Selling Real Estate When You’re the Trustee

I often meet with trustees who want to sell the family house that is in the trust.   This is frequently the parents' house, and the surviving children don't want to own and manage the house together. The trustee usually has the power to sell real property without getting anyone's permission, but I generally recommend that a trustee obtain the agreement of all the trust's beneficiaries.  If not everyone will agree, then the trustee can submit a petition to the Probate Court requesting approval of the sale. Taking these steps protects the trustee from a potential lawsuit by one of the beneficiaries.  If the trustee just sells the house, a beneficiary can always complain that she got too low a price, or paid [...]

By |2018-08-10T14:19:23-07:00May 12th, 2015|Uncategorized|

International wills

If you live in California but have property in another country or are the citizen of another country, you may want to look at the rules on "international wills" in sections 6380 through 6390 of the Probate Code. If you follow the formalities set forth in these sections, the will you sign in California should be recognized as valid in another country. These sections authorize an attorney licensed to practice law in California to supervise the signing of the will and to attach a certificate confirming that certain requirements have been met. To be sure that your wishes are carried out as set forth in your will,  you may have to do more  than simply follow  the rules in the California  [...]

By |2014-09-18T21:17:04-07:00September 18th, 2014|Uncategorized|

Beneficiary designations

I have written previously about IRAs and the need to update periodically your beneficiaries on your IRAs. I keep seeing this problem come up, so I thought I would say something about it again. The first point I want to make is that  there are accounts other than IRAs which require beneficiary designations. If you have a  401(k) account, a pay on death account, or an annuity with a life insurance company,  for example,you may need to fill out a beneficiary designation  which states who gets the asset when you die. The second important point is to  remember to update this beneficiary designation when something happens, such as a divorce or a death.  I recently handled a case in which the named [...]

By |2018-08-10T14:19:23-07:00September 18th, 2014|Uncategorized|

Alphabet soup (E visas?)

I get calls from French business people who want to set up a business in the U.S. and use that as a vehicle for obtaining a visa.  There are always a number of visas to consider, but often the most appropriate one is the E visa.  The E visa is for a treaty "trader" or a treaty "investor." French business people are fortunate in that France does have a treaty with the U.S. for E visas.  You do have to show that the company you are setting up is also "French," which basically means that the majority of people who own the company are French nationals.  As the owner, you are entitled to come work for the company you are setting up [...]

By |2018-08-10T14:19:23-07:00September 3rd, 2014|Uncategorized|


There is sometimes some confusion about what a "d/b/a" is.  A d/b/a is shorthand for "doing business as."  You create a d/b/a in California by filing a "fictitious business statement" with the county clerk in the county where you are doing business.  If you have created a corporation named "Acme Detergent," for example, and you want to use only  the name "Fine Sonoma Detergents" in your marketing materials, your business cards and your website, you will need to file a fictitious business statement with the county clerk which informs the public that "Fine Sonoma Detergents" is actually  "Acme Detergent d/b/a Fine Sonoma Detergents."The idea behind the requirement to file a fictitious business statement is that it lets the public know what [...]

By |2018-08-10T14:19:23-07:00March 5th, 2014|Uncategorized|

No Contest Clauses

People often misunderstand what a "no contest clause" can do.  I have had beneficiaries of trusts come to my office and complain that they cannot question the trustee's actions because of a no contest clause in the trust document.  In California, this is not true.  The Probate Code on no contest clauses is a little complicated, but its purpose is to discourage people from questioning whether the trustor--the person who created the trust--knew what he was doing when he signed the trust.  If you think your grandfather Thomas was bamboozled by your cousin Luke into giving Luke more money in the trust, you may want to challenge the trust when your Thomas dies.  If there is a no contest clause in the trust, you [...]

By |2018-08-10T14:19:23-07:00February 3rd, 2014|Uncategorized|

IRAs Are Different

IRAs are different from many other assets I deal with in estate plans.  IRAs cannot be put into a trust; they already have a trustee who manages them.  To name the person or persons you want to inherit your IRA when you die, you have to fill out a "beneficiary designation" on a form supplied by the trustee for the IRA.  Most people name individuals as the beneficiaries of their IRAs.  You can name your trust as the beneficiary of your IRA, but that is a complex decision that requires careful analysis.  The friendly IRS has many rules about how people can take out distributions on an inherited IRA, ands those rules are even more complicated when your trust is the [...]

By |2018-08-10T14:19:23-07:00November 15th, 2013|Uncategorized|

Divorce Is a Time To Review Your Estate Plan

It may seem obvious, but people often forget to update their wills, trusts, powers of attorney and advance health care directives when they get divorced.  Under California law, some automatic safeguards are put in place when a petition for divorce is filed.  There are rules about when and how you can change your will and trust, for example.  Once the divorce is final, you need to take steps to change your documents.  You probably want to remove your ex-spouse as a beneficiary of your estate, and you  probably don't want your "ex" being the trustee of your trust, the executor of your will or your attorney-in-fact under your power of attorney or your advance health care directive.When you make these changes, don't [...]

By |2018-08-10T14:19:23-07:00November 6th, 2013|Uncategorized|

Out-of-state Trustees

When you are selecting your trustees for your trust, you need to think about where they live.  Even if you live in California, and all your assets are in California, you could subject your trust to the jurisdiction of another state if you die with a trustee who lives out of state.  This is because most states look at the place where a trust is "administered" in deciding whether they can decide matters about that trust.  If the trustee lives in Virginia, for example, your trustee may have to file any legal paperwork in Virginia even though the trust's assets are in California.  As usual, there are many variations of this question, and you have to evaluate this on a [...]

By |2013-06-03T20:55:35-07:00June 3rd, 2013|Uncategorized|

Multi-State Trusts

I was speaking with a client recently who has assets in several other states, although she lives in California.  The easiest thing for me as an estate planner is for the client to "move" all her assets to California.  That way, California law applies across the board, and I know I can draft for the result I want. But sometimes a clients wants to keep that property in another state .   This complicates things.  Does the law of California or the law of the other state govern the transfer of the non-California property?  Does the other state recognize the validity of a California trust?  If it does, will it administer the California trust using California law if that law conflicts with [...]

By |2018-08-10T14:19:24-07:00May 16th, 2013|Uncategorized|
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