Famous Last Wills and Testaments of American Presidents — A July 4th Tribute

american memorial with mount rushmoreThis year on the Fourth of July, the United States is celebrating its 245th birthday. Citizens around the country will be celebrating America’s birthday by gathering with family and friends for cookouts, parades, and breathtaking fireworks displays.

While birthdays are often fun events, they also serve to remind us that we are another year older as each year’s revolution around the sun brings us closer to a time when we will no longer be here to celebrate those birthdays. Birthdays are a good time to sit down with an estate planning attorney to make sure that when that day comes, your loved ones will be provided for.

The majority of U.S. presidents understood the importance of having a will and estate plan, with only four presidents dying without having an estate plan in place – Andrew Jackson (#7), Abraham Lincoln (#16), Ulysses S. Grant (#18), and James A. Garfield (#20).

Lincoln was the only one who died intestate while still president, having been assassinated in the first month of his second term. When he died, his estate was worth $110,295 and was distributed to his wife and two sons.

Presidential Estate Plans

George Washington (#1) had a will that bequeathed his $600,000 estate to his wife. His will also ordered that all the slaves he owned be set free upon her death.

Thomas Jefferson (#3) left land to two of his grandsons. Like Washington, he also stipulated in his will that some of his slaves would be freed upon his death, including three older men he had owned for decades, as well as two of Sally Hemings’ four children who Jefferson had fathered. Jefferson also took advantage of using a trust to protect property he was leaving his daughter from being seized by her husband’s creditors.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt (#32 ) left his more than $1 million dollar estate in a joint trust for his two sons, which was also to benefit his wife and his grandchildren. Roosevelt also left instructions that up to $1,000 should be paid each year to cover the living expenses of the woman who had been his personal secretary for decades.

Perhaps no president’s estate exemplifies how trusts can be used to protect an estate from being gobbled up by estate and inheritance taxes than John F. Kennedy’s (#35). Kennedy’s $10 million estate was placed in two trusts, half the estate in one trust for his wife and the other half in a second trust for his two children.

Let an Estate Planning Attorney Help

You do not have to be rich or famous or a president of a country to have a will. No matter what your financial situation is, a Sacramento estate planning attorney can sit with you and come up with the best estate plan for your particular situation using the many tools that are available, including trusts, living wills, and power of attorneys. To learn more, contact the Yee Law Group, PC to schedule a free and confidential consultation.

Funding Your Trust

I often hear people say that their estate won’t have to be probated…because they have a trust. Just having a trust in place, does not necessarily mean the personal representative (PR) of your estate will not have to probate your estate. 

This is a fear of many as in some states probate can be more expensive and onerous than in others. In Montana, where we practice, probating an estate is not so scary. We have relatively easy access to the courts and legal fees are reasonable, should you use a law firm to manage the probate. 

However, just because you have a trust in place, whether it be a living revocable trust or a testamentary trust, does not mean your PR will not have to open a probate to distribute assets. Any assets that require steps to legally transfer ownership must be “put in the trust” or addressed in other ways to ensure legal transfer outside of probate. Such assets include bank accounts, real estate and business assets. These assets must be put in the name of the trust, or “owned by the trust” to avoid probate. Most states provide for beneficiary designation as well that would allow for transfer outside of probate. 

We recently managed the probate of an estate in Montana just to transfer a share in real estate. The estate was that of an attorney in California who practiced in the area of estate planning. They created a living revocable trust for their own estate. All of the assets in the estate were named in the trust, except the settlor’s interest in a small fishing getaway in Montana. A probate was necessary in Montana to allow the PR to transfer the attorney’s ownership share in the property to the trust. Just because you have a trust in place, does not mean probate will not be necessary for your estate. 

Additionally, if no assets are put in the trust, the trust has no effect. This is what we mean by “funding the trust”. In order to effectuate the wishes you have articulated in your trust, you must provide funds to realize them. There must be assets available to the trustee to distribute. When planning your estate and its distribution after you are gone, make sure that you have planned for the assets you wish to be distributed. Any thoughtful and thorough estate planning lawyer can guide you through this process.

What Assets Avoid Probate?

Probate lawyer for Yolo County, CA

What Assets Avoid Probate?

probate lawyer in Yolo County, CA

Not every person that passes away requires a probate. At The Yee Law Group PC., There are certain situations where our Yolo County, CA probate lawyer can advise that a probate is not necessary. For instance, the following types of assets:

  1.     Accounts with a named beneficiary. These accounts are often referred to as pay-on-death (POD) or transfer-on-death (TOD) accounts. Financial institutions simply require a death certificate and identification to transfer these types of accounts to the named beneficiaries.
  2.     Assets held in joint tenancy with right of survivorship. When the owner of a joint account passes away, the surviving joint owners continue to own the account by right of survivorship. A death certificate is needed to remove the deceased owner from the account. There are certain circumstances where the surviving joint owner(s) do not receive the account. This is most common when the decedent added a joint owner on the account for convenience purposes only. e.g. bill paying.
  3.     Assets held in Trust. The best way to avoid probate is to hold assets in Trust. Assets held in Trust are distributed pursuant to the terms of the Trust by the Trustee.
  4.     Assets intended to be held in Trust. Often times a decedent had a Trust but certain assets were not held in the Trust. In certain circumstances, these assets can be transferred to the Trust after the decedent’s death.
  5.     Assets with a value less than $166,250. If the value of the assets (other than real estate) is less than $166,250, the assets can pass to the heirs without a probate using a summary proceeding or affidavits.

Testate vs. Intestate

Testate means the decedent died with a valid will. Intestate means the decedent died without a valid will. If a decedent dies with a valid will, the decedent’s estate will be distributed pursuant to the terms of the will. If a decedent dies without a valid will, the decedent’s estate will be distributed pursuant to the law of intestacy. The distribution of the decedent’s assets pursuant to the laws of intestacy depend on the make-up of the decedent’s family and the character of the decedent’s assets. The assets may be distributed to the spouse, children, parents, siblings, more remote family members, or a combination of those family members.

The person named in the decedent’s will that is appointed is called the “Executor.” If there is no will, the person in charge of the decedent’s estate is called the “Administrator.” There are other more obscure names for special situations.

Length of Probate

At The Yee law Group PC., our probate lawyers in Yolo County, CA work towards the shortest time-frame. However, even for the simplest of estates, a California Probate can take anywhere from a year to two years to complete. During this time, your family may be left with no assets for their support, and there may not be available assets for the upkeep or maintenance of your other assets (e.g. mortgages on your home or other real estate). Your family may be forced to sell certain property at a discounted rate to avoid foreclosure.

Petition for Probate

In order to initiate a probate, you must file a petition for probate. The petition will ask the Court to appoint you or someone else as the Personal Representative of the estate. The Court determines the appropriate Personal Representative by the terms of the decedent’s Will, or if none, based upon California Probate Code’s order of priority. e.g. spouse, children, grandchildren, parents, then siblings, etc.

The petition also gives the Court some information regarding the assets of the estate, the surviving family members, the decedent’s Will, and whether a bond is required. Once the petition is filed, the Court will set a hearing to determine whether your petition should be approved. These hearings are typically set 45 to 60 days after the petition is filed. Notice and publication of the hearing will be required. At the hearing, if the Court approves your petition, the Court will issue a Minute Order. You are still required to submit a proposed order for the Court’s signature. However, the Order does not actually give you any power.

Other Issues in Probate

There are many other issues that must be addressed in a probate. If these issues are not properly addressed, they will lead to delay, or even worse, liability to the Personal Representative.

Often times there are ways to avoid probate, either before or after the death of a loved one. To have a smooth process, The Yee Law Group, PC., highly recommends that you consult with a probate lawyer in Yolo County, CA today.


Benefits of Hiring a Yolo County, CA Probate Lawyer

Probate lawyer for Yolo County, CA

Yolo County, CA Probate Lawyer

Probate is a complicated process that requires executors to prepare forms, meet deadlines, keep records, generate reports, submit filings to the court, and serve notices to creditors, heirs and local newspapers. At The Yee Law Group, PC., there are several benefits of hiring a Yolo County, CA probate lawyer.

  •     Prevent Personal Liability For Your Actions As Executor

Personal liability can arise in a probate situation if the executor makes an error in marshalling assets, generating reports, paying creditors and heirs in the wrong order or the wrong amounts, failing to obtain court authority before taking certain actions, or failing to give notice to the proper individuals in the proper manner. 

  •     The Probate Process Will Be Completed More Quickly with a Lawyer

 The process can be extended by as much as several years if the executor does not prepare each form correctly the first time and give proper notice to all necessary parties, obtain the necessary signatures of heirs and interested creditors, and file the appropriate documents before each deadline passes. Rescheduling court dates, Delay in inheritance.

  •     A Probate Lawyer Will Save Time for The Executor

Even if you hire a probate lawyer in Yolo County, CA, much of your valuable time will be dedicated to gathering and liquidating the estate’s assets, keeping records, paying bills, and making lists of creditors.  Having to learn the law and local court procedure and generate inventories, accounting, and reports in a form that will be accepted by the court may make an already difficult task insurmountable.

  •     A Probate Lawyer Will Minimize the Potential for Disputes

At The Yee Law Group, PC., Potential for expensive and time-consuming probate litigation is significantly diminished if the probate estate in question is handled effectively, quickly, and efficiently by a professional.  

v If the estate is being handled in an unprofessional manner, creditors and heirs are more likely to be involved.  

v At a minimum, interested parties may request Supervised Administration.

v At worst, you may find yourself embroiled in an expensive lawsuit.  

v A lawyer’s job is to resolve disputes early in the process in order to make the process as inexpensive as possible for all concerned.

  •     Hiring A Probate Lawyer Will Minimize Stress on The Family

 The net effect of speeding up the probate process, reducing the amount of time that the executor must personally dedicate to the case, and heading off any disputes in a professional manner is to minimize the amount of stress that the family of

the deceased must deal with at a time when emotions are already high.

  •     Families can be torn apart when money enters the equation.  
  •     If the executor is seen as acting in his or her own best interest at the expense of the heirs,
  •     or as failing to competently handle the estate, this can cause interpersonal problems with loved ones.
  •     Hiring an attorney will place a third party between the executor and the heirs and will allow the executor to focus on spending time and energy on his or her family.

Consult a California Probate lawyer

If you have questions about estate planning or probate, an experienced Yolo County, CA probate lawyer can assist you. You should reach out to The Yee Law Group, PC., today to learn more about the process and how a legal advocate can help.

While it may be possible to go through the probate process without a lawyer, it is important to ensure that all steps of the probate process are completed according to California law. An experienced probate lawyer can help you to determine whether probate is necessary, and whether or not there are certain assets that may be excepted from the probate process.


When Is Probate Required?

Probate Lawyer for Yolo County CA

When Is Probate Required?

Probate Lawyer for Yolo County CA

Dealing with the death of a family member or partner is always difficult. Making it even more challenging is the question of how to handle the deceased person’s estate. If an estate in California includes at least $150,000 in combined value, the estate must go into probate.

The Yee Law Group, PC., regularly helps grieving loved ones navigate California probate rules to ensure that the estate administration process goes as smoothly as possible. Retaining the services of a Yolo County CA, probate lawyer can give tremendous peace of mind during what can be an otherwise difficult time.

Probate Overview

Probate is simply a means of determining the distribution of a deceased person’s estate. This is accomplished with the assistance of the probate court. If the deceased person had a valid will or trust, those documents will communicate the intentions of the decedent, including how to administer the estate. 

A decedent’s will may express their preference of a family member, friend, or trusted advisor to administrate and fulfil the decedent’s wishes as outlined in the will or trust documents.  This person is referred to the executor or executrix, and they serve as the personal representative of the estate. Many people accept the role of executor or executrix of a will, or trustee of a trust, without realizing the potential complexities of probate. For this reason, they often choose to work with a trusted law firm as The Yee Law Group, PC., instead of undertaking the complicated probate process.

When Is Probate Necessary?

Not every estate is required to enter probate. If a person dies and leaves behind less than $150,000 of combined estate value, the estate is not required to enter probate. However, it is not difficult to accumulate $150,000 or more of possessions. In California, a person’s estate can include residences, vehicles, mineral rights, undeveloped real estate, motorcycles, boats, investments, and other assets. 

A Yolo County, CA probate lawyer will assist surviving loved ones with a determination of the total estate value, as some assets may be exempt from probate. For instance, if an eligible asset was left to a named beneficiary, as is often the case with life insurance policies, then that item will not count toward the $150,000 minimum.

Probate Administration Legal Process Overview

In most cases, the executor or executrix of the decedent’s will is required to file the appropriate documents with the probate court. In the event there is no will available, an interested party should consult with a probate lawyer in Yolo County, CA to review the available options of filing an estate with the probate court.  

After opening probate with the assistance of a lawyer, the executors or administrators will assist in the identification, collection, and appraisal of assets.  Additionally, the probate lawyer will provide guidance for resolving any debt with available estate funds, as well as assist with determination of rightful heirs. The probate process can be a long process that is time-consuming and quite involved depending upon the number of beneficiaries, types of estate assets, availability of personal information, as well as a host of other factors.

The fee for working with a knowledgeable Yolo County, CA probate lawyer at The Yee law Group, PC., follows the formula outlined by California Probate Code Section 10810. In some cases, a probate court may make the remuneration higher if the case is particularly involved. Reasonable compensation for probate of estates which exceed $25 million will also be determined by the courts.

Seek Legal Advice

If you are interested in reviewing a probate matter or begin the probate process in the state of California, please contact The Yee Law Group, PC., and speak to a seasoned probate lawyer in Yolo County, CA.


What does a probate legal representative do?

So, what exactly does a probate lawyer representative do?

Probate Lawyer

When a person dies, their properties should be disbursed in a manner consistent with state laws and following the instructions they present when they were alive, as stated in their will. A probate lawyer guides the executor of a will or recipients of an estate through the probate procedure: From identifying estate properties and beneficiaries to dispersing properties and inheritances. A probate lawyer will be able to guide you through many different processes after the death of a loved one. 

What is a probate legal representative or probate lawyer?

A probate attorney is a state certified lawyer who deals with the executors and the recipients of an estate to settle the affairs of the decedent. In some instances, probate can be avoided if all the decedent’s assets have been positioned in a trust. A trust can ensure a smooth transfer of residential or commercial property beyond court and legal proceedings.

Is a probate attorney like an estate lawyer?

A probate lawyer is also referred to as an estate attorney and will be involved in different ways depending upon the particular situations of that estate. Their participation will depend upon the worth of the decedent’s assets and whether they had a last will and testimony at the time they passed away. In cases where no will exists, recipients file claims and demand what they believe they are entitled to. In scenarios where there is a will, obstacles might occur regarding the credibility of the will, also causing possible litigation.

What does a probate lawyer do?

Particularly, here are a few of the common jobs a probate lawyer might assist an administrator and recipients with during the probate procedure:

  • Collecting earnings from life insurance policies
  • Determining and securing estate assets
  • Getting appraisals for the decedent’s real property
  • Assisting in the payment of costs and debts
  • Preparing and submitting all files required by a probate court
  • Figuring out if any estate or inheritance taxes are due, and making sure those debts are satisfied
  • Solving income tax problems
  • Managing the estate inspecting account
  • Transferring properties in the decedent’s name to the proper beneficiaries
  • Making a last disbursement of properties to beneficiaries after all bills and taxes have actually been paid

There are many nuances to this type of law, as an attorney, like a probate lawyer from a law firm like Kaplan Law Practice, LLC, can explain.

Documents You Will Need When Creating a Will

Estate Planning Lawyer

A will is an essential aspect of estate planning to ensure you have control over the distribution of your assets after death. Your estate planning lawyer will need these twelve documents to draft your will.

1. Birth Certificate

A birth certificate is proof of your identity. You can also use a passport, driver’s license, or other government-issued identification but be sure to provide the original and not a copy.

2. Proof of Address

A separate document is necessary to prove your residency, even if your address is on your identification document. An original copy of any of the following will verify your address:

  • Recent utility bill
  • Driver’s license
  • Property deed
  • Home tax assessment statement
  • Rental lease

3. Marriage License and Divorce or Death Certificate

If you are married, your spouse will usually receive the entirety of your estate; however, it may be necessary to update your will if you remarry. A new marriage license or divorce, or death certificate will reflect your current status. 

4. Burial Plot Deed

The owner of a grave has the authority to open it. Therefore, your will should include a copy of your burial plot deed and designate to whom you will transfer the title. That person will become the new owner who can arrange to open the plot upon your death.

5. Statement of Funeral Wishes

Providing instructions regarding your funeral preferences and how to handle your remains can give you some control over your final arrangements and lighten your loved ones’ burden.   

6. Financial Asset Documents

All documents that identify your financial assets will help to distribute them to your beneficiaries. For example, your will can include copies of bank and investment account statements, stocks, bonds, and other financial certificates.

7. Tangible Possessions

A will is a perfect place to designate exactly how you want to distribute your physical belongings, including specific jewelry pieces, furnishings, artwork, vehicles, homes, or musical instruments.

8. List of Debts

You may want to provide a list of debts you want your heirs to pay from your assets before receiving the remainder. These may include your mortgage, a home equity loan, or a car loan.   

9. Life Insurance Policy

Although it is not necessary to include a copy of a life insurance policy in a will, doing so will make beneficiaries aware of it and help them access it.

10. A Contact List

Documenting the contact information for an executor, beneficiaries, and representatives from charitable organizations will ensure efficient asset distribution.

Contact an estate planning lawyer to learn more about how a will can help you provide for your loved ones.

Give Mom What She Really Wants for Mother’s Day!

mothers day estate planEvery second Sunday in May, we celebrate Mother’s Day, a day to honor our mothers for all the love and sacrifices they make. For many of us, it’s also the day that causes us to wrack our brains, trying to come up with just the right gift to show Mom how much she really means to us. And every year, coming up with that right gift seems to get harder and harder. How many bathrobes, bottles of perfume, or candles can she use? And while “saying it with flowers” sounds nice, just how many times can you say “it” with flowers? One gift that you may never have thought of but that can actually be one of the best Mother’s Day gifts you ever give her is an estate plan.  

What Is an Estate Plan?

Many people think that an estate plan is just drafting a will or they think an estate plan is only for rich people, however, there is so much more that can be included in an estate plan to ensure that all of a person’s wishes are met when they die. In addition to wills, some of the common tools used in an estate plan include:

  •       Trusts: A trust will ensure that your assets and/or property will go directly to the person you name as beneficiary. Unlike a will, there is no probate process required for trusts so there is no delay in transferring these assets and it remains completely private.
  •       Letter of Intent: A letter of intent can specify what type of funeral you do or don’t want, including any special requests. You can also leave instructions for the executor and/or beneficiaries of your estate.
  •       Durable Power of Attorney: This document designates a trusted person to oversee your assets and act on your behalf should you become incapacitated.
  •       Healthcare Power of Attorney: This document designates a trusted person to make decisions regarding your medical care should you become incapacitated.

Significant Others and Special Friends

Estate plans are not just for older moms. They are also critical documents for single mothers. If you have a special single mom in your life that you want to honor with a Mother’s Day gift, an estate plan is a perfect gift to give her peace of mind knowing her children will be taken care of should anything happen to her.

In addition to the estate planning tools mentioned above, one important estate planning tool for single parents is choosing who will be the legal guardian for their children should that need ever come.  This may be the most important decision a single mother makes when putting together an estate plan because this is the person she is entrusting the care and support of her children should the day come she is no longer here for them.

Contact Our Office Today

While it may seem unconventional, a Mother’s Day estate plan really is the gift of a lifetime. To learn more, contact the Yee Law Group to speak with a seasoned Sacramento, CA estate planning attorney.

What to Include in Your Will

Making a will is a big part of estate planning. A will is a legal document that details how your estate will be managed when you pass away. Creating a will involves a lot of important decision-making, so you should take your time when you are planning one. You don’t want to rush into a decision just to have it included in your will. While a will may look different for everyone, there are some basic essentials that should be included. The following things are a few things you may want to incorporate in your will. 

Name Your Beneficiaries

Deciding which beneficiaries you will be naming is an important part of making a complete will if you want your assets and possessions to be distributed to specific family members, friends or loved ones. It is a good idea to name two beneficiaries in case the first beneficiary passes away. If you do not have any named beneficiaries, the government may decide who your assets will be passed down to, and they may not necessarily make their decision according to your wishes. 

Create a List of Assets 

Making a complete list of your assets is a must for any will. This includes cash, property, cars, investments, retirement accounts, life insurance and other types of assets. In your wil you should explain how you want each of your assets to be managed. This prevents any disputes that may occur between relatives and loved ones in regards to who will get control of your assets. 

List What Debt You Have

While you are making a will, you should list any debt that you have. Mortgage, car loans, student loans, credit card debt, taxes, and other types of debt that you owe should be mentioned so that your family has an idea of how much your estate is worth. This is helpful especially when planning for funeral costs and other expenses that can arise after your death.  

Appoint an Executor

An executor is a person over 18 years old who administers your last will and testament. An executor is usually a spouse, child, or a family member that you trust. However, you may also appoint your lawyer as your executor since they have a stronger understanding of estate planning law and procedures. 

Having an estate planning lawyer like one from W.B. Moore, Attorney at Law can save you the time and effort in making sure that your will is prepared correctly. Contact a top lawyer today for a consultation.

Qualities To Look for in a Probate Lawyer

Choosing to draft your estate plan is a major life event. Unfortunately, many people think that having a simple will drawn up, without the help of a lawyer is all that they need to do in order to protect their interests. The reality is that you may be leaving many things up to chance when it comes to the future of your estate if you attempt to “DIY” your estate plan. As a result, when working on your estate plan, you should set up a risk-free consultation with an estate planning lawyer. Similarly, when navigating the “ins and outs” of managing the estate of a loved one who has passed away, it is important to connect with an experienced probate lawyer. Failing to take this critically important step could cost you and/or your loved ones time, money, and stress unnecessarily. 

Look for Someone With Experience

When looking for an estate planning and/or probate lawyer, you should look for one who has experience with cases similar to yours. Even if you aren’t sure about your strategy yet, you should try to find someone who deals with people of a similar income bracket and offers some of the services you are interested in. For example, if you know that you want to consider certain types of trusts, such as a special needs trust, you want to talk to someone who has experience in that area. Similarly, as an experienced probate lawyer, including those employed at Kaplan Law Practice, LLC can explain, you’ll want to work with a probate lawyer who specializes in the kind of estate administration and/or probate scenario you may be dealing with after the loss of a loved one. Some lawyers only handle straightforward cases, others only handle complex matters. 

Find Someone You Can Trust

Lawyers understand that your estate plan is personal. This is not something that most people want to talk about and so you’ll want someone who makes you feel comfortable automatically. You should not be afraid to talk about your expectations or your concerns.

When it comes to your estate plan, you do not want to put the responsibility of safeguarding your interests in the wrong hands. To find out more about how an estate planning lawyer can guide you through the process, set up a risk-free consultation today with a local lawyer who specializes in estate planning and/or probate.