Hi there, my name is Bridget Mackay. I’m an attorney in Petaluma, California, and I work in the area of estate planning, trust administrations, probate, and elder law.

I want to talk about making sure your ex-husband or your ex-wife is out of your life. Unfortunately, divorce is more common these days, but what’s not so common is for divorced spouses to fail to make sure their ex is out of their financial future after their divorce. Here are some documents you must check after you divorce or even sometimes when you file for separation. The first is check your retirement IRA, 401K type beneficiary designations. They may have been subject to part of the divorce, but once the divorce is final and everybody knows who’s getting what, make sure your beneficiary designations no longer reflect your ex-spouse.

The second is life insurance beneficiary designations. You may have purchased that life insurance a long time ago, and it’s worth it to pull it out, dust it off, and find out who your beneficiaries are and I think you might be surprised. If you have an ex-spouse kept on your life insurance policy while your children are minors, which I know often happens, set a calendar date reminding you to change that beneficiary designation when your child turns 18.

The third thing you need to check are trusts. Do an amendment or a new trust because ex-spouses aren’t automatically removed from trusts just because a divorce is final. They don’t, by some mechanism of law, all of a sudden come off trusts. That may be true for wills but not for trusts. So, if you had a trust with your ex-spouse, you need to look into a new type of estate plan.

Number four, durable powers of attorney. Again, much like the trust, if your ex-spouse is still designated as your agent and something happens to you, even though you’re divorced, it won’t matter. The document follows who you’ve named no matter what the level of relationship is.

Number five, health care directives. I’m pretty sure you, well maybe not, you may have an amicable divorce, but most people don’t wanna have their ex-husband or ex-wife making the determination of pulling the plug on you, so check your health care directives. Those are easy things to change, and get a new one with new designations. Those are really five important things you want to do once you’ve divorced.

(Besides Petaluma, Bridget services clients throughout the North Bay including Novato, San Rafeal and Santa Rosa.)


Hi there, my name’s Bridget Mackay. I’m an attorney in Petaluma, California and I practice in the area of estate planning, trust administration, probate, and elder law.

Today, I want to talk a little bit about trusts. I had a client recently who came to sign the trust and go over it, and they complained that the trust was too wordy, and that some of the clauses they felt didn’t apply to them and, therefore, weren’t needed. In some cases, that might be true but very rare, and I just want to put it out there that, in actual fact, when we do trusts, some of the clauses may not apply to you today or while you’re signing your trust, but the fact remains is we write these in order to address what might happen in the future. In a sense, none of us are psychics with the crystal ball, we don’t really know what’s going to happen in your life with your children, how your trustees are gonna end up being. Oftentimes, a lot of the clauses in a trust are necessary, even though it makes them look big and wordy.

The places a lot of words or language is needed in way of explanation is when we’re talking about the trustees’ rights and responsibilities. We’re not sure what your trustees will face around the time that you die and/or become disabled, and we need to arm them with all the tools that are required to carry out your wishes.

Second, there are a lot of words or clauses around beneficiary designations, and gifts. In other words, where your hard earned dollars are going and to whom and how. You may know your beneficiaries now, but what will their lives be like in 10 or 20 years from now? Many things can change in people’s lives; divorce, disability, and death, to name a few. There are a lot of clauses that address those issues.

And then third, finally, those less wordy, online, do-it-yourself trusts may seem attractive because they’re thinner and they appear to be more understandable or simple to the lay person and not quite so big, but sometimes, and most often, they’re not likely providing a solid foundation for your plan or your family’s future ’cause they have not addressed a lot of the things that could happen when you die. The bottom line is we don’t know when we’re going to die. We try and plan as much as possible around any possible event that could come up prior to that time that would protect your wishes and your assets for your family.

(Bridget works with families located in the North Bay including Santa Rosa, San Rafeal and Novato)

Hi there, my name’s Bridget Mackay, I’m an attorney in Petaluma, California. I work in the area of estate planning, trust administration, and elder law, and today I want to talk about your home. It is oftentimes, your biggest asset, and it protects you in some ways, so you should protect it. How does it protect you? If your aged and disabled and you have a spouse that needs to get long-term nursing home care, and you apply for Medi-Cal, your home will be exempt and protected, being counted as an asset when you apply for Medi-Cal. However, you will then in turn have to protect your home because when your spouse passes away and when you pass away, Medi-Cal, if they’ve paid for any care for that aged and disabled spouse, can come after the home to recover funds paid out for that spouse. So, it protects you when you want to or need long-term, skilled nursing and can’t pay for it, but you in turn have to protect it and make sure that it’s an irrevocable trust or in an entity that will protect it from being recovered on for Medi-Cal.

The next way that your house protects you and is a good asset is in capital gains taxes. So, if you were to sell any kind of capital asset, stocks, bonds, investments, commercial property, the IRS wants to take a chunk of that and tax it from whatever you made on it. The difference between what you sell it for and what you bought it for. However, your home, if you’ve lived in it for two to five years, has an exemption to that capital gains tax. If you’re single and you’ve lived in your home two to five years, you have a $250 exemption… 250,000, sorry, dollar exemption. If you have a spouse, married, the two of you have a $500,000 tax exemption from that capital gains. So, really think twice when you sell a house or transfer a house.

Finally, how does your house protect you from taxes, is property taxes. Some of you may not know this, but if you transfer your home to your children or to your parents or parent, vice-versa, either way, up or down, there is an exemption to property taxes. In other words, as a parent, if you’re under Proposition 13 and you’ve lived in your house, and you’re choosing to transfer it as a gift to your children, or you’ve passed away and it transfers to your children, their property taxes will not change. That house will not get re-assessed and brought up to date for today’s value. So, that’s another way that your house gives some tax shelter to you and your family. And if you have any other questions about all the different benefits you have in your house, you should go see a state attorney in town and they’ll help you.

Hi there. My name is Bridget Mackay. I’m an attorney in Petaluma, California. I work in the area of estate planning, probate, and trust administration in Sonoma County including Santa Rosa, CA.

Today in my estate planning video blog, I want to talk a little bit about inheriting a fortune or winning the lottery. What are the rules to follow if you find yourself with a ton of money? I mean great, right? But there are things you need to think about, three things in fact.

The first must do when you inherit a lot of money or win the lottery, is find out what your tax consequences are. Am I going to have to pay tax on this windfall that I’ve just gotten? I recommend you meet with a CPA or an enrolled agent that you trust, let them know you’re receiving a large sum of money, and ask what their opinions are because often times a large sum of money is not always taxable. For example, if you inherit a large sum of money, that is not taxable as income tax. There may be other taxes associated with it, but not income tax. Whereas if you win the lottery, or you go up to the new Graton Rancheria Casino and have a big win, that will be taxable. So, it’s important to know that when you come into that load of money, and now you can afford a CPA, so you might as well take their advice. The rule is when you get a big… To that number one rule is you don’t wanna mess with the IRS when you get a big ton of money because when they know you have money, they’ll look for you.

The second must do when getting a lot of money is meet with a financial planner. You may want to run out and do your European vacation or buy that Maserati you’ve always been looking at, but you really should, before you do any of that, you should really meet with a certified financial planner, CFP. And make sure they are certified financial planners. Those folks have taken courses, have been tested and given that designation for a reason. Find out how this money will change your life, because it will, I guarantee it. And do it before you quit your job, or you buy that Maserati. Make it last. Take care of yourself and put your family first.

The third must do when you get a big sum of money is to protect it. You have all these newly acquired assets, go to an estate planning attorney and get your estate plan done. Make sure it doesn’t go into probate at your death, make sure you have a designated someone who can manage that money if you become disabled, and protect your family and children, so that when they inherit the money they don’t get taken advantage of by schemes or creditors, and try to minimize your inheritance taxes if possible. So for that rule you wanna pay it forward. Make sure your money doesn’t outspend you, and make sure you protect it for the next generation. Have a good time, but make sure you protect it.

Hi, there. My name’s Bridget Mackay. I’m an attorney. I work here in Petaluma, California in Estate Planning and Probates. I want to talk to you today about what happens to your online assets when you die. What are your online assets? They’re things like your iTunes music, which contains music, movies, TV shows, podcasts. Your Amazon ebooks, your Facebook account, your Twitter account, any blogs, if you’re a blogger. They also include your online only bank accounts. More and more of us are going towards online bank accounts where we’re not getting paper statements. Everything is online about our account. Why would you want to include these things in your estate plan?

Number one, when you pass away and the accounts don’t hear from you for a while, like Facebook or your email accounts, they may shut your account down. Or photo accounts, Shutterfly, things like that, will shut your account down and you will not be able… Or your heirs will not be able, to get to precious memories, photos, anything about you. Also with your bank accounts, how will your executor or your trustee know what assets you have if everything you do is online with your banks? So, it’s really, really important to plan for your digital assets whether they’re just more mementos, like photos and writings that you might have had during your lifetime, or practical assets like a bank account.

How do you get a handle on these assets and how do you plan for them? First, make a list for your trustee or your executor of your online accounts. I’m talking not just bank account, names, institutions, but your Facebook account, your Twitter account. All those things. Your Shutterfly account. All those things that they will want to get to, or that you want people to get to after you’re gone. They’re not only gonna need the name of the institution and the account number, but we need your user IDs and your passwords and most importantly, any questions and answers that are security questions. For example, “Who was the best man at your wedding?” So, any of your security questions and their answers should be written down on a list for your executor or trustee.

The next is to pick someone to manage these digital assets and accounts and distribute them. It doesn’t have to be your trustee or executor. You may have a trustee or executor that’s perfect for all your other assets and the disposition of your trust, but you have a tech savvy friend or relative that could handle these assets and their transfers. You want someone that you trust, ultimately. You’re giving them all of your passwords. So, they then become the authorized user on these accounts.

The third thing. Tell them where these things go. If you have emails that you want people to read or not to read, give them some direction of where these assets go. Where do your photos go? Do they go to your family? Are there family members you definitely don’t want your photos to go to? They need to know this. In the case of bank accounts, it’s a little more complicated because that’s a hard asset that’s considered part of your estate. Those should pass according to what your trust or will has dictated. So, this person will need to deliver those assets to your regular executor or trustee if you have chosen two different people for these roles.

Don’t take digital assets lightly. If you have any questions, contact your local estate planning attorney, and I’m sure they will know how to direct you and make sure those are protected.

Hi there, Bridget Mackay. I’m an estate planning attorney at Petaluma, California. I want to talk to you today, my video blog, about pet trusts. I’m not necessarily talking the kind of Leona Helmsley, the most famous pet trust. She left behind millions of dollars for her white Maltese named Trouble. I’m talking about more practical pet trust or what to do with your companion animals, which is what we like to call it in the industry. For us regular people, we all have or if we have furry loved pets, they’re like members of our family and we wanna take care of them in many ways if we were to become disabled or pass away. It is a little different than including a child in your estate plan, but you’re mostly wanting to make sure that, one, your pet is in a good place and taken care of; two, they’re receiving the care that they need; and three, that you have provided enough money for them to receive that care and instructions for that care.

How do you do it? If you wanna provide for your pet after your death, what are your options besides being Leona Helmsley? The first is you can leave an outright monetary gift with instructions. That would be something like I leave $5000 to this family or friend who will take care of Spot. You can include detailed care instructions with that five thousand dollars but it does rely on the trust of this person that you’ve chosen because you don’t have any mechanism in place to monitor the care of Spot. The other way to provide for your pet is with a pet trust, Leona Helmsley style, but maybe a little less cash. It’s a written document, much like Leona’s was, that designates a caregiver for the pet and on top of that, another layer, a trustee, to monitor that pet’s care. So, you would leave a certain amount of money and you would have instructions for the care of your pet should you feel you needed that for that person, but you would have a third party that would also be monitoring the care and the money that’s spent on behalf of that animal.

There are a lot of options in exploring a care of your loved ones if something, your loved animals, if something were to happen to you. And you can choose from a myriad of people and ways of getting them care. You can designate someone to place an animal, you can directly designate someone to care. All of those things can occur within a pet trust. So, explore your options with your local estate planning attorney to determine what’s right for you and your furry friend.

Hi, there. My name is Bridget Mackay. I’m an attorney. I practice in Petaluma, California and I practice in the area of estate planning and probate.

Today, I want to talk to you about if you have a living trust, now what goes into it? This process we call in the industry here is funding. So, you’ve gone through the process of putting your trust together. You know where your assets go when you die or when you become incapacitated. But what assets go inside of the trust?

I’m going to name a few. The first is, any real property you have. That means land or houses. The second is stocks and bonds. Those are brokerage accounts, including brokerage accounts that have mutual funds. The third is any business interest. These are generally handled as… Maybe a transfer of stock, if it’s an S Corp you have an interest in, or an assignment if you’re a sole proprietor. Or maybe even a retitling of a membership, if you’re an LLC. And then finally, any bank accounts or cash should go into your trust.

What doesn’t go into your trust? Which is often a discussion I have with my clients because there is the assumption that all of your assets go into the trust. That’s why you made it. In truth, there are assets that stay out of the trust and pass at your death because you’ve named a beneficiary. Those assets are retirement accounts, which you have named a beneficiary on. There are some circumstances that retirement accounts may have the trust named as a beneficiary, but that’s very limited and you should consult a professional before you do something like that. The second is life insurance policies. Those have beneficiaries so that, at your death, they automatically go to the person you’ve named.

The third thing I don’t recommend putting in the trust unless you have a very expensive Lamborghini, or a car that’s an antique and worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, are vehicles. Vehicles can be titled as and/or in registration here in California and at your passing, they are fairly easily transferred to your estate without having to go through a probate. So, those are some ideas about how to fund your trusts. Again, you should always consult your local estate planning professional to help you with this.

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