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    Category Archives: Probate

    How You Hold Title To Your Home Really Matters

    You probably remember being asked how you want to take title to your home when you were finalizing the escrow process. Making sure you properly hold title to your home is critical to preserving favorable tax treatment and avoiding a long and expensive court-process when you pass away.

    Here are the options for taking title to your home, and the pros and cons for each option:

    Sole Ownership. This means only you would own the home and be on title, so that won’t work if you want to make sure the home automatically passes to someone else upon your death.

    Tenants in Common. This means you and another person would each own one-half of the home, and either of you could give your half away to someone else without the others permission. Plus, if one of you passes away, the other person would have to go through a long and expensive court process known as probate to get rights to the other half of the home.

    Joint Tenancy. This means you and another person would each own one-half of the home, and if one of you passes away, the other person automatically has all rights to the home. The downside is that owning the home this way can trigger negative tax consequences following a death, plus the home still ends up in probate after the survivor of you passes away.

    Community Property with Right of Survivorship. This means you and your spouse own the home together, and if one of you passes away the surviving spouse automatically has all rights to the home. Plus, you would have very favorable tax treatment following a death. The downside though is the home still ends up in probate after the second spouse passes away.

    Revocable Living Trust. Having Josh or Laura Meier prepare this legal document for you, or amend and restate your outdated trust, allows you to own your home in trust and have it automatically pass to a surviving spouse or whoever you choose. Tax treatment is favorable following your death, and the trust allows you to completely avoid a long and expensive court process known as probate, saving tens of thousands of dollars and avoiding unnecessary turmoil for your loved ones.

    Keep in mind that even if you originally took title in the same of your trust, sometimes it can inadvertently come out of trust during a refinance.

    If you would like a free copy of your deed for your California Property, call our friendly Meier Law Firm Client Services Director, Bonnie Johnson at (949) 718-0420 and mention this article. You must contact us before June 1, 2017 for this free service.

    Or, to set up a revocable living trust for your family, and hold title to your home the best way, call your Newport Beach estate planning attorneys, Josh and Laura Meier at (949) 718-0420 and request a planning session to get started.

    Brooke Astor Estate Settles – Lessons Learned For Estate Planners

    Brooke Astor’s only son saw his inheritance slashed in half and had his control of the estate’s powerful charitable contributions stripped away as part of a settlement that ended a bitter, five-year dispute over the family’s millions.

    One of the more public and famous estate law cases just ended after five years in probate. Yes, the estate of Brooke Astor is now closed after a settlement was finally reached. In the end, her 87- year-old son saw his anticipated inheritance divided by two and his control over influential charitable interests stripped away.

    None other than The New York Times followed the Astor case and covered the settlement in a recent article titled Settlement in Battle Over Astor Estate Is Reached.

    At the crux of the case was the son’s stealing from his mother’s wealth (the son and her attorney were both convicted, sentenced and remain free pending appeal) and arranging for the revision of her Last Will when she already was suffering from dementia.

    Originally, Ms. Astor’s Last Will left massive philanthropic gifts from her $100 million estate. However, later versions were revised to leave such massive bequests to her son instead. In the end, the court found these later revisions to be more the product of duress than volition, and her son now receives a paltry $14.5 million.

    I would recommend the original article for more on the Astor family and the intrigue surrounding the estate (and its planning).

    Certainly, there are lessons to be learned from this case. The main lesson I would draw is that substantial estate changes later in life tend to draw substantial scrutiny when the estate must be administered.

    Reference: The New York Times (March 28, 2012) “Settlement in Battle Over Astor Estate Is Reached

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