Newark Family And Estate Law Blog

Probating an estate here in California

If you are the administrator of a friend or relative's estate, you will need to familiarize yourself with the probate process. If the decedent had a trust in place at the time of their death, you may be able to sidestep the probate process. Otherwise, you will have to deal with the California probate courts to settle their affairs.

Probate deals with transferring the decedent's property to their designated beneficiaries and heirs. You will need to handle the final affairs of the decedent and pay off any valid outstanding debts. Should there be a will challenge involved, the courts will determine whether the decedent's will was indeed valid.

How are assets divided in divorce?

When a couple parts ways, they must divide their property and debts. However, each state has its own guidelines on how a couple should do this. California is a community property state, which means that community property will most likely be divided equally.

Most of the property you and your spouse acquired throughout your marriage is considered community property because when you got married, you and your spouse became one legal community. However, you or your spouse probably also have separate property that is not subject to division in divorce.

Preparing your kids for supervised visits with your co-parent

Family court judges generally want children of divorced parents to spend time and build their relationship with both parents. Unfortunately, sometimes there are concerns that it's not safe -- physically and/or psychologically -- for children to be alone in the care of a parent.

A mom or dad may have a history of substance abuse, for example, which made them neglectful of their kids or even endangered them. In some cases, visitation must be supervised while allegations of substance abuse, neglect or other problematic behavior are investigated.

Dick Wolf's ex-wife loses her case in a California appeals court

It's been over 15 years since the creator of the Law & Order franchise, Dick Wolf, and his wife divorced. However, Christine Wolf has continued to fight for money she believes she was cheated out of because of information that wasn't shared with her when the two reached their divorce settlement.

Mrs. Wolf received a settlement that included $17.5 million in cash, $2 million a year in spousal support for eight years and a home in Maine. That was based in part on a $4 million valuation of Law & Order.

Talking to your parents about creating an estate plan

For many people, the only thing more emotionally complicated than considering their own mortality is the thought of their parents' mortality. It's also common for the adult children of older parents to believe that their parents have everything well planned and under control. Unfortunately, that isn't always the case.

Even extremely organized and cautious people often put off estate planning for a variety of reasons or may fail to create a thorough estate plan. Sometimes, it is discomfort with facing the inevitability of death that makes people want to avoid this process. Other times, it is a lack of understanding about what is truly necessary for a comprehensive estate plan in California.

Has your mental illness affected your custody rights?

If a parent is diagnosed with lupus or diabetes, it shouldn't affect their custody of their children. However, if you are a parent living with a mental illness, you face custody loss rates of as high as 80%.

In fact, under Sec. 7824 of the California Family Code, parents with "any physical or mental incapacity which renders the parent or parents unable to care for and control the child adequately" could lose custody of their children.

Don't forget about your deceased loved one's credit reports

When a loved one passes away, family members often don't worry about their credit report. However, if you're the executor of an estate, among your many responsibilities is notifying the three major credit bureaus of that person's death.

When notified of a death, the credit bureaus -- Experion, Equifax and TransUnion -- will place a death notice on the person's credit reports and seal them. This can help prevent credit fraud by someone illegally using your loved one's information.

Man ordered to pay $150K in child support owed since 1970s

A California woman has prevailed in court in a child support claim against her ex-husband. What makes the case unusual is that her victory comes almost 50 years after the man left her and their 3-year-old daughter and moved to Canada.

The woman, who lives in North San Diego County, says that she had given up trying to get the court-ordered support after her husband left the country in the early 1970s. She says she "just kind of forgot about it over the years" and raised her daughter on her own. Her daughter now owns the Los Angeles interior design firm where her mother used to work.

Common (and avoidable) estate administration mistakes

You may have been flattered when you were asked by a loved one or friend to be the executor for their estate. However, now that they've passed away and it's time to get to work, the responsibility seems overwhelming.

If you've never had this role before and you're not an estate planning attorney, it's all too easy to mismanage things, end up with family members and other beneficiaries suing you for executor misconduct and run afoul of the law -- even though you were trying to handle things properly.

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