As any seasoned estate planner knows, it’s crucial to learn of all your client’s assets before developing a comprehensive plan. This is particularly important when it comes to out-of-state real property, which may be subject to that state’s potential inheritance or estate tax if left unaccounted. Add the costs and headaches of an ancillary probate, and your client’s loved ones will be left wishing for a better way. Lucky for you (and them), there is!
Updated 5/22/18: In County Line Holdings, LLC v McClanahan (May 2, 2018, B2778790) 2018 Cal App Lexis 392, the court held that a creditor could enforce a previously recorded judgment lien on a deceased debtor’s property more than 1 year after the debtor’s death.
So you have a money judgment, but the debtor dies before you can collect. Never mind. You still have a judgment lien on the debtor’s estate. Right?
Probate avoidance is a primary consideration for estate planners and their clients. A revocable trust is usually the vehicle of choice for making nonprobate transfers, but alternatives have always existed for personal property such as cash in the bank, retirement plan benefits, and brokerage accounts. For real property, no such vehicle existed. Until January 1, 2016, that is.
CEB: What is your practice area and how did you choose it?
Agnieszka: I practice exclusively in the area of trusts and estates. My practice includes estate planning, probate, and trust administration. Our firm doesn’t, however, represent clients in trust and estate litigation matters. My interest in this field started in law school. I chose a tax concentration while at UC Hastings (I knew I wasn’t going to be a litigator). When I began practice, I was fortunate to work at a full service law firm where I was given the opportunity to explore various practice groups. I quickly realized that trusts and estates was the area in which I wanted to specialize.
CEB: What do you like best and least about practicing law?
The late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs was known to be a very private person, and it appears that he has taken steps to preserve his privacy even in death. As do many entertainers and wealthy people, it appears that Jobs took advantage of California revocable trusts to prevent the publicity involved in probate.
Question: You file a breach of contract suit and begin negotiating with the defendant. You agree on a settlement, but the defendant dies before actually signing the settlement agreement. The defendant’s beneficiaries won’t be opening a probate, because there is less than $100k in assets. Under California law, what do you do?