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Kay is a shareholder in the firm’s Estate Planning, Tax & Fiduciary Abuse group. She is certified by the State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization as a Certified Specialist in Estate Planning, Trust and Probate Law. Kay advises individuals and families on all aspects of estate and tax planning, including family trusts, wills, powers of attorney, health care documents, life insurance trusts, education trusts, charitable giving, business succession planning, gifting programs, and family business entities such as limited liability companies and family limited partnerships. She also assists clients with estate and gift tax issues, and probate and trust administrations.

KayBAre you having trouble completing or updating your estate plan, although you are convinced you should?  Maybe you have a referral to an attorney recommended by a friend or other advisor, but you haven’t yet scheduled the first meeting?  Or you have attended the first meeting with your estate planning attorney, but you can’t quite seem to finish your action list for the next meeting?

Estate planning is not the top of anyone’s “to do” list.  As an estate planning attorney, part of my job is to help my clients complete their estate plans.  No one intends to delay the process, but many times the process stalls.

Here are some ideas that have helped my clients cross the finish line and enjoy the relief that a completed plan brings.  See if they work for you!


Continue Reading Overcoming Proscrastination – Tips for Starting and Completing Your Estate Plan

KayBToday the United States Supreme Court ruled that Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional.  The case, United States v. Windsor, 570 U.S. ____ (2013), involved the portion of DOMA that stated that the federal government will only recognize marriages between opposite-sex spouses for purposes of federal law.  There are over 1,000 federal laws that address marital status, and DOMA’s Section 3 denied validly married same-sex couples myriad protections and responsibilities under federal law.  Because of the Windsor decision, same-sex spouses who are validly married under state law will now also be treated as married under federal law. 

Edith Windsor married Thea Spyer, her partner of 46 years, in Ontario, Canada, in 2007.  At the time, their state of residency, New York, did not allow same-sex marriage, but it did recognize the validity of their Canadian marriage.  When Ms. Spyer died in 2009, she left her entire estate to Ms. Windsor.  Ms. Windsor filed Ms. Spyer’s federal estate tax return and claimed that she was owed a refund of $363,053 as the surviving spouse.  Under federal tax law, property passing from a deceased spouse to a surviving spouse is not subject to estate tax.  However, DOMA prevented the IRS from recognizing Ms. Windsor and Ms. Spyer’s marriage, and the refund claim was denied.  The federal District Court and the Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Ms. Windsor, holding that the applicable provisions of DOMA were unconstitutional and ordering that the Treasury refund the estate tax paid to Ms. Windsor with interest.  The government appealed that decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In today’s U.S. Supreme Court decision, Justice Kennedy, writing for the majority, stated Section 3 of DOMA violates the due process and equal protection principles of the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution because it was principally designed to impose an unequal status on otherwise validly married same-sex couples.  Specifically, Section 3 tells these couples that “their otherwise valid marriages are unworthy of federal recognition . . . plac[ing] same-sex couples in an unstable position of being in a second-tier marriage.”  Slip op. at 23.  To the extent that a state has chosen to allow same-sex marriage, the U.S. Constitution prohibits the federal government from imposing “a disability on the class [of same-sex spouses] by refusing to acknowledge a status the State finds to be dignified and proper.”  Slip op. at 25.


Continue Reading Supreme Court Rules DOMA Section 3 Unconstitutional

I recently had the privilege of serving as one of the Sacramento Bee’s experts for the “Ask the Expert” column by Claudia Buck, Personal Finance columnist. The following Q & A, based on an answer I wrote that was posted online at www.sacbee.com/personalfinanceblog, deals with a topic that comes up regularly in my practice and may be a situation you have faced: how long, after the death of the settlor, can the assets remain in the trust before distribution to the trust beneficiaries must be made?

Q:  “Is there any harm in leaving a house titled in a trust name after a person is deceased? All other assets have been disbursed, the house is a rental and the rent is split evenly (after expenses) among the siblings, each claim the income and expenses on our individual tax returns, is that okay?”  


Continue Reading How Long Can Assets Remain in a Trust after the Death of the Settlor?