My story begins with my parents, Frank and Kay Patinelli. The best parents anyone could ask for.
My parents met in New York City in 1946 and were married for nearly 18 years before I came along. As you can imagine, my arrival after so many years was met with incredible joy and as their only child I was given an incredible amount of love and devotion. My parents both came from large families, 6 and 7 kids respectively, and were very close with their siblings. My mother so much so that she and her 4 sisters, their husbands and my 14 cousins all moved to Hollywood from the Bronx around 1950. So, despite being an only child, my extended family was very close and still is to this day.
Interestingly, my own path followed that of my parents. You see, I met my lovely wife Maggie when we were 16 and 14 years old respectively and we have been together as a couple since we were 19 and 17 – nearly 30 years! And like my parents we waited nearly 20 years to have a child. In 2004 we were blessed with a beautiful little girl we named Katherine after my Mom and we have been beside ourselves with joy ever since. It is by far the best thing that has ever happened to us – – and our extended family get-togethers!
Being half Italian (and half Irish), food plays an important part in my family’s lives – – sitting around a table sharing a wonderful meal, sharing conversation and laughs… and enjoying some of my homemade wine!
Yes, I said homemade wine. My grandfather used to make wine, like many Italians in the “old country”. Unfortunately, the art of wine making has been lost in the modern age. I love wine and about seven or eight years ago decided, along with a friend, to start making our own!
So my friend took an online class with UC Davis. You may have heard about this big agricultural university up north, but may not know it’s now considered the wine making capital of the world!
Now, once every year, my friend and I purchase a thousand pounds of grapes, usually from the Paso Robles area in central California, and make approximately 300 bottles each of wine! It’s actually not that hard to do, really just taking about 2 or 3 days of concentrated effort. You don’t need a lot of equipment or a big factory facility. (If you’d like to learn more about how to make your own wine, I’ll talk about it in a later newsletter).
Please let me be clear about this. I’m not running a bootlegger operation or selling any of my homemade alcohol! It’s just for my family’s private consumption and occasional gifts to friends. But I am pretty proud of how we’ve done – – we’ve even won a medal!
Well, actually that medal was kind of a mistake, because our homemade wine is usually served only after a few bottles of good purchased vino, when ours seems to taste a lot better (or no one notices the difference!). Back around 2008, we goofed and mixed some Cabernet grapes with Syrah grapes by accident. We didn’t realize it and wound up entering one of these mixed up bottles in the LA County Fair in Pomona – – and won the bronze metal!
My biggest challenge now is what to do with 300 bottles a year. Fortunately, they come in handy at our regular extended family gatherings. Every once in a while, when we roll out a new wine – – and particularly if the stuff is not that great – – we’ll have a party where we’ll make Sangria. It’s a Spanish drink where you just take red wine, then mix it with apples, oranges, lemons and limes, so the quality of wine you use is not that important! Usually, we have a big summer party, using a lot of our homemade wine and making a big plate of pasta for everybody.
You see, both my wife and I love to cook too (you can tell just by looking at me!) Every year we host Easter at my house. My mother-in-law always does Christmas and one of my aunts always does Thanksgiving, but when it comes to Easter time, my immediate family and my whole extended family, usually about 30 to 35 people, come to our house for Easter Sunday dinner. Every year my wife Maggie and I make a giant plate of food – – what we call “gravy”, which basically is meat sauce – – to serve 35 people, along with our homemade wine and then all the other fixings that you would have on Easter typically, like a big ham or roast. I really get a lot of enjoyment out of everybody coming by and tasting our homemade food and wine.
That’s what I like to do for fun when I’m not here at work, spending time with my family and my friends doing just about anything is really all that I care about. Whether it’s making and having a meal together, watching a ball game or listening to music, spending time with the people I like is really what is important. That is, in fact, why I enjoy doing estate planning. In my two years here at Kavesh, Minor and Otis, I’ve found a place where people really care about their clients and helping their clients’ families and that is something really important to me – – even more than a good meal and a glass of wine!
A Legacy of Efficiency
Decisions you make today can determine whether your family is provided with a thoughtfully prepared, efficiently implemented and effectively administered estate plan that lays the groundwork for the smooth (and cost-effective) administration of your estate … or a disorganized disaster that creates time-consuming and costly problems.
Three-Pronged Responsibilities of Estate Administration
The duties of those who serve as your fiduciaries after you have passed away fall into a three-tiered hierarchy of responsibilities. While the precise manner in which these duties are carried out will depend on whether your estate plan is based on a Will or a Revocable Living Trust, tasks that must be handled include:
- Gathering and managing your assets
- Settling your financial liabilities: unpaid debts, tax obligations and estate administration costs
- Efficient administration and distribution of your estate assets
This process will typically be smoother and more efficient if your designated fiduciaries have access to legal advice from an experienced estate planning attorney.
Gathering and Managing Your Assets
The top priority among the responsibilities that fall to your fiduciaries is the preservation and safeguarding of the assets that comprise your estate. This process involves conducting a careful inventory of your assets, protecting these assets and establishing an appropriate valuation for the assets at the time of your passing. It is important to advise your fiduciaries regarding the location of your asset inventory and accompanying supporting documentation, such as account statements, title documents and certificates.
Typically, a fully-funded revocable living trust will make estate administration much easier, especially if you have maintained current records of the assets contained within the trust. Even if you have relied on a will instead of a revocable trust-based estate plan, you can save your fiduciaries considerable time and headaches by keeping accurate and current financial records that identify and provide values for your assets.
Settling Financial Liabilities: Unpaid Debts, Tax Obligations and Estate Administration Costs
After all of your assets have been gathered, inventoried and valued, the next step in the administration of your estate involves settling outstanding financial obligations owed by your estate. These may include items such as unpaid debts, tax liabilities and estate administration-related expenses. Just as with the process of gathering and protecting your assets, this stage of the administration process must be handled promptly.
Estate tax returns must be filed within nine months of death. Many post-mortem planning opportunities, such as disclaimers and certain elections (e.g., QTIP, alternate valuation, etc.), must be timely made or they are lost … and with them the opportunities for significant estate tax savings.
Failure to comply with applicable legal deadlines can expose your fiduciaries to some rather unpleasant personal liabilities, including tax liabilities for your estate and lawsuits from creditors and disgruntled heirs.
Efficient Administration & Distribution of Your Estate Assets
Your estate assets are to be distributed according to the instructions in your will or trust and your fiduciaries are responsible for adhering to those instructions, and for maintaining accurate records and receipts when making distributions to beneficiaries. The importance of this recordkeeping responsibility cannot be overstated because failure to maintain accurate records of income received, expenses paid and disbursements to beneficiaries during the entire estate administration process can result in civil liability and even criminal penalties in certain situations.
The Final Word
The duties that fall upon a fiduciary can be complicated. The weight of these duties should be carefully considered when selecting your fiduciaries, or when deciding whether to accept responsibility to serve as a fiduciary.
Searching Without A Treasure Map
Can you identify all of your assets and determine their value? Have you prepared an accurate inventory of these assets, and is that inventory preserved in either a written or digital format? If someone had to locate this inventory and valuation information, could they do so or would it be the equivalent of trying to locate hidden treasure without a map?
Common Unintended Scenario
Responsible people meet with legal counsel and prepare comprehensive estate plans. Their plans may even include cutting edge techniques implemented through proven legal instruments. Then, an injury or illness strikes and they become incapacitated. Eventually, they die. Sometime thereafter, the successor decision-makers appointed in the legal instruments meet with the legal counsel who prepared the estate plans. Too frequently, they make a shocking discovery: there is little, if any, information available regarding the property they are now legally required to identify, locate and value. They are adventurers on a quest with a map that is missing huge sections.
Misconceptions about Estate Plans
The fundamental problem is a misconception many have about what constitutes an estate plan. There are many that presume an estate plan amounts to drafting and signing legal documents. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, signing legal instruments without identifying, locating and valuing the property is like signing documents to open a bank account but leaving the money tucked under your mattress. Although you have a bank account where your money can be safely guarded and accumulate interest, it does no good because you have not taken the critical step of making a deposit.
An Ounce of Prevention vs. A Pound of Cure
While your designated fiduciaries may be able to locate and value your assets, you are better equipped to handle these tasks. After all, you likely are identified as the owner on any deed, title certificate or account regarding each asset you own. The process of identifying and determining the value of these assets will be aided by the fact you receive tax bills, account balance statements and similar documents that provide a reminder of the assets you own along with information regarding their current value. These documents and an inventory that includes estimated values should be kept and maintained with your estate planning documents.
There are some assets that are hard to value, such as heirlooms, antiques and collectables. In these instances, a professional appraisal is essential to establish their value for estate distribution and death tax planning.
Carrying Plans into Actions
Even the most careful estate planning is only effective if you take action to implement the plan. When it comes to avoiding an unpleasant treasure hunt for your loved ones, maintaining accurate records is essential to the success or failure of your estate plan. And do not forget to communicate this information to your successor decision-makers.
KM&O Client Spotlight
Julie is our receptionist and has been with Kavesh, Minor and Otis since 2011. Julie also assists the word processing department with data entry. As receptionist, Julie is primarily responsible for answering the phones and greeting our clients when they come to our main Torrance office. Many of you have probably had the opportunity to meet or speak with Julie at some point.
Julie resides in the Los Angeles area with her four children. Julie’s youngest son, Nathan, born in 2010, was diagnosed with apnea, a condition that causes him to stop breathing at any time. Julie spent the first two years with her son in and out of the hospital, including her son’s first two birthdays that were spent in a hospital bed. This year Julie was able to celebrate her son’s third birthday for his first time surrounded by family and friends. Julie spends most of her free time cheering on Nathan as he plays basketball at the park in a children’s league.
Julie’s oldest son Jesse is a graduate of the Sheriff Academy’s Explorer program and is now working part-time and attending East Los Angeles College. His focus is Criminal Justice and hopes to become a Youth Probation officer.
Julie also has two daughters Angelica age 10 and Maggie age 14. They both enjoy swimming and playing volleyball on their spare time. Maggie just started her first year of high school and tutors 11th graders in math; she also tries out for as many sports activities as possible. Angelica enjoys writing elaborate stories and was recently selected, out of only a few students, to put her writing project in the school newspaper.