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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.

Documents You Will Need When Creating a Will

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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.

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The Two Ways a Person Can Benefit From Having a Conservator 

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Those who are looking for ways to help their loved ones who are aging seniors or have mental capacity disabilities can talk with an attorney about conservatorship.

As an estate planning lawyer Sacramento CA from a firm like Yee Law Group can explain, there are two ways that you can assist your loved one, including establishing an Advanced Health Care Directive or Durable Power of Attorney. With such documents, the person in question (whether they’re disabled, or just getting older) has chosen another person to make decisions for them related to financial or medical care. 

However, there are sometimes situations in which having a person sign these documents isn’t possible due to a severe mental disability or undue influence. Conservatorship can be a useful tool in such circumstances. 

What Conservatorship Does

The most effective way to help a senior or person with mental capacity issues is to complete legal documents that ensure their protection. To get a conservatorship, you have to petition a request to the court that states you are interested in being someone’s conservator.

Your attorney can provide you with the necessary documents to submit this request. Once approved, as a conservator you are permitted to act on behalf of the conservatee for many of life’s very important situations if they were to arise. 

There are two different types of conservatorship that you will have to choose from: 

Conservatorship of the Person

People who struggle with mental capacity problems may not have an understanding of how to take care of their health. The court shall approve a conservatorship request if they feel that the conservatee is unable to make decisions related to their health by themselves.

As a Conservator of the Person, you can make choices about the conservatee’s medical care. For example, you can decide where they will live, help them get prescriptions, agree to treatments, etc. For someone who has severe mental challenges, having a conservator can ensure they have the optimum health possible. In critical situations, a conservator can save a person’s life. 

Conservatorship of the Estate

In some cases, the court will fulfill the request of a person wanting conservatorship if they believe that the conservatee cannot handle their money or is vulnerable to undue influence.

As Conservator of the Estate, you have the ability to make choices for the conservatee that are of a financial nature. For instance, you can manage their assets, sell real property, and invest liquid assets. As a lawyer may tell you, there tends to be more complicated laws for being a conservator of another’s estate. The reason for these stricter protections is so the conservator doesn’t mishandle the conservatee’s funds for their own benefit. 

If you have a loved one who needs additional support as a result of getting older or from a mental disability, consider meeting with a law firm right away for help. By reaching out to an estate planning lawyer today, you can reserve a free consultation with a dedicated lawyer at your earliest convenience. 

silhouette of family at sunset

7 Things Your Estate Plan Might Have Missed

No matter your life circumstance, including your age and health status, it’s never too early to think about estate planning. Yet, many people put off creating or updating an estate plan.

 

Drafting an estate plan that covers all your bases can be challenging, as life circumstances are ever-changing. If you want to make it easier for your loved ones and ensure that your wishes are carried out after your death, consider adding these commonly overlooked items to your estate plan.

  • Plan for incapacity

“Planning for incapacity” means meeting with your estate plan attorney and preparing the legal documents required in the event an illness or accident leaves you unable to manage your finances, pay your bills, or attend to other personal and business matters. Don’t merely focus on what happens to your assets when you’re gone. Make a plan for incapacity. A Durable Medical Power of Attorney, Living Will, and/or Durable General Power of Attorney could come in handy if you are temporarily or permanently unable to do so yourself.

  • Consider asset management for children

Children, particularly minor children, are primary concerns when choosing estate planning options. You want to ensure your assets will transition smoothly to your children. How you do that will likely depend on whether they are adults, minors, or even special needs children. Consider how to manage any inheritance or assets they would receive upon your death. A revocable living trust can be a handy estate planning tool here.

  • Organize and identify digital assets

Digital assets are everything from domain names and electronically stored photos and videos to email and social media accounts. It’s essential to understand the terms of use regarding access and control of this data. Make a list of digital assets and passwords. Back up data stored in the cloud. And work with an attorney to provide consent in legal documents. 

  • Build in divorce protection

The end of a marriage often means that estate plans need to be reviewed, revised, and replaced. Estate planning after divorce must address your entire estate plan, including your legal documents and financial accounts.

  • Review and update your estate plan periodically

Once you have an estate plan, it never expires. However, it does need to be reviewed and updated regularly to keep it current with your life and applicable laws. An outdated estate plan could be challenged in probate court more easily or create unnecessary tensions between your loved ones. Make sure your estate is ready for anything life throws at you.

  • Review ever-changing tax exemptions

As major life events occur and things change, estate and gift tax rules and state death tax rules can be challenging to predict. Tax exemptions can affect your estate and its heirs, especially around lifetime gifting. If you have wealth or property, review your tax exemption options to lessen any potential financial burdens.

  • Seek expert guidance

Estate planning is a daunting process, one that can turn out to be disastrous if done incorrectly. Trying to save money by drafting your own plan could be more costly in the long run. You could overlook many things. 

 

Working with an expert can help you avoid catastrophic issues. The estate planning attorneys at Yee Law Group want to help and guide you through the challenging estate planning process. Contact us to schedule a consultation about your estate planning needs.

3 Reasons You Need Estate Planning

As adults, to-do lists seem to get longer and longer. There are too many things to do and too few hours in the day. Planning for the future may be something that gets put at the end of the list time after time, and it may be one of those things that you seem to never get around to. However, it is very important that you do some type of estate planning. Every adult should have a will that explains what will happen to their possessions and family in the event of an untimely death. While it can seem like something that will never happen, it is better to be prepared instead of taking the risk.

Preparing for the Unexpected

If you go to work, you likely have to drive to and from your work site every day. You may have health problems that go undiagnosed for years. There is no way to completely accident-proof your life. The unexpected can happen at any time and leave your family wondering how they should handle your end-of-life affairs. When you have this already done, it can make a difficult time less burdening.

Protecting Minor Children

Every parent should be concerned about what will happen to minor children if the parents die unexpectedly. There should be written instructions for who the child will live with and how the child’s inheritance will be allotted. When these things are not clearly outlined, there can be confusion and disorder when placing the children with a relative. You should also make sure that the person you appoint as your child’s guardian is aware and willing to accept that role if necessary.

Leaving a Legacy

If you do not have a family, you may wonder why it is important to plan what will happen to your estate upon your death. However, estate planning gives you the opportunity to leave a legacy for yourself. You can donate your life earnings to a charity that you feel passionate about, and you can have the peace of mind that your life’s work will have meaning even after you are gone.

While your to-do list is always getting longer, it is important that you prioritize the care of your family after you are gone. If you have been putting off estate planning, do not wait any longer. Contact a lawyer, like an estate planning lawyer from Wiseman Bray Attorneys, today to make arrangements for your legacy after you are gone and you will have the peace of mind that comes with it.

Seven Questions to Ask if You Slip and Fall

If you are ever involved in a slip and fall accident, make sure that you or someone you are with asks these questions as soon as possible:

What caused you to fall?

You need to know what exactly caused you to fall. Try to get as much information as you can from the property owner or manager, any employees if you are at a business, and anyone around you when you fell. In all cases, try to get as many photos of whatever caused you to fall. When gathering information, keep these things in mind:

  • If you slipped in something liquid, try to find out what exactly it was. If you can’t know for sure, try to write down a description notating things like color, feel (was it sticky, slimy, thick, watery, soapy, etc.), and odor. Write down an estimate of the size of the wet area.
  • If you tripped over something, try to find out exactly what it was. Write down an estimate of its size. If it was a cord or something similar, try to find out where it came from and what it was connected to.
  • If you fell because of something broken or damaged, try to find out exactly what it was. Try to write down the specific way it was broken or damaged. If you can, find out what caused it to break or become damaged. Try to find out if it was somehow defective. If at all possible, keep and preserve whatever it was that caused you to fall.

How did it get there?

No matter what it was that caused you to fall, you need to know how it got to where it was. Try to talk to as many people in the area as you can—if you are in a place with a lot of people, someone else may have information that the owner or manager may not know or be willing to say. Answering this question may be difficult, especially if you are in a place with a lot of people.

How long has it been there? 

It is important to establish a timeframe for whatever caused you to fall. A property owner or manager may not be liable for injuries if there was not enough time for them to discover and fix a dangerous situation. This may be a difficult question to answer, especially if the property owner or manager says that they did not know that something was wrong. Try to talk to as many people in the area as you can—if you are in a place with a lot of people, someone else may have information that the owner or manager may not know or be willing to say. If no one can tell you how long it had been there before you fell, do your best to estimate. See if there is any evidence that might suggest that it had been there for a while.

Who knew about it?

The property owner or manager may be liable for your fall if they or someone that works for them knew about the dangerous situation and did not adequately try to fix it. If you can, talk to the property owner or manager and get an explanation from them. Do not be surprised if they say that they did not know that something was wrong. Try to talk to as many people in the area as you can—if you are in a place with a lot of people, someone else may have information that the owner or manager may not know or be willing to say. If you are in a place that has security cameras, ask if you can view the security footage, but don’t be surprised if the answer is no.

Who saw your fall?

If there were any witnesses, make sure to get as much information from them as possible, especially their name and their contact information. Ask any witnesses if they would write, text, or email you a statement of what they saw. If you are in a place that has security cameras, ask if you can view the security footage, but don’t be surprised if the answer is no. If any incident reports or witness statements are taken by the property owner or manager, ask if you can have a copy, but don’t be surprised if the answer is no.

Which insurance covers them? 

If you can talk to the property owner or manager, ask them what insurance coverage they have. Make sure to write down as much information regarding their insurance as you can, including the name of their insurance carrier, their policy limits, their policy number, and the name and phone number for their adjuster. If it is a business or government entity, try to get as much information for their corporate offices or their risk management department, including an address and telephone number.

What evidence can you keep?

Make sure to keep as much evidence as you can. Try to take as many photos as you can of the area where you fell, whatever caused you to fall, and your injuries. Make sure to write down the names and contact information of everyone that you talk to. If you are in a place that has security cameras, ask if you can view the security footage. Ask any witnesses if they would write, text, or email you a statement of what they saw. If any incident reports or witness statements are taken by the property owner or manager, ask if you can have a copy. If at all possible, keep and preserve whatever it was that caused you to fall.

If you were injured in a slip and fall accident and you believe the property owner or manager could be responsible, schedule an appointment with an attorney to discuss your options. Premises liability is a complex area of law and finding a good lawyer, like a personal injury lawyer from Brandy Austin Law Firm, PLLC, will be crucial to pursuing a claim against a property owner and their insurance company.

3 Reasons You Need an Estate Plan

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Planning for your future can be exciting, especially if it’s something you are looking forward to. However, some tasks that come along with being an adult are not always so uplifting. Crafting an estate plan is something that everyone should do as soon as they own property or any other kind of asset. Once you have children, the stakes of dying without a plan in place are higher and may place an undue burden on your family. Review four reasons why you need to create a plan for what happens after you die.

  1. You Get To Make the Choices

One of the most important reasons you should have an estate plan is it allows you to choose who gets what in many cases. If you are married, much of your estate will pass to your spouse. It is also likely that you will have a joint will. However, even in this case, you can document personal items you wish given to specific people. For example, an heirloom from your mother may be better suited in the care of a sibling.

  1. You Can Decide End of Life Decisions

An estate plan is not only about what happens after your death. Some of the most important elements it should include are about what happens to you before you pass. End of life plans are essential to memorialize in legal documents. Doing this cuts through the confusion and helps defuse tense situations at an emotionally trying time, as a trusted Memphis, TN estate planning lawyer like one from Wiseman Bray Attorneys PLLC can explain. Documents that will help include things such as a living will or advanced medical directive and financial power of attorney. Both appoint the person whom you entrust to make end-of-life medical decisions. The financial power of attorney grants someone access to your finances if you become incapacitated. If you are married, a power of attorney usually passes to your spouse, but you can designate someone else.

  1. You Can Help Offset Uncle Sam

Taxes may do a great deal of harm to your heirs should you die either without a will or if you don’t handle your property correctly. An estate planning lawyer or financial advisor can help explain how helpful establishing trusts can be both while you’re alive and after you die. Any property moved out of your name and into a trust is no longer a tax liability. When you die, the trust is assumed by the beneficiary, who receives the property outside of probate.

Estate planning is crucial to ensuring your family is cared for when the unthinkable happens. An estate planning lawyer in your area can better provide guidance on traversing these decisions.

Do You Need a Wrongful Death Lawyer?

Losing a loved one to negligence might procure a broad range of emotions that include grief, anger, confusion, and more. You might be so overwhelmed that you struggle to cope with your situation. You might be so preoccupied with your loss that you feel as if you cannot focus or think about anything else. At some point, you might ask yourself whether or not you should ask a wrongful death lawyer to review your case. You may also feel that you don’t have the mental strength to proceed with any legal action. As empathetic wrongful death lawyers, we have known of clients in a situation like this which is why we offer emotionally sensitive-based consultations in our office or, sometimes, in a mutual place that is comfortable for you. 

Many of our cases involve a personal injury and wrongful death claim. Our experience in these areas of the law is considerably broad. Due to the nature of wrongful death cases, our lawyers are ready to provide you with a compassionate, supportive consultation that will be mindful of your emotions.

Should You File a Wrongful Death Claim?

After losing a loved one, you might wonder whether you should file a wrongful death claim. We know of many families who found a sense of closure after doing so, and we encourage you to consider whether this might be possible for you as well. A claim cannot bring your loved one back. However, compensation might help to make your life easier. You may be able to take some time to focus on recovering and healing. Some families will choose to use the compensation to make a difference in the lives of others or petition the government to make changes in legislation. 

In general, most wrongful death claims are settled out of court through negotiations that are handled by your wrongful death lawyer and the defense. In the event of negotiations being unsuccessful, or the death was a part of a class-action lawsuit, the case may be filed as a lawsuit rather than a claim. The process of a lawsuit is different than a claim and will need to be handled by a wrongful death lawyer. What is applicable, or likely, for your case will largely depend on the circumstances of what happened. In any case, damages for the following may be sought:

  • Medical expenses prior to the death
  • Funeral and burial costs
  • Loss of earning capacity
  • Loss of income
  • Loss of companionship
  • Loss of consortium
  • Emotional anguish
  • Physical pain

In very select cases, a lawyer will seek punitive damages. In general, this is only applicable when a malicious act or gross negligence caused the death. Punitive damages are meant to punish the defendant and are often significant. It is important to understand that the value of your case cannot be estimated without knowing more details.

 Animal Attacks

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Believe it or not animal attacks in the United States are fairly common. Just in the United States alone, the estimated number of animal attacks per year is around 4.5 million. And in some states, such as Texas, animal attacks are one of the main health concerns for hospitals. It’s important to remember when these animal attacks happen it isn’t only coyotes or hogs. Household pets like cats and dogs are also big contributors to this problem, this is where the law gets involved. 

If a dog or a cat is owned by someone, in most cases the owner can be held liable for the damage done by their pet, whether it was done on another person, or even another person’s pet. It’s important to take into consideration that animal attack laws vary by state. For instance, Texas has a “one-bite-rule”. This means the owner of a dog cannot be held liable for any injuries their dog has caused the first time their dog bites a person or someone else’s pet. But there are exceptions to the one-bite-rule — three to be exact. 

The first exception is if the dog owner knew the dog had the potential to bite someone. An example of this is when a dog is often standoffish with new people, or if their dog starts to growl and bare its teeth at a person minutes before attacking. The second exception to this rule is if the dog owner is negligent or encouraged the dog to bite the other person, this would apply if someone commanded their dog to hurt or attack you. 

The third and final exception to this rule is if the dog owner violated an animal control law, like not keeping the dog on a leash while taking it on a walk at the park. 

The only other way to take legal action against an animal attack (from a household pet owner) is if the person who was wounded acquires a personal injury attorney and presses criminal charges against the pet owner. This can only be applied if the dog attacked the person unprovoked and left serious bodily injury. If the owner is found guilty of their dog’s actions, then he or she will be charged with a third-degree felony. A felony of this caliber is punishable by two to 10 years in prison, and they may be given a fine of up to $10,000. Moreover, if the person who was attacked dies, the owner can be charged with up to a second-degree felony, with more prison time and a higher fine amount.

Despite animal attacks being somewhat common in the United States, attacks from household pets like dogs or cats can be almost just as dangerous as those from wild animals. When bitten by a household pet, the person who has been attacked must take the best course of action they can after the event occurs. Whether that be to brushing it off and moving on from the incident, of course, if there was no major injury that was caused during the attack or to get a personal injury lawyer from a law firm like Brandy Austin Law Firm, PLLC, and discuss the incident with them to understand the best course of action to take. Even in Texas, where there is a one-bite-rule, if serious damage has been done, do not hesitate to contact a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible.