When a will is contested in California, a question comes up as to who the interested parties are with regards to the estate. At first glance, the answer to this question might seem clear-cut. However, after more investigation is done, it may come to light that there are a number of interested parties, many of which the individual or individuals initiating the will contest might not have even known about or anticipated. The interested parties are not confined to individuals who are listed in the last will and testament.
The death of a loved one in California can bring out surprising claims on an estate, especially if the loved one was wealthy or famous. Aretha Franklin, the celebrated performer known as the "Queen of Soul," passed away in August 2018 at the age of 76 after a battle with pancreatic cancer. Despite having an estate worth millions of dollars and a valuable music catalog, she left behind no will or trusts to disperse her assets. As a result, relatives and others have jumped into the fray to make a claim on the estate.
When a person passes, his or her assets may need to go through probate. However, there are ways in which an individual in California and most other states can keep some or all assets from going through this process. Those who own a home, car or financial asset may be able to add a beneficiary designation to these assets. It may also be possible to create a transfer on death or a payable on death designation, also known as a TOD or POD, respectively.
In California, it is possible for an individual to have an executor or a trustee or both as part of an estate planning team. An executor is someone who represents the estate in the event that it has to go through probate. The trustee is the person who is in charge of a trust, and this person may fulfill that role both before and after its creator passes.
When someone is named as executor of a California estate, the tasks they are faced with may be confusing and substantial. The executor, who is named in the will, must file and pay remaining taxes from the estate, handle creditors, value assets and distribute property to the named beneficiaries. Being named executor is often an honor and an expression of trust from the deceased person, but it is also a serious legal responsibility that requires a significant amount of preparation and work.
Stan Lee, the man behind many of the superheroes that entertain both kids and adults in California and around the world, passed away in November, 2018 at the age of 95. But the end of Lee's life has led to an entirely new saga involving the comic book writer, editor, and publisher's estate. Hints of possible issues came even before Lee's death. In early 2018, he signed a declaration expressing his concerns about his daughter's spending habits. In the document, Lee also talks about three men with "bad intentions" whom he believed were influencing his daughter.
Family members may not view a will the same way as the person who wrote it. For instance, a son or daughter may believe that a parent left more for his or her siblings than for that child. Family members may also have a lack of trust for the brother, sister or other relative named the executor of the estate. Fortunately, there are ways that California residents can avoid these and other issues.
California residents who are asked to be the executor of an estate or serve as a trustee of a trust should understand the many financial and administrative duties they will have. Individuals who accept those positions should be prepared to spend a significant amount of time fulfilling their duties, which may take away time from their family and interfere with their career.
Aretha Franklin died without a will or any sort of estate plan in place despite being worth an estimated $80 million at the time of her death. California residents may be able to learn something from the problems that this may create for her heirs. Her sons have listed themselves as interested parties to the estate and chose Franklin's niece to become the personal representative to the estate.
Digital assets, such are cryptocurrencies and online accounts, are one of the issues California residents have to consider when they are creating an estate plan. There are legal concerns that have to be addressed regarding financial accounts and other types of digital assets. It is always important for the executor of an estate to be aware of what type of assets the decedent left in the estate and how to gain access to them, which is a crucial step in ensuring that the heirs receive the digital assets as intended.