Wednesday, June 26, 2013


State law provides a set of rules that apply when someone dies without a Will. In California, when a married person dies without a Will their “community property” (marital assets) will go to their spouse and their “separate property” (assets that belong to only them) will be divided 1/2 to their spouse and 1/2 to the child (2/3 to the children if there are more than one). Sounds great right? Who needs to write up a Will, or even worse, pay a lawyer thousands of dollars to do an “estate plan” when they’re happy enough to have the default apply?

Well, my friends, the devil is in the details with this one and when I mean details, I mean YOUR details. Your details may be pretty today. Let’s say (just for kicks) that you’re the "typical" American family: 2 healthy married adults madly in love, 2.5 cute kids with no disabilities (for now we’re going to say that your son’s unquenchable potty mouth is not early onset tourettes), a house with a white picket fence and no termites, and some big, fluffy, friendly-type dog that doesn’t shed but might lick you to death. Sound like you so far?

Tuesday, June 25, 2013


What do you think it means to get married (or register as domestic partners)? Most people think that it is their very loud (and sometimes very expensive) way of announcing to the public at large that they won’t be sleeping around anymore.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Am I eligible for Medi-Cal? I need to go into a nursing home.

First, let me explain what Medi-Cal is:  Medi-Cal, California’s version of Medicaid, is a state and federal program that covers most nursing home costs for those who have low incomes or whose resources have been depleted by health care costs. For the majority of California nursing home residents — about 65% of them — care is paid for by Medi-Cal.

Medi-Cal does not cover the costs of care in a Congregate Living Health Facility, except for hospice care at the end of life.

Will I have to pay estate tax?

No, unless you are rich and the definition of rich, my friends, has drastically changed recently. Now, don’t get me wrong, I feel rich because I have a wonderful family that loves me, but strictly in dollars and cents, I am far from rich and as of January 1st 2013, so are you. 

Rich people, you see, have to worry about things like estate taxes and thanks to the Obama crew and your friendly Congressional members any couple who jointly owns less than $10.5 million is now completely exempt from federal estate tax (and in California there is no estate tax so you’re basically home free). That is ten and a half million folks! 

Who has that kind of money? Well you may think your neighbor does— we all tend to over estimate what the Jones actually have in their bank account, but I’m here to tell you that unless you live in Beverly Hills your neighbor is exempt from estate tax. According to the U.S. Census, in 2010 the median net worth for American families was around $57 thousand dollars. That is all your assets minus all your debts. In California, it was around $60 grand. Now, you might argue, the country was in recession in 2010 and things are perking up. My real estate agent swears it! Well, in 1984, when just about everyone agrees that times were great the median net worth was only $73 thousand. 

(By the way, the infamous 1%ers didn’t see that level of drop between 1984 and 2010. See here for a great article on how much wealthier they are than you, if you’re in the mood to get depressed or motivated for a revolution).

So maybe your neighbor is a little above the median. He drives a Lexus for goodness sakes. It doesn’t matter. 99.7% of Americans will not have enough net assets to pay federal estate tax. So the bad news? You’re not rich. The good news? Unless you live in one of the few states that has a state estate tax, that is one tax you don’t need to worry about! 

If you want to do more research on net wealth start at www.census.gov or read a great article on American wealth from that site here.

Friday, June 21, 2013

When will the Supreme Court Decide on Gay Marriage?

This is one of the biggest decisions of our time, right up there with Roe v. Wade and Citizens United in its far reaching ability to change the lives of Americans.  The Supreme Court could decide that any two consenting adults have the right to marry regardless of their gender.  Or they could choose any number of cop outs and not decide this issue at all or decide it against gay marriage.  But when?  Unlike some other courts, the Supreme Court doesn’t announce in advance which cases will be decided on a particular day.  The only time we have a good sense of what will be done on a certain day is the very last day, when the Court issues its final rulings.  And the Judges get to decide when the last day is!  However, if history is any guide the last day will probably be on June 26th or June 27th, as they like to break for vacation in July.  So, what is the answer?  Soon, we will know soon.

Who will know your password after you’re dead?

Should you put your internet passwords in your will?  No.  Your internet passwords do not go into your will, however, you do need to list them out on a paper that you keep near your will and other estate documents so the person who administers your estate can easily access your online accounts.  Here is a great article on the topic from the New York Times:

BOB GINSBERG, a retired production manager for an educational publisher, is worried that he does not know any of the logins and passwords for online accounts belonging to his partner or brother and they do not know his.  At 72, he said his concern was not about Facebook or e-mail. It was for their financial lives, which have migrated online, making paper account statements anachronistic. Now, when people die without disclosing their financial affairs to anyone, there is often no paper trail for heirs to follow. Full Story

What is Supplemental Security Income (SSI)? (And how do I get it!)

SSI is a cash assistance program for U.S. Citizens and some non-citizens who are age 65 or older, blind or disabled.  First the bad news, only those with limited resources can qualify.  The good news is that if you do qualify you will receive a monthly check and, in California at least, you automatically qualify for Medi-Cal and you may qualify for other benefits too like in-home supportive services.  If you think you might qualify apply at your local Social Security Administration Office.


I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to break the bad news that there is no common law marriage in California. For those of you who don’t know what that is, common law marriage is when simply living together for a certain amount of time and holding each other out to the public as married makes it so.
But it doesn’t in California. Here you must be married to have the rights of a spouse and they are important rights! Spousal support is the first thing, but it isn’t the last. Let’s say snookie-poo and honey-pie are living happily ever after. Who needs legal documents when you have love? They have some kids and snookie-poo decides to stay home for five or six years while the babies are young. After a couple of years they decide their little apartment is cramped and so they go house shopping. What could be more dreamy than two kids playing in the front yard of your very own home?

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...