Month: April 2020

Your Primer on Wills and Trusts During Coronavirus

Not Just for the Wealthy and Elderly

The coronavirus has forced everyone, regardless of age, to reckon with their own mortality. We are seeing an uptick in non-senior citizens who are drawing up their last will and setting up trusts with an attorney. These individuals include parents of young kids, medical professionals in the frontlines, and the most vulnerable among us. The idea of preparing and securing your final instructions in light of so much uncertainty is driving the surge, and this is true even for those who do not have a lot of assets. In this post you’ll learn what wills and trusts are, and why you need an estate planning attorney for such important documents.

The Difference Between Wills and Trusts

Wills and trusts are both methods of transferring an estate, but there are key differences. Wills take effect after your death and they lay out your final wishes for how to dispose of your property. On the other hand, a trust is effective as soon as you create it. With trusts you allow a third party to hold your assets on your behalf and specify how and when your assets pass to your beneficiaries.

Wills can be subject to probate, which is a publicly-recorded process to verify the validity and authenticity of a will. Probate also refers to the general administration of a person’s estate without a will. Trusts are not subject to probate court while wills are. The time it takes to probate an estate will depend on factors such as the complexity of the estate. But whether or not there is a will, probating an estate will cost you significant time and money.

Trusts, also known as living trusts, require active management and they can be revocable or irrevocable. In revocable trusts, you (the settlor) can designate yourself as the trustee to control assets within your trust and you have freedom to change the trust rules. With irrevocable trusts, you waive certain rights to control assets and the third party (trustee) would legally own the estate. One advantage to irrevocable trusts is the reduced estate tax, but note that you’ll have little to no ability to amend your trust rules.

Other Legal Documents to Consider

There are also other legal documents to consider during this time. These include healthcare proxies, which allow you to choose end-of-life treatment for yourself. You assign an agent to make medical decisions on your behalf in case you are unable to do so. Another document is the financial power of attorney (FPOA), which is similar to health care proxies but applies to financial affairs. With FPOA, you designate someone to manage your finances if you become incapacitated. Both of these documents fall under the general term “durable powers of attorney.”

Do I need a Wills and Trusts Attorney to Draft These Documents?

When it comes to managing your assets, now is not the time to DIY. Save yourself and your loved ones a lot of money and legal hassle by hiring a professional. Regardless of the method you choose for handling your assets, you should seek advice from legal, tax, and financial professionals. A boutique law firm like Hoffman & Forde gives you access to all of these relevant practices needed to draft your documents according to your unique needs.

Our experienced Southern California estate planning attorneys will help you on the best estate plan for you and your family. Each plan must meet state guidelines and we fully understand how these can impact your documents. With the world constantly changing and with so much uncertainty, prepare now and invest in legal advice to set up your family for the future. We’ll ensure your wishes are carried out the way you want them to and get peace of mind. Call us today for a consultation.

Can You Renegotiate Your Commercial Lease?

Nobody should be kicked out of their storefronts in the midst of a public health crisis. During these unprecedented times, it’s important to find every way to cut down on expenses and still keep your gym, restaurant, salon, or other commercial space. Thankfully, local governments have recognized this and issued moratoriums to halt evictions. With rent being one of the biggest expenses for business owners, now is the time to renegotiate your lease to help keep your business afloat.

In places like San Diego, county officials have approved a resolution that creates a moratorium on “all evictions of residential and commercial renters in the unincorporated areas who have seen their income reduced or been otherwise substantially economically harmed by the COVID-19 pandemic.” The moratorium will last through May 31. Los Angeles county announced their moratorium on evictions also lasting to May 31 and in the city of LA, tenants have 12 months after the moratorium is lifted to pay back rent. Several Orange County cities have also approved their own moratorium for both residential and commercial tenants.

When should I renegotiate?

The short answer? Now is the time. With the law on halting evictions in place for Southern California businesses, legal counsel will ease the negotiation process in a way that is mutually beneficial to you, your lender, and your landlord. Business struggles, market changes, or impending lease expiry are typical situations in which business owners seek to adjust their lease terms. The pandemic hits all of these factors and it would be wise to renegotiate before you are even further behind on payments.

Does renegotiating mean I don’t have to pay rent?

During this time you must be able to provide documentation of financial hardship due to COVID-19, and tenants are not exempt from payment. Different counties will have payback options once the moratoriums are lifted for missed payments. At the end of the 60-day moratorium (which may or may not be broadened), you are still at risk of eviction. Preparing to modify your lease terms now could impact your repayment as you and business recover.

We want to help protect your business.

At Hoffman & Forde, our lease negotiation attorneys are experts at real estate law and policies. Negotiation is an art and we have mastered it, yielding fruitful results for our clients. Our commercial loan modification program has helped our clients keep their properties and meet the cost of operations in the past, and we can do so even now. Leave the tedious, exhausting and potentially confusing commercial real estate negotiations to us and put your mind at ease.

We’ll put together a solid game plan to make sure you get a fair negotiation that will impact your business not just now, but also beyond the pandemic. Call us today to see how we can help.