Category: General


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.

Understanding What a Trust Is

Trust Attorney

If you are starting the process of planning your estate, it is important to know what your options are before you get started. You have two primary options:

  • A will
  • A trust

It is generally recommended that everyone has a will, although there are some things a will is not suited for. It may be a good idea to have a trust as well, to account for some of your possessions. It is common knowledge what a will is and how it works, but many people do not fully understand trusts. This guide will answer all your questions about trusts.

What Is a Trust?

Let’s start with the basics. What is a trust in the first place? A trust is essentially an agreement. If you set up a trust, you will be the benefactor. The person you make an agreement with is the trustee. And finally, the person you leave your possessions to is the beneficiary.

When you set up a trust, you transfer some of your possessions to the trustee. You also set a condition on the trust. When that condition is met, the trustee transfers the possessions to the beneficiary. If you hope to use a trust to plan your estate, the condition would likely be your death, although you can set up a trust for any reason and with any condition you want.

Why Would You Want a Trust?

So in what ways is a trust better than a will? There are advantages in a few areas:

  • Probate
  • Taxation
  • Conditions

First, a trust does not go through the probate period that a will does. Probate is usually not very long, but in rare cases where a will is improperly set up, probate can last months or years. Most of the time, however, probate only lasts a day or two or possibly a week at most. This is something you would never have to worry about with a trust.

Trusts also avoid estate taxation in most cases. The taxes a will are subject to are usually less than the fee needed to establish a trust, but this is not always the case. If you have a reason to suspect your estate will be taxed very highly, a trust may be more appealing.

Finally, you can set conditions on who receives what. For example, you can leave your grandson a car if he is old enough to drive at the time of your death. A will cannot do this. No matter what you decide, always speak with a trust lawyer.

living trust lawyer sacramento ca

Why Prince Should Have Created a Living Trust

Our living trust lawyer at Yee Law Group focuses on estate planning and assisting those in our community who wish to protect their legacy for future generations. We work one-on-one with clients to provide the information they need to make informed decisions. Everyone’s needs are different because of their unique set of circumstances. Our living trust lawyer understands this and will present options that reflect the client’s best interests. Many people are hesitant to visit a living trust lawyer to plan their estate because they do not want to consider their eventual passing. However, as the old adage says, death and taxes are unavoidable. Though Yee Law Group can’t help you avoid death, we can certainly help your heirs avoid paying unnecessary taxes.

It’s unfortunate that the iconic entertainer known as Prince did not create a living trust before he passed away. If he had, he might have enjoyed several benefits as a result, including peace of mind of knowing that the best interests of those he loved would be protected after his death. However, he serves as a great example of how prevalent it is to not plan for the future, and yet how important it is to work with a living trust lawyer to do exactly that. We encourage you to contact our office and schedule an appointment to plan your estate. If Prince had created a living trust, the following scenarios would be very different.

Substantial and Valuable Assets

The more valuable assets and cherished possessions one owns, the more important it is to consider talking to a living trust lawyer from Yee Law Group about creating an estate plan. If Prince had created a living trust that took “ownership” of his assets, he would still have had control of those assets but they would not enter into probate after his death. The probate process prevents the assets from immediately transferring ownership to the specified heirs and subjects them to tax penalties.

Control Over One’s Living Trust

As mentioned, Prince would have retained control of his assets that were transferred into a revocable living trust. If at some point during his lifetime he wished to sell one or more of those assets, it would be a straightforward process with the help of a living trust lawyer. Adding assets to the trust is also a straightforward matter. In this way, a revocable living trust provides the best of both worlds: protection from inheritance taxes and control of the assets by the trustor.

Control Over Asset Distribution

In his living will, Prince could have specified who should inherit which of his assets, much like a will. This can minimize or eliminate possible confusion, angst, or anger about who should receive which assets, and how much of each asset such as cash, jewelry, vintage clothing, musical instruments, etc. When the deceased’s final wishes are clear in the form of a living trust, there is less likelihood of someone challenging it.

Yee Law Group: We Can Make the Future More Secure

To learn more about living trusts and whether or not they are the right solution for you and your heirs, contact our office today. Our living trust lawyer in Sacramento, CA will be pleased to provide you more information.

Real Asset Attorney Sacramento, CA

How to Avoid Probate

There are several tools that an estate planning attorney has to offer clients when it comes to estate planning, including wills and living trusts. A will is a document that is drawn up where a person states how they want their assets and property divided when they pass away. When a person dies, the will is then placed in probate. Probate is the legal process where the validity of the will is confirmed – or denied – by the court.

As a probate attorney from Yee Law Group can attest, many clients do not want their estate to go through the probate process. For those clients, we often recommend living trusts.

A trust is a legal tool that allows an individual to possess property for the benefit of another. When a person sets up a trust and places assets or property into the trust, they stop being the owner of those assets or property, but they still maintain control over it. A trustee is chosen to control and oversee the trust, and at some point in the future, often upon the death of the person who set up the trust, the beneficiary who the trust is set up for will receive the assets.

Living trusts are a popular choice for many of our clients because you can transfer the assets or property from yourself, as the owner of the assets, to yourself, as the trustee. When you pass away, the assets of the trust will be distributed to the beneficiary and there is absolutely no requirement of the probate process.

Your estate planning attorney can help you set up a living trust, as well as prepare all the documents needed to transfer the property you choose into the trust. Some of the property our clients have placed in living trusts include money, stocks, bonds, vehicles, and real estate.

There are many benefits to a living trust. Some of the more common include the following:

  •       As mentioned above, using a living trust to leave assets to beneficiaries avoids the probate process. There is not delay in the transfer in the property with a trust, unlike probate, which can take up to a year or more before an heir receives their inheritance. There is also the expense of probate, which can be avoided with a trust. And the whole process is private, unlike the probate process which is entered into the public record.
  •       Control: With a living trust, you maintain complete control over the assets contained inside the trust. A living trust can be changed or canceled at any time. You are not locked into it. This also means you can use the funds for your own use if you choose.
  •       Tax relief: A living trust can often help lower the amount of estate taxes that are due when a person dies.
  •       Almost challenge-proof: Unlike a will, which people can contest, a trust is usually much more difficult to challenge.

Contact Yee Law Group today!

Generation Skipping Trust

Estate Lawyer

When a person dies, they often make legal arrangements to pass their assets and property to their loved ones. Estate taxes that will need to be paid depends on how much the estate is worth. In some cases, the amount of tax owed to the government can be as much as 40 percent or more of the estate.

There are steps a person can take to avoid their estate being walloped by estate taxes. One of the most effective ways to do this is by reducing just how much the estate is worth. This can be done by creating a generation skipping trust. An estate planning attorney, like an estate lawyer in Sacramento, CA, can evaluate your situation and determine if this is one of the many estate planning tools available that will help protect your family when you are no longer here. Call our office today to set up a consultation to find out how we can help. In the meantime, the following is a brief overview of generation skipping trusts.

How a Generation Skipping Trust Works

One way people avoid paying estate taxes is by making yearly gifts to their heirs. These amount limits are set by the IRS and are usually increased by $1,000 every year or two. As of the date of this publication, the cap on the amount of yearly gifts a person can give to an heir is $15,000. This can be done each year, to as many heirs as the person wants, and no tax is owed. The IRS does set a lifetime gifting amount cap and once it is reached, the estate tax laws will apply.

Many people do use the yearly giving method, giving gifts to children and grandchildren, however, if the reach the lifetime cap amount, this is no longer a viable way to avoid estate taxes. Instead, setting up a generation skipping trust – which skips the individual’s children and sets the trusts up for the grandchildren – may be the better way to go.

Am I Eligible?

A person can set up generation skipping up trusts for their grandchildren and also for anyone not related to them, as long as that beneficiary is at least 37 years younger than they are. The beneficiary cannot be the person’s spouse or ex-spouse. Generation skipping trusts do not leave out the person’s children entirely, however, since they can use the profits that are produced by the assets that have been placed in the trust.

Contact an Estate Planning Attorney

Although your estate may not be the size that would benefit or even need a generation skipping trust, there are other types of trusts that may benefit you for other factors that you need to address to protect your assets and property, including special needs trust, pet trusts, and charitable giving trusts. Call an estate planning attorney today to find out more.

Contact Yee Law Group to learn more about estate planning.

Folsom Estate Lawyer

An Introduction to Estate Planning

No matter how much money or property you own, you have an estate. Some people may believe that estate planning is more suitable for those who have a large sum in the bank and several properties. However, this is not the case, as the intention of estate planning is not about how much you have, but ensuring your legacy is handled in the way you wish after death. Your estate entails everything you own, such as a home, vehicle, real estate, art collection, furniture, jewelry, and personal possessions. Regardless of how substantial or modest your estate, this will not go with you after you pass on. So, it can help out your family to have a plan already created for how you want these items and amounts to be distributed.

Q: What is the overall goal of estate planning?

A: Estate planning is a great way to leave behind instructions for what amount, and to whom you want your belongings to be distributed. To accomplish this, you can create an estate plan that includes who is to receive a portion of your assets, what exactly you want them to receive, and when you want them to receive it. So all in all, estate planning is providing directions in advance for what happens to your things after passing on.

Q: What usually is included within an estate plan?

A: There are so many factors to consider when establishing your estate plan. Many people confide with a lawyer who is familiar with family law for guidance. Not only must a person write an estate plan, but it must be signed and legally-binding. A lawyer can oversee this process to help prevent against any problems happening with your plan after death. A thorough estate plan often includes the following:

  • Directions for how to pass on your valuables
  • Preferences for health care if you become disabled or incapacitated, and are unable to communicate your wishes
  • Name of a guardian for minor children and pets
  • Provide support for loved ones with special needs, without impacting government benefit eligibility
  • Provide support for family members who may not be responsible with money, or who need protection from divorce or creditors in the future
  • Life insurance policy to support your family if you were to become disabled, injured, or come down with an extended illness
  • Include instructions for transferring your business after retirement, death or in the event of disability
  • Minimize or eliminate taxes, court fees, and other legal expenses

Q: Is writing an estate plan just a one-time thing?

A: Once a person creates an estate plan, it is important to keep updating it as life circumstances change. For example, an estate plan may need review after a divorce, marriage, children are born, more assets are accumulated, or relationship dynamics change. It is suggested that a person revisits their estate plan every few years, unless a major life change happens before that. It can help to have a lawyer review an estate plan as well, for suggestions and potential edits.

Contact Yee Law Group today!

cemetery path bench

Can I Challenge a Will or Estate Plan in Court?

What do Aretha Franklin, Michael Jackson, John Denver, Prince, Heath Ledger, Martin Luther King Jr. and Howard Hughes have in common? Certainly, each has contributed to American culture in profound ways. But they also share the distinction of having passed away without first drafting an enforceable will. When a loved one dies without articulating explicit desires related to the care of his or her estate, the resulting aftermath can be chaotic. And even if a loved one has created an estate plan, if he or she dies without having updating that plan over time, it may not reflect accurate estate-related wishes at the time of his or her death.

The law does have procedures in place which allow judges to pass along property from the estate of a deceased individual to his or her descendants and others protected under the law. But not all estates are ultimately handled in a straightforward manner. Numerous factors may impact the process of probate, which is why judges are empowered to evaluate important information and claims brought forward by those who may be invested in the outcome of how an individual’s estate is ultimately processed.

If you have an interest in a loved one’s estate and believe that the estate is not being handled properly, you may be able to bring a claim in court. You may be able to enforce your inheritance rights, insist that your loved one’s property be handled in a specific way or stand in opposition to another individual’s legal claim. Please consider connecting with our firm so that we may advise you of your available options. Once we learn about your situation, we will be able to answer any questions you have about the law, probate claims and/or our approach to representation.

It is generally a good idea to reach out to an estate planning and probate attorney as soon as you suspect that something is not right with the way a loved one’s estate is being handled. Legal options tend to become more limited over time, as the law generally only allows estate-related challenges to be filed for a certain length of time following the death of an individual.

It is also worth noting that not everyone has legal standing to challenge the contents of a will/estate plan in court. However, if you are invested in a loved one’s estate and believe that you may be entitled to inheritance rights and/or a say in how that loved one’s estate is processed, it is best to seek legal guidance before determining that you should or should not move forward with legal action.

Estate Planning and Probate Assistance Is Available

If you have concerns regarding the estate of a loved one, please consider reaching out to our firm today. We have extensive experience related to the processes of estate planning and probate and we would be happy to speak with you about your situation.

Legal options in estate-related cases are not always straightforward. However, ensuring that a loved one’s wishes are properly respected and enforced is a noble goal and a goal that the law ultimately aims to achieve when possible. Once we learn about the details of your unique circumstances, we will be best placed to guide you as you make informed decisions about your situation. Regardless of whether you ultimately choose to take legal action, we are here to help in whatever way we can.

Contingency Probate Attorney Roseville, CA

Two Approaches for Estate and Trust Litigation

There are a couple approaches that can be used in attempt to resolve estate or trust disputes. At Yee Law Group, PC, we have found that these approaches can be very helpful, especially during such a sensitive time filled with emotions and grief. After a loved one passes away, they leave behind a legacy. This legacy that can be carried on for generations to come may include property, belongings, special treasures and even monetary amounts. Disputes over how a trust is handled or to be distributed is very common. Even if the loved one who passed on was very detailed and thorough in their trust, an unhappy beneficiary or relative may request the trust to be contested anyways. When a trust is contested, this means the person believes the estate is somehow not accurate or lacks validity.

In this article, we cover a couple approaches to litigation that can help resolve an estate or trust related disagreement.

#1 The Traditional Approach

Generally, finding solutions over disputes regarding an estate or trust often means going through litigation. When a disagreement arises, it commonly is due to the party not trusting the appointed executor, not fully comprehending the estate administration process, are unsure about their rights or duties, or do not have faith that their interests are protected. During the litigation process, an attorney is often hard at work to help their client gather supportive evidence, attend hearings and provide witness testimonies. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for each side of the litigation to grow in hostility, resentments and perhaps even an outright destruction of an amicable relationship. An attorney at Yee Law Group, PC can handle the litigation proceedings with tact, diligence and compassion.

#2 Mediation

During mediation, there is an unbiased and neutral third party (mediator), who meets with the opposing parties regarding the disagreement. The intention is for the mediator to help these parties reach a resolution that they are both happy with. An attorney at Yee Law Group, PC can even be of help when trying to find a middle ground between each side. It can take up to one, or multiple meetings before a solution is found. The mediator is trained to help each side find a common ground and work through their opposition. Attorneys are not required to assist in the mediation process, but it can help to have a legal professional on your side working for you behind the scenes. Sometimes, a judge actually requires the two parties to attend mediation before litigation may begin. If for any reason a settlement is not reached during mediation, then litigation is to continue. If one or both parties are unwilling to cooperate, then mediation will likely fail fairly quickly.

At Yee Law Group, PC, we believe in protecting the rights of people and helping them find peace during an estate dispute. Not only is this time particularly fragile due to healing from the loved one’s passing, but now there must be the added stress of a legal battle. Let us help you get through this turbulent time.

What Happens if this Case Settles after Client Passes Away?

Lawyers, let’s say you represent a woman for a bodily injury claim in connection with a car accident.  The claim won’t resolve itself, so you file suit in a court of competent jurisdiction, serve the Defendant, and begin the discovery process.

At some point prior to trial, your client passes away due to unrelated causes.  However, her husband and three children come into your office subsequent to her death, and the five of you reach a settlement with the insurer.

Probate and Personal Injury Lawyer Little Rock, AR

How do you resolve the case and distribute the settlement proceeds?  The good news is that most jurisdictions won’t require you to substitute the party in the civil case, nor will the court require you to even ask for a stay of proceedings or leave of court to resolve probate issues.  However, you will need some expertise in probate matters in order to move forward.

Since the check cannot be made out to the decedent, you will need to initiate probate proceedings to have a special or personal representative appointed, and then you will have to have the settlement approved by both the civil court and the probate court.  If your client’s husband and all three children are in agreement with the settlement, prepare a Waiver of Notice and Consent to Settlement for each of them to sign and file of record in the probate matter.  If the decedent’s home is a probate asset, you will need full probate administration in most states.

Yes, you will need to prepare the family that this is a process, and that it will require some additional filing fees and hearings, and it may even require you bringing on a probate attorney if you don’t feel comfortable in the realm of decedent’s estates.  However, this will be the only way you can fully resolve this for your client’s family and close out the open civil case.  And, of course, if your client passes away prior to trial, nothing prevents you from having a personal representative appointed, substituting in the estate for the Plaintiff, and going to trial.

For these reasons, it is always smart to associate a veteran litigator and experienced trial lawyer who has been involved in these particular issues in personal injury and probate cases.  If you or a loved one has been injured or killed due to someone else’s negligence, contact a trusted attorney today.