Category: General

What Happens After Death Without a Will?

Estate Planning Lawyer in Roseville CA

Estate Planning Lawyer in Roseville CA

If you pride yourself on your decision making abilities, you’ll enjoy making your last will and testament. Don’t see the connection? It’s simple. Making a will gives you the final decision with regard to who gets which of your assets. If you die without a will, you have no say at all about it whatsoever.

As an estate planning lawyer in Roseville CA from a firm like Yee Law Group, PC can explain, if you die without having first made your will, your state deems you to have died intestate. This means that you left no instructions about the distribution of your assets. Consequently, the state steps in and distributes them according to whatever laws of intestacy and succession it has in place. All of this may have nothing to do with what you may have wished, but with no will, your state has nothing else to go on.

Natural Heirs

Each state has its own intestacy laws that specify your “natural heirs,” i.e., your family members it presumes should inherit from you, and the order in which they should inherit. In general, this order of succession goes as follows:

  • Surviving spouse
  • Surviving children, both biological and adopted
  • Surviving parents
  • Surviving siblings
  • Surviving grandparents
  • More distant relatives, such as surviving aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.

In the unlikely event that you leave no surviving family members whatsoever, your assets escheat, i.e., they go to your state itself.

Inheritance Amounts

In addition to determining who inherits from you, your state’s intestacy laws also determine how much each person gets. Some states give your surviving spouse (assuming you have one) half of your estate and the other half to your surviving children. Other states give your surviving spouse a specified amount before dividing the remainder of your estate 50-50 between him or her and your surviving children.

With regard to children, if one of your adult children predeceases you, but his or her children survive you, they share equally in whatever portion of your estate your child would have received had he or she survived you.

Who Gets Left Out

Intestacy laws take no notice of others, such as the following, who you may have wished to leave something to:

  • Your friends
  • Your business associates
  • Your church
  • Your alma mater
  • Your favorite charity or nonprofit organization
  • Your pet

After all, without your will to guide it, your state has no idea what your inheritance wishes may have been, and it will not attempt to read your mind after the fact.

Bottom line, if you feel strongly about who gets what when you die, the only way you can ensure that your wishes will be followed is to make a valid last will and testament.

4 Key Elements Your Will Requires To Protect You

Probate Lawyer Yolo County, CA

Probate Lawyer Yolo County, CA

It can be confusing to plan for your death, but it doesn’t have to be. You can gather a list of your property and possessions and let everyone know how you want everything handled. However, as a probate lawyer for Yolo County, CA from a firm like Yee Law Group, PC can explain, sometimes the grief that comes with death can cause individuals to act irrationally as they cling to personal possessions or desperately take more than their share.

Instead of letting your family and friends fight over your estate, you should create a will to legally establish how you want everything handled when you die. To demystify the process of creating a will, you should include these four components.

1. Choose an Executor

When you name an executor, you appoint someone to stand in your place and follow the specific directives you have listed in your will. Although you may choose a family member, it is generally best to appoint someone competent from well outside the inheritance circle. Remember to ask them before assigning them the legal responsibility.

2. Care for Dependents

If you have children or pets, you will need to stipulate who they will live with after your death, and how money will be distributed to care for them. Have a meeting with the family members, ex-spouse, or friend you would like to designate as their guardian and ask them if they are up to the responsibility. This is especially important if your children are young or your pet is old, as either requires special care or attention.

3. Consider the Assets

In legal terms, your possessions are called “personal assets.” This would include your car, furniture, jewelry, and antiques. Your will needs to describe each item and name who the beneficiary will be, and the description should be detailed enough to differentiate the items. Do the same for your property. For those items you don’t care about passing on to someone, you can leave distribution up to your executor.

4. Personal Type Care

If you have any health care directives, you need to declare them in your will. This could be a detailed description of where you want to live, a living will, or a health care proxy. This is essential if your family members have strong opinions regarding how you should be taken care of and by whom.

A Will Lawyer

Contact an estate attorney or will lawyer to begin the process of creating a document that contains your final wishes. They can assist you in planning the distribution of your money, property, and possession. Your lawyer can also make sure the will is accurate and thorough.

How Much are Death Taxes?

Sacramento Trust Lawyer

Sacramento Trust Lawyer

As the old saying goes, death and taxes are the only sure things in this world. With regard to death taxes, i.e., estate taxes, both of these certainties occur at the same time.

As a Sacramento trust lawyer from a firm like Yee Law Group, PC can explain, currently, all estates having a value of over $11.7 million pay a federal estate tax of from 18% to 40% depending on the amount of the threshold overage. This $11.7 million exemption is set to fall to $5 million in 2026 unless Congress decides something different.

State Death Taxes

In addition to the federal estate tax, the following states and the District of Columbia impose their own death taxes:

  • Connecticut
  • Hawaii
  • Illinois
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Minnesota
  • New York
  • Oregon
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont
  • Washington

The exclusion amounts in these states currently range from a low of $1 million to a high of $5.74 million.

Reducing or Avoiding Estate Taxes

A well thought out estate plan, spearheaded by an experienced local estate planning lawyer, can help you reduce your estate taxes or even avoid them entirely. Some possibilities include the following:

  • Giving some of your assets away while you’re still alive
  • Placing some of them in one or more irrevocable trusts
  • Placing some of them in a charitable trust
  • Simply spending a lot of your money for your own enjoyment while you’re still alive

Making Gifts

Keep in mind that with regard to gifts, you can currently give up to $15,000 per year to as many people or entities as you wish without having to pay a federal gift tax. If you and your spouse make joint gifts, the exclusion increases to $30,000.

Unfortunately, there’s a lifetime federal gift tax exemption, but it’s a large one: currently $11.7 million for an individual and $23.4 million for a married couple. Similar to the federal estate tax, these exemption amounts will decrease to $6 million and $12 million respectively in 2026 unless Congress decides differently.

Only Connecticut and Minnesota impose their own state gift taxes.

Putting It All Together

As you might expect, setting up and implementing an effective estate plan can quickly become quite complicated depending on the extensiveness of your assets and what you wish to do with them. This is where an experienced local trust planning lawyer can be your best friend. He or she can explain the various taxes and other consequences involved and then help you construct a personalized, comprehensive estate plan that achieves your goals and objectives to the greatest extent possible – while protecting your beneficiaries from death taxes, too.

5 Essential Considerations When Forming an Estate Plan

Estate Planning Lawyer in Folsom CA

estate planning lawyer in Folsom CA

Unless you are a legal professional, the ins and outs of estate plans may be somewhat nebulous to you. You may wonder what should be included in your plan, how detailed it must be, and how it should be written. As an estate planning lawyer in Folsom CA from a firm like Yee Law Group, PC can explain, you should consider several things you must keep in mind to form a thorough estate plan.

1. Will and Testament

Your last will and testament may cover a wide range of topics. If you have children who are minors, for example, your will should designate a guardian and backup guardian for them. Additionally, your will should address all of your assets, both the tangible and intangible ones. Be sure to include your bank accounts, retirement accounts, stocks, properties, vehicles, jewelry, and other valuables. 

2. Beneficiaries

When a person dies, his or her will is frequently handled in probate court. Probate can be time-consuming and expensive, so it’s best to make your will as transparent as possible. One way to minimize confusion is to let insurance companies and financial institutions know who will be the beneficiaries of your life insurance policies and retirement accounts. You can also set up some accounts to include a transfer on death designation.

3. Trusts

Depending on the size of your estate and how you wish your assets to be distributed, you may find it beneficial to set up a trust. Trusts can either be living or testamental, meaning they can come into effect before or after your death. You can also choose to create a revocable or irrevocable trust. The latter frequently has significant tax advantages.

4. Power of Attorney

In many situations, it’s critical that someone other than yourself be able to make key decisions regarding your estate. Otherwise, people may not know how to handle difficult choices if you are ill or badly injured. Durable power of attorney allows another person to make legal and financial decisions for you. You can also grant someone medical power of attorney so he or she can make choices regarding your medical care.

5. Debts and Taxes

To ensure your family members do not experience a financial burden when you die, it’s important to account for any outstanding debts or federal estate taxes you may owe. For example, if you will be passing on a retirement account, you may wish to convert it to a Roth IRA so the beneficiary isn’t responsible for paying the taxes.

Seeing to all the details of your estate can be an overwhelming process. Be sure to consult an estate planning lawyer to make sure your final wishes are expressed clearly and that you don’t pay more taxes than necessary.

Preventing Disinherited Family Members From Contesting Your Will

Will Lawyer in Sacramento

Will Lawyer in Sacramento

Your last will and testimony are paramount to ensure that your wishes are carried out after your death. However, if you have disinherited some of your family members, it can complicate your plans, especially if one or more of them decides to contest your last wishes. As a will lawyer in Sacramento from a firm like Yee Law Group, PC can explain, there are a few things to consider to prevent your will from being contested. 

Consider Who Can Contest

Contesting a will can only be done by certain people and for certain reasons. Your spouse, children, and people mentioned in your current will or a prior will are the only ones who can contest. 

Affirm That You Are Uninfluenced and of Sound Mind

A common reason for contesting wills is the argument that the testator was not of sound mind at the time of signing. Being of sound mind does not mean you have a perfect mental capacity, but simply that you understand how much your estate is worth, who your beneficiaries are, and the impact your will may have.

Your will can also be contested if there is any suspicion that you were unduly influenced into writing it a certain way, or if someone believes that you were tricked into it. Your lawyer can provide documented proof that you deliberately wrote out and signed your own will by your own accord, and that you were of sound mind when you did it. Medical documents can also provide proof of your mental soundness. 

Have Your Will Properly Executed

Another legal reason for contesting a will is the claim that the will was not properly executed. In order to be valid, your will must be signed and witnessed according to your state laws. Have an estate planning lawyer with you every step of the process to ensure that your will is properly executed. 

Utilize the No-Contest Clause

Consider including a no-contest clause, also known as an in terrorem clause, which states that if anyone steps up to contest the will, they will receive absolutely nothing. 

Be careful when using the no-contest clause, however, as it can come with a few catches. A completely disinherited relative may consider that they have nothing to lose from challenging the no-contest clause. Consider leaving them a sum that is tempting enough to prevent them from contesting and possibly overturning the will. Also, in some states, there are exceptions to the clause which can render it pointless, while in others the no-contest clause is unenforceable. 

To prevent disinherited relatives from contesting your will, it’s imperative to have your will in order and understand your options. Contact your estate planning lawyer today to see what steps you can take to ensure that your last wishes are honored. 

Named As Executor in a Will?

Probate Attorney

The First Four Things To Do

Probate Attorney

If you’ve been named as the Executor or Executrix in the Last Will & Testament of a loved one, when they die, these are the first four things you should do:

  1. First and foremost, you need to allow yourself the time to properly grieve. This cannot be overstated. Most likely the deceased was a close relative or friend and they trusted you to properly handle their estate otherwise you wouldn’t be in this position. You should take the time to come to terms with such a loss, but take comfort in the fact that as the Executor or Executrix you have been entrusted with carrying out the deceased’s final wishes. 
  2. After allowing yourself time to grieve, you can begin your duties by collecting the original last will and testament of the deceased, a copy of the death certificate, and any information that you can obtain regarding the assets and debts of the deceased. These documents are necessary to proceed with the probate process and will serve to give you an initial albeit probably incomplete picture of the deceased’s estate, explain the lawyers from Carpenter & Lewis PLLC
  3. Next, if the deceased had any open credit card accounts, you should notify those companies that the person has passed away so that they can close the accounts. Doing this prevents the possibility of the estate incurring debt from theft or fraudulent purchases. Also in some cases closing these accounts may stop the estate from incurring further interest debt on unpaid balances. Furthermore, if you are contacted by any creditors or debt collectors you should notify them that the person passed away and that you are in the process of consulting an attorney about probating the deceased’s estate. Unless you personally are responsible for the debt, do not proceed to pay any of the deceased’s debts until you have consulted with a knowledgeable probate attorney. As the Executor or Executrix of the estate, you are not personally liable for the debts of the decedent and you should not pay these debts personally. 
  4. You should consult a knowledgeable probate attorney to help you decide how to proceed, including helping you obtain an official document from the county probate court that authorizes you to act for the estate, and to know how to conduct further communication with debt collectors and creditors of the estate.  

Any attorney can advise and help you with the probate process and in some cases, estates may not need to be probated at all. Regardless of the size or complexity of the estate, you should consult a knowledgeable probate attorney to help guide you through the process and make sure you comply with your duties pursuant to the law.  

How Your Estate Gets Handled If You Die Without a Will

Estate Attorney

Some people feel they don’t need a will because they don’t own a whole lot. Others just don’t get around to making one before they die. In any case, if you die without creating a will, things may not run as smoothly as you’d like. The following outlines what would happen to your estate if you died before creating a will.

When You Die as a Single Individual

If you’re single at the time of your death, and you also don’t have any children, your entire estate typically goes to both of your parents. If your parents have preceded you in death, your siblings and half-siblings would receive equal shares of your estate. If none of your nuclear family are still alive, nieces and nephews would receive the estate, divided equally. When there are no nieces or nephews to be found, the relatives from your mom’s family would get half of your estate, and the relatives from your dad’s family would get the other half.

If you’re single and have children, those children typically get the entire estate, divided equally. If you have a child who preceded you in death, and there’s a grandchild from that child, your grandchild would get the equal portion.

When You Die and Are Married

Anything you own jointly with your spouse will be completely your spouse’s property. If you have property you own solely, it could be split between your spouse, parents and siblings. This is only the case if you have no children. If there are children in the picture, and your current spouse is their other parent, the spouse would inherit everything. If your children’s other parent is not your current spouse, your spouse would receive half or less of your estate. The children’s other parents would receive the other portion, but it would be to care for the children.

When You Die In an Unmarried Relationship

If you have a boyfriend or girlfriend you’re living with at the time of your death, and you don’t have a will, the situation would be handled the same as if you were single. Intestacy laws don’t recognize anyone who is not a legal relative. If you’re worried about your partner being taken care of, you should either get married, make a will or set up a trust.

Making a Will to Protect Loved Ones

When you start thinking about what’s going to happen to your property after your death, it’s time to make a will. Contact an estate attorney, like the attorneys at Klenk Law  to discuss your obligations.

What Factors Determine the Terms of Alimony?

Estate Lawyer

As you may have heard from loved one and friends who have gotten divorced, the entire process can be prolonged and quite painful. The couple divorcing may have to make plenty of decisions regarding their children, shared assets, finances and more. Perhaps a very tense and complicated topic to delegate is whether a spouse should receive alimony, including how much and for how long the financial support lasts. Understandably, the divorcing couple may not be able to agree upon this decision on their own. Sometimes, a judge has to make the ultimate say about whether a spouse must make payments to the other. 

Here in the article below, we have strived to answer the question: What factors determine the terms of alimony? Please read on for more information! 

What factors may a judge take into consideration when determining alimony?

While the laws surrounding alimony between divorcing couples can greatly differ depending on where you live, there are several factors that tend to be common when alimony orders are created. When your judge chooses whether a spouse shall receive alimony, these are the common factors that can contribute to the final decision:

  • How long the couple was married (months, years, decades)
  • The age of each spouse
  • The wellbeing of each spouse (physical and emotional health)
  • The spouse’s level of financial need and to what degree the supporting spouse can make these payments
  • The standard of living that was established during the marriage
  • The potential earning capacity for each spouse (including education level)
  • Which parent has more responsibility in caring for shared children
  • The income available to each spouse from investment of assets
  • The distribution of marital property between each spouse

In what circumstances may an alimony order be changed?

It is possible that later on after the alimony order has been decided by a judge, that one or both spouses goes through a major life change. Depending on that life event, a spouse may request a modification of alimony terms. However, if there is a statement within the final alimony order or divorce judgement that does not permit alimony to be changed, then the request is likely to be denied. Here are circumstances which may necessitate a modification of an alimony order: 

  • Either spouse has recently had a huge increase or decrease in their income
  • Either spouse has had a serious change in their health status (newly developed illness or disability)
  • The spouse receiving alimony payments has gotten remarried
  • The spouse making alimony payments has become retired
  • Either spouse has become recently deceased

What if I have questions or concerns about the alimony process? 

Couples who are confused about the alimony delegation process, may turn to a legal professional familiar with these types of situations for legal support. It is normal for couples to be heartbroken and angry during the divorce. Many soon-to-be divorced spouses may find having a divorce attorney, like from Brandy Austin Law Firm, PLLC, to work on their behalf, can help lessen the weight of such an emotionally turbulent proceeding. 


Estate Planning Lawyer

When you have lost someone in your life, it can be incredibly confusing when you reach out to an attorney to figure out the next steps in probating an estate. There are so many new terms, deadlines, questions, it is a whirlwind that is not always easily understood. One of the most common questions I hear is what is an heirship? 

When someone dies without a Will in Texas, there estate will pass under the intestacy laws of the Texas Estates Code. Intestacy is merely a fancy term to show that the person died without a Will. The intestacy laws dictate that the estate is to pass to the person’s heirs. That is where the term heirship comes into play. An heirship is merely a proceeding in which a Court will make a determination of who the heirs actually are. 

Anyone who is considered an interest party can file an heirship proceeding in Texas. Typically, this interested person comes in the form of an heir who has an ownership interest in the estate itself. However, a creditor of the estate or a guardian could also be considered an interested person and could in fact file an application for heirship. The process is a complicated one, and it is strongly recommended that an applicant retain an attorney to help guide them through it. The process has many pitfalls and deadlines that are incredibly complicated. Further, many judges in Texas require that an applicant have an attorney to represent them in this process. Seeking attorney guidance can also help the applicant themselves. It is so often the case that when an applicant starts this process, it prevents them from truly grieving the loss of their loved one. Having an attorney can help get the applicant through the process quicker, which will allow them to begin grieving their loved one properly. 

Another pitfall that occurs in an heirship proceeding is understanding the deadline to file such a proceeding. Under the Texas Estates Code, if someone dies with a Will there is a limitation on filing that Will for probate. That deadline is four years from the date the person passed away. However, does this deadline apply to an heirship? Well, that depends. The Texas Supreme Court has outlined that the rule of thumb is that if a transfer of the decedent’s real property has been made to a third party or if a previous probate proceeding was filed than the four year time limit to file the proceeding does in fact apply. However, if neither of those things have occurred, then there is no time limit to file this proceeding. 

As you can see, it is not a simple process to probate a decedent’s estate. It is imperative that if you find yourself needing to file some form of a probate proceeding, that you seek legal guidance from an experienced probate attorney, like the attorneys at Brandy Austin Law Firm, PLLC

What Happens If You Die Without a Will?

Estate Planning Lawyer

A will is a legal document that describes what you wish to happen to your possessions after your death, as well as a few other legal matters. However, what happens if someone dies without a will? It is a simple question, although many people do not know the answer. This guide will go over every aspect of this question.

Dying Without a Will

The first thing you need to understand is that the answer to this question depends heavily on which state you live in. The laws vary from one state to the next, which affects the specifics. However, the broad details are the same no matter which state you live in.

Generally, if someone dies without a will, their possessions will be distributed to that person’s living heirs. This is called dying intestate. The specific way the items are distributed does depend on your local laws. You should research intestate laws in your state or speak with an estate planning attorney. Many people think of children when they hear the word “heir,” but in this case it applies to:

  • Children
  • Spouses
  • Siblings
  • Parents
  • Extended family

In some cases, it may also apply to domestic partnerships, although only certain states acknowledge domestic partnerships. Generally, the state does not give any possessions to anyone who is not related to the deceased by blood or marriage.

There is usually an order which the state follows. Sometimes a person’s spouse will receive all the possessions. If there is no spouse, living children are next in line. Without any children or a spouse, siblings and parents will usually receive the possessions equally. Extended relatives are the next ones in line after siblings and parents. If you die without a will and no living relatives, children, parents, or spouse, the state will usually claim the possessions.

Create a Will for Yourself

It is not hard to make a will for yourself and it is very important to do so. Everyone should have a will to ensure your final wishes are carried out. A will does more than just designate what should happen with your possessions. It handles a few other legal matters as well, which is just another reason to have one. The easiest way to create a will is to visit an estate planning attorney. In most cases, an estate planning attorney can create a will for you in just a few visits for a relatively small fee. Take the initiative now to be prepared for later.