As an Orange County estate planning attorney, I've had numerous clients contact our law office, concerned about the effects of Proposition 19. To help people understand this sometimes confusing proposition, we've answered some of the most frequently asked questions, including how this new amendment will affect your property taxes as well as your beneficiaries.
In November 2020, California voters narrowly approved Proposition 19. The Home Protection for Seniors, Severely Disabled, Families, and Victims of Wildfire or Natural Disasters Act is an amendment that produces two significant changes in property taxes.
For starters, it provides Californians over the age of 54, and others, a significant tax break when buying a new home. To retain their parent's low property taxes, beneficiaries will have to make the inherited property their principal residence.
Let's take a look at each of these impactful changes that are now in effect.
In California, thanks to Proposition 13, properties are taxed based on their assessed value instead of the fair market value. This value is based on the purchase price, cost of improvements, and an increase of no more than 2% per year. With housing costs in California appreciating rapidly, many homeowners pay significantly lower taxes on their current residence than if they purchased the same home today.
California has one of the highest average property tax rates in the nation, with only nine states coming in higher. The average tax rate is 0.74%, with Orange County's effective property tax rate set at 0.68%.
An estate planning attorney Orange County CA can let you know how your estate plan will be affected by the passing of this law.
Californians who are 55 and older, have severe disabilities, or lost their home in a natural disaster such as a wildfire received property tax breaks with the passing of Proposition 19. Previously, homeowners could transfer their property tax assessments only once in their lifetime and only within their county or nine other participating counties in California.
To transfer the taxable value of their existing home, their new home had to be of equal or lesser value.
Under those restraints, if a person wanted to downsize their home as they got older and move from Southern to Northern California to be with their son or daughter, they may have been faced with a significantly increased property tax burden.
For example, a home that a Californian purchased for $200,000 thirty years ago is now worth $1 million. If such a person were to sell and purchase a home for more than $500,000, their property taxes would more than double.
Under the new amendment, qualified homeowners may transfer their property tax assessments to a new home anywhere in the state and up to three times in their lifetime. The new replacement home may cost up to $1 million more than their existing home.
Homeowners must purchase the new property within two years of the sale of their original home.
In essence, it allows qualified individuals to purchase a new home anywhere in the state of California and retain their relatively low property taxes, if applicable.
Before Proposition 19 passed, your estate planning attorney in Orange County may have advised you to speak with them to make changes to your estate plan while the more favorable rules were in effect. The restrictive new laws regarding the property taxes paid by beneficiaries have since gone into effect on February 16, 2021.
The new law mostly eliminated the parents' and grandparents' exclusion from property reassessment when passing on their property to their children and grandchildren under certain conditions.
Before this date, parents could transfer their principal residence to their children without triggering a reassessment. As an example, if a parent left their home to their children, the beneficiaries could retain their parent's property tax rates and still use the property as a rental or vacation home.
The previous law also allowed children to inherit the property assessments of residential or commercial properties valued up to an additional $1 million.
Under the new law, the inherited property must be the principal residence of the parents or grandparents and valued at no more than $1 million above the current assessed value. Additionally, the property must become the child's or grandchild's primary residence within one year of ownership for them to qualify for their parent's property tax rates.
Otherwise, the property will be reassessed and, due to current property values, the property taxes could be significantly higher.
Ultimately, children inheriting property from their parents may decide to sell the property rather than face significant property taxes. For instance, if the parent's bought a rental property for $100,000 decades ago, and that property is now worth $1 million, the children will be faced with paying property taxes on the current value.
Contact an Orange County estate planning lawyer to determine how this new law may affect you and your family.
Due to the recent changes, it's important to establish your estate plan or have your existing plan reviewed. In addition to changing California laws, some experts believe that the new administration may reduce the deficit by lowering the estate tax exclusion and increasing the tax rates on transferred properties.
The current $11.7 million estate tax exemption and gift tax exemption may be reduced to $3.5 million for estates and $1 million for gifts. Additionally, the tax rate on transfers over those amounts may increase from a flat rate of 40% to adjusted rates based on the estate's value.
While this change affects a small percentage of Americans, several other laws are being considered that will have far broader consequences. At Parker Law Offices, we're committed to helping you protect your family's estate. For a complimentary consultation, contact us at Parker Law Offices today.
Between smartphones and computers, the rise of the internet, and digital platforms such as social media and email, much of our lives are now spent in the cloud and online where we create and store massive amounts of data.
We protect this data with usernames, PINs, and passwords. Unfortunately, if hacked, our personal information, along with bank accounts and credit card numbers, may fall into the wrong hands.
Since we’re still in the beginning stages of the digital age, it's easy to forget all the information we store online and what will happen to it when we pass away. If you are thinking about setting up your estate plan or making changes to a plan you already have, you should consider what will happen to your digital assets and determine who should have access by speaking with your Orange County estate planning lawyer.
Let's take a look at what digital estate planning is and how to secure your digital information by including it in your plan.
Digital estate planning involves organizing your digital assets and making plans for their disposition after death. The first step is listing your digital assets (you have more than you think). From there, you’ll want to review the terms of service with your providers including the instructions and possible restrictions for transferring these assets. An estate planning lawyer in Orange County can be a big help in this manner.
Start by creating a list of your digital assets. Once you start, you'll realize just how much of your information is computer generated. In addition to listing the assets, be sure to note how your loved ones can access the information. A few important devices and platforms include knowing any passwords and otherwise how to access the following:
Let's take a closer look at some of these important digital assets.
When faced with the task of ensuring a will or trust is in order and all assets have been included and given to those you love, it's easy to leave out the assets that can't be seen or touched. Given that almost all of our photos are digitally produced and stored these days, these highly sentimental snapshots in time are one of the important digital assets that are easy to overlook.
Consider all of the digital platforms photos may be stored on. Do you have a Shutterfly, Dropbox, or Google account? How about social media sites like Facebook?
Perhaps even more vexing is when a loved one would like to see any pictures from another who has passed away. This happens countless times today. With an iPhone or iPad, you only have a limited number of attempts to enter the password. Once those password attempts are exhausted, the device is locked and more than likely Apple will not unlock it for anyone--even the owner of the device. In that case, it would need to be reset to factory settings in order to operate at all, and all data including pictures would be lost.
Without the information on how to access devices such as cell phones, these valuable family memories could be lost forever.
Pictures are the only items that can be lost forever. Email email accounts which with the right password in hand can be accessed, might also be lost permanently.
In addition to items with sentimental value, those with monetary value can also be lost and forgotten. Sometimes this is due to your beneficiary's inability to access them, while other times it's simply that no family member, accountant, executor, successor trustee, or lawyer knows about them. With today's regulations protecting personal identity, data privacy laws, and limited access to digital accounts, it's difficult and often impossible to access the information once the owner has passed away.
Millions of people experience identity theft and fraud every year. Common targets include mortgages, student loans, car loans, and credit cards. In fact, thieves can also gain access to online accounts and seize control of them.
Failure to close or transfer accounts can result in lost revenue from the estate (creditors may file claims from new outstanding charges) as well as lost time and increased trouble for your family should identity theft or fraud occur.
Some third-party companies can help alert you of a breach, but this is often time-consuming and difficult to clear. Digital thieves know this and use it to their advantage to get away with as much data as possible.
Be sure to keep a list of your online assets and digital accounts--but keep the access information private and available to your loved ones in the event of your passing. A will becomes a public record when filed, so be sure to consult with your estate planning attorney in Orange County regarding your digital assets and how best to include them in your estate yet keep them safe.
Keep in mind that not all attorneys have current estate planning documents. In these cases, their documents may not include digital information protection for your loved ones. With this in mind, choose wisely when you select your lawyer to prepare your estate planning documents.
One solution is ensure that your lawyer provides you with power of attorney to the digital assets in your estate planning documents. In this manner, the person you give power of attorney to will have a far better chance of having access to your digital property. It is important to let your agent for your power of attorney, executor or successor trustee know of the location of your documents. You should also give them the name and phone number of your Orange County estate planning attorney who may also have a copy of the documents needed for access.
Once you have a list of items, it's time to determine what you want to do with your digital assets. You may want to have some digital property erased, but you will more than likely want to transfer some of the information to your beneficiaries.
Include your wishes in your will or trust and let your executor or successor trustee know how you'd like to handle this asset and where your information is stored.
The digital age has created vast amounts of data and paperless options for those opting to perform everyday financial tasks and communication online. It's easy to forget about this unseen data when making end of life plans, but incorporating planning for these digital assets results in much less stress for your family.
Including these assets in your trust ensures the most likely scenario where appropriate people receive the assets, whether financial or sentimental. Taking time to address your digital assets may also assist your loved ones in decreasing taxes and minimize other financial issues.
An estate planning attorney Orange County CA who understands digital assets can help you integrate these assets into your trust and create a complete estate plan.
At Parker Law Offices, we've worked with countless individuals, families, and businesses, ensuring that their last wishes are carried through and protected. We are able to uncover assets, including those that can be easily forgotten, including digital holdings often when the proper digital asset language is in your estate planning documents. Procrastination can lead to many complications for your family and friends. Taking care of your affairs now may provide you with peace of mind. Call us, your trusted Orange County estate planning attorney, today to set up a free consultation.
Setting up a revocable living trust with your Orange County estate planning attorney is an excellent way to avoid probate and reduce the financial strain on friends and family.
The process involves naming one or more people, or sometimes a corporate trustee, to act on the settlor's (also known as the grantor or creator) behalf upon incapacitation or death. The person bearing this responsibility is called the successor trustee.
The successor trustee, as the name implies, "succeeds" the trustee, usually the person who creates the trust, following their incapacity or death. In essence, they assume responsibility for managing the trust and its assets when the creator can no longer manage the trust themself.
The duties of a successor trustee vary, depending on many factors, and are usually detailed in the trust document. Some of these duties include instructions for what to do if the creator has become mentally or physcially incapacitated or has passed away, and what to do if they have minor children. Let's take a look at what these different scenarios mean.
After agreeing to the role of a successor trustee, you should become familiar with the trust and the conditions stated within it. Find out where the trust is kept, along with any insurance documents. Go over the beneficiaries with the grantor to ensure they contain the appropriate designations. It's also a good idea to have an estate planning attorney in Orange County review the trust and corresponding documents on an annual basis, or when there has been a change in the family or assets.
In addition, determine if you are the sole successor trustee or if you will be acting with someone else.
If prepared correctly, the trust should contain instructions for how to determine whether the grantor is no longer capable of handling their financial affairs. Usually, one or more doctors are required to certify that, due to physical or mental disabilities, the grantor is incapacitated and can no longer handle their financial affairs. This document may be requested by banks and other institutions.
Once legally determined, a successor trustee's role is as follows:
The successor trustee's responsibilities include distributing assets and property held in the trust and transferring titles according to the trust agreement. The role changes dramatically if minor children are involved, or if the trust is going to exist for a number of years after the death of the creator.
If there are children or individuals that will not receive their inheritance until after they reach a certain age or fulfill a specific agreement, the trustee must protect the inheritance, and assets, until the time they can be distributed to the beneficiaries.
The responsibilities assumed once the grantor passes away are as follows:
If money is needed to pay off tax liabilities or debts, the trustee may need to sell some existing assets. Be sure to consult with the estate planning attorney in Orange County before placing any assets up for sale.
As is evident from this list, the responsibilities of a trustee are numerous and can last for years. If you feel overwhelmed as a trustee, you can hand over the duties to a successor trustee, if one has been named. If there is no successor trustee, contact the estate planning attorney Orange County CA to determine alternative solutions.
At Parker Law Offices, we understand the importance of a well prepared estate plan and are dedicated to preparing the appropriate documents required to keep a family's assets out of probate and up to date with current laws.
We are committed to making this already trying time a little easier. Call us today for a complimentary consultation.