Woodland Hills Estate Law Attorney

Representing beneficiaries of a California Estate

In many situations, a person will develop an estate plan that leaves money and belongings to a loved one. Others may choose to leave assets to an organization in hopes of supporting a cause posthumously. The person or entity that inherits under the provisions of a will or a trust is called a beneficiary. When a person dies having specified who is to inherit his or her assets, they are said to die “testate.” Those who have no plan, are said to die “intestate.” When the decedent’s plan is set out in a will, the decedent is called the testator.  To Affect the testator’s wishes, the decedent’s will must be admitted to probate and a personal representative usually an Executor is appointed by the Court to administer the estate and effect the decedent’s wishes.  A will is a testamentary document because it only becomes effective after the death of the author. If a person dies intestate, his or her assets will be allocated to family members based on rules found in the California Probate Code. A clear goal when creating an estate plan is to avoid issues including that can arise amongst beneficiaries named in the will and those who may have been left out.  Conflicts can easily arise.  Many beneficiaries find it helpful to have a lawyer who can explain the parts of the process that are not immediately understood and to ask the appropriate questions of the Executor and legal counsel during the probate administration process. Sometimes it is necessary for a beneficiary to protect his or her rights and assure the wishes of the person who has died are honored.

When the decedent created a trust during lifetime, that trust may be administered without the oversight of the Court.  The person who is charged with administering the trust is the trustee.  Many trustees try to handle their duties without legal counsel or with minimal input from legal counsel.  Beneficiaries of trusts are often frustrated by the lack of disclosure and feel that information is being withheld from them.  The beneficiary who has legal counsel can ask the right questions and assure that the administration of the trust proceeds efficiently to distribution.  If you need effective and knowledgeable guidance as a beneficiary through the probate estate process or a trust administration, contact The Law Offices of Yacoba Ann Feldman for a consultation.

Tax obligation for beneficiaries in California

There is no inheritance tax imposed on beneficiaries under California law. That said, there may be tax obligations that can impact a trust, estate and ultimately one’s inheritance. Some of the taxes that might become important include estate taxes, income taxes, generation-skipping taxes and real property taxes.  All persons involved with the administration of a trust or estate as well as those who are to receive the assets should be aware of possible tax issues. When someone dies in California, both the Franchise Tax Board and IRS (Internal Revenue Service) should be notified to avoid unpleasant surprises later.  Outstanding tax obligations have priority over an inheritance.  If you live outside California and receive assets from an estate in California, you need to check to see if the state of your residence will impose a tax on your inheritance.

Minor beneficiaries

If a child is the beneficiary of more than $5,000 from an estate, trust, or life insurance policy it may be necessary to have a Guardian of the Estate appointed by the Court to oversee the money until the child is 18 years old.  Often a will or trust will contemplate gifts to minors and provide for the gifts to be held for the minor until they reach the age of majority, but if the document does not do so or the decedent died without a will or trust, matters can be quite complex.  Our firm is ready to explain the options and help you through this matter.

When disputes arise…

Not every legal issue requires litigation to be resolved.  Issues can surface out of disputes regarding the validity of the testamentary document, the chosen executor, and the actions of a trustee or executor, amongst other things. Attorney Feldman believes that litigation should be the last resort.  The Law Offices of Yacoba Ann Feldman will help you explore alternatives to litigation and work with you to mediate disputes.  If litigation is necessary, we will suggest you seek the advice of litigation counsel and when possible will assist you to locate litigation counsel.   If you need an attorney to help you through work through an estate dispute which does not involve litigation, contact our firm.

Contact The Law Offices of Yacoba Ann Feldman

If you are the beneficiary of an estate, you should consult with an experienced attorney that can help guide you through this matter. The Law Offices of Yacoba Ann Feldman has over 35 years of experience helping beneficiaries protect their rights and the integrity of the estate they are benefiting from. If you need an experienced and effective law firm, contact The Law Offices of Yacoba Ann Feldman to discuss your legal matter.