• What Exactly Is a Trust?

    During the estate planning process, the idea of establishing a trust may arise. Trusts are a common part of estate planning as they allow for assets to be protected. Your attorney in Tracy and Livermore can help you decide if a trust is right for your estate.

    This video explains what a trust is and how they work. When you establish a trust, you create a set of rules about managing an asset the trustee must follow. The trustee must then distribute the asset to the beneficiary of the trust according to your guidelines. Trusts are often used in this way to preserve large inheritances until the beneficiaries reach a responsible age or otherwise achieve an established benchmark.

  • Should My Estate Plan Include Instructions for Debt Resolution?

    When your estate planning attorney in Tracy and Manteca helps you make decisions about how to allocate your assets, he or she may also ask questions about resolving any debt you may leave behind. Whether you leave instructions in your will about debt resolution and how you instruct your heirs to handle leftover debt depends on a number of different factors. Here is what you need to know.

    Two Types of Debt

    If you address your debt in your will, you need to address both secured and unsecured debt. Secured debt is debt that is guaranteed by an asset. Car loans and mortgages are examples of secured debt. If you plan to pass on an asset that acts as collateral for a secured debt on to a beneficiary in your will, then you should specify if the debt will pass to the new owner with the property. You may also wish to make provisions for satisfying the debt if you want the person to have the property but not be burdened with the associated debt.

    Unsecured debt is debt that is not guaranteed by an asset. Credit card bills, medical bills, and utility bills fall into this category. Typically, state law requires that these bills be paid from your estate. You can decide if you wish to allow your executor to simply make these payments from your estate as a whole or you can direct him or her to make these payments from specific portions of your estate.

    Deciding Whether to Leave Instructions

    You do not necessarily have to leave instructions for dealing with debt in your will. Generally, if your debts represent a very small portion of your estate or your estate is going to a spouse, then you do not need to address debts in your will. You can also forgo leaving instructions if you are fine with allowing your debts to be paid from your estate in accordance with state law. Your attorney can explain to you how the law will apply to the debts that you have. If you do not leave any instructions, the executor of your estate will use assets you have left behind to satisfy your debts in accordance with the law.

  • New Traffic Laws California Drivers Need to Know

    If you are involved in an auto accident, your knowledge of the current laws could have an impact on your case. New traffic laws hit the books in California, so do you know the new rules of the road? Here is a look at some of the most recently passed traffic laws in California. Be sure to consult with your attorney in Tracy if you have any questions.

    Mobile Device Mounting

    Texting while driving is already against the law in California, but a loophole in the law let people claim that they were using their phones for GPS if they received a ticket for using their devices behind the wheel. This new law closes that loophole by requiring any mobile device that is in use to be mounted either in the lower right or left corner of the windshield. Further, drivers can only use one finger on the device or risk being ticketed. Drivers are not allowed to have their devices mounted in another location on the windshield that could obstruct the field of vision. If you’re involved in an accident in which the other driver appears to be violating this rule, try to obtain a photo of that driver’s phone placement. Your personal injury attorney could use your picture as evidence should you file a lawsuit.

    Motorcycle Lane Splitting

    Lane splitting occurs when motorcycles use the spaces between stopped traffic to continue traveling down the road. California is one of the few states in which motorcycle lane splitting is now legal, but only under certain conditions. Motorcycles may not travel more than 10 mph faster than the traffic around it, and they must be traveling in the same direction as the traffic. The California Highway Patrol also recommends that motorcyclists avoid lane splitting when traffic is moving faster than 30 mph.

    Rear-Facing Car Seats

    Under new laws, children must ride in rear-facing car seats until they are age two, regardless of their weight. The law assumes that children will reach 40 inches in height and 40 pounds in weight by that time, when they can transition to forward-facing seats.

  • Dealing with Dog Attacks

    Being the victim of a dog attack can be terrifying and can leave you with serious injuries. Once you have gotten treatment for your injuries after an attack, contact a personal injury lawyer in Tracy to determine if you should seek compensation to cover your medical costs and associated damages.

    Watch this video to find out what to do if a dog attacks. If you see a dog behaving aggressively, try to stay calm and avoid sudden movements. Avoid eye contact with the dog, which it may find threatening. Command the dog to stop forcefully. If you can’t stop the attack, yell for help. Seek medical attention as soon as possible after the attack, so your lawyer has the necessary documentation to file a personal injury lawsuit on your behalf.

  • Shortcuts for the Probate Process in California

    After someone passes away, dealing with the transfer of his or her property can be challenging for loved ones, especially in the absence of a will. Because the probate process can be long and complex, it’s important to hire an experienced attorney in Tracy who understands California’s laws and who can help you navigate the system as quickly as possible. Here are some of the ways your lawyer may be able to help you speed up the probate process.

    Spousal Property Petition

    For surviving spouses and registered domestic partners, the process of transferring property can be easy, even in the absence of a will. Your attorney can submit a Spousal Property Petition in your behalf to the probate court, which can be approved much quicker than traditional probate procedures. There are no limits on the amount of property that can be transferred in this way, as long as the surviving partner has a legal right to the claim it. Your attorney can help you understand your eligibility for using this petition.

    Simple Affidavit

    A simple affidavit can be used to transfer property that is under a specified amount. For this procedure, your lawyer will help you prepare a document listing the property that you are claiming, which you will then sign under oath. The affidavit can be submitted directly to whoever is holding the property along with a death certificate, and the party with physical ownership will release it to the party who is claiming it. This process lets surviving family members avoid probate court completely. This procedure can only be used for property that is worth $150,000 or less or for real estate that is $50,000 or less in value.

    Simplified Probate

    If you can’t use either of the previous solutions, your attorney may help you file a request for a simplified probate process. This process can be used for small estates of $150,000 or less, excluding real estate outside of the state, death benefits, life insurance, and property that is not automatically transferred to a surviving spouse. Your attorney will help you determine if this procedure is right for you.

  • The Basics of Beneficiaries

    One of your periodic estate planning tasks may be to update your beneficiaries. A designated beneficiary is someone to whom you leave certain assets. You can learn more about designating beneficiaries by watching this featured video and consulting a lawyer serving Tracy and Manteca.

    The certified financial planner featured here explains that a beneficiary designation supersedes the information contained in your will. For example, your last will and testament may leave everything you own to your spouse. If your life insurance policy still lists your ex-spouse as the beneficiary, those benefits will go to your ex. This is why attorneys urge their clients to update their estate plans as life circumstances change.

  • Will My Retirement Savings Go Through Probate?

    Probate is the legal process of managing and distributing a deceased person’s estate in accordance with his or her last will and testament, or with the laws of intestate succession. When individuals consult attorneys in Tracy or Manteca to handle estate planning, probate is often a top concern because it can be lengthy and complicated for the surviving heirs. The short answer is that no, your retirement savings won’t go through probate—but there are exceptions, and you should consult your lawyer about them.

    Transferring Assets to Beneficiaries

    Your estate planning process should include designating beneficiaries for certain accounts, or updating beneficiaries you’ve already designated. These accounts do not pass through probate. All of the assets in them will be transferred to the beneficiary upon your death. Even if your will specifies that your 401(k) will go to your children, if the designated beneficiary is someone else, that person will receive it. For this reason, you should update your beneficiary designations whenever life circumstances change. Of course, if you neglect to designate any beneficiaries, the account will pass into probate.

    Designating Alternate Beneficiaries

    An alternate beneficiary is someone who will inherit the assets in the event that the primary beneficiary can’t. It’s always good practice to name an alternate beneficiary. Otherwise, those assets will go into your estate and through probate. Hypothetically, Frances and Bernard are a married couple, and they have each left their assets to each other. They both die in a car accident. Lacking alternate beneficiaries, their retirement accounts pass into probate. Their adult children won’t receive those assets until the process is complete.

    Naming Your Spouse

    California is a community property state. This means that half of the assets you contributed to your retirement account actually belong to your spouse. If you name your spouse as the primary beneficiary, there’s no problem. Otherwise, your spouse could claim those assets, which might force the retirement account to enter probate. If you don’t want this to happen, your attorney can provide a waiver that relinquishes your spouse’s claim on the retirement account. Your spouse would need to willingly sign this waiver.

  • Common Causes of Slip and Fall Injuries at Gyms

    Gym owners and managers have a responsibility to ensure that the facility is reasonably safe for its members. If they fail to perform routine maintenance, repairs, and cleaning, the gym’s members can suffer the consequences. Consider visiting a personal injury lawyer serving Tracy or Livermore to find out if you have grounds to file a case against the gym owner. Your attorney will need to know of the exact circumstances of the accident, such as where you were, what you were doing, and what caused you to fall.

    In gyms, slippery floors are most common in the locker room areas and the side of the pool. It’s also possible to slip and fall in the showers if they have not been properly cleaned. In other areas of the gym, members may fall on worn out, frayed carpeting, broken floor tiles, or uneven floorboards. The lack of handrails may contribute to the fall. Similarly, the lack of adequate lighting can prevent a person from spotting a hazard. Your injury lawyer will need all the details you can provide to determine if the owner or manager might be held liable for your losses.

  • FAQs and Answers About Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Lawsuits

    Carbon monoxide is a gas that is odorless and colorless. In high concentrations, it can cause serious health problems, and it can be deadly. Installing and keeping working batteries in carbon monoxide detectors are basic safety precautions, yet many hotel owners are negligent. Survivors of carbon monoxide poisoning can turn to an injury lawyer in Tracy or Livermore for legal guidance. An attorney can also assist families of individuals who were killed due to the negligence of hotel owners.

    Are carbon monoxide detectors legally required in hotels?

    The law can vary from state to state. In California, smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors are required in each dwelling intended for human occupancy. The owner of the dwelling is responsible for both installing them and keeping them in working condition. These requirements extend to owners of hotels.

    What if the hotel owner installed the wrong type of carbon monoxide detector?

    A hotel owner may still be found liable for carbon monoxide poisoning injuries or death if he or she installed the wrong type of detector. In California, it is prohibited to sell, market, or distribute any carbon monoxide alarms or detectors unless they are approved by the State Fire Marshal. If you do file a lawsuit, your injury lawyer will investigate whether the hotel owner installed an unapproved detector or failed to keep an approved detector in working condition.

    How do carbon monoxide leaks happen?

    In some cases, a gas leak is responsible for poisoning hotel guests. It’s also possible for the equipment in the utility room to malfunction. The gas can leak out of the utility room into nearby guest rooms. If the hotel has a connected generator in operation, it’s possible for the generator to malfunction or not be hooked up properly.

    How do I know if I’ve been affected by carbon monoxide poisoning?

    Unfortunately, travelers spend much of their time in hotel rooms asleep. If the gas leak occurs overnight, the guests may not know their health has been affected. Some guests may be awakened by nausea, vomiting, dizziness, or headaches. Severe cases of poisoning can cause loss of consciousness, unresponsiveness, and death.

  • Estate Planning Terminology Every Adult Should Know

    Estate law involves complex nuances of language, and the terminology can be baffling to non-lawyers. You can always count on a will lawyer near Tracy or Manteca to fully explain anything that isn’t clear to you. However, it’s still advisable for all adults to have a basic understanding of the most common estate planning terms.

    Last Will and Testament

    Your will dictates how, after satisfying debts, your remaining assets in your estate will be distributed to your heirs. Heirs are also called beneficiaries. You can use your will to distribute specific pieces of property if you wish, or to provide for your pets in the event that they outlive you. If you have any minor children, you should use your will to designate a guardian for them.

    Guardian

    A guardian is someone whom you trust to raise your minor children in the event that you die before they reach the age of majority.

    Executor

    The executor of your will is the person who will be responsible for seeing that its terms are carried out. Even when the executor works with a lawyer, he or she will have many complex responsibilities. Before designating an executor, you should ask that person if he or she is willing to take on these responsibilities.

    Trust

    A trust is a document that is legally binding. You can transfer assets into the trust during your lifetime. The trust manages the assets, and after your death, the trust distributes the assets to your beneficiaries.

    Trustee

    A trustee is a person whom you’ve designated to manage the trust. A trustee might also be a corporate entity instead of a single person. Trustees are responsible for administering and distributing the trust in accordance with the instructions in the trust document.

    Probate

    Probate is a legal process. It begins when the executor of a will files the will with the probate court in order to validate it. Validating a will means to prove that it’s legally valid. Probate involves paying the decedent’s debts and distributing the remaining assets.