Friday, September 30, 2011

How to Avoid Probate Through Estate Planning and Assignment of Beneficiaries

Learning how to avoid probate can save heirs' time and money, prevent family disputes, and allow easy transfer of inheritance property upon death. Many people are not even familiar with probate let alone how to prevent it from occurring. Probate is required within all states of the U.S. to ensure decedent estates are settled according to inheritance laws. It is a time-consuming process that can take several months to complete.

Becoming educated about how to avoid probate is as simple as conducting research on the Internet or consulting with a family law attorney or estate planner. Many banks, credit unions, and financial advisors offer estate planning services for a nominal fee.

The only way to completely avoid the probate process is to transfer assets into a trust. However, trusts are generally reserved for individuals with assets valued over $100,000. Individuals with smaller estates can take measures to keep certain assets from undergoing the probate process.

One of the most important aspects of estate planning is executing a last will and testament, along with healthcare directives and designating Power of Attorney rights. POA allows a person to make decisions on your behalf if you are incapacitated and unable to make important decisions. Power of attorney rights also allow individuals to pay bills from your checking account, transfer titled property, and make legal decisions. Therefore, the person granted these powers should be someone whom can be trusted to make decisions based on your best interests.

Healthcare directives allow you to state what type of medical care you do or do not want. These can include being placed on life support, receiving nutritional support, organ donation, and do not rescesitate orders.

The Will is used to designate an estate administrator to handle all facets of estate management. Required duties vary depending on estate value, inheritance property, and family dynamics. Small probated estates can settle in three to six months. If heirs contest the Will, estate settlement can be prolonged until attorneys can work out acceptable agreements. Legal fees from contested Wills often bankrupt estates and leave nothing for heirs to inherit.

If people die without executing a legal will, the probate process takes longer. An estate administrator must be appointed through the court and additional work is required to locate heirs, inventory property, and other details which are normally included in the last will.

Individuals who hold bank accounts, retirement accounts, financial portfolios, and life insurance policies can assign beneficiaries to receive proceeds upon death. Beneficiary forms can be obtained through the financial institution where the account is held. Account holders can assign multiple beneficiaries and state the percentage of funds they will receive.

Beneficiaries must abide by each financial institution's policy regarding distribution of inheritance funds. Most states require beneficiaries to submit date-of-death value forms to the county tax assessor's office. As long as decedents are current with taxes, the Assessor's off will stamp the form so proceeds can be distributed.

Titled property can be kept out of probate by establishing joint ownership. When real estate or motor vehicles have joint titles, the property automatically transfers to the co-owner. When joint ownership is with a person other than your spouse, you might need to establish Joint Tenancy with Rights of Survivorship.

A lesser known way to avoid probate is through gifting inheritance property while you're still alive. The Internal Revenue Service allows gifting up to $12,000 per individual or $20,000 per married couple per year. If gifting limits exceed maximum level, recipients are required to file a federal gift tax return and pay appropriate inheritance taxes.

Implementing strategies to avoid probate is one of the best gifts you can leave loved ones. Regardless of how little or how much you own, it is important to put your affairs in order and execute a last will. Probate is not a fun process, so take measures to protect inheritance property and minimize the time required to settle your estate.

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Thursday, September 29, 2011

When You Need a Quit Claim Deed

Transactions involving the transfer of real estate normally involve several documents known as deeds (judicial, warranty, will, sheriff's and deeds of trust). These deeds are vital to make the transfer of a property from one person to another legitimate. One of these deeds is the Quit Claim Deed.

A quit claim deed is a legal document which releases a person's claim or interest on a certain real estate property and passes it to another individual. This type of deed, however, provides no assurance as to the rights of the person receiving it and makes no warranty that the person concerned owns anything. Quit claim deeds can be used in various situations such as in a divorce, transferring real estate properties between family members, as tokens or gifts or to remove doubts on title.

A typical example of a situation where a quit claim deed may be necessary is when one spouse disclaims any interest in the property that the other spouse owns such as during a divorce. In this circumstance, the spouse who foregoes his interest on the property is called the grantor while the spouse who owns the property is referred to as the grantee. The risks will be shouldered by the grantee especially since there is no warranty on the title.

If a married individual solely holds title to a property or the wife or the husband bought the property before tying the knot, the other spouse may be required to sign a quit claim deed when the property is sold to a third party. For instance, Annie bought a house before marrying Tom. A few years after the wedding, Annie decides to sell the house to Mr. Taylor and Tom, the husband, was required to sign a quit claim deed to Mr. Taylor. The main purpose of the quit claim deed here is to ensure that the spouse not on the deed does not return later on and reclaim the property.

Another example during a divorce is when one of the spouses wants to keep their conjugal home. In this case, the spouse who wants to remain in the house needs to request a quit claim deed so he or she could have sole interest in the house.

Of course, in selling any residential property, the owner is usually required to file a quit claim deed with the county in their state. The document will then transfer the interest of the house involved from the seller to the buyer.

Still another use is when a family home inherited by several siblings who share ownership is sold to a new owner. However, even before the sale, a sibling can already sell his or her share in the home to another sibling and sign a quit claim deed to give up all his or her rights and interests in the property.

Legal experts say there are important things to keep in mind when using a quit claim deed. They point out that the document should bear the current legal names of the parties involved. For divorced couples, the names that appear in their divorce decree should be the same as that will appear in the quit claim deed. The quit claim document will not be needed, though, if the divorcing couple decides to live in separate homes but would like to remain on the title.

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Monday, September 26, 2011

QDRO Forms to Divide Pension Benefits in Divorce - "Shared Interest" Or "Separate Interest" Approach

Many people facing the prospect of divorce are surprised to learn that pension benefits accrued during the course of a marriage are considered marital property (or, in some states such as California, community property) that is divided between the spouses upon divorce. A pension plan falls under the category of retirement plans known as defined benefit plans. These types of retirement plans generally provide that upon retirement, the participant (employee) is entitled to a monthly annuity that is payable over his or her lifetime.

Because of certain provisions contained a Federal law known as the Employment Retirement Security Act, a divorce judgment or matrimonial settlement agreement, standing alone, is not a legally sufficient mechanism for dividing a pension plan. It is essential that a further order, known as a qualified domestic relations order (QDRO) be entered by the court and approved by the pension plan administrator.

In situations where the participant spouse is not yet retired, the QDRO form can utilize two different methods for dividing pension benefits. These include the "shared interest approach" and "separate interest approach."

If a QDRO form uses the Shared Interest Approach, payments to the Alternate Payee cannot begin until the Participant chooses to retire and begins to receive a retirement allowance. Furthermore, payments to the Alternate Payee must end upon the Participant's death unless the Alternate Payee was designated in the QDRO as the surviving spouse of the Participant for the purpose of electing a Qualified Joint and Survivor Annuity and such election was elected by the Participant at the time of the Participant's retirement.

If a QDRO form applies the Separate Interest Approach, a "separate interest" is carved out for the Alternate Payee and adjusted to his or her actuarial life expectancy. In addition, the Alternate Payee controls the timing and manner of his or her receipt of the benefit payments. The Alternate Payee can commence receiving benefits at the Participant's earliest retirement date, rather than wait for the Participant to begin to receive a retirement allowance.

In most instances, it is highly beneficial for the non-participant spouse that the QDRO form utilize a separate interest approach. Sample QDRO forms are available for download. Upon completion of a proposed QDRO form, the document must be submitted to the pension plan administrator for approval, and, thereafter, to the divorce court adjudicating the matter.

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BY THE PEOPLE of Fairfield has helped thousands of people in the Solano County Area since 2004. We have assisted people in preparing the paperwork for many different uncontested legal matters, and we can help you, too! We try to make each process is simple and fast as possible, as well as affordable. Our fees are a fraction of the cost that you would pay at an attorney’s office. Please call or stop in for more information. There is no cost or obligation to stop in and have an initial consultation with us. We offer a friendly and relaxed atmosphere at our office, which we think you will find very comfortable.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Grasping the Concept of a Conservatorship

As people begin to age, practical issues begin to rear their head that nobody really contemplated before hand. Specifically, the ability of the senior to make financial or health decisions can become questionable and a conservatorship might be needed.

There is little doubt that we begin to slow down as we age. This is true for both our physical and mental capabilities. This is never more so the case then when people start to get into their sixties and older. The memory starts to go. The mind starts to slow down. If things start to degrade quickly, the issue of whether a senior has the capacity to make decisions for themselves can lead to a conservatorship hearing.

What is a conservatorship? It is the appointment of a third person to handle decisions for the individual in question. The decisions can be related to medical care, financial issues or both. The conservatorship is created by a judge during a court hearing. The conservator is often a family member, but the court can select a third party trustee or separate individual to handle the issues surrounding the impacted person.

So, what does the conservator actually do? For health decisions, the conservator is the person authorized to give informed consent to medical procedures such as surgeries. For financial decisions, the conservator takes over the person's bank account, investment accounts and so on.

The conservator is not given free reign over the life of the individual being evaluated by the court. Instead, the conservator has a duty to make decisions in a manner that reflects the best interests of the person in question. The specific ramifications of how this plays out is determined state by state as conservatorship law is controlled at the state level and each has a slightly different way of going about it.

So, what keeps the conservator from "playing funny" with the money and such? The court will assign a second person, usually an attorney, to oversee the decisions being made by the conservator. If the conservator starts taking action that looks contrary to the best interests of the individual in question, the overseeing party can alert the court.

There is no secret we have a bulge in our population known as the baby boomers. As that bulge moves into their senior years, conservatorships will become more and more common. If you have a senior adult in your life, make sure you understand the basic concept and what you might be required to get into.

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Friday, September 23, 2011

Minors Seeking To Be Legally Adults Should Consider Emancipation

Generally children are under the legal care of their parents until they turn 18 years old. In special circumstances a child may need to gain legal control of their lives before this age. Reasons could include a desire to marry before 18 without the consent of parents, entering the military or financial reasons. Gaining legal independence from parents before turning 18 is known as emancipation.

Courts are generally hesitant about granting emancipation, but teenagers with strong reasons may have their requests granted. The Court will require that these teens prove that being emancipated in their best interests before entering an order recognizing them as independent adults.

Every case is different and the Judge should consider the special circumstances of each case. A few possible situations that could convince a Judge to grant an emancipation include:

Financial independence: this is often seen with child stars or children who inherit large amounts of money but don't trust their parents to manage it for them for some reason, but is not limited to the very rich. It is possible for a minor to inherit a sum of money or property but not have the ability to fully claim those funds due to their minority. A court order of emancipation allows them to act as an adult and claim their inheritance.

Marriage: if the child has married prior to becoming an adult legally they can request emancipation. Most States require that the minor's parents consent to the marriage and having done so they have little say in the emancipation of the child as it is a little difficult to say that the minor was adult enough to marry but is not adult enough to be independent.

Parental abandonment: if the parents are nowhere to be found and the child has been taking care of themselves they can request that the Court recognize their independence.

The Judge has the discretion to grant emancipation or not and there is no real appeals process. The Judge should use the child's best interest as the standard to determine whether to grant the request or not.

First the teen must qualify for emancipation by meeting the age requirement. Every State has a certain age that must be reached before the Court can consider emancipation. In many States the minimum age is 16 years old. If the teen meets the age requirement they must file a request for emancipation with the Court. This is a rather complicated document that should be prepared by an attorney. After the request for emancipation is filed a hearing will be set and the judge will hear from the teen and potentially their parents and then reach a decision.

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Thursday, September 22, 2011

Be Protected With a Simple Promissory Note

While most of us may not realize it the simple promissory note that is in use today is not that much different from the ones that were used as far back as the 10th century BC. This note is a very simple yet legally binding contract between the lender and the person who is borrowing the money. It is designed to help both parties avoid making what could be costly mistakes that could easily result in a court battle and ill feelings between both parties. The law does not require this to be an overly complicated form and in fact the simpler the note is the better.

In the early days a promissory note only contained three things, the name of the lender, the name of the borrower and how much money had been loaned. Those in use today require little more and may only add such information as the contact information for both parties, the interest rate being applied to the loan and the final due date for repayment of the loan. This information is used to ensure that there can be no misunderstandings by either party involved in the loan.

There are typically two forms of this type of loan agreement; they are the secured note and the unsecured note. With a secured note you will be required to provide some form of collateral in the form of real property before the lender will complete the loan. These notes are generally used when a person buys a home or a car that has to be financed and the property they are buying is what gets used as their collateral. This way if they default on the loan the lender has something that can be sold in an attempt to recoup some of their losses.

With an unsecured note the loan is usually much smaller and often between two friends or family members. The problem with using this type of simple promissory note is that if the borrower defaults on the loan, the lender may have no other recourse than a court of law to attempt to recover his money. Since the borrower has already defaulted on the loan there is a relatively large possibility that the lender who takes civil action may not just end up out the value of the loan, but his expenses for attempting to collect the debt. A promissory note is only a legally binding contract if both parties have signed the document and should always be used when lending or borrowing money.

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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

What is a Revocable Living Trust?

Living trusts have becoming an increasingly common and popular choice in estate planning in recent years because they offer a unique and smart way to protect your assets both while you are still capable of managing them and after you have passed away or fallen ill. A revocable living trust is a specific type of trust that differs from other trusts in important ways.

Trust versus Will

One of the main things a trust does is replace many of the functions of a will. You may still choose to have a will in addition to the trust to take care of any property that you do not incorporate into the trust. However, the main advantage of a trust as opposed to a will is that it does not need to be filed in probate court, which allows individuals a greater degree of privacy as there is no public record of all the assets in their possession.

A Revocable Living Trust

All trusts are entities into which one transfers their assets. The assets then become property of the trust rather than the individual. A revocable living trust is used so that individuals can put all of their property into a single location, allowing it to be distributed quickly and easily when the time comes for that process. The trust takes effect immediately, which is why it is called "living." The opposite type of trust is called a testamentary trust, and does not take effect until the person dies. At that point, their assets are transferred into the trust for disposal.

Controlling a Trust

In the meantime, most people choose to name themselves as the trustee as long as they are alive and competent, which means that they retain control over their assets even though the trust owns the assets rather than the individual. Revocable trusts can be changed, altered, or even dissolved at the discretion of the person who creates them as long as they are competent, at any time, and for any reason. In this way, this type of trust offers the greatest degree of flexibility while providing the degree of protection and privacy desired by people considering a trust.

To summarize, some of the advantages to a revocable living trust include:

- flexibility to change or dissolve the trust while you're alive

- Ability to serve as the trustee of your own trust

- Privacy because no will needs to be filed

- Savings after death because avoids the costs and delays of probate court

These flexible trusts are a great choice for many people. If you are interested in this or other options regarding trusts and estate planning, it is important to consult someone with knowledge and experience before making these important decisions.

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Monday, September 19, 2011

LLC vs Corporation: What Entity Is The Right One For You?

Choosing the right entity

You finally decided to form your own legal entity. However, how would you know which one is the best choice for you particular needs?

To make this choice wisely it is important to understand the basic differences between various types of legal entities. This article focuses on comparison between LLC (limited liability company), one of the most popular business entities today, and various forms of corporation, namely C- and S-Corporation.

C-Corporation vs. S-Corporation

All corporations start as C-Corporations and are required to pay income tax on taxable income generated by the corporation. An C-Corporation becomes a S-Corporation by completing and filing federal form 2553 with the IRS.

  1. Taxation: An S-Corporation's net income or loss is "passed-through" to the shareholders and are included in their personal tax returns. Because income is NOT taxed at the corporate level, there is no double taxation as with C corporations.
  2. Difference in income allocation: Subchapter S-Corporations, as they are also called, are restricted to having no more than 100 shareholders, and cannot be owned by C-Corporations, other S-Corporations, many trusts, LLCs, partnerships, or non-resident aliens.

LLC vs. C-Corporation

There are three principle differences between LLC and C-Corporation:

  1. The entities are taxed differently: An LLC is a pass-through tax entity, meaning that the income is not taxed at the company level (however, LLC is still required to complete a tax return). The income or loss as shown on this return is "passed through" the business entity to the individual shareholders or interest holders, and is reported on their individual tax returns. C-Corporation is a separately taxable entity, and pays tax on the income prior to any dividend distributions to shareholders. If and when corporate earnings are distributed to shareholders in the form of dividends, the corporation does not receive the reasonable business expense deduction, and dividend income is taxed as regular income to the shareholders.
  2. The entities differ in their structure: LLCs are less rigid in their structure than corporations, so you have more flexibility in adapting the LLC to your unique business. The Operating Agreement of an LLC can be structured in a limitless amount of ways.
  3. Formality: A corporation is a formal entity with officers and directors (at least one of each) required. An LLC, on the other hand, can be "member managed" and run in a less formal way. For small, start-up businesses, less formality means you can focus on making money rather than administrative work.

LLC vs. C-Corporation

Even though LLC and S-Corporation have a lot in common, those two types of entities differ on the following:

  1. Difference in income allocation: While S-Corporation special tax status eliminates double taxation, it lacks the flexibility of an LLC in allocating income to the owners. An LLC may offer several classes of membership interests, while an S-Corporation may only have one class of stock.
  2. Ownership restrictions: Any number of individuals or entities may own interests in an LLC. However, ownership interest in an S-Corporation is limited to no more than 100 shareholders, and S-Corporations cannot be owned by C-Corporations, other S-Corporations, many trusts, LLCs, partnerships, or non-resident aliens. Also, LLCs are allowed to have subsidiaries without restriction.

Those are just the principle differences between the three most popular entities. However, when choosing to organize a business one should consider other less popular types of legal entities, as those might answer to particular needs of the business. Consider discussing your situation with a licensed attorney or a CPA, familiar with your situation and whatever requirements your state might have for forming various business entities.

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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Five Types of Power of Attorney Privileges

Establishing power of attorney privileges is an essential element of estate planning. POA authorizes another person to make decisions related to finances and healthcare for someone else in the event they are unable to make decisions on their own.

Before bestowing power of attorney privileges it is crucial to understand how the process works and the rights the person will be given. The person appointed to this position ought to be capable of making difficult decisions that might go against what other family members want.

Individuals who are granted authority to make decisions must be at least 18 years of age. It's important to choose a person who will remain true to decisions pertaining to medical and financial transactions.

There are five different types of power of attorney rights and responsibilities differ based on powers authorized. Each consists of two individuals that include the 'Principal' and 'Attorney-in-Fact.' The Principal is the person that sets up the contract and the attorney-in-fact is the person who carries out the duties on their behalf.

Durable Power of Attorney is the most common type of contract. This legal document authorizes the attorney-in-fact to make financial and medical decisions based on directives provided by the Principal. Powers remain in effect until the Principal dies or until powers are revoked.

The next most common document is the Non-Durable Power of Attorney which authorizes the attorney-in-fact to make decisions for specific types of transactions. Non-durable POA is generally used when the Principal must undergo surgery or some type of medical treatment that might prevent them from being able to make decisions. Powers are granted for a specific transaction and expire once the transaction is completed.

A Limited Power of Attorney is typically used to grant authorization to the attorney-in-fact to sell or transfer real estate owned by the Principal. This document revokes privileges when the transaction is completed.

A Healthcare Power of Attorney is needed to authorize a person to make medical decisions on behalf of the Principal It is vital to discuss the types of medical procedures wanted or not wanted with the person who will be in charge of making decisions to ensure they will abide by your desires.

People often feel uncomfortable discussing these topics, but it's best to openly talk about what kind of treatments should be given or avoided if the unthinkable happens. If a person is adamant about not being placed on life support if declared brain dead, they need to make their decisions known in a healthcare POA. Otherwise, medical personnel must abide by state laws and provide life saving treatment.

A Springing Power of Attorney is required to authorize release of medical records and information. The attorney-in-fact is required to obtain court authorization before they can make decisions on behalf of the Principal.

It's recommended to talk with a lawyer before drafting Power of Attorney documents. Lawyers can advise which document is best suited for the situation and help Principal's select an appropriate attorney-in-fact to carry out required duties.

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BY THE PEOPLE of Fairfield has helped thousands of people in the Solano County Area since 2004. We have assisted people in preparing the paperwork for many different uncontested legal matters, and we can help you, too! We try to make each process is simple and fast as possible, as well as affordable. Our fees are a fraction of the cost that you would pay at an attorney’s office. Please call or stop in for more information. There is no cost or obligation to stop in and have an initial consultation with us. We offer a friendly and relaxed atmosphere at our office, which we think you will find very comfortable.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Qualified Domestic Relations Orders (QDRO)

A Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) is an order issued by a state authority or court, which provides funds from the retirement account of a divorcing individual to his or her spouse. This is done to pay alimony or child support payments, or to split up the marital property.

Requirements for a QDRO

For a Qualified Domestic Relations Order to be issued by the court, the court must have information:

  • on the total amount of payments to be made
  • on the periods for which payments must be made
  • on the names and addresses of the divorcing individuals
  • about the retirement account out of which the QDRO will be set up

Features of a QDRO

A Qualified Domestic Relations Order has the following features

  • A QDRO does not affect the basic rules of a retirement account. For example, funds cannot be withdrawn earlier than what the retirement plan allows.
  • The benefits to be received under a Qualified Domestic Relations Order are taxable, even if they are being paid in place of child support payments, which are usually not taxable.
  • The recipient of the benefits can defer the tax payments by investing the amount in an Individual Retirement account.
  • Although used mostly in divorce cases, a Qualified Domestic Relations Order may also be set up for a legal separation case.
  • The account to be used must be a retirement account.
  • Previous alimony and child support payments can be paid with a Qualified Domestic Relations Order.

There are a number of other factors concerning QDROs that a person going through a divorce should consider before proceeding with his or her case.

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Monday, September 12, 2011

Avoiding Probate

When it comes to estate planning, one of the many questions is whether or not probate is an ideal option. Most of the time, it is better for your beneficiaries to avoid probate. Why would you want to avoid probate? Through the probate process you have no immediate access to cash in order to pay bills, debts, or taxes - you would be left paying for it all out of pocket. Also, a probate judge could get in the way and slow down the process which is already pretty lengthy, as well as the fees that are accrued and that probate is public record. In many cases, it is best to use every avenue available to avoid the probate process.

There are three main actions which can help avoid probate. These are: Jointly Titled Assets, Payable on Death or Transfer on Death Accounts, and a Revocable Living Trust. They all have their positive and negative aspects. This article is to briefly touch on each action and the different consequences of each.

Jointly titled assets consist of bank accounts, real estate, automobiles, and the like in which the main owner shares ownership with at least one other person. When the main owner dies, ownership is then transferred to the other owner(s) listed on the contract or agreement. Problems arise when it involves financial accounts.

If the other owners do not contribute to the account, the original owner may be deemed as having made a gift, causing the funds to be subject to fees and taxes. Also, if one of the owners is sued the funds may end up with a judgement lien on them and, depending on the outcome, may result in most or all of the funds being depleted. Another problems arises if the owner has three children, but only lists one child as the joint owner. This automatically causes the other two children to be disinherited from the account. Another issue arises when one of the beneficiaries is a minor. A conservatorship is put in place in order for the account to be used for the minors benefit.

A Payable on Death Account, also referred to as Transfer on Death Account, allows you to designate a beneficiary of your bank accounts, investment accounts, and individual stock certificates for after you die. This can be a quick and easy way to disburse your funds to your beneficiary, but still holds its own possible problems.

Payable on Death Accounts can cause disinheriting of beneficiaries in the same way as a jointly titled asset can. Another issue arises if one of the beneficiaries dies before the owner does. This can make it difficult to figure the amount the other listed beneficiaries receive. If the deceased beneficiary was the only one listed, the owner needs to list a new beneficiary in order to keep the account from becoming part of their estate and being subject to probate. If the owner of the P.O.D account wants to make changes or transfer funds, some institutions will require the consent of the beneficiaries. Another requirement that may be mandated by the institution is that all beneficiaries receive equal shares.

Revocable Living Trusts are agreements involving the Trustmaker/Grantor/Settler, the Trustee, and the Beneficiary. The trustmaker is the owner who wants to set up and fund the trust, the trustee is the person who manages the trust, and the beneficiary is the person who benefits from it. Usually, all three are one and the same. Once the trust is made the trustmaker will fund it with all assets and make the beneficiary of all retirement accounts, life insurance, and annuities. The trustee manages, invests, and spends the funds of the trust for the benefit of the beneficiary. The way this avoids probate is that once the trust is made, the trustmaker will not own any property in his/her own name. After the trustmaker passes, the trust will continue and the Successor Trustee named will have authority of the trust and its disbursement.

Whether you use one or all of the options listed above, you can easily avoid having your estate subject to probate. This will significantly cut down on the amount of time your heirs and beneficiaries have to wait for what you want them to have; in most cases they can receive it almost immediately! Hopefully, I have helped enlighten you with alternatives and options outside of the typical process.

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Sunday, September 11, 2011

9/11 - 10th Anniversary - Tribute

September 11, 2001, A day we will never forget. 

Thanks to all firefighters, police, average citizens, rescue parties/teams/organizations who risked their lives to save others on this tragic day.

"You can break the foundation of a building, but you can't break the foundation of our freedom!"

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Expungement Versus Pardoning

Through two methods, known as pardoning and expungement, the law's reaction to a person's crimes may be changed. Although the concepts may seem similar to those unfamiliar with the law, pardons and expungement work in significantly different ways. While both of these legal concepts modify a person's criminal history, they differ significantly in how those changes work.

Perhaps the largest and most obvious difference between a pardon and an expungement is how these orders work. A pardon does not remove the crime in question from a person's record. Instead, it can protect them from legal prosecution, drop any penalties for a crime, or modify the sentence. For example, some states include a death penalty, but may have governors that provide pardons to commute these sentences to life imprisonment.

An expungement, on the other hand, removes the record of a crime. All punishments must be served according to the law, and, for most cases, there cannot be pending legal procedures for the convicted individual. In some states, an expungement is used to clear the charge or allegation from a person's record, while the actual verdict of the crime must be vacated, which is a similar process. In many jurisdictions, expungement makes it legal for these convicted individuals to then state that they were not convicted of the crime in question if a prospective employer asks.

To be granted either of these orders, there are different requirements. In particular, pardons are only given by the heads of the state and federal executive branches. This means that governors and the president may pardon people according to their own judgment. Expungement, on the other hand, is a court order, filed under the jurisdiction of the judicial system. These orders, unlike pardons, have strict rules regarding what kinds of records can be expunged.

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Friday, September 9, 2011

Titling A Deed Properly

Deeds - Make Sure Your Home is Titled to Protect You!

What is a deed?

A deed is the document that transfers ownership of real property. It maintains the names of the person holding the legal title, and if any, persons before who held legal title and contains a description of the property included.

The requirements for deeds vary with the jurisdiction and the specific state and city stature must be followed to create a valid deed. Title is the right to hold an ownership interest in a property; the right is transferred through a deed.

What types of deeds are there?

o Quit Claim Deed - A Quit Claim deed transfers to the grantee any and all of the legal rights the grantor has in the parcel of real property. The Quit Claim deed makes no warranty about the extent of the grantor's interest in the parcel of real property. This deed has the least protection of all real estate deeds.

o Grant Deed - A Grant Deed transfers to the grantee all or part of the legal rights the grantor has in the parcel of real property. The grantor deed implies certain warranties; that the property has not been transferred to someone else and that the property is free from any liens placed on the property by the grantor.

o General Warranty Deed - A general warranty deed transfers to the grantee all of the legal rights the grantor has in the parcel of real property and explicitly warrants that the grantor has good title to the parcel. This deed provides the most protection of the real estate deeds.

o Special Warranty Deed - A special warranty deed transfers to the grantee all of the legal rights the grantor has in the parcel of real property but warranties only what the deed specifically states is warranted. This deed type offers the buyer two guarantees from the seller. The first guarantee is that the seller received title and the second one guarantees that the seller did not encumber (anything that lowers the value, use or enjoyment) the property during the time the seller owned the property.

o Fiduciary Deed - A fiduciary deed is a deed used to transfer property when the grantor is a fiduciary such as a trustee, guardian, conservator, or executor acting in his official capacity. A fiduciary deed usually only warranties that the fiduciary is acting in his appointed capacity and within his allotted authority.

o Trust Deed - A trust deed is a written instrument that transfers property to a trustee to secure an obligation such as a promissory note or a mortgage. The trustee has the power to sell the real property in the case of a default on the obligation.

Do I need a deed to transfer property?

Property cannot be transferred without leaving something in writing. There are only a few examples where a deed may not be needed to transfer property. One may be in divorce where the court transfers the property out of both names into one of the spouse's names.

Does it matter which deed I use?

From the standpoint of asset protection, yes, from the standpoint of the law, you have choices. Deeds imply promises and with promises come liability.
A deed must be signed and notarized and you should keep your deed in a safe dry place. You or your attorney should record the deed in the Land Records Office in the county where the property is registered. All you have to do is take the original signed deed to the Land Records Office and the clerk will take the deed and stamp it, assign some numbers and make a copy, giving you back your original copy.

How is a trust deed different?

A trust deed (also called a deed of trust) is not used to transfer property. It is a version of a mortgage and contains certain promissory obligations, commonly used in some states (California, for example). A trust deed transfers title to land to a "trustee" usually a trust or title company that holds the land as security for a loan. When the loan is fulfilled, title is transferred to the borrower. The trustee has no powers unless the borrower defaults on the loan, then the trustee can sell the property and pay the lender without going to court.

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Thursday, September 8, 2011

Getting Started On Your QDRO

Filing a QDRO document is required if you are divorcing and have a retirement plan or account that needs to be divided. You can file a QDRO, or it can be filed by your former spouse. Either way, law counsel is always a good idea.

You may contemplate waiting to worry about your retirement account until you are a little closer to retirement. Experts however, warn against this as you may reduce the chances of being able to claim your money as more time goes by.

You can get started by gathering as much information on yourself, your former spouse, and your plan as possible. You will also need to have a copy of your divorce decree. You can then fill out the QDRO with the help of your legal counsel.

After you have completed your document and looked over it, you will need to send it to your spouse or former spouse and his or her lawyer for approval. Neither party needs to sign it before more approval is received from the plan administrator and the court systems.

Once your plan administrator has received the document, you may be requested to make changes before your document can be approved. Once the document is approved, you may then receive instructions on how to receive your award.

You might have the option to receive your reward all at once, but more likely, you will be awarded in monthly payments. You may also want to look into the possibility of rolling your payments into your own 401k, penalty free. Depending on the plan you have, the cooperativeness of your spouse, and other factors, you should be able to complete a QDRO process in two to six months.

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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Your Non-Profit Organization - Benefits of Incorporating

The term "nonprofit" is used to identify any business that is organized to serve a public purpose. That is, a for-profit business sets a purpose of making money for the owners, where a nonprofit business sets a purpose of some charitable idea.

Not all nonprofits need to be organized as a corporation. For example, social groups or activity-based groups (quilt guilds, hunting clubs) may have no need for tax exemption or charitable status, so a basic state registration of the name may sufficient. However, there are significant benefits to incorporating a nonprofit, and any nonprofit that intends to grow or have significant cash flow through should consider taking the extra step to incorporating from the start.

The benefits of incorporating a nonprofit are akin to the benefits of LLC or corporation status of for-profit businesses. These benefits include:

Limited Liability

Except for rare, specific instances, the individuals who control a corporation are not liable for legal and financial obligations of the nonprofit. The corporation can incur debts and have legal obligations on its own, without the personal guaranty of its board members. Also, a corporation can own its own property, have its own bank account, and employ staff, all under its own name.


A corporation continues to exist in perpetuity until legal dissolution, unless it is chartered for only a specific, limited period of time. Its existence is not dependent on the individuals involved. For this reason, some businesses, banks, and donors are more likely to deal with nonprofit corporations over unincorporated indicates that the nonprofit is not going to end up for personal gain of the founders and will continue to exist on its own merit.

Uniform Set of Rules

Corporations are governed by a uniform, though flexible, set of rules established by state law. Thus, corporations are operated functionally the same and others (board members, staff, donors) know what to expect from the governance of the nonprofit.

Tax Exemption

Incorporation allows a nonprofit to apply for state and federal tax-exempt status. This means that the money the nonprofit brings in will generally be untaxable. If the nonprofit makes money from an activity unrelated to the stated purpose of the organization, it may be taxable, but general donations, grant funding, and other income directly related to the stated purpose is exempt from taxes.

Charitable Status

Incorporation also allows qualified nonprofits to apply for 501(c)(3) status, meaning donors can write their contributions off their taxes. This status is critical if a significant proportion of your income will come from the public or individual donors.

Most nonprofit organizations will benefit from registering as a corporation. In addition to the legal protections, incorporation adds an air of legitimacy to the organization. And, while securing 501(c)(3) status can be tedious, it is well worth the effort for any qualified charitable organization that will seek public funding. Also, most government and private grantmaking agencies prefer to deal with 501(c)(3) status organizations. If your nonprofit idea is likely to grow or branch out from where it starts, incorporating the business and pursuing the appropriate exempt and charitable statuses should begin as early as possible.

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Sunday, September 4, 2011

Sued in Another State? Sister State Judgments

Moving to another state does not free you from a lawsuit issued against you.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Divorce Court's Judge Lynn Toler Offers Couples Advice

"Divorce Court," television's longest running court show, is presided over by the honorable Judge Lynn Toler.

In this clip, Judge Toler offers a piece of advice for help them stay OUT of her divorce courtroom.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Can Anyone Else Revoke A Power Of Attorney I Have Granted?

Answering the question "can anyone else revoke a power of attorney I have granted?"

By The People is a Document Preparation Service located in Fairfield, California available to help you represent yourself in many uncontested legal matters. We have helped thousands of people in the Solano County Area since 2004. We try to make each process is simple and fast as possible, as well as affordable. Our fees are a fraction of the cost that you would pay at an attorney’s office. Please call or stop in for more information. There is no cost or obligation to stop in and have an initial consultation with us. We offer a friendly and relaxed atmosphere at our office, which we think you will find very comfortable.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Power Of Attorney Types

Power of attorney is a legal instrument in which the individual willingly provides authority to another person to act as a legal representative on his/her behalf. The duration of the authority will continue until the principal party revokes it by himself. In the document, the principal can give limited power or full power to the other person or agent. By providing the authority to another person it doesn't mean that the principal cannot take decisions. According to the document the other person also can execute things mentioned in the document for you.

1. Durable

This becomes effective immediately after the principal provides the power to another person. Because of this, the agent can perform tasks instantaneously as per the document. As the power goes to the hand of the agent immediately, you should have complete faith in the person who is appointed as your agent. The agent can act without the permission of the person who had given the power to him. This is preferred frequently as it becomes automatically effective. It is convenient to both the parties as it does not need to satisfy any other conditions to become effective.

2. Non-Durable

The authority of the person is limited for a specified period of time. In this case, the agent cannot act on behalf of the person until the person becomes incapacitated. The agent has to finish the task within a particular period of time and when the task is complete, the principal will get back the power. This is normally used in short-term transactions in which the principal is unable to handle the transactions. This one also becomes effective instantaneously just like durable power of attorney.

3. Springing

This is mainly useful in situations where the person could not give the permission either in writing or verbally. To get the power to act for the principal, a doctor has to attest that the principal cannot act for themselves and hence an attorney-in-fact is needed. This is used in cases such as serious accident, mental illness or trauma of the principal.

Power of attorney should not be granted to all affairs of the principal. There are certain restrictions on that as sometimes it is applicable only for one aspect like financial. The differences are as follows:

4. Limited or Special

This is mainly used along with non-durable type in special cases. This one is applicable in the case of financial matter or certain property sale. Even though an attorney-in-fact is there, they cannot control any aspects of the principal. But General Attorney can deal with all the dealings and affairs of the person.

5. Health Care

This is used when the principal is mentally or terminally ill and the power will be given only to take medical decisions.

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