The Pitfalls of DIY Wills: Lessons Learned from a Florida Probate Case… Christine’s Family Wealth Secrets

Happy Thanksgiving week!

We are back from our 60 mile walk in San Diego.  Our group of walkers in San Diego raised $6.5 million to fund research, and breast cancer education.  I have sore feet, a few blisters and much gratitude for the opportunity to contribute in some small way to someday end this disease affecting our family and so many families.  Here are a couple of pictures from our walk!








Are you a do-it-yourselfer?  If so, then read today’s article, which describes the real life pitfalls of do-it-yourself, online estate planning.  This is one area where you want to get it right, and well, let’s face it, you don’t know what you don’t know.  The intricacies of planning are numerous.  The old adage “you get what you pay for” applies here too. At Cava & Faulkner, we work with you in creating an estate plan that actually works when you need it, and takes care of the people you want, in the way you want, and when you want. That’s money in the bank!!

Until next time,



The Pitfalls of DIY Wills: Lessons Learned from a Florida Probate Case

DIY wills are becoming more prevalent as legal services can now be accessed easily online. For better or worse, more and more people are turning to online services to meet their legal needs, maybe even you.

Here’s what you need to know before you decide to create your own will, using an online service, or even a cheap lawyer for that matter.

While these online companies are making legal services more accessible, they’re also doing their customers a dis-service, as evidenced in the recent case of In re: Estate of Aldrich heard in a Florida appeals court.

Ms. Aldrich created her will using a downloaded template from E-Z Legal Forms without the advice and guidance of an estate lawyer. It appears that she wished to leave specific assets to her sister, and then to her brother, if her sister died before her. Her sister did die, after which Ms. Aldrich did not properly update her will.

The assets named in the will went to Ms. Aldrich’s brother, but the template she used did not include a residuary clause, which establishes where unnamed assets should go. There was no way for Ms. Aldrich to know that this was missing from the Will because she was not a lawyer, nor was she truly educated about such matters. Most people are not, nor should they be.

As a result and without a residuary clause, the unnamed assets Ms. Aldrich acquired after the creation of the will passed under Florida’s intestacy laws and into the hands of her nieces, children of another pre-deceased sibling, instead of to her brother, as she seemed to have wanted.

This, of course, after a long, expensive and unnecessary court battle between the nieces and Ms. Aldrich’s brother. 

Services like E-Z Legal Forms do not provide personal legal advice or ongoing legal support. Had Ms. Aldrich worked with an estate lawyer to craft—and then update—her planning, she would have left her brother an inheritance of love, rather than a nightmare of time, money and heartache.

This is an important lesson to learn because people too often create their will without having a lawyer review it and then forget to update it as loved ones pass on and new assets are acquired. In the end, their wishes aren’t honored because they weren’t clearly defined, leaving the matter in the hands of the probate court.

If you’re ready to develop a sound estate plan that will leave a legacy of true love, start by sitting down with one of us. As your Personal Family Lawyer®, we can help you with your legal planning needs. Our Family Wealth Planning Session guides you to protect and preserve what matters most.

We don’t just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love.  That’s why we offer a Family Wealth Planning Session,™ during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before, and make all the best choices for the people you love.

Posted in Asset Protection, Beneficiaries, Death, Estate Planning, Inheritances, Legacy, Probate, Wills | Comments Off on The Pitfalls of DIY Wills: Lessons Learned from a Florida Probate Case… Christine’s Family Wealth Secrets

Easy Mistakes to Avoid When Passing Assets to Your Child… Christine’s Family Wealth Secrets


We have been so busy, Monday blew right by and we did not get our newsletter out. We are heading out tomorrow night for our Komen adventure, which will begin Friday and extend through Sunday. 20 miles a day each day.  Believe it or not, it goes by quickly, and the support the community provides makes this a very fun event. Will post pictures next week.

Carefully crafting your plan to make sure your kids don’t get too much, too soon is an important consideration in the planning process.  Who wants their kids to come into money when they are 18 and blow through it within a year or two?  Most parents never want this outcome. Avoiding this outcome, however requires careful, very thoughtful and  sometimes tricky decision making.  That’s where we come in.  We begin that dialogue in our Family Wealth Planning Session which will open your eyes to the endless possibilities, both good and bad.  We will guide you in avoiding pitfalls and achieving the plan you want, the one that protects your family for the long run.

Until next time,



Easy Mistakes to Avoid When Passing Assets to Your Child

Setting up a trust fund for your children can ensure that the money you are leaving behind for them is taken care of, in the way that you want. But your efforts in completing this important, yet somber task can be ruined by making one of these common mistakes.

Leaving Assets Outright to Kids
One of the worst things you can do is to do nothing, which means that whatever you are leaving behind will go to your children outright, unprotected and directly to them when they turn 18. But, worse than that, it means that a Court will decide who handles the assets for them (and whoever is named as their guardian) before they turn 18. And, it’s very likely that those assets will not be used in the way you want. On top of that, if a professional Trustee is appointed, the costs of handling the assets could drain what’s left for your kids, quickly.

Not Carefully Choosing a Trustee
Even parents who do the right thing and set up a trust to hold what’s being left behind for their kids sometimes do not think carefully enough about who the Trustee should be taking care of the assets. Do you want one trustee or a co-trustee who can ensure the funds are well managed? Choosing more than one can provide some accountability for how the funds are used.

Not Properly Protecting Assets Left In Trust
Another mistake parents make when setting up a trust is distributing the assets out of the trust direct to their children at specific ages or stages, instead of holding those assets in a flexible lifetime trust that will protect their kids’ inheritance from future divorces, creditors or accidental lawsuits.

Unfortunately, most lawyers do not understand how to use trusts to establish this kind of vital protection for the inheritance you are leaving behind. And they may even suggest to you that it’s not necessary, if you have a smaller estate. I believe that even when you are leaving behind a small amount of assets, protecting those assets and teaching your children how to grow them (instead of squander them) can be the seed of a huge turning point for many generations to come. It would be my honor to share more about this with you during a Family Wealth Planning Session.

Neglecting to Fix Beneficiary Designations
Lastly, make sure your insurance policies are directed to your trust and not directly to your children. This is a huge mistake we repeatedly see. Naming minors or even young adults as the beneficiaries of insurance and retirement accounts is a sure-fire way to ensure they are not used in the way you want and unnecessarily get stuck in a court process, which you can easily avoid.

A trust can both provide for and protect your children after your death, as well as ensure you are cared for the way you want in the event of your incapacity. If you’re ready to set up an effective plan for your family’s well-being and care, start by sitting down with us.  As your Personal Family Lawyer®, we’ll help you protect, preserve and enhance what matters most.

This article is a service of Christine Faulkner, Personal Family Lawyer®. We don’t just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love.  That’s why we offer a Family Wealth Planning Session™, during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before, and make all the best choices for the people you love.

If you need to create an estate plan give us a call. We’re offering a $50 Amazon gift card to the first 5 people who schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session  by November 30th!  Be sure to mention the title of this article.

Posted in Asset Protection, Beneficiaries, Death, Divorce, Estate Planning, Inheritances, Lawsuits, Trusts | Comments Off on Easy Mistakes to Avoid When Passing Assets to Your Child… Christine’s Family Wealth Secrets

Ten Common Money Pits Even Brilliant Entrepreneurs Fall Into… The Christine Chronicles


Gearing up for the weekend and our last training walk before the big 3 days next week, where Jean Marie and I will walk 20 miles a day for three days. Between us, we have raised $5000 for breast cancer research, funding, screening and awareness.  I am proud of our contribution to a cause that means so much to us.  Hope the weather holds for training and in San Diego next week.  We will take lots of pictures and keep you posted.

Coming into the holidays usually brings money into sharp focus.  As an entrepreneur, making smart investment choices means more financial resources for you and your family. Conventional wisdom, and business practice may no longer serve your best interest so check out of list of common mistakes business owners make.

Happy Veterans Day and THANK YOU to our veterans and their families!!!



Ten Common Money Pits Even Brilliant Entrepreneurs Fall Into

If you’re relying on your top line to grow your wealth, you could be missing out on easy opportunities to save money and improve profits, independent of your revenue.

Many entrepreneurs waste precious time and money by falling prey to these common mistakes. However, there is no need to sacrifice, work harder, or take on new financial risks when they can be easily avoided.

1. Not Monitoring Your Credit Score
Discrepancies in your credit score can cost you thousands in interest rates and premiums. Monitor your credit report every six months for accuracy.

2. Scrimping on Productive Expenses
Differentiate between wasteful consumption expenses and rainmaking expenses that can pay big returns—you can’t afford to scrimp on those.

3. Relying on Investment Advisors
Commissioned advisors want to keep your assets under their control. Stay conscious of this bias. And, consider having an objective, trusted advisor who is not paid a commission, review all investments before you make them.

4. Reactive Tax Planning
During tax season, your accountant’s focus is on filing returns, not strategizing. Meet off-season at least once to prepare a proactive—not reactive—tax strategy. And always get projections before the end of the year so you can strategize end of year tax decisions.

5. Using the Wrong Business Structure
Review your business structure with an attorney every three years to ensure your structure is still advantageous.

6. Monthly Payments on Multiple Loans
Refinancing or restructuring your loans could save interest and potentially even taxes. Pay off your least efficient loan first, and you could qualify for lower interest rates on the rest.

7. Blind Investing
Invest in what you know. You—not a commissioned advisor—know what’s best for your business. And that requires you to be tracking your financials at least monthly, and likely weekly, to be making wise choices consistently.

8. Sharing Profits
Profit sharing with employees solely for tax purposes is like giving the IRS control of your money. Don’t spend money to save money. But, do invest money to create more of what you want. So consider profit sharing to motivate long-term growth and legacy of your business.

9. Funding 401(k)s
Your contributions are tax-deferred, but you have to pay those taxes at some point. Because taxes are expected to go up, you’ll end up paying more to the IRS.

10. Losing Passion
Losing the passion you have for your business means lost productivity—easy to do when you’re bogged down with daily details and decisions. Take the time to be proactive about your legal, insurance, financial, and tax planning so you can fuel the passion that brought you to this business in the first place.

If you’re ready to be proactive about the financial success of your business, begin by sitting down with us. As your Creative Business Lawyer®, we are here to help you implement legal, insurance, financial, and tax systems that will free up your time and money, so you can focus on what matters.

Posted in Business Article, Business Entities, Entrepreuner, Financing, Insurance, Investing, Marketing, Success, Taxes | Comments Off on Ten Common Money Pits Even Brilliant Entrepreneurs Fall Into… The Christine Chronicles

What to Do With Surplus Cash: Pay Down Debt, Spend or Invest?.. Christine’s Family Wealth Secrets


I spent my weekend walking in the rain on Saturday and in the sunshine Sunday. I went a total of 20 miles over the weekend which isn’t bad. I’m coming up to the final stretch in training before my 60 mile walk in about a week and a half. It’s been a great journey, fitness-wise and mentally. Walking to raise money to end breast cancer is a huge motivator to keep and stay fit!

If you’re fortunate to come into extra money, do you know your next move? Do you invest, gift, save… All good ideas. We’ve laid out a few more options for your consideration in our newsletter today. Our goal is to make sure you don’t fritter through your windfall with nothing to show for it at the end of a few years but rather, engage in strategic planning to make the most of your money!!

Until next time,



What to Do With Surplus Cash: Pay Down Debt, Spend or Invest?

When you come into a cash surplus from a company bonus, a tax refund, an inheritance or something similar, you might find yourself having to decide what to do with the money you receive.

Did you know that most people who win the lottery lose their winnings within 5 years? In fact, 70% end up bankrupt.

Why would that be?

Well, it’s because they don’t know how to answer the question asked here regarding what to do with surplus cash. As a result, they make their investment and spending and gifting choices on their own with no guidance at all, and are surprised to discover how quickly millions can disappear.

So, let’s start there. Depending on the amount of your cash surplus, consider consulting with one or more trusted advisors on what to do with the extra money. We often act as objective counsel for our clients, so feel free to call to discuss options.

If it’s not a large sum, but you still want to make sure you are doing the right thing with the extra cash, consider these factors:

1. If you have debt that is higher interest than what you could earn with a fairly straight-forward investment, paying off your debt could be the highest leverage use of your funds.  Be sure to be tracking each of your debts on a credit tracking worksheet so you can see at a glance whether to allocate extra cash to pay down debt OR if you should keep that money in play because the cost of your interest is low relative to what you can be earning with other investments.
2. If you have a business that has additional capacity, and you know how to drive more sales with additional investments, you may want to put the money back into your business and ramp up revenue. Be careful though that you are not driving more sales without the capacity to deliver OR that you are not putting money into marketing when you don’t know how to convert your leads into buyers. If that’s the case, you may want to invest in developing sales systems in your business, which always pay off once you get it right. If you do have a business, you may want to inquire with us about a LIFT Your Life and Business Planning Session, if we have not looked at your business together yet.
3. If you don’t have debt, and you don’t have a business, you may want to consider investing in a business that you can run on the side (if you have extra time) as an additional source of revenue, diversifying your income and reliance on a job controlled by someone else. Side hustles are a great way to use your downtime to create more income for your family.
4. If you’re out of debt, don’t have a business, and don’t need a side hustle, consider maxing out your retirement account. And looking into turning your retirement account into a self-directed account, so you can use the funds in your retirement account to invest in things like real estate, or cryptocurrency, and use your extra cash + some of your time to start to get interested in the best ways to activate your retirement account rather than just having it invested in an ETF that you are totally disconnected from.
Finally, if you’ve got all that handled, consider a trip with your family of origin or your chosen family that will build and strengthen family bonds. Before you go, be sure to come in and meet with us for a Family Wealth Planning Session to ensure all of your ducks are in a row, in case anything happens while away.

If you are ready to plan for your future wealth, start by sitting down with us. As your Personal Family Lawyer®, we can walk you step by step through creating a legal plan that will help you make great decisions during life by looking at what happens in the event of your death.

Posted in Asset Protection, Estate Planning, Financial, Investing | Comments Off on What to Do With Surplus Cash: Pay Down Debt, Spend or Invest?.. Christine’s Family Wealth Secrets

How Legal Planning Helps Build a Strong Blended Family… Christine’s Family Wealth Secrets

Happy Monday:

We are headed out to Morton’s tonight for a team appreciation night. I’m thrilled as I have not yet been to Morton’s. They have a very nice Halloween menu, which provides an opportunity for us to enjoy this great steakhouse at a fraction of the usual price. Another plus is that dessert is included…Yah!  In all seriousness, getting out once in a while to a special venue, enjoying great food and company is something we look forward to. Demonstrating appreciation, for me, is important and hopefully, an unexpected surprise for our team.

Avoiding conflict is a very important component of planning. Blended families are fertile ground for unhappy endings.  If you are part of a blended family, you no doubt understand that one misstep in planning decisions could leave behind generations of unnecessary bitterness.  Communication is key here.  Understanding expectations of your children and the impact a new relationship has on those expectations can provide much insight into creating a plan that meets the needs, and expectations of the entire family.  Decision-making becomes clear after understanding occurs.  Make time to talk to the people who mean to the most in your life, so that the plan you want is the plan you end up with.

Until next week!  Happy Halloween.



How Legal Planning Helps Build a Strong Blended Family

Yours, mine and ours … in today’s modern family, it’s oh so common. The blended family is the product of 2nd (or more) marriages, in which one or more of the parties comes with children from a prior marriage. And then, they may even go on to have children together.

If you have or are part of a blended family, it’s important to understand how estate planning could be exactly what you need to keep your family out of conflict and in love, both during life, in the event of incapacity, and when one or more of the senior generation (read: parents) dies.

Let’s begin with an understanding of where potential conflicts could arise when you have a blended family.

If you have children from a prior marriage, and you become incapacitated or die, leaving everything to your new spouse or partner, there is almost certain to be some conflict (whether spoken or not) between your children and new spouse.

Your children may feel unloved, forgotten or resentful.

You may think that this can be avoided by leaving everything to your new spouse or partner, and then on his or her death, to your children. But this too could set up a scenario where your children feel the need to monitor your spouse/partner’s use of your assets, during his or her life. And that may not be what you want.

Conversely, you may have a partner or spouse that you have not planned for, who you would want to inherit some or all of your assets. But, as things stand right now, your entire estate may go to your children from a prior marriage. This could create a reality where your current partner even gets kicked out of the house you share, if something happens to you before your plan is updated.

You can avoid all of this (and even use the estate planning process to build stronger bonds) by having clear planning in place that has been discussed with your children and your new spouse or partner. We facilitate this as part of the planning process for all blended families.

If you are the child of a parent who has remarried or re-partnered, after a divorce or death, of your other parent, you may want to bring these issues to your parent’s attention.

If you are ready to create a well thought out estate plan for your blended family, start by sitting down with us. A Personal Family Lawyer® can help you plan for the needs of your unique family. Our Family Wealth Planning Session guides you to protect and preserve what matters most.

Posted in Beneficiaries, Blented Families, Death, Estate Planning, Inheritances | Tagged | Comments Off on How Legal Planning Helps Build a Strong Blended Family… Christine’s Family Wealth Secrets

Financial + Legal Planning for Unmarried Couples: Should You Legally Marry or Not? .. Christine’s Family Wealth Secrets


Hope you enjoyed the fall weather. I spent most of the day Saturday, from about 7:00 am until 2:45 PM walking, with my Komen walking team.  I got lost and actually walked 20 miles! Oops. My walking partner Nicolette was begging to get a ride and not too happy, but we walked the entire way. This is training for our Komen 3 day, 60 mile walk.  I was completely wiped out and sore later that day and on Sunday, which was a recovery day. I should have walked but could not get enough energy to get it done a second day.  Well, still patting myself on the back for a hard, painful day on Saturday and proud to have finished.

Legal and financial planning for your partner, especially if you are not married, is crucial to ensure your partner is adequately protected. As the information today points out, marriage guarantees certain legal protections to spouses that partners do not automatically receive. As such, weighing the pros and cons of marriage vs. taking other steps to protect those you love is worthy of exploration to arrive at the best outcome for you and your loved ones. We can help counsel you on the legalities when weighing your options.

Until next week,



Financial + Legal Planning for Unmarried Couples: Should You Legally Marry or Not?

While the Supreme Court issued a landmark decision to legalize same-sex marriage in the U.S. making it possible for people of all sexual orientations to marry, many modern couples (of all genders and sexual orientation) still choose against marriage.

If you are in the process of deciding whether to legally get married, be sure to consider these important factors:

If you are partnered and unmarried, you need  financial and legal protections in place, to ensure you and your loved ones are taken care of if you become incapacitated or when you die.

While legally married partners need many of the same financial and legal protections in place, the law does provide some defaults that will provide protection and access to a “legal” spouse that are not given to an unmarried partner.

Imagine this: your partner is hospitalized and you can’t get access because you aren’t married. Or your partner needs a family member to make important legal or financial decisions, but it can’t be you because you aren’t considered a relative without marriage. If you decide you don’t want to get married, do call us to get you the legal documentation you’ll need to validate and protect your rights.

For legally married partners there are default legal provisions providing for a spouse in the event that their spouse dies without a Will in place. While these legal provisions are generally not sufficient or do not match what you would want, at least there is something in place for your spouse. As an unmarried partner though, you would have no legal right to anything belonging to your significant other.

Imagine this: you and your partner live together, but your partner is on the lease or the owner of the home and your partner becomes incapacitated or dies. You could lose your housing while also grieving your partner’s illness or death. Legal documentation can fix this.

When you are considering marriage, remember that legal spouses can file taxes jointly, whereas unmarried couples cannot. And there can be some serious tax savings and benefits that could make marriage quite attractive. Conversely, getting married could negatively impact your tax situation.

Here’s the bottom line: if you are committed to your partner, and want your partner to make legal and financial decisions for you and to have access to some or all of your assets in the event of your incapacity or at the time of your death, whether you get married or not, you need legal and financial planning that ensures your partner has easy access to everything you choose.

Whether you choose to get married in the eyes of the state, legally, or just in front of your friends, family and community, contact us as you decide what to do so we can support you to plan well. That’s what we do for you and your family.

If you’re ready to ensure your loved ones have the legal benefits and financial protections they deserve, consider sitting down with us. We can help you with your legal planning needs. Our Family Wealth Planning Session guides you to protect and preserve what matters most.  Before the session, we’ll send you a Family Wealth Inventory and Assessment to complete that will get you more financially organized than you’ve ever.

Posted in Asset Protection, Beneficiaries, Death, Inheritances | Comments Off on Financial + Legal Planning for Unmarried Couples: Should You Legally Marry or Not? .. Christine’s Family Wealth Secrets

Could an Out of Date Will Leave You Facing Eviction?.. Christine’s Family Wealth Secrets


I had another somewhat low key weekend.  I house sat for a friend, watching her pooches along with my own.  I enjoyed the change of scenery, and the quiet of being away from my own home with all of its distractions and tasks calling my name.  I did relax, enjoy changing up my environment and got a little work done too.  All in all, it was a nice, quite weekend.

Home means many things to people, and along with the meaning comes a sense of security. Today’s article tells a story of how your estate plan can actually uproot your loved ones, and undermine that sense of security you hope to instill.  Working with a transactional estate lawyer, the kind who prepares documents and then never sees you again, may result in a plan that does not work. Not only may the plan not work, but it may operate to completely undermine your goals in planning. Make sure you work with an attorney who will never lose contact with you, who will continue meeting you throughout your life to make sure that your plan is always aligned with your goals and highest priorities….taking care of those you love the most.

Until next time,



Could an Out of Date Will Leave You Facing Eviction?

It’s all too common, but unfortunately the way some lawyers handle their clients’ estate plans create more problems than solutions for future generations.

It’s critical that you understand exactly what will happen after you become incapacitated or when you die, to ensure that the people you love don’t end up cleaning up an estate planning nightmare while also grieving your passing.

Recently in Columbus, Ohio, a mom of four kids was not only grieving the death of her mother, but also facing eviction from her home.

Here’s how it happened: Grandma signed a will in mid-2015 putting all of her assets in trust for the education of her six grandchildren. She indicated that her local bank should manage those assets for the benefit of the education of those grandchildren. That seems like a great thing to do, right?

Right. Except that then in 2016, Grandma then bought a home for one of her daughters and her daughter’s four children. And she didn’t update her will.

Unfortunately, this oversight is far too common due to the way many lawyers serve their clients. Their estate plans are often just focused on the documents and the one-time transaction, rather than ensuring they work with their clients on an ongoing basis, updating those documents each time life changes or asset changes occur.

So now, the daughter that is living in the house with her four children is being evicted. The bank was tasked with providing for the education of the children, so the bank is now selling the house with the intention of putting the money in trust for their education. Then, when they turn 21, they will get a distribution of whatever is left.

It’s hard to imagine that Grandma would have wanted this outcome for her daughter and four of her grandchildren. But without a clear plan that documents Grandma’s wishes, which could have included her daughter paying rent to the trust account for the benefit of all the grandchildren, the bank is within its right to evict the daughter and the four grandkids.

It’s a sad, sad tale. And one that could have been easily avoided if Grandma’s lawyer had foreseen the potential issues and supported Grandma to update her will.

When was the last time you had your estate plan reviewed? Have you developed a relationship with a trusted lawyer who you feel confident has your back and will make sure that your kids aren’t facing eviction or some other unexpected mess after your incapacity or death? If not, now is the time.

We don’t just draft documents, we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That’s why we offer a Family Wealth Planning Session,™ or a Family Wealth Review Session, during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before, and make all the best choices for the people you love.

You can begin by calling our office today to schedule an appointment.  The first 3 people to schedule and attend an appointment with us will receive a gift card for dinner for 2.

Be sure and mention this article when you call to book your appointment!


Posted in Asset Protection, Beneficiaries, Death, Estate Planning, Financial, Inheritances, Quality of Life, Wills | Comments Off on Could an Out of Date Will Leave You Facing Eviction?.. Christine’s Family Wealth Secrets

Is California’s New Transfer on Death Deed a Safe Alternative to a Living Trust?.. Christine’s Family Wealth Secrets


I had a quiet weekend at home, something I have not enjoyed for years. I did however walk 17 miles so I was not a complete couch potato.  Dave and I enjoyed some down time now that the kids are gone; spent time enjoying the backyard and stars when we hung out later into the evening.

Enjoying home is a good thing. Making sure your home is properly titled is a major concern to ensure your home is protected from probate, and that you maintain control, even if that means during your incapacity. Today’s article focuses on TOD deeds and worthy considerations on the pros and many cons associated with such deeds.  We know you can better protect your loved ones and exert far more control by creating a living trust.  Food for thought.

Until next week,



Is California’s New Transfer on Death Deed a Safe Alternative to a Living Trust?

Perhaps you’ve heard from a well-meaning friend or advisor that you can use an inexpensive Transfer on Death Deed to keep your property out of court without going to the trouble of creating a Living Trust. If so, read this before you rely on a Transfer on Death Deed to ensure that you aren’t creating more trouble for the people you love.

On January 1, 2016, Assembly Bill 139 went into effect, providing California residents with a new way to transfer residential property to their heirs. Specifically, the law creates a Revocable Transfer on Death Deed (TOD Deed), intended to be a simple tool for transferring ownership of real property to beneficiaries upon the property owner’s death.

The law was initially heralded as a welcome alternative to Revocable Living Trusts, which some believe to be costly, time consuming, and complex. A TOD Deed allows named beneficiaries to assume ownership of your residential property without undergoing probate or trust administration.

However, before you rely on a TOD Deed as a cheaper alternative to full-on Revocable Living Trust planning, consider these factors …

First, the TOD Deed only applies to certain types of real property:
1. A single-family home or condominium,
2. A single-family residence on agricultural property of 40 acres or less, or
3. A multi-family residence with no more than four units.

Moreover, a TOD Deed has several other restrictions and requirements.
1. It must be signed and dated before a notary to be valid.
2. It must be recorded within 60 days from the date it’s signed.
3. It does not permit designation of beneficiaries by class (e.g. “my siblings”).
4. It must strictly adhere to the form prescribed by the statute.

Finally, and most importantly BEWARE of these major risks:
The TOD Deed offers no protection from your creditors.

  1. If your property is held joint tenancy, your joint tenant becomes the sole owner upon your death and has full control of the property, and your Transfer on Death Deed is inapplicable.
  2. Unlike with a Living Trust, a Transfer on Death Deed cannot be used to manage, sell, or borrow against the property during your incapacity. This means that if you become incapacitated, there’s no action your beneficiary can take to get access to using your property as a resource for your care, as your Trustee could, if you had your property in a Revocable Living Trust.
  3. If the beneficiary is a minor upon your death, a court-appointed custodian will need to be named to control your property until the child reaches legal age. With a Living Trust, you get to name the person to handle the property until your child reaches legal age, and you can even set up your trust so that when your child does inherit it, he or she can receive it protected from a future divorce or future creditors.
  4. Title insurance companies have been reluctant to insure clear title until three years after the grantor’s death when a Transfer on Death deed is used. During this time, the beneficiary will likely be unable to sell or borrow against the property.
  5. The property may be subject to Medi-Cal Estate Recovery,  if you received Medi-Cal benefits.
  6. Unless extended, the new law will sunset on January 1, 2021, but TOD Deeds executed before that date will remain valid.

Warning: Since its inception, significant flaws have been found within the statute, and some advocates believe it will lead to increased elder abuse. For more on this, read a letter from the Executive Committee of the Trusts & Estates Section of the California Bar, appended as an exhibit to the California Law Revision Commission’s Memorandum # 2017-35.

Given these concerns, we recommend against the use of the TOD Deed and advise those seeking to transfer their real estate in a manner that is best for you, and the people you love to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session™ with us to choose an option that will best meet your needs.

This article is a service of [name], Personal Family Lawyer®. We don’t just draft documents, we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That’s why we offer a Family Wealth Planning Session,™ during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before, and make all the best choices for the people you love.


Posted in Asset Protection, Death, Elderly, Lawsuits, Trusts | Comments Off on Is California’s New Transfer on Death Deed a Safe Alternative to a Living Trust?.. Christine’s Family Wealth Secrets

How to Buy Life Insurance Like a Pro… Christine’s Family Wealth Secrets


We had an interesting day in San Francisco yesterday at the last Giants home game of the season at AT&T park. We spent time watching the game from the Gotham Club, a members only club, with great views of the field, game and the bay.  I enjoyed a Gotham Club specialty of an old fashioned with their signature baseball ice cube. It was yummy and a good time was had by all…… AND, the best part is the Giants WON.  Here is a photo from our day.

Our view of the field!

Our view of the field!

Have you ever wondered about the different types of life insurance policies and which one may be the best fit for you and your family. You’re not alone. If you need life insurance, or have a policy and need a review to understand what you have, let us know as we are connected with several stellar Life insurance agents who will happily meet with you to discuss your needs.  Let us hear from you as we are always happy to help support you.

Until next time,



How to Buy Life Insurance Like a Pro

Life insurance is a purchase only made once or twice in a lifetime, so it is common to be unaware of the ins and outs of policy protection. The potential pitfalls are significant, however, so review the following tips before purchasing a life insurance policy.

Get the Right Type and Amounts
Life insurance policies are generally sold by highly commissioned sales people or by order takers. In either case, you need to be sure you are in the know, before you buy, lest you get sold a policy or amount you don’t need, or you overlook the types and amounts that are right for you. We can help you make objective decisions about your insurance needs, with no commissions payable to us, so you know you’re getting our 100% on your side analysis.

Don’t Name a Minor as a Beneficiary
If you’ve named a minor child as a beneficiary, or even a secondary beneficiary, after your spouse, you could be creating double trouble. First, your life insurance would have to go through a court process and subject to the control of a financial guardian, and then second, whatever is left would be distributed to your minor child when he or she turns 18.

You can easily avoid this by naming a trust as beneficiary of your life insurance, thereby keeping your life insurance out of court and ensuring your child doesn’t receive control until he or she is ready. Plus, then you get to decide who takes care of the life insurance money you are leaving behind, until it’s distributed to your child. And, you can even build in protection against your child’s future divorce, or any creditor issues.

Term Insurance to Fund Divorce Settlements
If you receive child support and alimony, insist that your spouse have a term life insurance policy to guarantee you are able to collect on your settlement, even if your ex-spouse dies while still paying out your divorce settlement.

Compare Quotes for Whole and Term
Experts suggest most people only need life insurance to cover their working years and while they raise a family. Term life insurance is typically affordable and covers you when you need it most. Permanent insurance is best when you know you will have estate taxes to cover OR if you want to use insurance as an investment vehicle with guaranteed returns, but often big commissions to make up in the early years of the policy. One of the services we provide to our member clients is to review all insurance policies, both in place and those being considered, to provide objective evaluation before you buy.

Don’t Overlook Living Benefits
A living benefits rider could allow you to access funds if you were diagnosed as terminally ill or with a chronic and debilitating condition.

If you are ready to purchase a life insurance policy that works for you, start by sitting down with a Personal Family Lawyer®. As your Personal Family Lawyer®, we can walk you step by step through creating a financial plan that will help you provide for your family no matter what. A Personal Family Lawyer® offers Family Wealth Planning Sessions that help you protect and preserve your wealth for future generations. Before the session, we’ll send you a Family Wealth Inventory and Assessment to complete that will get you thinking about what you own, what matters most to you, and what your wishes are when you die.

Posted in Beneficiaries, Death, Divorce, Estate Planning, Insurance, Trusts | Comments Off on How to Buy Life Insurance Like a Pro… Christine’s Family Wealth Secrets

What to do When Your Business is Out of Bounds and Work Starts to Take Over Your Personal Life… The Christine Chronicles


We plan to head to San Francisco to watch the last Giants game of the season with a group of friends. I have been so looking forward to a change of pace. Despite the fact that the Giants had a poor season, getting out of town to ATT park (where I have never been) should be fun. Then Dave and I will celebrate our anniversary on the way home with a nice dinner. Dave must be in court early Monday morning so there is not much time for more.

Setting boundaries is huge concern if you are self employed. You grapple with just how much of your time should you give to customers and clients, and wonder if allowing after hours access and phone calls on your cell phone during dinner might be a bit much. Many small business owners grapple with the question of “when to stop working.” Self employment can be all consuming if you allow it.  You will be happier, healthier and more productive if you put the kybosh on being a workaholic. More insights on this subject below!!

Enjoy your weekend.



What to do When Your Business is Out of Bounds and Work Starts to Take Over Your Personal Life

In the digital era when you can be reached 24/7 through smartphones and social media, it can be more difficult to set firm boundaries that support your wellbeing and the productivity of your business. When you find yourself frustrated, resentful, or feeling obligated to respond to tweets, FB messages and emails at all hours of the day and night because you “have to”, it’s time to reassess and redefine your business boundaries.

The first step is to get clear about the difference between “have to” and “want to”, considering the possibility that a lot of the time you are spending responding to emails, tweets and Facebook messages during “off” hours are happening because you are choosing to do so, not because you have to do so. So, first and foremost, get clear on your motivations.

Are you responding to clients after hours because you are avoiding something in your personal life? Or, are you addicted to the high of being needed? Or maybe you just like it and it’s not something you have to do at all, but you really do want to be that available.

Next, if you really do want to create more boundaries between your work life and your personal life, it can be as simple as making the choice.

Decide to limit the hours when you respond to emails, calls, messages, and social media posts. Being connected via smartphone all day doesn’t mean you have to maintain a consistent level of responsiveness.

Set up regular business hours in which you will respond to messages, and stick to it. Enforce those hours by including them in business contracts, too. Communication is the key. When you communicate your boundaries to clients and team members, you’ll find that people are happy to respect your boundaries.

Along those lines, don’t make yourself fully available all day long. Don’t use your personal cell phone for business, and always keep your business lines and accounts separate from your personal ones. Take responsibility for when people can contact you, and send business calls to voicemail after hours. Better yet, get an assistant who can handle your phones and accounts so you can focus on running your business, not responding to messages.

And, lastly, make sure you respect the value of your time. Giving away services, indulging prospects in long consultations, and handing out free and discounted services to personal contacts all discount your value. Not only can this leave you feeling unappreciated at the end of the day, but it also sets up the expectation that you are overly generous with your time.

Time is money, as any business owner will tell you, so make sure you are being compensated fairly for your time. Again, skillfully crafted contracts can help you communicate enforce this particular boundary.

If you are unclear about the value of your time, and how to create boundaries around your time, ask us about our Money Map Life and Income planning process so we can help you with this. Protecting your time and value as an entrepreneur is important. Setting clear boundaries and knowing when to enforce them can help you keep your sanity while running a business. But to do this, you need to have measures in place to ensure those who do business with you have clear and reasonable expectations. If you want to take that step toward setting clear business boundaries, start by sitting down with us.

As your Creative Business Lawyer®, we can guide you in making the difficult decisions you face everyday as a leader in business, including when and how to set boundaries. We can look out for your business’s future, so you have time and energy to focus on growth and expansion.

Posted in Business Article, Entrepreuner, Quality of Life, Startup, Success | Comments Off on What to do When Your Business is Out of Bounds and Work Starts to Take Over Your Personal Life… The Christine Chronicles