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Blended families are families with children from multiple marriages or relationships. This type of family has a number of unique estate planning considerations that California residents should consider.

Having an updated will

It is especially important for blended families to have an up-to-date will. This estate planning document should include provisions for all of your children, regardless of whether they are from your current marriage or a previous one. A will that reflects your current family situation may help to avoid any confusion or conflict later on.

Providing for your children’s needs

It is important to consider the unique needs of each of your children when creating an estate plan. For example, if you have a child with special needs, you may need to set up a trust to provide for their care after your death. Alternatively, if you have children from different marriages, you may want to consider how to divide your assets fairly between them. For instance, you may want to set up separate trusts for each child.

Clear and updated beneficiary designations

Beneficiary designations refer to the people who will receive your assets after you die. This can include things like life insurance policies, retirement accounts and bank accounts. It is important to keep these beneficiary designations up to date as they take precedence over what is stated in your will. For example, if you have a life insurance policy with an ex-spouse as the beneficiary, that policy will go to them after you die regardless of what your will says.

Treating all your heirs fairly

This may mean leaving the same amount of money to each child, or it may mean creating separate trusts for each child that are structured in the same way. Whatever approach you take, it is important to avoid any appearance of favoritism as this can lead to conflict among your heirs.

Blended families have a lot to think about when it comes to estate planning. However, with careful consideration and planning, it is possible to create an estate plan that meets the needs of all family members.

When someone dies, their estate goes through a legal process known as probate. The executor is an important part of this process and is responsible for carrying out the deceased’s wishes.

However, sometimes the executor doesn’t do their job properly. If you think your executor has mishandled an estate, you may be able to sue them.

Who is the executor?

The executor is the person responsible for carrying out the deceased’s wishes. For one, they’re in charge of distributing the estate’s assets. They do so by following the instructions set forth in the will. If there is no will, they’ll follow state intestacy laws.

The executor is also responsible for paying the estate’s debts and taxes. They must do this before distributing any assets to beneficiaries. Lastly, the executor must deal with any estate litigation that may come up. This includes handling any lawsuits that are filed against the estate.

When can you sue the executor?

There are a few different reasons why you might want to sue your executor. One reason is if they’ve mishandled estate funds. This could include using estate funds for their own personal gain or failing to pay estate debts and taxes.

Another reason to sue an executor is if they’ve failed to properly carry out the deceased’s wishes. For example, if they’ve distributed assets in a way that doesn’t match the instructions set forth in the will. Lastly, you may want to sue an executor if they’ve been unfair or unreasonable during the estate administration process.

How do you sue the executor?

If you want to sue your executor, you’ll need to file a lawsuit in a civil court. You’ll need to state your reasons for suing and what damages you’re seeking. While determining this estate litigation case, the court will look at the executor’s actions and see if they were indeed negligent.

When filing your lawsuit, you’ll need to decide if you want to sue the executor personally or professionally. If you sue them professionally, they may be able to use estate assets to pay any damages that are awarded.

If you sue them personally, they’ll have to use their own money to pay damages. This is usually only done in cases of severe misconduct.

Suing your executor is a serious matter. You should only do so if you have a valid reason and you’re prepared to see the case through to the end.

As you piece together your estate plan in Hayward, one nagging thought that likely lingers in the back of your mind is that at least a portion of your accumulated assets will have to go towards paying taxes. Like many people, you may have already accepted this as an inevitability (after all, “death and taxes,” right?).

Yet that may not necessarily be the case. California does not impose either an estate tax or an inheritance tax on its residents, meaning that the only taxes your estate may be subject to come from the federal level. There is the possibility, however, that your estate may escape a tax liability altogether (either through allotted exemptions or your careful planning).

The federal estate tax exemption

According to the Internal Revenue Service, a federal estate tax exemption exists for 2020 in the amount of $11.58 million. Thus, if the total taxable value of your estate comes in at less than that amount, it will not be subject to tax. It is also possible for you to extend that amount by combining your estate plans with those of your spouse.

Electing estate tax portability

The benefit of estate tax portability permits you to combine your unused estate tax exemption with that of your spouse. By using this benefit in conjunction with the unlimited marital deduction (which allows you to pass an unlimited amount to your spouse free of taxes), you could potentially protect up to $23.16 million for your beneficiaries. Leaving your assets to your spouse upon your death invokes the unlimited marital deduction while preserving your entire estate tax exemption. Your spouse then need only file an estate tax return within nine months of your death to combine that unused exemption amount with their own.

Some legal realms turn out to be surprising for people who underestimate their broad utility.

Estate planning is one prime example.

An in-depth online overview of the subject matter underscores that. It stresses that, “When people think of estate planning, they tend to focus on the distribution of an individual’s assets and other property when he or she passes away.”

Fair enough. Planning certainly does emphasize asset distribution to heirs and beneficiaries. That is a critically important component in legions of planning strategies.

It is also commonly just a single cog in a plan, though. Tailored estate plans also address and effectively manage myriad other concerns as well. Here are some representative examples:

  • Power of attorney designations relevant to financial and health care matters should a planner become incapacitated
  • Trust creation addressing the special needs of a loved one
  • Gifting and charitable strategies that can play a role in lawful tax avoidance
  • Guardianship appointment (with key relevance for parents of young children)
  • Probate avoidance, which can save time, money and sometimes family acrimony, as well as promote privacy
  • Business succession, with determinations often being vitally important for family-run concerns

Many people put off planning owing to a belief that it is relevant only to seniors having considerable assets. The above bullet points belie that assumption.

And some would-be planners procrastinate because they think an executed plan is a done deal not subject to further adjustment.

Happily, that is also untrue. The aforementioned overview duly stresses that estate plans are freely amendable in most cases, “so you needn’t fear being locked into a ‘rough draft’ plan that’s created early on in life.”

An experienced estate planning attorney can provide further information.