Trusts & Estates Law Blog

With New Tax Law, Your Estate Planning May Need Some Revisions

Posted in Estate and Trust Planning, Taxation, Trust

You may have heard by now that the Gift and Estate Tax exemption amount was increased by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, which became effective on January 1, 2018. This article is to highlight some of the key estate planning issues under the new tax law.

In 2019, the Gift and Estate Tax exemption as adjusted for inflation is $11.4 million, and in 2020, the exemption amount will be increased to $11,580,000. Historically, this is the highest the exemption has ever been. The exemption will continue to increase incrementally due to a built-in inflation adjustment until January 1, 2026, when, absent an act of Congress, the exemption will be decreased to about $6 million. The value of a decedent’s estate in excess of the available exemption upon death will be subject to a 40% estate tax.

This dramatic increase (and future expected decrease) in exemption poses a range of estate planning issues which affect all clients, regardless of the amount of your wealth. There are also some opportunities for tax savings. Continue Reading

What Aretha Franklin’s Estate Teaches Us About the Pitfalls of Handwritten Wills

Posted in Estate and Trust Planning, Trust

Typically, only those of us who are trusts and estates attorneys geek out over the fascinating problems that handwritten wills create. But when those wills were written by a music icon worth $80 million, suddenly this topic is intriguing to a much broader audience. Aretha Franklin died on August 31, 2018. Her family was confident that she died without a will, but on May 3, 2019, the personal representative of Franklin’s estate discovered three separate documents, each of which may constitute a valid handwritten (or in legal terms, “holographic”) will. Now, the previously uncontested estate has divided Franklin’s family and is likely headed to litigation. Below are a few common pitfalls of holographic wills that are issues in Franklin’s estate.

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Focus on Fiduciaries: What Fiduciaries Need to Know About the Attorney-Client Privilege

Posted in Estate and Trust Planning, Fiduciary
Businesswoman on phone

Last month, my Weintraub colleagues and I had the pleasure of speaking at the Professional Fiduciary Association of California annual conference on the topic of the attorney-client privilege and its application to clients serving in a fiduciary capacity (trustee, executor, conservator, agent, etc.).

Most people have a cursory understanding of what the attorney-client privilege does – it keeps communications between clients and their attorneys confidential and free from discovery, which fosters honest and complete communication between client and lawyer – but many individuals don’t realize that there are important limitations and exceptions to the privilege, particularly for those serving as fiduciaries. These crucial limitations and exceptions apply regardless of whether the fiduciary is a professional fiduciary or simply an individual who is administering a trust or estate or serving as a conservator for a loved one or friend.

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A Case Lesson in “What Not To Do” When Billing as a Conservator

Posted in Case Alerts, Estate and Trust Planning, Fiduciary

Based on recent appellate cases, one of which is discussed below, the court’s scrutiny of conservators’ conduct and, specifically, private fiduciaries, is seemingly on the rise. Private fiduciaries acting as conservators should always remain focused on performing and charging only for those services that are consistent with the best interests of their conservatees. California case law continues to refine that understanding.

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And You Are? Long Lost Relatives Need to Prove Up Their Entitlement to Inherit

Posted in Case Alerts, Estate and Trust Planning

Under California law, the laws of intestacy control who inherits when a person dies without having prepared a valid will or trust. These rules can be complicated particularly as remote or even unknown blood relatives may have a claim to assets of the decedent’s estate. However, these long lost relatives often must prove up their entitlement to inherit from the decedent’s estate.

The California Probate Code has a procedure in place to determine who is entitled to inherit from the decedent as set forth under California Probate Code section 11700 et seq. Filing a petition under this section is particularly useful when there is uncertainty as to the actual heirs of the decedent’s estate.

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FirstMerit Bank, N.A. v. Diana L. Reese

Posted in Trust

Weintraub attorneys wrote the following case alert for the State Bar of California Trusts and Estates Section regarding FirstMerit Bank, N.A. v. Diana L. Reese. The case alert may also be found on the website for the State Bar of California under Trusts and Estates Section, New Case Alerts.

FirstMerit Bank, N.A. v. Diana L. Reese
Filed November 19, 2015, Fourth District, Div. Two
Cite as E061480

FirstMerit Bank sought to enforce a money judgment against Reese by applying for an order under Code Civ. Proc., § 708.510 assigning Reese’s interest in two trusts to FirstMerit, and an order restraining her from otherwise disposing of her right to payment under the trusts. The trial court denied the motion because a debtor’s interest in a trust is specifically not subject to such an assignment order.

The court of appeal affirmed. The only means by which a judgment creditor may enforce a money judgment against a beneficiary’s interest in a trust is by a lien under Code Civ. Proc., § 709.010. However, such an order must be sought from the court with jurisdiction over the trust. In this case the trusts were administered in Ohio. Therefore, even if FirstMerit had utilized the correct procedure, the California court had no jurisdiction to impose such a lien. http://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/E061480.PDF

Gary D. Rothstein to join Weintraub Tobin

Posted in Estate and Trust Planning, Probate and Elder Abuse Litigation, Trust

Weintraub Tobin is pleased to announce that Gary D. Rothstein has joined our San Francisco office as Of Counsel.

Gary comes to us Weintraub from a national law and consulting firm. Gary has extensive experience with all aspects of trust administration, probate matters and estate planning.

With offices in San Francisco, Beverly Hills, Newport Beach and Sacramento, Weintraub Tobin attorneys utilize cutting edge ideas and innovate approaches to reach our clients’ business objectives. We are committed to providing clients with exceptional service and encourage everyone to visit our website at www.weintraub.com to learn about the full range of legal services we provide.

Please join Weintraub Tobin in welcoming Gary to our team!