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How Much Control Do You Need? Revocable V. Irrevocable Trusts

What’s the difference between a revocable and an irrevocable trust? As an attorney, I often hear this question, usually with the person who’s asking adding something along the lines of: I know what the words mean, but what are the implications for each? Simply put, what distinguishes the two is how much control you retain over your assets. But then, once you reach a certain level of wealth, things get […]

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Legacies of The Mind: Intellectual Property and Estate Planning

Did you come up with the logo, symbol or slogan for your company? Do you create computer code or designs dwellings? Are you an inventor, a choreographer or a writer? If so, you are probably aware that you own intellectual property and that you can protect your rights to its exclusive use by registering it with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. So far, so good. But here’s my […]

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Lump Sums, Incentives and Second Chances: How to Structure Trust Fund Distributions

Only one day after the unexpected death of Robin Williams last week, the celebrity news website TMZ reported on details of a trust that the actor apparently had created in 2009. Representatives for Williams’ estate later clarified that the documents are no longer valid. But the purported content of that plan highlights some options for passing on wealth to the next generation. TMZ wrote that Williams had stipulated that the […]

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The State of Your Estate: Transparency Rules

Do you know which two topics Americans find hardest to talk about? It’s money and death. A recent survey from Wells Fargo revealed that 44 percent of sampled adults ranked personal finances as the most difficult topic to discuss with others. Almost as many, 38 percent, named death first. Discussions around politics, religion, taxes and personal health all ranked as easier. In estate planning, our reluctance to talk about money […]

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Trusts and Other Tools: When a Minor Inherits

In California, minors cannot own property above $5,000 outright until they are 18 years old. The rule makes sense, of course: Teenagers are rarely mature enough to manage large sums of money wisely. The question is, how does this law affect your estate plan? What will happen to the assets you leave to your child if he or she is still a minor when you die? The answer is surprisingly […]

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Life is Always in Flux: When To Amend Your Estate Plan

When did you last revisit your estate plan? Never? Years ago? There are at least two reasons why you might want to think about taking a new look at your documents: your life may have changed significantly, and new tax or trust laws could have affected your estate plan without you even realizing it. Events that should prompt you to amend your documents obviously include a change in your marital […]

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An Estate Planning Essential: Guardianship For a Minor

When our son was born one of my and my wife’s first priorities was to make sure he would still be in good hands if something happened to us. What were the chances that both of us would be unable to take care of him? It didn’t matter. As a lawyer I knew what our options were: we could appoint a guardian for our son via our estate plan, or […]

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The Attics of Life: Picking an Executor For Your Estate

I don’t generally follow the lives and scandals of celebrities. But when the death of a prominent personality sets off estate planning debates I’m all ear. Such was the case when actor Paul Walker died last November (see my blog post here) and again when the Los Angeles Times recently published an article about the tax debt for the estate of Michael Jackson. Some background information: after Jackson’s death in June […]

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Estate Planning: New Opportunities For Same-Sex Marriages

When the Supreme Court struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act, also known as DOMA, as unconstitutional last June, the world of federal rights, protections and benefits fundamentally changed for married same-sex couples. From Social Security and visiting rights to consumer and housing benefits, all areas of life have been affected. Estate planning is no exception. It was, in fact, at the heart of the case that initiated […]

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Too Young For An Estate Plan? Think Again!

After Paul Walker died in a car crash last November two questions went viral on the web: What will happen to Fast & Furious 7, the film the action movie hero was last working on, and who will inherit the 40-year-old’s fortune of $45 million? Walker, it seems, did not have an estate plan, meaning things between his loved ones might get contentious. Whatever the outcome in Walker’s case may […]

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