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Newport Beach Estate Litigation Law Blog

What are a trustee's obligations?

One of the main responsibilities of a trustee is the fiduciary duty owed by them. This means that he or she must put the trust's interests above all other interests. Not only should the trustee preserve the trust's property and assets, but he or she should also defend the beneficiaries against legitimacy challenges. Additionally, the trustee should separate his or her own personal property from the trust's property and handle all issues with attention to detail.

However, acting as a fiduciary does not end there. Newport Beach residents may not be aware that trustees may also have discretion with regards to decisions about distributions. Taxes must also be filed and tax obligations met. Trustees must also keep records of all that is happening with their responsibilities and duties.

There is an estate planning solution for everyone

Most California residents have lost a loved one and are therefore aware of the ups and downs of trust or probate administration. They often share their personal experiences with others, and might be tempted to stretch the truth a little bit in order to make the story more interesting.

As a result, listeners may dread engaging in estate planning and may not even familiarize themselves with the concept. However, all they end up doing is depriving their loved ones of the estate they deserve to receive.

Can anyone contest a last will and testament?

Deciding to contest a will can be a serious action to take. The process can be emotional, time-consuming and expensive. It can also cause rifts in families. However, challenging a will is sometimes necessary despite the potential difficulties.

To contest a will, you must have an appropriate ground for your contest and be within the allowed time frame, but meeting these two requirements is not enough. You must also be sure you have appropriate standing to contest the will.

What is a conservatorship?

Senior citizens are the country's most vulnerable at-risk adults. As California residents grow older, they may no longer be able to manage their own affairs, due to cognitive diseases like Alzheimer's. When incapacitation robs someone of the ability to make important decision for him or herself, a conservator may be appointed for them.

A conservator is a person appointed by the court to manage an incapacitated individual's personal and financial affairs. This can range from overseeing finances to managing living arrangements and establishing physical care of the elderly patient.

Is your elderly loved one being financially abused?

California residents may not be aware that the crime of the twenty-first century is being considered elderly financial abuse. Its become increasingly rampant among aging adults, especially those who have cognitive impairments such as dementia or Alzheimer's.

Statistics show that 90% of abusers are actually trusted family members of friends. However, elderly individuals who live in social isolation or who need help with the activities of daily living are also at risk of abuse.

How can probate be avoided?

Many people may not realize how simple it is to avoid probate if they engage in timely estate planning. Taking a few steps to sit down with an experienced attorney and assess which estate planning tool can be useful given one's situation can be one method to avoid the time consuming and energy draining process that is probate.

While there is no guarantee that an estate will be free from conflict, one of the simplest methods to avoid probate is by transferring one's property.

Communication is key between trustees and beneficiaries

After the death of a loved one, actions begin almost immediately to manage the affairs of the estate. When the deceased individual incorporated a trust into their estate plan, the trustee must abide by the terms of the trust to distribute trust assets.

In California, trustees have a legal duty to inform beneficiaries of actions and progress throughout the administration of the trust. Communication between the trustee and beneficiaries is critical to ensure a smooth process. As a beneficiary, you rightfully wish to learn about key information. As a trustee, you may wish to avoid conflict and understand which matters to promptly communicate.

What are Common examples of executor misconduct?

Executors are tasked with the heavy burden of distributing the decedent's estate, making sure all the relevant taxes are paid and all the legal formalities to conclude the estate are completed. While their authority is very broad and they have a great deal of discretion in navigating the probate courts, their power is not absolute. They have limits placed on their activities by virtue of their fiduciary duty to the estate.

An executor in California, as in the rest of the country, is a fiduciary to the estate that they are in charge of. As discussed previously, this means the executor must act in the estate's best interests at all times, not in the executor's best interests. While the line between these two is often clear, often the executor is also a beneficiary and this can muddy the waters. For example, if a bequest must be changed, it has to be done in the estate's best interests, not in the executors.

Elements of undue influence

Generally speaking, it's not easy to get a court to rule a will is invalid. For the most part, as long as the will follows all the formal requirements, a court is likely to find it is enforceable.

However, there are times when interested parties have reason to believe the will does not represent the actual wishes of the departed. These parties can contest the will, arguing that it is invalid. In many cases, relatives of the deceased argue that the will is not valid because it is the product of fraud, forgery or undue influence.

Elder financial abuse or exploitation

With advances in health care, Americans are living longer lives and well into retirement. Some of these elderly people are vulnerable. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 47 million citizens are over the age of 70.

Elder exploitation or abuse is not uncommon in the U.S. This happens when someone close to an elder diverts or steals money, property or assets through fraud or deception.

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