David J Collier

Top Five Reasons You Should Have a Comprehensive Estate Plan Now

An estate plan is a set of legal actions you take now to provide for yourself and loved-ones upon your incapacity or death. If you have been putting off writing your estate plan, here are five reasons you should put a comprehensive estate plan in place now:

  1. Control. It is your money. You have worked hard to accumulate your nest egg. If there is some left over at the end, shouldn’t you be the one to direct who gets it? Without the proper documents in place, complex and often counter-intuitive rules from the State of California and your investment plan documents control who inherits your estate. With a properly written estate plan in place, you are in charge.
  2. Unintended consequences. Say you put your property in joint tenancy with your friend so that she gets your property when you die instead of your heirs. But what if your friend dies first or transfers her interest out of joint tenancy? Then without planning, your property would go to your heirs anyway. With a properly written estate plan in place, you can minimize or eliminate unintended consequences.
  3. Incapacity. Most of us will lose the ability to make financial and health care decisions for a period of time before we die. If you become incapacitated, then without a plan in place, your financial and physical care would likely require expensive and time-consuming court involvement that would only further burden your family. With a properly written estate plan in place, loved-ones of your choosing could seamlessly provide for your care.
  4. Family. A cohesive and caring family is one of the proudest achievements of any parent. A carefully drafted estate plan eases your loved-ones’ administrative burden and fosters family unity after your death. With a properly written estate plan in place, you can keep your kids out of court, because your plan documents will dictate who is in charge of distributing your estate and the rules under which your estate gets distributed.
  5. Probate. Probate means money and delay when you die. With a properly written estate plan in place, you can spare your family the trials of probate.

As you can see, there are at least five reasons you should start your comprehensive estate plan today. For more information or to get started on your estate plan, please call me at 707-636-4806. David J. Collier practices law in Sonoma County in the areas of Real Estate, Wills, Trusts, and Probate. David is responsible for the content of this ADVERTISEMENT. The information in this article is not legal advice. To obtain legal advice you must discuss your unique circumstances with an attorney.

David J Collier

The Importance of Advanced Health Care Directives

You should have an Advanced Health Care Directive (AHCD), because it keeps you in control of your end-of-life medical care. An AHCD —sometimes called a “living will,” “power of attorney for health care,” or “health care proxy”—has two primary purposes. First, an AHCD allows you to appoint a person (called your “agent”) to make health care decisions for you. Second, an AHCD instructs your agent about the type of health care you would like to have. For example, with an AHCD, you can:

  • Limit when your agent’s authority becomes effective—immediately, or when you become unable to make decisions for yourself.
  • Enable your agent to make post-death decisions for you, like how to dispose of your remains, what kind of memorial you want, whether you want to donate organs or tissue.
  • Authorize your agent to prolong your life as long as possible or withdraw treatment according to your wishes.

Without an AHCD in place, troubles may arise if you become incapacitated or disabled to the point that you cannot make health care decisions for yourself. In that case, health care professionals generally look to family members to determine what type of care you would receive. But:

  • What if family members are unavailable? With an AHCD in place, your named successor agent steps if your agent is unavailable.
  • What if family members don’t agree? With an AHCD in place, your agent is in charge and will act according to your wishes.
  • What if family members are overwhelmed by the gravity of the end-of-life choices? With an AHCD in place, your family members are comforted knowing that you have already made the end of life choices.

As you can see, having an AHCD would keep you in control of your end-of-life care and foster certainty and peace of mind for all involved at the end of your life. To get started, I recommend visiting agingwithdignity.org to check out their “Five Wishes” AHCD form. It is a very simple and straight forward form. If the choices on the Five Wishes form do not meet your wishes, then please call me at 707-636-4806 to discuss a detailed attorney drafted form.

David J. Collier practices law in Sonoma County in the areas of Real Estate, Wills, Trusts, and Probate. David is responsible for the content of this advertisement. The information in this article is not legal advice. To obtain legal advice you must discuss your unique circumstances with an attorney.

David J Collier

Joint Tenancy Is No Substitute for an Estate Plan

You and your partner finally find the perfect real estate. At closing, your escrow officer asks how you would like to hold title. Without knowing why, you simultaneously blurt out, “JOINT TENANTS!”

Joint tenancy is a popular form of co-ownership, primarily because of its built-in “RIGHT OF SURVIVORSHIP.” This means that if one of the owners dies, the property automatically passes, despite any will, to the surviving owners, without the need for an expensive and time-consuming probate action.

But, joint tenancy does not eliminate your need for a will or other estate planning. Without estate planning, even property you acquire as joint tenants would pass at your death according to the state’s rules of INTESTACY in the following situations:

  • You are the last joint tenant to die.
  • You and the other joint tenants die simultaneously.
  • Your co-owner’s creditors attach his or her interest.
  • Your co-owner transfers, deeds, or borrows against the property, even if done without your consent or knowledge.

In addition, joint tenancy is often inappropriate for MARRIED COUPLES, because:

  • Property held by a married couple as joint tenants won’t get a full “step up in basis” at the death of the first spouse to die. This means that the surviving spouse may pay higher capital gains taxes when the property is sold.
  • Married couples holding title as joint tenants may not be able to sell, transfer, or mortgage the property while one or both are mentally incapacitated.
  • A divorce court may award the joint tenancy property of a divorcing couple to the surviving spouse if one spouse dies during divorce proceedings.

As you can see, joint tenancy does not eliminate the need for estate planning and may be an inappropriate method for you to take title. To discuss how you should take title or get started on an estate plan that fits your needs, please call me at 707-636-4806.

David J. Collier practices law in Sonoma County in the areas of Real Estate, Wills, Trusts, and Probate. David is responsible for the content of this advertisement. The information in this article is not legal advice. To obtain legal advice you must discuss your unique circumstances with an attorney.