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Questions Answered by James Edward Berge
1 Answer | Asked in Estate Planning and Probate for California on
Q: My mother passed in CA with no will and a sub $10,000 bank account. With a Small Estate Affidavit can Medi-cal bill me.

I'm mostly concerned with Medi-Cal billing me for costs against her estate even if it doesn't go to probate. She had no will and no beneficiary listed on the account. If they can how do I subtract the burial costs?

James Edward Berge
James Edward Berge answered on Jul 11, 2020

Yes. Medi-Cal can and will bill you once you have provided them with a notice of death and a copy of the death certificate which you are obligated to do.

You are however entitled to reimbursement of your costs of burial before they get paid.

1 Answer | Asked in Family Law, Banking, Child Custody and Probate for California on
Q: What do I have to do to get money out of a court blocked account?

My name is Elijah I am 21, I live in Los Angeles, CA. Mother died in 2008 when I was a minor and soon after my grandmother was named my guardian and a bank account of some of my mother's money was set up for me by the court. I went to Bank of America and they told me I have to get a document... Read more »

James Edward Berge
James Edward Berge answered on Jul 8, 2020

This self-help guide from Sacramento County should help you, even in Los Angeles County.

https://saclaw.org/wp-content/uploads/sbs-withdrawing-funds-from-a-blocked-account.pdf

Good luck!

2 Answers | Asked in Estate Planning and Probate for California on
Q: Personal Representative Dishonesty

The personal representative of my father’s estate told me that “there is nothing for me to inherit”. I had no reason to believe otherwise until a year later I found out that I was entitled to half.

Is there anything I can do to regain my inheritance or would the burden have been on... Read more »

James Edward Berge
James Edward Berge answered on Jul 4, 2020

If the personal representative was the executor of the estate, that person would be acting under court supervision and the court would ensure that you get everything you’re entitled to before authorizing the final distribution of that estate and discharging the executor from any remaining duties.... Read more »

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3 Answers | Asked in Estate Planning for California on
Q: There are two executors for my family's estate, one of them is dragging the situation.

Executor 1 is billing the estate whenever she is taking flights and purchasing other things. The whole family can not see how much she is charging the estate. The attorney for the estate is really only working with her and not to the wishes of our relative who has passed. Executor 2 is being kept... Read more »

James Edward Berge
James Edward Berge answered on Jul 1, 2020

You don’t need to worry about how much the executors are charging the estate for their work. There’s only one fee, a statutory fee based on the value of the estate, and that one fee must be shared between the two executors as they shall agree, but if they are unable to agree, as the court... Read more »

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2 Answers | Asked in Probate and Landlord - Tenant for California on
Q: Do I have to allow a fellow heir to live in a house with a mortgage if they refuse to pay the mortgage, taxes or upkeep?

From California. Mother passed away without a will, and home to be passed to me and my six siblings. I have been paying the mortgage and taxes to keep the house, but my brother refuses to pay anything towards the house. Attempted mediation, but he did not show. Once the house clears probate, do I... Read more »

James Edward Berge
James Edward Berge answered on Jul 1, 2020

If you want to avoid problems in the future, I would suggest that you demand your share of the estate in cash, and the only way you would co-own property with your brother is if you and your brother are able to negotiate a tenancy in common agreement defining the parties’ rights, duties and... Read more »

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2 Answers | Asked in Estate Planning and Probate for California on
Q: My sister (executor of trust) is denying me a piece of property because she believes I can't afford to build on it.

My father has three sons and a daughter, as well as two grandsons.

He owns three Parcels of land up in Humboldt County.

He hoped one of us would want to do something with one of the properties so he stated in his will that if any of his kids or grandsons wanted a piece of property... Read more »

James Edward Berge
James Edward Berge answered on Jun 29, 2020

In general, I agree with Maurice, but in particular, I believe your sister is acting well within the range of her discretion when she requires some sort of proof of your ability to comply with the terms of the trust. If you really have the intent and ability to build a residence on the property,... Read more »

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3 Answers | Asked in Estate Planning and Probate for California on
Q: Hello my brother just past away. It was just me and him as children of our parents

Hello my brother just passed away we were the only 2 children. My parents passed away with no will before my brother passed away we had an attorney start a probate to divide my parents been property between us 2 but my brother passed before it was completed still in process. Now do I divide it with... Read more »

James Edward Berge
James Edward Berge answered on Jun 27, 2020

I agree with John, but now a probate is required for brother’s estate too and until you have letters issued to a personal representative in that estate you won’t be able to petition for final distribution in your parent’s estate. More fees and more delay. I’m sorry for your loss.

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1 Answer | Asked in Estate Planning, Civil Rights, Elder Law and Legal Malpractice for California on
Q: Is it legal for a public defender to blatantly make the case for the other side?

We contested the personal and financial conservatorship of my mother. During the hearing, our court appointed public defender who spoke to my mother once, without me, totally made the case for the other side. Her speech definitely convinced the judge to grant conservatorship. She did not represent... Read more »

James Edward Berge
James Edward Berge answered on Jun 25, 2020

Your experience is not unusual. It’s not the job of the public defender to contest the conservatorship in all instances, especially if it’s clear to the PD that the need for a conservatorship exists based on personal observation, a review of a doctor’s capacity declaration, interviews with... Read more »

2 Answers | Asked in Probate for California on
Q: How long does a family member have time to file for probate in the state of Ca
James Edward Berge
James Edward Berge answered on Jun 18, 2020

You can file one at anytime. No probate is required if one dies without property, or if everything passes to the other owners of an account by right of survivorship or by beneficiary designation.

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2 Answers | Asked in Probate for California on
Q: I would like to object to a Petition for Probate.

My brother left a will giving his home located in California to a friend. The will is dated 2003. In 2006 he purchased a home and made a will leaving the home to me (his sister) and my kids (his nieces and nephews). I received a Petition to administrator my brothers estate and would like to file an... Read more »

James Edward Berge
James Edward Berge answered on Jun 13, 2020

Yes, you can file an objection based the fact that the Will sought to be proven was in fact revoked by a subsequent Will. You should also file your own petition for probate based on the new Will, the terms of which you’ll need to prove by clear and convincing evidence in the absence of the... Read more »

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1 Answer | Asked in Real Estate Law and Probate for California on
Q: I inherited Mom's house that has a reverse mortgage on it.

I would like to refinance the loan so that I may remain in the home. I have Letters of Administration, and I just received the final distribution court date, but it isn't until October. Mom passed last December (not sure how long the reverse mortgage company will wait before they want the... Read more »

James Edward Berge
James Edward Berge answered on Jun 11, 2020

You can't transfer legal ownership of the property to yourself without a formal court order upon final distribution of the estate and that won't happen until October. The loan by its terms comes due within 1 year of the borrower's death. Keep your lender informed on the progress of... Read more »

2 Answers | Asked in Elder Law and Estate Planning for California on
Q: Can county put mother in a home and take estate through court conservatorship based on an undocumented diagnosis?

County is trying to put my mother in a home and take our family estate by court order conservatorship. Temporary conservatorship granted. Hearing for permanent is on June 24th. I am at loss as to what to do. They have provided no understandable explanation as to details, although I have requested... Read more »

James Edward Berge
James Edward Berge answered on Jun 8, 2020

They can’t take the property away from you if that’s what you’re wondering. Mom has a partial ownership interest in the property and so do you. The court can’t take away your interest in your home without affording you due process of law (notice and a hearing). A conservator could... Read more »

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2 Answers | Asked in Probate for California on
Q: Regarding an insurance policy

Insurance Company recently discovered a small policy of Mother who passed in 2001. Father (husband) passed a few years after Mom. Five siblings survive. There's no will, no estate and we gave the insurance company the death certificates. What is needed to get this small amount to the siblings?

James Edward Berge
James Edward Berge answered on May 28, 2020

Since mom died without a Will survived by her husband and her 5 children, the insurance company will only pay the death benefits to her intestate heirs which will be her husband and perhaps her 5 children as provided by state law. Since her husband has since passed, a probate (or at least a small... Read more »

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2 Answers | Asked in Estate Planning and Tax Law for California on
Q: does the trust have to get a s.s. number and pay taxes every year?
James Edward Berge
James Edward Berge answered on May 23, 2020

In general, if the trust is revocable, no. The trust is identified for tax reporting purposes by the Social Security Number of the trustmaker and all trust income if any is reported on the trustmaker’s annual 1040 individual income tax return.

And in general, if the trust is irrevocable,...
Read more »

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2 Answers | Asked in Estate Planning for California on
Q: This question is about a trust that my grandma had that I am a beneficiary of.

The trust was supposed to disperse money to me over a period of 10 years. I got the first installment 10 years ago and now I am supposed to get my second installment. My trust lawyer now says that he cant disperse all the money right now and needs to keep thousands of dollars just in case he gets... Read more »

James Edward Berge
James Edward Berge answered on May 20, 2020

Yes, it's quite common for a trustee to withhold a "reserve" from distribution to pay for known or anticipated debts, taxes and future expenses. The statute of limitations to audit an income tax return is up to 4 years (7 years if the audit indicates a substantial underpayment of... Read more »

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1 Answer | Asked in Estate Planning for California on
Q: As a trustee to a 3rd Party Special Needs Trust, do I need insurance to protect me from the sibling of the beneficiary?

The trustor has two sons and will split her estate accordingly. One son get his outright, the other gets his in a Special Needs Trust, of which I will be the Trustee. My CPA is adamant I get insurance, but the beneficiary and the trustor both assure me there is no way I can be sued by the other... Read more »

James Edward Berge
James Edward Berge answered on May 14, 2020

While it might be a good idea in general to have fiduciary insurance while acting as an individual, non-professional, trustee of a special needs trust, I don't believe you'll find any policies on the market with that type of coverage. There are fiduciary insurance policies available for... Read more »

4 Answers | Asked in Bankruptcy and Estate Planning for California on
Q: What happens to assets & property in a revocable trust upon the trustor's death if in the process of bankruptcy?

My mother just passed away. She has a revocable trust, of which I am trustee/executor, state of AZ. She was in the process of filing bankruptcy but did not officially file with the court yet. What are my responsibilities as trustee? Do the beneficiaries have a right to the proceeds from the sale of... Read more »

James Edward Berge
James Edward Berge answered on May 14, 2020

Since your mom did not file her petition for bankruptcy before she died, she's not in bankruptcy, but her creditors still have claims against her estate, which includes her trust. Before any assets of a trust can be distributed to the trust beneficiaries, a formal notice of death must be sent... Read more »

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2 Answers | Asked in Estate Planning and Elder Law for California on
Q: My mother and father are both alive but ailing. If my father passes away before my mother when is his/their will read?

I anticipate issues with my siblings over my parents' estate, specifically one of them influencing my mother to change their will to exclude me if my father predeceases her. But if the will were to be read after he passed away (if he were to pass first) at least we would know his intentions... Read more »

James Edward Berge
James Edward Berge answered on May 12, 2020

A person can change their Will anytime they want during their lifetime. It really does you no good if your father reads his Will aloud before he dies. Most married couples leave everything to each other without conditions. If your mother chooses to accept an unconditional gift and chooses to... Read more »

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1 Answer | Asked in Estate Planning for California on
Q: Final distribution of trust to benes will delay min. 6+mos. by institutional trustee without full release. Reasonable?

marital trust terminated 2 mos. ago on death of surviving spouse. 3 adult children only benes. Trustee will delay final distribution of only asset (brokerage acct w/various mutual funds, ETFs, etc) w/o full release & indemnification. Excessive fees & trading, refusal to distribute are only... Read more »

James Edward Berge
James Edward Berge answered on May 11, 2020

If you get regular monthly accountings from the institutional trustee and have no objections to those detailed accountings, then yes, in my professional opinion, their request for a final distribution conditional upon a final release of all claims is reasonable. If this were a non-professional... Read more »

1 Answer | Asked in Probate for California on
Q: Trustee making statements that she can move forth At her discretion and will block beneficiary’s number.

My grandmother passed away two weeks ago. The family has been notified by A friend of hers who is stated to be the quoted trustee of her trust. She has stated that after 30days of the receipt of the death certificate she will mail a copy of the trust to all beneficiaries. She has also stated that... Read more »

James Edward Berge
James Edward Berge answered on May 9, 2020

A trustee has a duty of loyalty, fair mindedness and accountability to all beneficiaries of the trust with respect to trust-owned assets. A trustee does not have the right to withhold information from beneficiaries upon reasonable request. Google the search term trustee duties and see for... Read more »

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