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Amid COVID-19, Are Estate Planning Matters Moving Forward?

As COVID-19 unleashed a health crisis on an international scale, an economic crisis has also occurred and has impacted every single Californian/American. While COVID-19’s stay-at-home orders and social distancing requirements are still in place in Southern California, questions concerning legal matters have continued well through March, April, and May, 2020. These are some of the most frequently asked questions:

Question: Are estate planning matters moving forward?

Answer: Yes, they most certainly are. As people always say, the one thing we all have for certain is that at some point we all die. For some it is certainly not a fun topic to think about. For others, having their affairs in order is certainly exciting. Count me in the second group. As COVID-19 started, plenty of inquiries were handled asking for either self-help options or assistance in preparing documents. Here are a few issues and matters that have come across our desks the last few months:

  • I’d like to create a simple Will
  • My financial advisor tells me I need to create a Trust. How does that work?
  • COVID-19 has made me think about establishing plans for myself, my spouse, and my children. My children have their own children now. Is this something I can plan?
  • I have a few retirement accounts that need attention. How does your office help with that? Does it?
  • What plans can I make now so that my minor child is cared for should anything happen to me?
  • Mom passed away and we cannot find her Will. What can we do?
  • I live out-of-state and a family member died in San Diego County. Can you help with Probate there?
  • We know dad had a parcel of land out-of-state. He passed and we want to know what happens to that land.
  • I’m currently hospitalized with only a few months to live. Can you help prepare my last wishes for me?
  • My soon-to-be ex-spouse and I own a property together and have a child together. I’ll be initiating a divorce and want to know what happens to our Trust, our property, and our child.
  • I’d like to leave behind a DNR (do not resuscitate). Can you help with that?
  • I’m out of the country and wish for my son to complete the sale of one of my properties there. Can you help?
  • Probate matters in San Diego Court are temporarily on hold, but we need to start a Probate. Can that still happen?
  • My parents left behind a Trust where I was nominated a Successor Trustee (future administrator). Can I start without making a court appearance? Can I start with all the limitations of COVID-19?
  • Under the terms of my parents’ trust they instructed to sell the house and divvy the proceeds between myself and siblings. Can I still sell in spite of COVID-19? Is now the best time to sell or should I wait?
  • My parents are older. They’re safe now and following social distancing measures, but they’d like to discuss updating their Wills. They speak Spanish. Can you help?
  • A few years ago I used a self-help site to create my own Will. Can you review that and confirm everything looks good?

Clearly these are paraphrased but this is a brief, incomplete list of the legal inquiries that have come through this law firm amid COVID-19. For some persons and couples, they may have already had their affairs in order. For others, brand new issues developed during COVID-19 requiring immediate attention.  If you need help with estate planning matters, probate matters, or trust administration matters, call in and let’s determine how this office can help.

 

 

ruth-ryan-cruz-law-san-diego-business-wills-trusts-contracts-lease-review-FAQ-covd

Amid COVID-19, Are Legal Disputes Still Moving Forward?

As COVID-19 unleashed a health crisis on an international scale, an economic crisis has also occurred and has impacted every single Californian/American. While COVID-19’s stay-at-home orders and social distancing requirements are still in place in Southern California, questions concerning legal matters have continued well through March, April, and May, 2020. These are some of the most frequently asked questions:

Question: Are legal disputes still moving forward?

Answer: Yes, legal disputes have still continued well through the months of March, April, and May, 2020.  This includes our areas which includes business law, real estate law, and estate planning. All three of these areas have seen legal disputes continue throughout the last few months. Though stay-at-home orders has temporarily closed the local court houses, those matters have been placed on hold in the court process. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the case goes away. This pause has simply given disputing parties and their counsel the opportunity to privately negotiate settlements over the last few months. Legal offices have moved their operations remotely to assist with legal matters moving forward. If the parties have been unable to resolve their open dispute, the Court will resume operations shortly.

Not all disputes wind up in court. Some disputes, especially those based on a breach of contract and the like, may require mediation or arbitration. For those requiring these methods, communications between law offices have continued as normal during the last few months. In some cases delays have been experienced for various reasons – delays in communications, delays in mail delivery, delays in attorney-client correspondence – but legal matters have continued.

As of May 15, 2020, here’s the Court’s update: “Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the San Diego Superior Court has been closed for most non-emergency services from March 17 through May 22. More than 87,000 hearings from that timeframe and on the calendar for the coming months will need to be re-scheduled. In the interest of the health and safety of all Court visitors and employees, re-scheduled hearings will be handled remotely wherever possible. The process will vary for each case type and details for the manner of appearance will be included in the re-scheduling notices that will be sent to involved parties.” San Diego Court Opening Announcement. Visit the Court’s website for the most updated information.

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Celebrate Mother’s Day With the Kids (Sunday, May 8th) & Then Set Time Aside Time to Make Arrangements for the Children

As families prepare to celebrate Mom this Mother’s Day on Sunday, May 8th, children and significant others prepare to make this 1 day extra special for her. This day usually showers Mom with flowers, a dining experience, gifts and other memorable moments for the whole family to remember. The point of this day is for Mom’s to feel extra special, but Mom’s can also take this day as a reminder of things to arrange for their family’s future.

Regardless of whether you have been a Mom for 1 year or 21 years, you and your children will feel even more love between yourselves when you let them know that you have planned for their future with estate planning arrangements. Estate planning arrangements offer answers to the following questions:

  1. Who will care for the kids in Mom’s long term absence or death?
  2. Will the kids be left under the parental guidance of their natural father upon Mom’s death?
  3. Are there any savings accounts reserved for supporting the kids upon Mom’s hospitalization, incapacity or death?
  4. Are there any life insurance policies Mom set up?
  5. Who will handle the children’s financial, healthcare and educational future if Mom cannot do it?
  6. If Mom passes away, what items (including houses) do the children split and when?
  7. If Mom owns a business and suffers an accident, who carries on the business?

Estate planning answers many other questions that are dependent upon the family structure. This is even more important where there are circumstances involving adopted children, step children, blended families, disputes among family members and so on.

Therefore, enjoy Mother’s Day this coming Sunday. Hug your children like never before on this day and then focus on how you can show them your love even more through estate planning.  Calendar a reminder to yourself as a Mom to plan for your children’s future through Wills, Trusts, Financial Planning and other methods.

 

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5 Great Ways to Find the Best Wills & Trusts Attorneys in San Diego

When your San Diego-based family finds itself in need of a qualified estate planning attorney it can become a daunting task. There are so many attorneys out there advertising both offline and online claiming experience in wills, trusts and estate planning. So how do you find qualified and experienced wills, trusts, and estate planning attorneys in San Diego? Here are a few pointers to consider when you are searching for the best wills, trusts and estate planning attorneys in San Diego to take on your estate planning tasks.

  1. Request Recommendations from Your Friends and Family – start off by inquiring within your network. Ask your friends and family members for recommendations. You’ll learn about how others have used an estate planning attorney in the past and what to expect in involving an estate planning attorney.  Friends and family will look out for you and will recommend only those that provide quality service.
  2. Read Available Reviews – After receiving recommendations, search their online profiles. Read available reviews to learn how other non-family members have been helped by these particular attorneys. Use local San Diego resources such as community-based sites or your local Chamber of Commerce, and national resources such as Avvo.com, Justia.com, Yelp.com, FindLaw.com. You can also simply perform a Google search for the attorney’s name to learn more about that person and/or law firm.
  3. Industry Recommendations – Use available resources such as the San Diego County Bar or the State Bar of California to learn more about your potential attorney. Search online and call around with inquiries as well.  Again, sites like Avvo.com (a legal database of attorney) will help shed more light on your search.  Here’s an example of an attorney’s profile on Avvo.com
  4. Referral Requests from Trusted Parties – Use trusted professionals to seek out recommendations.  For example, if you have worked with a Realtor in the past, that Realtor is typically part of a group of professionals and just may know a great attorney to refer you to. It also gives you a great opportunity to follow up with your group of trusted professionals.
  5. Consultations – When seeking legal consultations, attorneys in San Diego often offer free consultations depending on your particular legal needs. Take advantage of those free consultations and request more than 1, especially if you really want to obtain a second opinion.  In attending at least 2 consultations, you just may find that 1 attorney fully understands you or is simply a better fit for you than the other.

These recommendations are based on an accumulation of feedback from clients over time. Most expressed that taking their time to find a quality attorney is more cost-effective in the long-run than simply electing the first search result using an online search engine. I hope this helps you locate the best wills, trusts and estate planning attorneys in San Diego.  Feel free to reach out to this office to request a consultation after reviewing our client feedback.

Your family legacy is important. Be sure to take the time to locate the representation that’s right for you, your family and your posterity.

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Yours, mine & ours = Family. But who raises the kids if somethings happens to us?

The phrase “yours, mine and ours” usually refers to the bringing together of children from two different families and growing the family with additional children. Essentially the end result is a household with a number of kids from different relationships. Usual circumstances include those where each spouse has children from previous relationships or marriages and then the newly formed couple have more children.  With these types of family structures, there are usually 2, 3, 4 or even more adults considering themselves parents to a set of kids.

Here’s an example: Sarah (age 21) marries Sam (age 21). They have Sammy Jr. soon after marriage. Sarah remarries five years later to Dave who has a three year old (Davy Jr,) from a previous marriage, and Sam remarries five years later to Diana who go on to have their own kids. Dave and Sarah, now your next door neighbors, care for Sammy Jr. (now age 5), Davy Jr., and together they have their own child Savannah (age 1). In this example, if your neighbors Dave and Sarah jointly pass away in a car accident a year later, who cares for baby Sammy Jr. , baby Davy Jr., and baby Savannah? It’s not a riddle. It’s a common occurrence!

In this scenario, the answer depends on written agreements between Sarah, Dave, Sam and Diana. That is of course assuming there is some sort of agreement. If nothing is in writing, the State of California will default answers for you concerning the care of your children.  Now, let’s add a few variables to this potentially realistic hypothetical. What if Sam and Diana suffer severe marital problems? What if Dave’s parents are elderly with medical problems too strong to handle children in the household? What if all of them want financial and physical custody of the kids?

I think you’re getting the idea. Preparing guardian nominations through a Will or a Revocable Living Trust is important for Sarah, Dave, Sam and Diana. Everyone has to be on the same page to ensure the well-being of everyone’s kids. Through proper guardianship nominations as part of your estate planning, you could avoid these future uncertainties once you pass away.

Parents, more than anyone else should hold discussions about guardianship nomination and discuss document planning soon after having their children. However,  other persons may also be interested in having the parents leave their desired plans in writing. Parents’ siblings, the parents’ parents (the two sets of grandparents), the parents’ friends and sometimes even the parents’ neighbors should all have this conversation with the parents to make sure there is proper planning set.

As a reminder, in estate planning, nominations for guardianship are set. However, those nominated may or may not wind up being the best fit for the children. Without any nominations, the California system will determine the welfare and future of the kids.

If you’re a soon-to-be parent of if you are already parents, start your planning now, not later. If you’re in a situation where your  household kids are comprised of “yours, mine & ours,” you are greatly encouraged to start these discussions. Here are a few factors that affect the family planning:

  • who the natural parents are
  • whether any children are adopted legally by the new step parent
  • step parent situations
  • parents with credit problems
  • parents with criminal histories
  • many more variables affect the nomination planning
  • physical custody and financial custody of the kids
  • parties that may be interested in caring for your kids
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Wills for Heroes San Diego Saturday, January 30, 2016

If you know a firefighter or police officer in your life, let him/her know about Wills For Heroes program.  San Diego has its own division, but it is a nation-wide organization.

Here is a bit more about the organization:

“Anthony Hayes, a partner at Nelson Mullins Riley and Scarborough, LLP, in Columbia, South Carolina, started the Wills for Heroes program shortly after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Anthony emailed the Columbia Fire Department asking what lawyers could do to help that department. During an impromptu focus group, it became clear that there was a glaring need for estate planning services.

Since then, Wills for Heroes programs in ten states have provided more than 7,000 free estate planning documents for first responders. Because of the tremendous success of these programs, attorneys and bar associations across the United States started requesting assistance with implementing Wills for Heroes programs in their communities. In response, Jeff Jacobson and Anthony Hayes created the Wills for Heroes Foundation to oversee the nationwide expansion of these programs and connect volunteer attorneys with local first responders.” Wills for Heroes & San Diego division

San Diego Event

San Diego is hosting an event on Saturday, January 30, 2016 at the San Diego County Bar Association located at 401 W A St #1100, San Diego, CA 92101. Read more & sign up. I’ll see our first responders there!

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Spring weddings are coming up. Add this to your wedding prep plans.

While parts of the County like Mission Valley, La Jolla, Fashion Valley, Ocean Beach and Sorrento Valley are currently  experiencing flooding issues this season with the recent El Nino related storms, some residents are thinking positively and are looking forward to a brighter upcoming Spring wedding season.

Weddings in general are surrounded by happy thoughts for the bride, the groom and their families. Most brides and grooms go through the motions of attending wedding expos and food samplings in preparation for their big day. These are all fun activities. But there are two activities that tends to get left out, probably for being considered less enjoyable: premarital legal planning and financial planning prior to marriage.  What is premarital legal planning? This can include the following:

For example, I once worked with a couple who were both previously married. The bride-to-be had a child from her previous marriage and the groom-to-be had an inheritance from his parents. Both wanted to know how their upcoming marriage was going to affect the bride’s son and the groom’s inheritance. Fortunately, they came for legal help before marriage thereby allowing them some important options. It was a bit of a rushed process since their wedding date was about 4 weeks out, however, timely assistance was possible.  Premarital legal planning is important.

If you’re getting married in 2016, we recommend that you speak with an attorney if you have any questions about your finances, family planning or property ownership planning. Marriage may or may not affect your situation. A consultation will help you determine your options.

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Can I Safely Create a Will Using a Self-Help Form Available Online?

We totally understand that sometimes electing to use self-help options is cheaper and faster to use. But, be very cautious with forms available online when it comes to creating a Will for yourself. This applies to both free forms and paid-for forms.

From our perspective, using a form online to create a Will is like using a self-help medical site to diagnose a medical condition online. They help by highlighting general aspects, but the document will not be custom to your particular needs and may not be done correctly. Most importantly, it won’t be custom to fit your family’s needs. Cutting corners by using an online form is not recommended for many other reasons: the document may contain outdated language, the document may contain provisions not recognized by the State, the document may not be executed correctly, the document may be ineffective as prepared, or the document omits serious terms which could have serious consequences.

An estate planning attorney, even through a consultation, will guide you in the right direction and provide you with information custom to your needs.  Having a properly drafted Will by an attorney helps you ensure that your hard-earned money and property will pass on to those you designate.

We do not recommend using or buying any estate planning documents online that are offered for free or cheap. In our opinion, they cause more headaches than its worth if done incorrectly. Seek a consultation about a Will. It will save you time, money and energy in the long run.

Suggested life-events to create a Will:

  • Buying a new house
  • New baby in your family
  • New job or pay increase
  • Marriage, divorce, or recent family death
  • Children leaving for college
  • New business or company
  • Health problems
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New year, new you. Here is an attainable resolution for you to add to your list and crush within 3 months.

Happy New Year, 2016! Every new years, San Diegans create exciting resolutions to improve their lives. This tradition of creating resolutions has been known to exist during Babylonian time as we all want to live quality lives and improve our lives with a new calendar year. Some resolutions are very attainable while others are short-lived and last only a calendar month or so; trust me, we’ve all made those short-lived ones meant to improve our lives radically. Resolutions usually include:

  • Improve well-being;
  • Exercise;
  • Think more positively;
  • Upgrade wardrobe;
  • Put more money in savings;
  • Pay off all credit cards this year;
  • Improve finances; and
  • Spend more quality time with friends and family.

However, there is one resolution that often gets overlooked and that is to take care of your loved ones through planning. This is a resolution that should be handled in the next three calendar months to avoid having it become a short-lived resolution.  Taking care of your loved ones can be handled through creating a Last Will and Testament and/or a Revocable Living Trust. Most consider these documents are something the elderly group should concern themselves with, but this belief is entirely incorrect.  These documents are beneficial to anyone over the age of 18.  Essentially, these documents describe what happens to your cars(s), money, belongings, and possibly children, if you become incapacitated or die. These documents are created to have just in case anything were to happen to you. Of course, even though documents are created, we hope you live a great 2016 and many more years to come.  The documents described above are created in case of the unexpected and persons of all ages, especially after 18, should have one.

As life moves forward quickly in 2016 and you earn a pay raise, grow your family with new children or nieces and nephews, buy a new home, experience changes in your network of friends and family, it is a good time now (at the beginning of a new calendar year) to consider what Will or Trust you have in place. If you do not have anything in place, you should consider establishing one. If you have a Will or Trust in place but have not revisited the documents in years, it is a great time to reconsider the contents of the documents you have established.

As a courtesy reminder, do not mark your current Will or Trust with pen or pencil to note any changes. Doing so may invalidate your documents and really complicate your probate administration or trust administration.  If you are considering making changes to your Will or Trust, speak with an attorney to learn about the process. Depending upon the amount of changes you desire, different steps will be necessary to make those changes legally effective.

Crush this resolution by giving yourself a deadline.  Over the next 3 months, consider establishing or revisiting your Will or Trust. Now  that we’re already in the new year and you are soon going to be in the mind frame of handling your finances and taxes this upcoming tax season, it would also be a great time to add “estate planning review” to your list of goals to accomplish this year. In doing so, you’d crush your new years resolution of taking care of your loved ones in case of your absence.  Leaving your loved ones without such planning could cost them plenty of time and more importantly, money.

Call to schedule an appointment to discuss any of the following points involved in the process of estate planning. These are a list of commonly asked questions covered during an initial consultation about estate planning:

  • Should I create a Will or a Revocable Living Trust?
  • What does a Revocable Living Trust do?
  • Is a Revocable Living Trust better than a Will?
  • How much do you charge to establish a Will or Revocable Living Trust?
  • How long does it take to establish a Will or Revocable Living Trust?
  • Can I make changes to my Will or Revocable Living Trust over my lifetime?
  • How do I plan things so that upon my death, my wife/husband and our kids receive my money and property?
  • I have been divorced and remarried, are there any special provisions I need to include in my Will or Trust?
  • I do not have much, do I still need to create a Will or Revocable Living Trust?
  • What happens to our minor kids in case my wife/husband and I die simultaneously?
  • I have property in different states, how do I plan for that?
  • I want to plan for my children’s well-being after my death, what options do I have?
  • What happens to my debts when I die?
  • What provisions should I include in my Will or Revocable Living Trust.

Knock out an estate planning review in the next three months and rest easily for the rest of 2016 knowing that you have then cared for your loved ones with proper planning.  Ryan-Cruz Law, APC offers free 1-hour consultations concerning estate planning. Let us help you accomplish this task.