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Redlands California Estate Planning Blog

Handling absent or uncommunicative trustees

For many California residents, trusts can be an optimal method to achieve their estate planning goals while preserving privacy, as trusts transfer property outside the probate system. Settlors can develop a range of innovative methods to pass wealth to their beneficiaries. However, when creating a trust, it can be important to select the right fiduciary. The trustee, who manages the assets on behalf of the beneficiary, should be someone responsible, trustworthy and communicative.

When the trustee fails to communicate with the beneficiary or provide requested information about disbursements, it can quickly lead to serious conflict and suspicion. Many people select family members to serve as trustees when creating trusts, and complex family relationships can add another problematic element to the process. Trustees are generally required to inform the beneficiary of the trust and provide a copy in most cases. By obtaining a copy of the trust document, beneficiaries can better understand what they have a right to expect in terms of disbursements and communication with the trustee.

Approval for Social Security disability without a hearing

Many Americans living in California apply for Social Security disability when they become unable to work. There are several stages of the application process. Most applications are approved after a hearing with an administrative law judge, but some are approved right away without a hearing.

Approximately 30 percent of disability applicants are approved after their initial application without proceeding to a hearing. Approximately 10 to 15 percent of applicants who are initially denied for benefits are approved during the reconsideration stage.

Silent trusts can help people plan discreetly

Many people in California consider how they can best protect their assets now and provide for their families in the future. Trusts provide important mechanisms not only to pass on wealth between generations without relying on the probate system but also to realize significant tax savings during a person's life. Therefore, many people wish to create trusts to provide for their children or other loved ones in the future. However, some people are concerned that if their children grow up knowing that a substantial trust fund is waiting for them, they may feel less incentive to succeed academically and in their careers.

As a result of these concerns and other fears about privacy, many people opt to create silent trusts. When a trust is created, the trustees responsible for its administration have a duty to notify the beneficiary and provide information about its management. However, this requirement may frustrate people's desires to plan more discreetly for the future. While some people may delay creating these trust funds, others don't want to miss out on years of tax benefits. Silent trusts can provide a solution: During the trust's creation, the creator explicitly waives the trustee's duty to provide information to the beneficiaries.

Silent trusts provide discreet asset management options

Wealthy people in California may want to ensure that they can pass on significant assets to their children or other loved ones. However, many people may not want to disclose their plans early on, especially if they have many years left to live and want to benefit from tax as well as estate planning. In addition, their children may be quite young, and parents may want to encourage them to work hard and succeed without planning to rely on family money. However, when people create trusts, the trustees managing the assets have a responsibility to report on their administration to trust beneficiaries.

One option that some people take to resolve this issue is the creation of a silent trust. With a silent trust, the creator explicitly waives or limits the trustee's responsibility to inform the beneficiaries of the trust's existence or other administrative information. An increasing number of people are opting to create silent trusts, both to ensure that their family members will be taken care of and to receive longer-term tax benefits. In addition to encouraging people to make their own way in life, these trusts can help to avoid crimes of opportunity meant to exploit people whose wealth is well-known.

Parents can plan for their children's future today

Parents in California may have an interest in establishing a legacy for themselves long after they depart this world. One way to do that is to ensure that their children have the money needed for a quality education. This goal may be accomplished by using a trust or by investing in a 529 plan. Before creating a trust, it is important for a parent to know what his or her money is intended to accomplish.

For instance, some parents may simply want to leave equal amounts for all of their children. In such a scenario, it may be best to create a separate trust for each child that only he or she can access. One downside is that a child may not use all the money in the trust or need more than is provided. Alternatively, parents may also simply want to create a general fund that each child can use as needed. This can be ideal for parents of children who have varying educational interests.

Applying for disability with no medical records

California residents who are seeking disability benefits from the Social Security Administration are not required to have medical records on hand to file or qualify for disability. However, to make a determination about an applicant's benefits, disability examiners will need to have medical history treatment notes. For those who don't have the financial resources to visit a doctor, they may have to consult with local medical clinics to see if there are any that may assist individuals who have limited resources or no insurance.

Individuals who are able to find a medical clinic that will examine and treat them should obtain their treatment at that clinic. In situations in which there are no free clinics, individuals could use hospital emergency room visits to establish medical treatment.

VA outreach for underserved veterans

Veterans in California who were other-than-honorably discharged usually do not qualify for VA benefits. These veterans often need help for trauma related to their service, and suicide and substance abuse is common in this group. The VA has started a new program to allow these veterans to come to the VA for mental health care.

The VA reports that 115 veterans have used the program. This number is disappointing to many since it represents a small fraction of those who qualify. Some groups blame the VA for failing to reach out to veterans who may be in need of services. Of the 115 veterans who have participated in the program so far, 25 were in San Diego.

Preserving generational wealth is a worthy goal

"Wealth is the ability to fully experience life," according to transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau. While that may certainly be true, most will agree that one can experience more of life if they have the assets and resources to do so.

If you are concerned with not just your own estate planning but about preserving generational wealth, the time to begin is immediately. Without the right stewardship, your family's assets can be scattered to the winds by the next generation.

Reviewing trusts can keep them up to date

For many California families, trusts are an important tool to transfer wealth from one generation to another. They can be used to minimize the impact of probate, keep wealth transfers out of public view and even provide tax savings. However, it can be important for people with trusts to review them regularly to make sure that their documents and plans meet their current needs. In some cases, families are unhappy with the provisions of their trusts. However, by reviewing them in advance, individuals can make adjustments to improve their utility for their specific circumstances.

In some cases, the trusts weren't set up properly to begin with because the lawyer didn't understand what the family really wanted to get out of the document. In other cases, the language of the trust itself can be a problem. Provisions can be excessively vague or restrictive, leading to conflicts later on. Other trusts need to be changed because family circumstances have also changed, and those updates should be reflected in estate planning. In some situations, there is no problem with the trust itself, but other changes in the law have created better options for managing wealth.

Estate planning and philanthropy

Even though philanthropy is frequently used as part of a tax-saving strategy, people in California can also benefit from the charitable giving in ways that are related to starting and maintaining a legacy, enjoying personal fulfillment and forming a connection with future generations. There are certain steps individuals should take to make sure that the philanthropic goals they have set for their lifetime and after they have died are fulfilled.

It is important for individuals to first identify the issues that are significant to them and their family. They should examine the donations they have made in the past and consider the causes to which they have given every year to determine what is meaningful to them.

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