office. Share the combination with someone you trust.
  • If these other options are not realistic, keep your documents on a high shelf—away from floods, children and animals.

Most importantly, make sure your family knows the location of your Trust

Make sure your family knows you have prepared your Living Trust. In addition to the bound copy of your Living Trust, we can provide an electronic version, and many families share this with their heirs. Remember that many years may elapse between the time the Trust is prepared and the time it is needed to settle an estate, and circumstances can change. Successor Trustees themselves may die or become incapacitated. It may be advisable to share the Trust with several trusted family members. Most of all, don’t hide it —if people can’t find it now, there’s little chance they can find it when they need it.

Creating a Living Trust is an important part of end-of-life planning

If you’ve lost your Will and/or Trust, or you would like to create one, contact California Document Preparers at one of our three Bay Area offices today to schedule an appointment. We’re helpful, compassionate and affordable.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Summary Dissolution: A Simplified Divorce Process

Remember the old thing about “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas?” 

Our client, “Matt”, spent a wild weekend in Vegas and ended up married. He and his wife, “Zoe”, realized that whatever happened in Vegas clearly stayed right there. By the time they got home, Matt and Zoe knew they had made a very bad mistake.
Annulments are granted in very limited circumstances, and the court does not consider short-term marriage as grounds for annulment, so they were exploring their options. Zoe was leaving for Mexico in two months, and they wanted to complete any necessary paperwork before she left.

Summary Dissolution: A simplified Divorce process

Fortunately, the California courts offer a Summary Dissolution, a simplified Divorce process. If the parties meet the qualifications, the Summary Dissolution involves fewer steps and less paperwork than a Divorce. The couple submits a joint Petition to the court, and the court sends them a filed judgment order approximately six months and one day from the day the Petition is submitted. (By California law, a Divorce must take at least six months and one day to finalize.)

Qualifications for Summary Dissolution are fairly stringent:

  • Fewer than five years between the time the couple got married and the time they separate.
  • No children have been born to the two of them before or during the marriage.
  • They have no adopted children under 18 years of age.
  • Neither is pregnant.
  • Neither owns any part of any land or buildings.
  • Their community property is not worth more than $40,000 (excluding vehicles).
  • Neither has separate property worth more than $40,000 (excluding vehicles).
  • The total of their community obligations (other than vehicles) is $6,000 or less.
  • At least one of them has lived in California for the past six months or longer and has lived in the county where the filing is occurring for the past three months or longer.
  • They have prepared and signed an agreement that states how their possessions and debts are to be divided (or they have no community property or community obligations)
  • Both are willing to sign the joint Petition and all related documents to carry out the agreement.
Fortunately, Matt and Zoe qualified for a Summary Dissolution, and they completed our workbook together. We prepared the legal document, the Joint Petition, within a few days, and they came in to sign it and have it notarized. After paying our fee and the county court’s fee, we took the Petition to be filed with the court. After the required six-month window had passed, we called Matt and Zoe and confirmed that they had received their order from the court. Their Dissolution was final, and their brief marriage was officially over.
Family law is an important legal document assistance area for us. We’ve helped hundreds of couples get divorced. For those who may be contemplating Divorce, we are happy to answer questions and explain how we work with our clients. Contact California Document Preparers at one of our three Bay Area offices today to schedule an appointment. We’re helpful, compassionate and affordable.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Complexity of Blended Families Creates Need for Multiple Trusts

“Julie” came in to our Oakland office to get more information about creating a Living Trust. She and her husband headed a blended family, and theirs was a complex scenario. Wanting to avoid going to an attorney, she was hoping we could help her. She and her husband, “Jerry”, had both been previously married, and each brought children and assets to their relationship.

Julie and Jerry owned two properties together, and they agreed that these properties would go to Jerry if she passed away first; after he died, they would be divided among their collective five children. Julie also owned four properties that were in her name only, and she wanted these properties to go directly to her three children when she died--not to Jerry or his two children.

After carefully reviewing her estate and options, she decided to prepare two Trusts:

  • A Joint Trust would be created to hold their community assets, including the two properties that Julie and Jerry owned together. They agreed that the surviving spouse would inherit these assets. After he the surviving spouse died, these assets, including the properties, would be equally distributed among the couple’s five children.
  • An individual Trust would be created just for those four properties Julie owned as her separate property; upon her death they would be distributed among Julie’s three children only.

This was a clever way to separate assets, allowing for different distribution strategies

  • We would help Julie and Jerry transfer title of their jointly owned properties into the Joint Trust, and these assets would go to the surviving spouse. After the death of the survivor, these would go to the beneficiaries they named in their Joint Trust.
  • We would also help Julie transfer title of her separate properties to her Individual Trust. Since their Joint Trust can be amended by the surviving party, Julie took the extra precaution of segregating these properties because her Individual Trust becomes irrevocable and unamendable after she dies. Julie wanted to avoid any confusion about wanting to distribute the four separate properties among her three biological children.
While Julie and Jerry could have stated in the Joint Trust that these properties were to be given upon Julie’s death (rather than after the death of both of them), sometimes spouses worry that circumstances may change after their deaths and their wishes won’t be followed. These Trusts are now structured so that Julie’s wishes will be carried out.

Creating a Living Trust is an important part of end-of-life planning

Contact California Document Preparers at one of our three Bay Area offices today to schedule an appointment. We’re helpful, compassionate and affordable.