Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The 4th of July: Celebrating the Spirit of America


We’re inching up on another 4th of July, the time when summer really gets under way. It’s a day for family, friends, grilling and fireworks. Parades and silly costumes, a chance to dress up anything that moves in red, white and blue.

A lazy summer day that calls for a little rush of patriotism

Americans are the ones who want everything bigger, faster, easier and better. We’re never satisfied. We’re entrepreneurs and innovators with big ideas and bigger dreams. We aspire and inspire. We’re not afraid to take chances. We may fail, but we pick ourselves up and try again. People love to hate us, but they rarely ignore us.

Where did this spirit come from–are you kidding?

It came from each of our ancestors, the people who came before us with nothing but hope and an indomitable spirit. They learned a new language, performed backbreaking labor to build a new life for the next generation. That’s what being an American is all about–the promise—and the ability–to achieve the American dream.

A friend tells the story of his ancestors coming to this country from Croatia

They landed at Ellis Island where their name was quickly changed to something that was easier to spell and pronounce, then got on a train heading west. They didn’t speak a word of English, but they knew to be watching for the Studebaker sign—it was here that they would get off the train to join their countrymen who had already migrated to South Bend, IN, to work in the Studebaker factory. It was their ticket to the American dream.

They came to America seeking a better life

They wanted their children to have the opportunities that America represented. They worked hard, bought a home, proudly became US citizens and sent their sons to war. Thankfully, those sons all came home, went to college and built successful careers. In the country’s best tradition, it took just one generation to fulfill that dream. Could this happen in other countries? It’s doubtful.

Powerful motivators: Religious persecution, political oppression and economic hardship

The Irish came to America because they were hungry. A fungus that caused the potato famine jumpstarted the exodus of an estimated 4.5 million Irish immigrants who came to America between 1820 and 1930. They landed in the Northeastern port cities, the highest concentration in Boston. Ostracized for being Catholic in a largely Protestant region, they faced intense discrimination and worked in dangerous, low-paying jobs for decades before gaining credibility.

The Chinese came to cities like San Francisco, seeking their fortunes in the goldmines

What greeted them instead were discrimination, harsh conditions and hard work; more than 25,000 worked in the camps as launderers, cooks and laborers. After the boom, the Chinese were an important part of the labor force that built the country’s railroads—white workers were reluctant to do such backbreaking, hazardous work. These Chinese laborers sent for their families, married, had children, started businesses, built their communities and prospered, adding to the rich fabric of American multiculturism.

The Fall of Saigon and our Vietnamese community

It was in 1975, the closing days of the Vietnam War, with the Communists breathing down their necks, that a group of courageous American helicopter pilots flew nonstop missions throughout an exhausting 24-hour period to airlift more than 100,000 Vietnamese from the roof of the US Embassy. There were subsequent waves of Vietnamese immigration, including the 1978 boat people phenomenon. All learned a new language, endured intense culture shock and discrimination. Like every ethnic group before them, this new Vietnamese population worked hard, opened restaurants and other businesses and built new lives so their children wouldn’t know the hardship they’d endured.

The power of our multiethnic culture

Americans have always taken pride in our melting-pot culture. Yet as a politically correct colleague pointed out, the melting pot concept is outdated. It implies that we lose our identities in this pot. A better concept is a salad-bowl culture, which each culture joins the mix, bringing something unique and desirable to the whole–making it better–yet maintaining its individual character. I prefer this description.
We’re all stronger because of the ethnic groups who risked their lives to immigrate to America. People who rolled the dice and took a chance on a better life. That’s what America’s all about.
Have you created your Living Trust? Most of our clients are delighted with how easy the process was. The California Document Preparers team helps you through every step.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Who Pays My Debts When I Die?

Our clients frequently tell us that our Living Trust is a thoughtful end-of-life planning package that helps them think about how they will distribute their assets to their families. We include a Financial Power of Attorney, an Advance Healthcare Directive and a Pour Over Will. We include a place to note contact information for healthcare providers, veterinarians, financial advisors and other key people who would need to be contacted if anything happened to them. These days, we also advise our clients to provide their login information to their online accounts.
We’re zealots when it comes to Living Trusts, yet an estimated 50% of Americans die without one—and that means Probate, the public, court-administered process of administering an estate.

After you die, your debts become the responsibility of your estate

Your estate is everything you owned at the time of your death. Settling an estate is a matter of looking very clinically at your assets in relation to your liabilities. Your executor (the person responsible for dealing with estate after your death) will use your assets to pay off your debts. This could mean writing checks from a bank account or selling off property and assets to get the money. If there isn’t enough to cover the debt, creditors generally are out of luck. But some debts have unique properties.

Here’s a look at who’s left holding the bag for debts if you die.

  • Mortgages and home-equity loans. If a property has a mortgage, the lender has some protection, at least up to the value of the property. But federal law bars lenders from forcing a joint owner to pay off the mortgage immediately after the death of another co-owner. This also applies to any relative who inherits the home and lives in it. Practically, this means the family member or co-owner can simply take over the mortgage payments, at least for a certain period of time; but check the rules about this.
  • An outstanding home-equity loan against the property is different. A lender can force someone who inherits a home to repay the loan immediately, which could require selling the house. That said, lenders might work with new owners to allow them to simply take over the payments on the home-equity loan as well.
  • Auto loans. If the auto loan isn’t fully paid off, the lender has the right to repossess the car. But typically whoever inherits the vehicle can simply continue making payments, and the lender is unlikely to take action.
  • Credit cards. Once the estate runs out of assets, credit card companies are out of luck, because this debt is not secured by assets the way mortgages and car loans are. Any joint account holder would be responsible for the bill, but people who are simply authorized users of a card would not.
  • Spouses and debt. In community property states, which includes California, spouses are responsible for any debts incurred during the marriage—including credit card debt.
  • Student loans. Lenders have no recourse if the estate does not have assets to repay student loans. Federal student loans are discharged upon the student’s death.

Beware collection agencies . . .

If your relatives are not responsible for your debts, collection agencies may still legally call to discuss debts and to try to find someone authorized to pay them, according to the Federal Trade Commission. But collectors cannot mislead family members into thinking they’re responsible for the debts. There are, however, circumstances in which spouses or other people would be personally responsible for your debts. These include if they:
  • Co-signed for a loan
  • Are joint account holders

What’s protected: Retirement accounts and life insurance

Creditors typically cannot go after retirement accounts or life insurance proceeds. Those will go to the named beneficiaries and are excluded from the Probate process. But if the life insurance beneficiaries you named are no longer living, your death benefit may go into your estate and can be subject to creditors—a compelling reason to keep your policy updated.

Have you created your Living Trust? Most of our clients are delighted with how easy the process was. The California Document Preparers team helps you through every step.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Deeds: Online Title Transfer is Easy, Seamless and Convenient
JUNE 11, 2016

Deeds are one of our most popular services and many people are not aware that California Document Preparers has an even easier way to transfer title to their property. Our website has an online shopping cart that is easy, secure and seamless. From the main Deeds page, you’ll see a Get Started button, followed by a series of deed types. Choose the requested Deed transfer service:
  • Real Estate Title Transfer
  • Transfer Property to or from Your Living Trust
  • Transfer to LLC or Corporation
  • Affidavits of Death
  • Loan-Related Deed
You may be presented with another screen where you must make another selection. If you are Transferring Property to or from Your Living Trust, you will need to choose whether you are transferring the Deed to or out of your Trust.
  • You will receive a message that CDP will need a copy of the current deed to your property in order to prepare a new deed for you.
  • If you have the current deed, you may provide it when you upload your completed workbook.
If you do not have the current deed, CDP can obtain the current deed for you from a title company for a cost of $10. If you click this button, the $10 fee will be added to your shopping cart.

“Proceed to Checkout” and you will see your online shopping cart. 

  • If you’re a returning user, log in with your email address and password.
  • If you’re a new user, create an account, including a login and password.

Guiding you through the checkout process

You will see the steps across the top of the screen that will guide you through the checkout process.
  • You will be able to review your order and make a payment before submitting it.
  • You can pay with an Amex, Visa, Discover or MasterCard.
  • You’ll be presented with a dropdown to select the California Document Preparers office that is most convenient for you to work with for your Deed transfer process.
  • Once you’ve paid for your purchase, you will be able to download our attorney-approved workbook.
When you’ve completed the workbook, you can either upload it from your account in our secure website or email it to us. If you’re including a copy of your deed, it’s at this point that you attach this document as well.
  • After we receive your workbook, we complete the legal documents for you. If necessary, we pull the deed from the title company. Once the paperwork is ready, we call you and schedule a time for you to come in and sign and notarize the legal document.
  • We file the final document with the County Recorder and send you a copy.

Don’t underestimate the importance of a deed

Many people underestimate the importance of a deed, but it quickly becomes apparent when they get ready to sell their home or other property. It’s really very simple: Without clear title to your property, you won’t be able to sell it.
Your deed is filed with the County Recorder’s office in the county in which your property is located. We subscribe to a title company service that allows us to pull up the current deed--a tremendous time-saver for our clients. 
Our convenient online deed transfer process necessitates just one office visit to sign the final document. Get started today--one of our California Document Preparers team is always available to answer questions or help with the deed transfer process.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Deeds: Online Title Transfer is Easy, Seamless and Convenient


Deeds are one of our most popular services and many people are not aware that California Document Preparers has an even easier way to transfer title to their property. Our website has an online shopping cart that is easy, secure and seamless. From the main Deeds page, you’ll see a Get Started button, followed by a series of deed types. Choose the requested Deed transfer service:
  • Real Estate Title Transfer
  • Transfer Property to or from Your Living Trust
  • Transfer to LLC or Corporation
  • Affidavits of Death
  • Loan-Related Deed
You may be presented with another screen where you must make another selection. If you are Transferring Property to or from Your Living Trust, you will need to choose whether you are transferring the Deed to or out of your Trust.
  • You will receive a message that CDP will need a copy of the current deed to your property in order to prepare a new deed for you.
  • If you have the current deed, you may provide it when you upload your completed workbook.
If you do not have the current deed, CDP can obtain the current deed for you from a title company for a cost of $10. If you click this button, the $10 fee will be added to your shopping cart.
“Proceed to Checkout” and you will see your online shopping cart. 
  • If you’re a returning user, log in with your email address and password.
  • If you’re a new user, create an account, including a login and password.

Guiding you through the checkout process

You will see the steps across the top of the screen that will guide you through the checkout process.
  • You will be able to review your order and make a payment before submitting it.
  • You can pay with an Amex, Visa, Discover or MasterCard.
  • You’ll be presented with a dropdown to select the California Document Preparers office that is most convenient for you to work with for your Deed transfer process.
  • Once you’ve paid for your purchase, you will be able to download our attorney-approved workbook.
When you’ve completed the workbook, you can either upload it from your account in our secure website or email it to us. If you’re including a copy of your deed, it’s at this point that you attach this document as well.
  • After we receive your workbook, we complete the legal documents for you. If necessary, we pull the deed from the title company. Once the paperwork is ready, we call you and schedule a time for you to come in and sign and notarize the legal document.
  • We file the final document with the County Recorder and send you a copy.
Don’t underestimate the importance of a deed
Many people underestimate the importance of a deed, but it quickly becomes apparent when they get ready to sell their home or other property. It’s really very simple: Without clear title to your property, you won’t be able to sell it.
Your deed is filed with the County Recorder’s office in the county in which your property is located. We subscribe to a title company service that allows us to pull up the current deed--a tremendous time-saver for our clients. 
Our convenient online deed transfer process necessitates just one office visit to sign the final document. Get started today--one of our California Document Preparers team is always available to answer questions or help with the deed transfer process.