Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Facebook’s Charity Foregoes Traditional Nonprofit for an LLC


California Document Preparers is working with a lot of business owners these days who are upgrading their business entities. Their Sole Proprietorships served them well for the first few years, but as they’ve grown and hired a team, leasing office space in some cases, they’ve become very aware that they need a more robust business structure. Many are choosing LLCs—they offer the tax and liability
advantages of a corporation, but provide more flexibility and less paperwork.

Getting it right when you have $46B to give away

When Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, decided to donate 99% of their fortune to charity, they didn’t create the usual foundation with its significant tax advantages; instead, they created an LLC. This is a highly unusual way to structure a charitable gift of an estimated $46B. Yet, as you read below, it becomes clear why they chose an LLC rather than a more traditional foundation—it would have been far too limiting!
  1. No limits on lobbying. The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative will put money to work in politics. Zuckerberg wants to be involved in helping to create policy and shape debates—if they’d set the foundation up as a 501(c)(3), they would have been excluded from any kind of political activity.
  2. The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative can actually turn a profit. While profitability doesn't appear to be the aim of the new LLC, if part of the Facebook fortune ends up invested in something that makes money, it won't run the risk of breaking IRS rules governing tax-exempt entities. Additionally, any money that is made will be used to further the mission—whatever that may be.
  3. It will be easier to do joint ventures. Let’s face it—Zuckerberg is a pretty connected guy, and he’s in an excellent position to build businesses alliances with other organizations. Traditional charities can be difficult partners for the private sector because there are restrictions on how a private foundation can do a joint venture with a for-profit company. By becoming a corporation, they are removing any potential barriers to forming relationships that could be beneficial.
  4. Avoiding the 5 percent rule. By using a corporate structure, Zuckerberg is avoiding a rule about having to give away 5% of a nonprofit foundation's value every year. The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative can spend at the pace that makes most sense for the problem they’re trying to solve or the strategy they’re pursuing at the time.
Are you considering upgrading your business entity to a corporation? Stop in at one of our Bay Area offices to get started. We’re here to assist you.    

Friday, April 15, 2016

April 16 is National Healthcare Decisions Day

April 16 is National Healthcare Decisions Day, so we’re joining the campaign to raise the visibility and encourage advance healthcare planning.

Advance Healthcare Directives (AHDs) are written directions that appoint another individual to make healthcare decisions on your behalf. We’d all like to think that we could make our own decisions throughout the course of our lives, but the reality is that the majority of us will have at least a temporary period when we are unable to communicate our healthcare wishes. We not only should be appointing a trusted person to make decisions for us, but we should be thinking about important decisions such as whether or not we want to remain in our own homes or in nursing care or when to enlist the help of hospice care when we are clearly in failing health.

California Document Preparers includes an AHD as well as a Power of Attorney in our comprehensive Living Trust package. People have a lot of questions about healthcare planning issues, and there’s a significant amount of misunderstanding. Here are some common AHD myths:

Myth No. 1: AHDs are only for older people. FALSE. Older people are most likely to use AHDs, but every adult needs one. We’re all vulnerable to accidents or injuries that will leave us incapacitated, even if only temporarily. Adults should at least name someone to make healthcare decisions when they can’t.

Myth No. 2: AHDs are legally binding, so doctors have to follow them. FALSE. The decision of treating or not treating is based on the doctor’s assessment of your medical condition. Doctors may ignore the instructions if they consider them to be medically inappropriate or if they go against their conscience. The best strategy: Discuss your wishes with your providers, make sure your doctors are willing to support them, and then document your wishes.

Myth No. 3: An Advance Healthcare Directive means “do not treat.” False. An AHD can describe both the treatment you want and what you don’t want. Ending life-saving or life-prolonging care is only executed when there is no hope of recovery.

Myth No. 4: If I name a healthcare agent, I give up the right to make my own decisions. FALSE. As long as you have the ability to do so—deemed medically competent--you are in charge of your healthcare decisions.

Myth No. 5: I should wait until I am sure about what I want before signing an AHD. FALSE. While you may not be ready to contemplate the end of life, you should appoint a healthcare agent. Your directives can easily be updated as your wishes change.

Myth No. 6: Just talking to my doctor and family about what I want is not legally effective. FALSE. Talk with your doctor and family, combine this with documentation, and make sure all parties have a copy.

Myth No. 7: Once I give my doctor a signed copy of my directive, my task is done. FALSE. Like your other important documents—your life insurance policy and Living Trust—an AHD should be reviewed at least every ten years, with a divorce, death or, of course, with diagnosis of a serious medical condition.

Myth No. 8: If I am living at home and my AHD says I do not want to be resuscitated, EMS will not resuscitate me if I go into cardiac arrest. USUALLY FALSE. If you are terminally ill and do not want to be resuscitated, you should talk to your attorney and healthcare provider about an out-of-hospital DNR order.

Myth No. 9: You must have a Living Trust to stop treatment near the end of life. FALSE. Treatment that is no longer leading to stable or improved health can be stopped without a Living Trust, if agreed to by you, or your healthcare decision-maker and your doctors. However, the benefit of a Living Trust is that it allows you to leave instructions about the kind of healthcare you want when death is imminent.


We include an Advance Healthcare Directive and a Power of Attorney in our Living Trust package. Stop in at one of our Bay Area offices to get started—we help you through every step.   

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Probate: The Excuses are Lame, Results the Same

More than 50% of Americans die without creating a Living Trust that details how they will distribute their estates. The reasons for not creating a Trust are endless, but they're really just excuses. Below are some high-profile examples of very typical excuses for not creating or updating Living Trusts. Regardless of the excuse, the results are always the same: long, expensive probate ordeals for their families. 

Procrastination

You may or may not be old enough to remember Sony & Cher. After the duo broke up, Sony remarried, moved to Palm Springs, became a politician, skied into a tree at Heavenly and died at the age of 62 without so much as a simple Will. His wife had little time to grieve because she became the administrator of his estate, defending a claim from Cher who believed she was still owed money from their divorce. A secret love child also surfaced and demanded a piece of Bono's estate.

Failure to Fund It

Michael Jackson created a Trust, but failed to fully fund it. A Trust means nothing unless you move your assets and real property into it--when it becomes a powerful legal document. Jackson’s failure to fund his Trust made it much easier for his family to duke it out in probate court, turning this into a public spectacle.

The Do-It-Yourselfer

Former Supreme Court Justice Warren Burger created his own Will, which consisted of 176 words. Some thought it was part of his imperious nature that he failed to prepare for his death at the age of 87. He left out key provisions and his family paid the price-- his children paid more than $450K in estate taxes. Burger’s lack of a proper Trust caused many people to wonder how someone who reached the top of his profession died without the one thing he could have used: a good lawyer. While he served on the highest court in the land for 17 years, he had a fool for a client.

Immortality

Jimi Hendrix apparently thought he’d live forever because he didn’t do any estate planning. He died at 27 in 1970. He was, however, a child of the 60s, and may have been in an extended Purple Haze. Nevertheless, his estate was thrown into a lengthy and expensive court fight that took some 30 years to settle. Jimi's father, Al, sued for the rights to Jimi's music, and finally won in 1995. Under the name of the estate, Al created multiple trusts, partnerships, and corporations, notably Experience Hendrix, L.L.C. based in Seattle.

Failure to Update Your Trust

For millions of Batman fans, Heath Ledger will forever be remembered as the Joker, though his daughter may remember him best for never having added her to his Will. His sudden early death of a drug overdose led to chaos, family infighting and lots of bad press. Ledger was just 28 when he died—another tragic victim of a drug overdose. In general, a Living Trust should be reviewed every few years, updated in the event of divorce, births or deaths and major investments. 

Of course we do Probate!

Contact us at one of our three Bay Area offices. Better yet, avoid Probate altogether and make an appointment to get started on your Living Trust. We help you through every step of the process. 

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Siblings Join CPA Father to Form Professional Corporation

A family of CPAs recently came in to our Oakland office to create a Business Formation Package. The father had been practicing in the Bay Area for more than 30 years and both his son and daughter had followed him into the accounting business. It had always been his dream to have his children join his firm, but neither child was interested in joining his/her father right out college.


They joined Big 4 firms and worked long, grueling hours

They learned a lot about accounting, staying on top of new laws and regulations and the need to be bringing in new clients if they wanted to be successful. They learned that tax season never got any easier, and that they needed to put their lives on hold for three-four months every year.
Once the siblings had families of their own, each decided to leave the corporate environment, seeking a more normal lifestyle. The daughter, who had received an MS in Taxation, started her own niche firm as a sole proprietor; her brother had joined a smaller firm as an associate. After much discussion, and to the delight of their father, both siblings agreed to join their father in his firm. They all laughed about the circuitous route they’d taken in getting there—it had taken more than a decade, but they were finally going to have that family CPA firm.

Professional Corporation for licensed professionals

Since all three business partners are licensed CPAs, a Professional Corporation is the appropriate business structure.
A professional corporation restricts ownership of the corporation so that some or all of the shareholders or directors must be members of the profession—doctors, lawyers, CPAs, architects, etc. These business structures help licensed professionals protect their personal assets from lawsuits brought against their practice or against their partners, but generally do not protect the licensed professional from professional malpractice claims.
Are you starting a new business or changing your business structure? Our Business Formation Packages start at just $549. Call one of our three Bay Area offices today to make an appointment. 

Supreme Court’s Gay Marriage Ruling Levels Field for Estate Planning

When gay, lesbian, and other proponents of same-sex marriages celebrated the US Supreme Court‘s landmark ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, millions of Americans became eligible for dramatically different legal rights upon the death or disability of a life partner than were previously possible. These rights extend to estate planning. Gay and lesbian couples now have a level playing field, equal to that of heterosexual couples.

Legal implications of the ruling: symbolic, monetary and life-changing
The Supreme Court opinion in Obergefell illustrates this by sharing the stories of three sets of plaintiffs involved in that case.

1. James Obergefell and John Arthur

The lead plaintiff, James Obergefell, was motivated by nothing more than being legally recognized as the spouse of his partner, John Arthur, whom he married shortly before Arthur died from ALS. Obergefell wanted to be listed on Arthur’s death certificate as his spouse. Before the ruling, that was not possible because the State of Ohio did not recognize same-sex marriages, even though the couple had flown to Maryland to be wed—the tragedy, of course, is that they had to fly to another state to become legally married.
Happily, with the Supreme Court ruling, the “surviving spouse” box on Arthur’s death certificate does not have to be left blank. Obergefell can hold an official State of Ohio death certificate in his hands naming him as the spouse of John Arthur. For a heterosexual married couple, this may seem like a small thing, but this is a major victory for this and every other gay couple in the country.

2. Thomas Kostura and Ijpe DeKoe

Thomas Kostura lost his legal recognition, under state law, as the spouse of Army Reserve Sergeant First Class Ijpe DeKoe every time they traveled across state lines to return home to Tennessee. This meant that if DeKoe had been killed in action on a mission to Afghanistan, Kostura would not have been eligible to receive all governmental benefits that opposite-sex partners of military members are entitled to receive.
In late 2013 that changed when the Supreme Court issued its prior gay marriage decision mandating that all married same-sex federal employees could receive employment benefits to the same extent as other married couples. But what about state employees — or even state-issued benefits, like Medicaid? Kostura and DeKoe could not receive them in Tennessee, even though the only reason they moved to Tennessee was because the US military required DeKoe to do so.
Now, Kostura and DeKoe are both entitled to all government benefits available to spouses, state and federal, regardless of what state they live in--just like their heterosexual counterparts.

3. April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse

For Michigan couple April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse, ruling’s impact may have been even more profound. This lesbian couple adopted four special-needs children and provided a loving home for kids badly in need of one.  Michigan law, however, prohibited adoption by two same-sex parents. This meant the couple had to divide up who adopted each child. The exception was the last child, adopted by the both of them after a federal court judge previously ruled in their favor--a temporary ruling until the Supreme Court’s decision.
If DeBoer had passed away, Rowse would have had no legal rights as a parent to DeBoer’s two children. Each child legally would have had one parent, not two. The Supreme Court ruling brings cohesiveness to this and many other families throughout the country.
Now both parents will be able to direct schools, hospitals, doctors, etc. that they are the legal parents of all four of their children. They don’t have to worry that if tragedy strikes one of them, several of their children would be legally without a parent. DeBoer, Rowse and their children are finally recognized as a single family under the eyes of the law.

Further impact Estate Planning for LGBT couples

These three examples are really only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to estate planning issues. Before the Supreme Court ruling, gay couples in states that did not recognize gay marriages (or possibly could refuse to recognize them in the future) estate planning looked significantly different for gay couples than it did for married couples. 

The unequal treatment in the law meant no:

  • Spousal rights of inheritance
  • Spousal support in the event of a death or divorce
  • Intestate inheritance rights
  • Legal priority to act as a guardian, conservator or executor if a partner died or became incompetent
  • Protected pension rights
  • Dower rights to protect real estate

LGBT couples were unable to create a joint marital trust

Prior to the ruling, LGBT couples had no guarantee of access to their loved ones in the hospital, especially when traveling out of state. They could never have been certain that, when naming a partner as a future decision-maker under a Living TrustAdvanced Healthcare Directive, or Power of Attorney, that their choice would have been recognized — especially if challenged in court by “actual” family members. Wealthy couples would have potentially faced double inheritance taxes, along with being denied other tax savings that are available for married couples.
The final act of saying good-bye to a loved one—planning a funeral to honor and celebrate a lost life? This was a right that belonged to the next of kin and was often usurped by a so-called family with whom someone really had little relationship. Today, next of kin includes same-sex spouses.
Married gay couples can now prepare WillsTrusts, end-of-life documents, and other estate-planning instruments in the same was as their married hetero counterparts can. They no longer need to be concerned about what could happen to a spouse or children if one of them were in an accident and a judge refused to recognize the marriage.
No one likes thinking about the inevitability of death, the consequences of aging or becoming incapacitated. But now LGBT couples can face these issues in the same way as everyone else, secure in the knowledge that they’re protected by the laws of the land, that they won’t be discriminated against because of their sexuality.
If one of your New Year’s resolutions was to create or update your Living Trust, call one of our three Bay Area offices today to make an appointment. We help you through every step of the process

Is Creating or Updating a Living Trust a New Year’s Resolution?


Admit it: We all make resolutions

Whether we admit it or not, we all make New Year’s resolutions. We may not call them resolutions, and we may keep them to ourselves, but we all make at least small promises to ourselves. Who doesn’t at least silently promise to lose ten pounds or to stop smoking? Or commit to healthier living, getting more exercise, having better relationships or spending more time with their family in the new year?
At California Document Preparers, we’ve learned that another resolution people make is to create a Living Trust. It’s often the result of having spent time with family over the holidays—adult children talk to  their parents about the importance of getting not just a Living Trust, but a Power of Attorney and Advance Healthcare Directive. It’s easy to find reasons to procrastinate—it takes time, costs money, and who wants to deal with financial statements and legal forms? But we’ve thousands of Living Trusts over the years; it’s a very straightforward process, and we take pride in making this easy for our clients.

A dedicated team to help you

Living Trusts are one of our most important services. While anyone in our three offices can help you, we have dedicated team members who work specifically with Living Trust clients, and they develop close working relationships with their clients throughout the process. They’re knowledgeable, accommodating and work hard to make sure that every client understands the process. They’re available by phone and email to answer questions.

The Living Trust process at California Document Preparers:

Most of our clients tell us that creating their Trust was a lot easier than they thought it would be. We use special attorney-approved workbooks that provide a straightforward step-by-step process:
  1. Come in to one of our offices and fill out the workbook.
  2. We prepare all of the legal documents for you.
  3. If you have property that needs to be moved into the Trust, we prepare the transfer deed(s) for you.
  4. When your Trust is ready—generally within a week, you come in and we review the documents with you. Once you’re satisfied that everything is correct, you sign the documents and we notarize them.
  5. We give you a hard copy of your Living Trust and retain a soft copy/pdf file. We can email this to you if you like; many people want to be able to distribute this to their children or other family members.
  6. Your Trust should be updated for important life events, so we make it easy to do this for you as well, from a simple amendment to an entire restatement.
The best part: One flat fee. We don’t charge extra for phone calls, notarizing documents or if you require more help. This is our commitment to our clients. No surprises.
Taking the time to prepare a Living Trust is truly one of the most thoughtful things you can do for your loved ones. When you die, your family will be dealing with grief and loss. Without a Living Trust, they also will be dealing with what can be the nearly overwhelming burden of Probate.

A Comprehensive Living Trust package

We welcome your questions. Contact us at one of our three Bay Area California Document Preparers offices. We help you through every step of this process.  

Father’s Death Leaves Family Facing Probate for the Holidays

A brother and sister came to our Oakland office the second week of December, asking us if we did Probate, and we assured them that we did. Theirs was an especially sad story. Their mother had died when they were young, and their father had raised them single-handedly, including putting them through college while working two jobs, and the three of them had always been very close. The father lived in Colorado and hated to travel; as they grew older, married and had children, it became more difficult to visit him. This year they’d sent their father a plane ticket and he’d agreed to join them in Oakland for the holidays. Both were hoping to convince him to stay.


Holiday without their father

Their father was scheduled to arrive on the 15th, and both the brother and sister called and emailed the night before to check on him, but he didn’t respond. Both siblings were concerned, tried again in the morning, and there still was no response. Since their father had become somewhat isolated, the brother called the police in the Colorado town where his father lived and shared their concern, and the police immediately agreed to go check on him. Within an hour, the police called to inform them that their father had had a heart attack; they’d found him collapsed on the sofa, had called an ambulance and rushed him to the Emergency Room, but were unable to save him. Instead of spending the holidays with their father, these siblings were now dealing with Estate.

Probate: a methodical process with 4 basic steps

Many people think that Probate is an extremely complex legal process for which they need the help of an attorney—and this is not necessarily the case. If none of the heirs is contesting the Estate, California Document Preparers can help you with Probate, and in fact, this is a growing practice area for us. Probate is actually a very methodical process for which there are four basic steps.
  1. File a petition and give notice to heirs and beneficiaries. The Probate process begins with the filing of the petition with the probate court to either (1) admit the will to Probate and appoint the executor or (2) if there is no will, appoint an Administrator of the Estate. Notice of the court hearing regarding the petition must be provided to all of the decedent's heirs and beneficiaries. Probate is a public process; notice of the hearing is published in a local newspaper to notify unknown creditors, etc. of the beginning of the proceeding.
  2. Assets. Following appointment by the court, the personal representative must give notice to all known creditors of the Estate and take an inventory of the Estate property.  The personal representative then gives written notice to all creditors of the Estate based upon state law; any creditor who wishes to make a claim on assets of the Estate must do so within a limited period of time. An inventory of all of decedent's probate property, including real property, stocks, bonds, business interests, among other assets, is taken.
  3. Liabilities. All Estate and funeral expenses, debts and taxes must be paid from the Estate. The personal representative must determine which creditor's claims are legitimate and pay those and other final bills from the Estate. In some instances, the personal representative is permitted to sell Estate assets to satisfy the decedent's obligations.
  4. Legal title in property is transferred. Following the waiting period to allow creditors to file claims against the Estate, and all approved claims and bills are paid, the personal representative petitions the court for the authority to transfer the remaining assets to beneficiaries. Once the petition is granted, the personal representative may draw up new deeds for property, transfer stock, liquidate assets and transfer property to the appropriate recipients.
An estimated 52% of American adults die without a Living Trust, which means their Estates become matters of public record and require the court-supervised process of Probate. If yours is an uncontested ProbateCalifornia Document Preparers can help you through every step of this process. Contact us at one of our three Bay Area offices today.

The 5 Most Common Misperceptions about Hospice

Hospice is a topic that frequently surfaces when it comes to discussions about Living Trusts and end-of-life care. With our large, aging babyboomer population and potential for profIt, the hospice industry has exploded over the last few years, yet it remains largely unregulated, and the level of care varies significantly between for-profit and nonprofit hospice organizations.

Yet the reality is that people tend not to research hospice care until they need it. Death and dying remain unpleasant topics and there is a lot of misconceptions about this end-of-life care.

Here are 5 common myths about hospice.

  1. Myth No. 1: Hospice places a time limit on patient stays and hastens death. Many people mistakenly believe that to receive hospice care, the patient must be expected to live fewer than six months. This misconception can be traced back to Medicare, which gives assistance in the form of benefit periods. Each initial benefit period lasts 90 days and Medicare estimates people in hospice usually only need two periods. If after six months, however, you are still in need of hospice services, you can receive an unlimited number of 60-day benefit periods if a hospice director or doctor recertifies that you’re terminally ill. If you outlive the six-month Medicare estimation, you can go off hospice care and come back when you need it.
  2. Myth No. 2: People have to go to hospice centers in order to receive hospice care. Hospice care is a philosophy on death and dying, not a place. People are able to receive hospice care where they’re most comfortable--in their homes or in licensed facilities.
  3. Myth No. 3: Hospice care requires you to stop taking medications. Many people fear hospice because they know that stopping medications can mean accelerated death. Hospice focuses on a relief-based, rather than a curative approach; but the decision to halt medication is usually left up to the patient.
  4. Myth No. 4: Hospice depends on sedation as a major way to manage patient pain. For most people facing a terminal illness, it's not death they fear most, but the processes and pains of dying. Many people fear that hospice workers intentionally sedate patients as the preferred method for dealing with pain. If patients have chronic pain, they are started at low doses, and if the low dose works, they remain at that dosage. Pain management is only increased if the patient is still suffering from pain. Patients can also take advantage of spiritual counseling, and hospice provides bereavement assistance for at least a year following a patient’s death. 
  5. Myth No. 5: Once you’re enrolled in a hospice program, there’s no turning back. Patients can stop hospice treatment at any time and return to a curative-based approach. There may be a new treatment or they may be showing signs of improvement. For whatever reason, it’s a patient’s choice to make. If the patient wants to return to hospice, Medicare generally pays for the extended coverage.
Death is beginning to be viewed as a natural life process that can be managed. Disease can be monitored, which helps doctors make informed estimates about a patient’s life expectancy. Healthcare workers are more enlightened about helping patients and their families deal with terminal illness and prepare for death.
When family members transition to hospice, it is not about giving up or hastening death, but about making rational decisions about how and where to spend their final days—in many cases, pain-free, in the comfort of their own homes, surrounded by their families.
If creating a Living Trust was one of your goals for 2015, it’s not too late! Stop in at one of our Bay Area offices to get started.  

California Document Preparers Creates Special Needs Trusts

California Document Preparers helps our clients create Living Trust packages that include a Will, Power of Attorney, Advance Healthcare Directive, and other important supporting documents. Many of our clients comment on how comprehensive our package is—it includes a section to list healthcare providers, accountants, insurance carriers and financial advisers as well as medications and logins to digital accounts. We encourage people to think carefully about what information their children or loved ones would need if they were suddenly incapacitated so that care can continue seamlessly.


But what if one of your children or dependents has a disability, receiving Medi-Cal or Social Security?

If you want to leave money or property to a loved one with a disability, it’s important to plan ahead to avoid jeopardizing his/her Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medi-Cal benefits. Instead of leaving property directly to your loved one, you will need to set up a Special Needs Trust and leave property to your special needs beneficiary though this Trust.

Special Needs Trust requires a Trustee to administer it

Along with the Special Needs Trust, you will need to identify someone to serve as a Trustee; this person will have complete discretion over the Trust property and will be in charge of spending money on your loved one's behalf. The Trustee can’t distribute money directly to your loved one, which could jeopardize SSI and Medi-Cal eligibility. Rather, the Trustee can spend the Trust’s assets to buy necessary products and services that contribute to quality of life, including personal care attendants, vacations, home furnishings, medical/dental expenses, education, recreation, vehicles and physical rehabilitation. Since your loved one will have no control over the money, SSI and Medi-Cal administrators will ignore the trust property for program eligibility purposes.

Finalizing and funding the Trust

During your lifetime, the Special Needs provisions are merely a section of your Revocable Living Trust, and it is only created upon your death.  Once that happens, the part of your estate that you allocated for your special needs beneficiary is segregated from the rest of your estate and held for the special needs beneficiary’s benefit. At that point, the trust will receive a tax ID number, and is funded through the portion of your estate you allocated for it. 
It can also be funded through other people’s Wills and Living Trusts, or through beneficiary designations and other estate planning tools. Virtually any type of property can be held in a Special Needs Trust, including real estate, stocks, collections, a business, patents or jewelry. But because the primary purpose of a special needs trust is to use money to pay for items that aren’t provided by SSI or Medi-Cal, Special Needs Trusts typically give the Trustee the authority to sell tangible items (cars or jewelry, for example) to raise cash.

The Special Needs Trust ends when it is no longer needed, generally at the beneficiary's death or when the funds have been spent.

If you have questions about a Special Needs Living Trust or a standard Living Trust, visit or call one of our three Bay Area offices: Dublin, 925.479.9600; Oakland, 510.452.2320; or Walnut Creek, 925. 407.1010. We’re here to help. 

End-of-Life Options Act Raises Issue of Incapacity for Living Trust

End-of-life documents, an important part of California Document Preparers’ services, often lead to discussions about related issues. October’s passage of the End of Life Options Act, or the Physician-Assisted Suicide Law as it is called by its detractors, promises to remain controversial after it becomes law in January 2016. Proponents are convinced of the legality and humanity of the new legislation. Opponents, including the Catholic Church, believe it will set the stage for abuse by those least able to speak for themselves—a valid concern in a healthcare system that is increasingly overwhelmed.

A recent article estimated that the Act will affect 1 in 10 people with a terminal illness—a relatively small group because of its strict requirements:
  1. A person must prove mental capacity to be able to make this decision.
  2. He/she must have a terminal illness that will, by medical judgment, result in death in 6 months.
  3. The patient must also make 3 requests to a doctor; 1 must be in writing, 2 oral. The oral requests must be 15 days apart.

These patients are identifying their own incapacity

Clearly, these requirements show that a patient requesting that a physician assist in his or her death is not doing it casually. In each case, the patient has been diagnosed with a terminal illness and is likely facing great pain and suffering. The patient is making this decision while he or she is still coherent and thinking clearly, submitting the request over a period of several weeks.   

The need to identify incapacity in Living Trusts

We all want to grow old gracefully and die peacefully in our sleep. Unfortunately, for most of us, that path is unlikely and the process will be uncertain. It is because of this uncertainty that you should be thinking about the need to define incapacity in your Living Trust. Your Successor Trustee should be given specific instructions on what should be done if you are no longer able to care for yourself.
  1. Incapacity. How will incapacity be determined and who will determine it? Your oldest child? Your husband or a family doctor?
  2. Assets. How should your assets be used during this period of incapacity? Will you have in-home care? Will you move in with your children and have them take care of you?
  3. Outside the home. If staying in your home is not an option, what is your preference—moving across the country to be near your daughter? A large assisted-care facility with lots of activities or someplace small and personalized?
  4. Care Manager. Do you need a designated care manager to evaluate the level of care and oversee your overall well-being, making sure that you’re getting to doctor appointments, taking your medications and eating properly?

Your Living Trust should address the issue of incapacity

While the new law will help a few, the number will be limited. If we live long enough, our bodies simply wear out, and the reality is that most of us are going to experience some period of incapacity before we die. Thanks to the miracles of modern medicine, we are living longer, yet the statistics show that an estimated 80% of us will experience some kind of dementia. While we may not have control over our physical or mental health, we can control how our assets will be used to care for us. Now is the time to plan for this.
Have you defined the issue of incapacity in your Living Trust? It may be time to update your Trust for other life events as well—purchase of property, birth or death of a loved one or a major investment. Stop in to one of our Bay Area offices to update your Living Trust soon.  

Blended Oakland Family Consolidates 4 Last Names into 1

A family came into our Oakland office recently wanting to know if we could help them legally change their names. With an estimated 50% of marriages ending in divorce, blended families are not unusual, but in this case there were five people with four last names and it was the kids who decided it was time that everyone share a common last name.


5 people, 4 names, but 1 happy family

The husband and wife had gotten married in 2013, the second marriage for the husband and the third for the wife, who had kept her name rather than adopting that of her new husband. It was primarily a matter of convenience—with two kids and a demanding job, changing her name at work, on all of her credit cards and correspondence in the midst of planning a wedding just seemed like more trouble than it was worth. Her daughter’s name was that of her deceased first husband, but her son’s name was the same as hers. Finally, the husband had adopted his nephew when his sister was unable to care for him, and this child had kept his given name.
As the kids got older, they were finding it awkward that there were so many last names, and they began to lobby their parents for a family-wide name change. They wanted everyone in their family to share the same last name.

Legal process for a name change

California Document Preparers helps many of our clients with name changes, for which there is a very specific legal process. It’s necessary to fill out specific court forms, file the forms with the court, run an ad in a newspaper indicating intent to change the name and appear at a court hearing.

At California Document Preparers, we:

  1. Help you fill out the appropriate court forms using our attorney-approved workbooks
  2. File the forms with the appropriate court for you
  3. Apply for the circulation of a newspaper ad indicating your intent to change your name
These steps are the same for changing the name of an adult or a minor, with one exception. In changing the name of a minor child, the biological parents must either be provided with notice or must both sign the court documents. In addition to changing an individual’s name, California Documents Preparers can change an entire family’s name using one of our attorney-approved workbooks.  
If you’ve been putting off getting your name changed, stop in at one of our three Bay Area California Document Preparers offices to get started. We help you through every step of this process.