Be Careful What You Click!

September 30, 2008

It can happen in a second!. You click your mouse on a website and all sorts of things can happen. Because of the high tech nature of the internet, you can shop from your home computer in San Diego and purchase a product from anywhere in the U.S., China, Australia, or India any time of the day or night. Not only could you be downloading spyware and viruses into your computer, but you could be committing yourself to a legally binding contract.

A Texas online purchaser used her daughter-in-law's credit card to order some automobile seat covers and have them delivered to the daughter-in-law in Alabama. When they were delivered, it was discovered that the covers were the wrong color. The daughter-in-law sent them back to the company and reversed the charge on her credit card. The company claimed that it never received the seat covers, and eventually sued the purchaser and the daughter-in-law for breach of contract.

The lawsuit against the customers was bad enough but adding to the problem was the fact that the action was filed in a state court in Indiana, far from either of the defendants' homes. The defendants' attempt to avoid having to defend the suit in Indiana failed. The "clickwrap" agreement that the customer had accepted with a click of the mouse when she purchased the items included a requirement that any legal proceeding between the purchaser and seller had to be filed in Indiana and governed by Indiana law.

Most customers only skim the language in a clickwrap agreement, if they read it at all, while looking for the "I Accept" button. However, the agreement, and everything in it, is no less binding because of that. Both the customer and the owner of the card she used were bound to litigate the dispute in Indiana.

"Clickwrap agreements" have been held to be valid so be careful what you agree to online. Read the fine print before hitting the "I Accept" button.

Is Your Money Deposited in San Diego Banks Safe?

September 26, 2008

With everything happening in today’s economy, people have many questions about whether their money is safe in such banks as Bank of America, Washington Mutual, Union Bank, and many other banks in San Diego. The recent failures of IndyMac, Freddie Mac, and the insurance giant AIG has caused many bank depositors to ask about the protections of an FDIC insured institution.

The FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation) was established 75 years ago. All deposits worth $100,000 or less are automatically insured by the FDIC if the bank in which the funds are deposited are insured with the FDIC. Many retirement accounts such as 401(k)s and IRAs are insured up to $250,000 per person. If you have a joint account with someone else, that account is insured separately from the account you have in your name alone. In addition, trust accounts may be protected up to $100,000 per beneficiary.

The FDIC has nearly $53 billion in funds and in the 75 years since its creation, there has never been a bank depositor lose a penny. You can learn more about bank failures at the FDIC website. How do you know that your bank is an FDIC insured bank? Look for the FDIC symbol posted at the bank or check the FDIC website for a list of insured banks.

Innovative Idea for Dividing Up Personal Property after Death

September 23, 2008

Are you the Executor or the Successor Trustee of a will or trust in San Diego? Are you faced with the dilemma of how to divide up personal effects of the deceased? How to divide personal property (furniture, collectibles, jewelry, cars) upon someone’s death can be a harder problem than distributing the rest of the estate. Many wills and trusts provide for distribution to heirs in equal amounts or equal shares, but how do you determine who gets what? What if more than one heir wants a particular item? How is the property valued, especially if its real worth is more sentimental than anything else?

There is an interesting alternative being offered by an auction company called eDivvyUp. This is an online auction site which can assist executors or beneficiaries deal with distribution of personal property. This company will inventory the items of personal property, photograph them, and then the beneficiaries are invited to participate in the auction with “points” they are assigned. At the end of the auction the property is distributed to the highest bidder.

At Law Office of Scott C. Soady, A Professional Corporation we can assist you with the division of personal property and any other matter relating to probate or trust administration. You may call or e mail us to set up a complimentary consultation.

Interesting Statistics on Estate Planning

September 19, 2008

Do San Diegans fit the national statistics on Estate Planning?

Alhough there are no statistics specifically for San Diego County, a study done nationally in 2007 found that over half (55% ) of all adult Americans do not have a will or other estate plan. Of non-whites, the lack of a will is even more pronounced:

Only 32% of African American adults have wills
Only 25% of Hispanic American adults have wills compared to
52% of white American adults.

The study also found that 41% of American adults have health care directives. This is up from several years ago perhaps because of news coverage about such cases as the Terry Schiavo case in Florida.

Reasons for not doing an estate plan:
1. Ignorance is bliss. 10% say they don’t want to think about dying or becoming incapacitated.
2. Where to begin? 9% say they don’t know who to consult about an estate plan
3. No Assets to worry about. 24% say they don’t think they have enough assets
Possible other reasons are procrastination: I know I should do it but don’t seem to get around to it.

If you fall within these categories and do not have a will or a living trust, contact us at Law Office of Scott C. Soady, A Professional Corporation. We offer a complimentary consultation in the office, contact us by e mail.

Amending your Revocable Living Trust

September 15, 2008

After your revocable living trust is prepared, there often arises the need to amend your trust. It could be that you want to change your successor trustee, change beneficiaries, or that new changes in the tax laws require some new or revised provisions. Some people think they can cross out information on their trust and make changes on the original trust document. This should never be done as the changes are not notarized and it may be difficult to prove that you were the one making the changes. An amendment to your trust should be prepared and notarized with the same formalities as your original trust.

You may also want to have an estate planning attorney review your trust to see if an amendment is appropriate. Some trusts become irrevocable after the death of the first spouse and depending on the trust language, may not be amended.

At Law Office of Scott C. Soady, A Professional Corporation, we can advise you as to whether your trust may be amended and with the preparation of amendments. We offer a complimentary consultation and you may call or e mail us for an appointment.

Even Celebrities Don't Anticipate the Future!

September 10, 2008

There are numerous examples of famous people who have died without a will or who had an outdated will or a poorly drafted trust. Some of these examples have resulted in disastrous consequences after an untimely death. Anna Nicole Smith died leaving everything to her son who predeceased her and apparently had no provision for later born children or for her long time partner Howard Stern. Heath Ledger died with an outdated will that left his estate to his parents and sisters with no mention of his daughter or girlfriend Michelle Williams, the mother of his daughter.

It is doubtful that these celebrities intended for these consequences to occur if they died suddenly. They certainly had the ability to retain the best estate planning attorneys in the country. While some blame has to rest with the individuals themselves for not updating their wills to provide for partners and children born after their wills were prepared, it seems apparent that the original documents which were prepared failed to anticipate future events. Since properly worded documents were not prepared to anticipate the future, these celebrities were deprived of the ability to decide such things are how their children would inherit assets, who would be in charge of the money during the time they were minors, who would invest the money, or who they would have preferred to care for their children if both parents died.

Just like these celebrities, you need an experienced estate planning attorney that will determine the appropriate estate plan for you and draft documents that will stand the test of time. Such documents need to remain effective if you have another child in years to come, if a child predeceases you, or there is a common disaster that may involve your entire family. At the law firm of Law Office of Scott C. Soady, A Professional Corporation we can assist you with an estate plan that will anticipate future events in your life and remain viable for many years after its execution. Call us or e mail us to take advantage of a complimentary and personal consultation about this or any other estate planning issue.

5 Ways to Afford a Trust in This Economy

September 5, 2008

You don’t have to be rich to need a trust. If you own your home in San Diego where the cost of the average home is high, you need a trust to avoid probate. Even without a home, if you have total assets over $100,000 you need a trust to avoid probate.

You don’t have to be rich to afford a trust. Even with this economy, a trust is so important that it may warrant cutting back on other things to afford it.

1. Painless Savings Techniques: One technique for savings is to put every $5 bill you receive into a jar or tucked away in a drawer. You would be surprised how many $5 bills you receive in a month. You can easily save several hundred dollars a month if you faithfully make this a habit. Some people deposit the change they find in their pocket or wallet into a jar. Taking those jars to the bank and converting them into money to set aside for a trust is a way to save painlessly. The Keep the Change Program at Bank of America rounds up every purchase to the nearest dollar amount and transfers the difference into your savings account. The bank will even match your savings for the first 3 months.

2. Cut back on your mocha frappachino or carmel machiato you have been drinking everyday. It has been estimated that a person consuming a designer coffee drink once a day spends over $100 a month. If you can’t give up your coffee, how about bringing your lunch to work for a while. You can easily spend $10 or more on lunch eating out. These amounts may seem insignificant but they add up!

3. How much do you spend annually on Christmas presents for your family? Some families spend $50 to $100 per person. What if you bought something a little less expensive and spent the money on a trust. After all, the creation of a living trust is really a gift for your heirs. Such a gift will later be appreciated more than a video game or sweater they probably won’t like anyway.

4. Cut back on dining out or other monthly outing. A trip to your favorite sushi bar or nice restaurant can easily cost $100 - $200 per couple. A trip to the ball game for the whole family can cost more than that. What if you cut back on some of these outings for 6 months?

5. Have a garage sale and put aside the proceeds to help fund a trust. Many people have a garage full of garage sale items and once you have a sale, what do you do with the money? Earmark the proceeds for something that will last a lifetime (literally)!

A revocable living trust can be affordable for most people even if you have to get creative. At Law Office of Scott C. Soady, A Professional Corporation, we can’t assist you with the garage sale but we can help you create an estate plan. Call us or e mail us for a complimentary consultation.

Life Estates in San Diego

September 3, 2008

Do you have a piece of property in San Diego County that you want someone to reside in as long as they live and then pass the property to someone else? A life estate is typically an ownership interest where the owner of real property gives a “life estate” to another so that person has the right to live in a home for his or her life. It might happen in a situation where two people marry late in life. The husband sells his home and they move into the wife’s home. When the wife passes away, she wants the family home to go to her children but she also wants her husband to be able to live in the home if he outlives her. The wife can give a life estate to her husband so that the husband can live in the home until his death. Upon his death, the house goes to the wife’s children.

A life estate can be a valuable estate planning tool to keep assets in the family, such as the family home, but there can also be problems if they are not prepared correctly. The document creating a life estate needs to be drafted carefully to avoid issues later such as who is responsible for property taxes, insurance, maintenance, and repairs. What if the costs of repairing the home are high and the husband does not want to spend the money on a house that will be going to his wife’s children? Does the life estate include furniture and other household items? What if the husband remarries?

If you want to give someone a life estate in a piece of property you own, we can assist you with the proper documents to accomplish that at Law Office of Scott C. Soady, A Professional Corporation. Please feel free to call us or e mail us about this or any other estate planning issue. An in-house consultation up to 30 minutes is free.