Our articles have all the information you need to sort out your personal affairs, including how to avoid probate, minimize your estate taxes, set up trusts for your loved ones, and designate powers of attorney. Search our library topics today to find out more.
Get Help from a Santa Rosa Probate Attorney
Losing a loved one is never easy, and handling affairs afterwards can seem daunting during such an emotional time. Probate administration is a very technical process that requires knowledge and counsel. As an experienced Santa Rosa probate lawyer at the Law Office of James A. Zakasky, I have helped many people through the probate process. I can guide you through the legalities during this difficult time, allowing you to focus on mourning the loss of your loved one.
Do you need help with probate administration? Call today for a free case evaluation.
What Is Involved in Probate Administration?
Probate administration involves the legal distribution of a decedent’s estate, either with or without a will. The decedent sometimes will name an executor—a person who is to be in charge of the administering—in his or her will. It is the executor’s job to ensure that all of the legalities are completed and the loved one’s will is adhered to.
The process of probate administration is typically broken up into three actions:
- Asset collection, inventory, and appraisal
- Paying debts and taxes owed
- Distributing remaining assets to the beneficiaries
While collecting assets, an executor should be aware of collecting things like bonds, checkbook and reoccurring payments, personal papers, and various account information. If the taxes or debt that is owed exceeds what was left in the estate, the executor can sell assets in order to make up for what is owed. After all of the assets are accounted for and debts are paid, the executor may distribute the rest of the estate to the beneficiaries in accordance to what the will requested.
After all three actions of the estate administration have been completed, the executor must provide written proof to the court that states that all of the debts have been paid and assets distributed. This written proof is the final step and the estate will be closed afterwards.
Probate Guidance Is Just a Phone Call Away!
If you are struggling with the steps involved in probate administration, my firm can help. I have over a decade of experience as a Santa Rosa probate attorney. I am dedicated to delivering personalized strategies that are based on your individualized needs. I know that losing a loved one is difficult, which is why I treat all of my clients with compassion and patience. Probate is not something you have to go through alone. I will be there to assist you through every step of the process.
If you are in Santa Rosa and are in need of an experienced probate lawyer,call the Law Office of James A. Zakasky at (707) 595-1148 today.
Dedicated Santa Rosa Probate & Estate Planning Attorney, Call (707) 595-1148
When choosing for a law firm to handle your legal matter, you need to choose wisely. The firm you select has a direct effect on your case – not to mention your life. You need an experienced lawyer who has your best interests in mind and who genuinely cares about your future.
You need Attorney James A. Zakasky, an experienced Santa Rosa lawyer and founder of the Law Office of James A. Zakasky. I handle a range of legal cases, including estate planning and matters related to wills, trusts, and probate. No matter how difficult your case may seem, you can feel confident in knowing that I will work hard to provide cost-effective solutions that give you much needed peace of mind.
Learn how I can help you.
Call me for a free case evaluation.
What qualifies my firm to handle your case?
- I have more than a decade of experience
- I truly care about my clients and wish to provide them with reliable step-by-step guidance
- I deliver personalized strategies tailored to fit your situation
- I treat all my clients with respect and compassion
One-on-One Counsel & Effective Solutions
I realize that unresolved legal matters can be stressful, especially when your assets and finances are involved. This is why I strive to provide the highest quality counsel possible. No two cases are alike, so I work one-on-one with clients to make sure I completely understand their needs and goals. My efforts to deliver top-notch legal services have resulted in many positive outcomes for my clients.
Ready to move forward? Call me for a free case review!
The sooner I hear from you, the sooner I can get started working on your case, bringing you one step closer to a favorable outcome. You don’t have to face this difficult situation alone. I will personally take care of all the legal aspects so you can focus on your loved ones.
Please give me a call at your earliest convenience.
I look forward to speaking with you!
Our Santa Rosa Probate Attorney Can Help
When one of your loved ones passes away, almost nothing can be more heartbreaking than knowing that their trust and last wishes were not honored. If a person creates a will, they appoint someone—it could be a lawyer, a company, or even a family member—in control of their estate. This trustee, also known as fiduciary, is responsible for making sure the deceased’s wishes are honored and the estate is distributed as indicated. If you have reason to believe that the trustee has not loyally honored their duty, you should take legal action. As an experienced Santa Rosa probate attorney, I, Attorney James A. Zakasky, can help to make sure your loved one’s wishes are fulfilled.
Call the Law Office of James A. Zakasky for a free evaluation!
How to Recognize if a Trustee Has Breached Their Duty
If you aren’t sure what constitutes a breach in duties, it can be tricky trying to proceed legally. Most people don’t want to make accusations, especially if the matter involves family members.
Here are some common scenarios that determined a trustee breached their duties:
- If the trustee combines their own finances with the estate, it constitutes a breach. Finance records should be kept separate and there should be a clear distinction between finances.
- Because of conflict of interest, a trustee may use personal reasons and explanations to act in a way that goes against the wishes of the deceased. They may also use these reasons to benefit themselves in the distribution.
- If the trustee does not stop a co-trustee or another party from contradicting the wishes of the deceased or acting in a way that breaches the trust, the trustee could still be held responsible
To file a breach of trust against a trustee, you generally must do so within a year of the incident. If the court finds the breach of fiduciary duty to be accurate, the trustee may be subject to removal from the position, ordered to pay fines, and/or compensate the beneficiaries hurt by the actions.
Need Help Protecting an Estate? Call My Firm!
I understand how upsetting the death of a loved one can be, which is why I treat each client with the utmost compassion and respect. If someone has breached a love one’s trust, I can help you get the protection and justice you need. I have more than a decade of experience handling probate cases and provide step-by-step guidance through your estate law needs. Let the Law Office of James A. Zakasky help you during your time of grief.
If you are in need of Santa Rosa probate attorney, call (707)450-1439 today!
Call (707) 595-1148 Today To Get Started
The death of a loved one can be extremely emotional and taxing. Dealing with legal complications at this time may be the last thing you want to endure. The good news is that you are not alone. I, Attorney James A. Zakasky, founded the Law Office of James A. Zakasky to offer caring and understanding counsel to individuals headed towards the probate process.
Probate is a court process used to validate a will and transfer the property of the decedent to designated heirs. I have extensive experience guiding individuals through these legal matters and can ensure you and your loved ones’ interests are safeguarded during this time.
Why Hire My Firm for the Probate Process?
- 10+ years of experience
- Well-versed and customized legal guidance
- Personalized and attentive counsel from start to finish
- Professional and respectful treatment
Probate can be difficult to navigate on your own. Get the counsel of a qualified Santa Rosa probate lawyer on your side by calling my firm at (707) 595-1148 today!
What to Expect in Probate
At the Law Office of James A. Zakasky, I help loved ones and family members traverse complex legal following the death of a loved one. How the probate process will proceed depend on several factors, including whether or not the decedent created an estate plan.
Overall, you can expect the following steps:
- Determining whether a will is valid;
- Appointing an executor or administrator of the estate (if necessary);
- Resolving all financial responsibilities of the estate; and
- Transferring / distributing property to heirs or beneficiaries.
While these steps may seem simple, even the smallest issue or dispute could extend the process.
Why Having a Legal Advocate Is Crucial
Probate administration leads to many tasks. Beneficiaries must be notified, properties must be appraised, property must be appropriately transferred, and estate taxes must be paid, among other steps. If an heir contests a will, it can lead to extensive legal complications.
Other challenges you can face during probate include:
- Probate litigation
- Breach of fiduciary duty
- Distribution of assets
Even when you don’t anticipate your loved one’s will may be disputed, having a Santa Rosa probate attorney by your side can be invaluable during this difficult time. Since probate is a court process, it can be very time-consuming and costly, making it crucial to work through it as efficiently and accurately as possible. With my skills behind your case, you can have peace of mind knowing your best interests will be protected every step of the way.
Request Your Free Consultation Today
Whether you are facing probate following the loss of a loved one or are seeking to create an estate plan that will help you avoid this frustrating legal process, the Law Office of James A. Zakasky can provide the counsel and support you need. As an estate planning and probate lawyer, I have a firm grasp on every aspect of the legal system. I am here to be your guide through this challenging time.
Dealing with a probate-related legal matter? Fill out a case evaluation to get started.
The Federal Estate Tax deduction or the amount that you can keep from the transfer of property that someone leaves to you after they die in the year 2016 is $5,450,000.00. Anything over that amount is taxed at 40%!
For Example: if your Mother leaves you $10 Million Dollars than the first $5.45 Million is exempt but the remaining $4.55 Million would be taxed at %40 which would leave you a tax bill of $1,820,000.00.
Federal Tax Exemption Table
Year Exemption Amount
The Federal Gift Tax Exemption
The Federal Government allows gifts of property to family members and loved ones in the amount of $14,000.00 Dollars per year per spouse for tax year 2016.
For Example: You can give your grandson $14K without having to pay a tax on the gift and he will not have to pay a tax on the amount that he receives in tax year 2016. If you die within the next three years that amount and all gifts that you made within the last three years will be added and deducted from the total Exemption Value of $5.45 Million. So if you gave One Million in Gifts that Million will be reduced from the overall exemption leaving you only $4.45 Million left in Exemptions.
Federal Gift Tax Exemptions
Year Federal Gift Tax Exemption
What is a Revocable Living Trust?
A RLT is a legal document that controls your property while you are living. Instead of creating a will that only goes into effect after you die, a revocable living trust goes into effect as soon as you sign the document and fund your trust. The person that creates the trust or grantor usually serves as the trustee controlling their own property. When the trustee or grantor passes away a new trustee takes their place and distributes the trust to the beneficiaries.
Why Do You Need a RLT?
- To take care of your Spouse and children. If you suddenly pass away your spouse and children will be left to deal with bank accounts, real estate transfers, retirement accounts, estate taxes, lawyers and government officials. Nobody wants to do this! A well drafted RLT takes care of your family and demonstrates how much you actually care and love them because they will not have go through this horrific process.
- To protect you and your family from creditors. A well drafted RLT will save you thousands of dollars in Estate Taxes that usually run 40%. Trusts are also drafted to protect beneficiaries from creditors, bankruptcy and ex-spouses. If you have a special needs child or grandchild a separate trust can be set up so that crucial government benefits are retained instead of losing valuable assistance.
- Probate Avoidance. Probate requires a judge to sign off on all your very personal documents and is public, time consuming, costly and involves risk. You will still need to Administer the Trust through the courts but it’s faster, cheaper and avoids more risk.
The RLT is not for everyone, however, it does work for a variety of individuals and is a great Estate Planning device that will protect your family, save you money and avoid the court room.
What Should I Watch Out For?
- Do it Yourself Legal…there are many software programs that you can buy and books that will show you how to Draft a Trust. You get what you pay for. Why would you risk your entire legacy or everything you obtained in life for a few thousand?
- Trust Mills. They offer free “seminars” and charge you low amounts and then do not fund your trust or follow up with you to keep your documents up to date. Again…Why would you risk your entire legacy or everything you obtained in life for a few thousand?
How will Medicare work for me?
Medicare is the Federal Medical insurance plan that covers US Citizens and Residents that are age 65. If you are eligible for Social Security or Railroad Board benefits or if you are receiving benefits from either than you meet the standards for Medicare. If you are under 65 and you are receiving disability payments, you may also be eligible for Medicare. If you have ALS Lou Gehrig’s Disease you are eligible for Medicare. If you have End Stage Renal Disease you are eligible for Medicare part A.
What does Medicare Cover?
Part A Medicare
Medicare part A covers Hospital Stays. This includes inpatient hospital care, skilled nursing facility, hospice, lab tests, surgery, and home health care. Please be aware that there are limits for the amount of days that you may stay at the hospital depending on the facility and the treatment. Home Health Care is NOT 24/7 care assistance it is extremely limited.
Part B Medicare
Medicare part B is the overall medical health insurance that includes doctor and other health care providers’ services, outpatient care, durable medical equipment, home health care, and some preventive services. Services can be very limited depending on provider and treatment plan.
What Medicare Parts A and B does not cover?
- Long Term Care
- Most dental care
- Eye examinations related to prescribing glasses
- Cosmetic surgery
- Hearing aids and exams for fitting them
- Routine foot care
Medicare Part C
Supplemental insurance for an additional premium that gives limited coverage.
Medicare Part D
Prescription Drug Coverage
For more information:
Fifteen States and the district of Columbia have an Estate Tax, and six states have an inheritance tax. If you live in Maryland and New Jersey you are levied with three forms of death tax, Federal, State Estate and State Inheritance…Ouch!
State Estate Tax Over Percentage Tax
Washington 2.054 Mil 10-20%
Oregon 1 Mil 1-16%
Hawaii 5.43 Mil .8-16%
Minnesota 1.4 Mil 9-16%
Illinois 4 Mil .8-16%
Tennessee 5 Mil 5.5-9.5%
New York 3.125 Mil 3.06-16%
Massachusetts 1.0 Mil .8-16%
Rhode Island 1.5 Mil .8-16%
Connecticut 2.0 Mil 7.2-12%
Delaware 5.43 Mil .8-16%
District of Columbia 5.43 Mil .8-16%
State Inheritance Tax – No Exemption Amount
State Estate and Inheritance Tax
Over %Estate %Inheritance
Maryland 1.5 mil 16% 0-10%
New Jersey 675K .8-16% 0-16%
Inheritance, State and Federal Death Taxes are incredibly expensive to administer and have resulted in lower family business continuation and jobs.
For More Information:
Long Term Care Insurance – If you start coverage early and lock in a good rate this can be an excellent option. Long Term Care Insurance is tax deductible and can even be a benefit you provide to employees with the same tax deduction. Make sure to check what your daily payout will be. I have seen some plans that only pay $150.00 per day. That’s a drop in the bucket compared to At Home 24-hour cost of care at $630.00 per day.
Life Insurance – A Life Insurance Policy that has a Death Benefit Rider will allow the insured to take the full amount of the Policy and use it for care. The Policies with this type of Rider are very specific and need to be examined carefully with Long Term Care Planning.
Veterans Benefits – Veterans can take advantage of many VA programs for a skilled facility or at home care services. There are restrictions. If you have a Home, it will be excluded but if you have extensive retirement accounts that could knock you out of the program.
Consider Selling or Renting if you Own Your Home – With the high price of Real Estate in California many could use this Equity to pay for their care. It may be a bitter pill that many do not want to swallow and renting the house could be an excellent way to keep the asset and pay for the care.
Reverse mortgage proceeds are commonly used to pay for home care, assisted living / nursing home care (for one spouse), home modifications to allow aging in place, and even to purchase long term care insurance. A very general rule of thumb is that seniors can borrow a maximum of approximately 70% of their home’s value.
Bridge Loan – a riskier option, that allows you to receive a loan now to pay for Assisted Living while you wait for your house to sell and then pay back the loan with the proceeds of the sale. Yes, very risky.
Private Pay – Simple use up all your funds to pay for the Assisted Living then hopefully qualify for some type of Government Assistance.
Annuity – A good Annuity policy will give assistance with little or no penalty for a withdrawal for Assisted Living.
Medicaid – A great option if you meet the strict financial guidelines. Bottom line is that your Health Costs Exceed your income and or available income.
Besides offering a library of information, we invite you to submit your own question to be answered here.