Methods of Irrevocable Trust Modification

An irrevocable trust refers to a trust that cannot be modified or terminated without the permission of the beneficiaries. Irrevocable trusts offer the benefit of reducing the grantor’s estate tax liability while simultaneously transferring wealth to a deceased individual’s loved ones. Irrevocable trusts, however, can be modified in several ways, many of which do not require court approval. This article will discuss the ways, by which in accordance with California law, irrevocable trusts can be modified:

  • Consent of all Trust Beneficiaries: In accordance with California code, beneficiaries can petition the appropriate probate court for trust modification provided the trust does not contain specific clauses. One of the most substantial problems with this problem is that beneficiaries often do not live in the same area. Sometimes not all beneficiaries may be born yet.
  • All Trust Beneficiaries and the Settlor Consent: Provided all of these parties consent, no court method is needed for modification through this method.
  • At Least One Trust Beneficiary and the Settlor Consent: Assuming that the interests of the non-consenting beneficiaries are not substantially impaired, this method is allowed. Keep in mind that if the trust does substantially impair the interests of non-consent beneficiaries, then this method is not permitted.
  • Principal is Uneconomically Low: A trust is considered uneconomically low if a trust principal is considered by the court to have a fair market value to defeat or substantially impair the accomplishment of the trust’s purposes or the trust’s principal is less than $40,000. If the trust’s purpose is considered uneconomically low then the trustee is permitted to terminate the trust immediately.
  • Changed Circumstances: Petitioning a court for modification is especially beneficial when a grantor has died and the beneficiaries desire to modify the trust in response to changed circumstances. If the purpose of a trust is substantially changed, then modification of the trust is permitted. A common example of changed circumstances is when a charity is the beneficiary of a trust but the charity no longer exists at the time the trust becomes irrevocable. Filing a petition to request a change of the trust in these cases does not require the consent of the remaining beneficiaries.
  • Conform to Tax Laws: If the primary reason for modifying a trust are tax laws, in accordance with California code, a trust can be modified to achieve intended tax purpose of the trust. A skilled and seasoned attorney will likely be essential to review the trust and determine whether or not the trust conforms to existing tax laws.

Any party who is seeking to modify a trust must carefully examine the proposed methods for trust modification. The parties must understand the various harms and advantages that will result from a trust modification. A trust modification can have gift, estate, generation-skipping tax, and income tax consequences. If you need the advice of a skilled and knowledgeable California trust lawyer, do not hesitate to contact our firm today.

Defending Against Gang Crimes Charges in California

California imposes strict punishments on gang-related crimes. If you have been charged with a gang crime, it is imperative that you contact an experienced California criminal defense attorney.

Both California and Federal Law Punish Gang Crimes Harshly

In the United States, there are two bodies of law – State and Federal. With regards to gang crimes, both California (state) and federal law impose strict penalties. This is because both bodies of law allow for sentencing “enhancements.” An “enhancement” is an increase. An enhanced punishment may be ordered by a court for a gang crime conviction even if you are not officially a member of a gang. Committing a crime on behalf of a gang or as an attempt to become a member of gang is enough.

On the state level, the law that provides for sentencing enhancement for gang crimes in California is Penal Code 186.22 PC. Under this law, anyone who commits a felony crime to benefit a gang is subject to an enhanced prison sentence. Importantly, the concept of “benefit” requires specific intent. Specific intent is a legal doctrine that pertains to state of mind. In other words, to be guilty of committing a crime for the benefit of a gang, you must intend to promote, further, or aid in the gang’s criminal activities. If specific intent is proven in court, an enhanced sentence is proper under California law.

On the federal level, the law that provides for sentencing enhancement for gang crimes in California and the other 49 states is 18 USC 521 – the Criminal Street Gangs law. The federal Criminal Street Gangs statute authorizes a penalty enhancement of as many as 10 years for gang members who commit crimes in furtherance of the criminal activities of a gang, or simply to maintain or improve his or her place in the gang. The enhancement is not merely an extension of the penalty for the underlying crime, but an additional punishment. For example, if a gang member commits the felony of armed robbery, he or she will be punished both for the felony and for committing the felony to further the gang’s activities. As you can see from both the state and federal laws, gang-related crimes are punished extremely harshly in the U.S.

An Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney Can Defend You Against Gang Crime Charges in California

With enhanced punishment meted out for conviction of gang crimes in California, you need an experienced California criminal defense attorney to protect your legal rights and defend against the charges levied by state and/or federal law. To convict you of a gang crime, the prosecutor must prove that you committed the underlying crime, that you were a member of a gang, that the gang actually meets the criteria of a recognized criminal gang, and that you committed the underlying crime in furtherance of the gang’s activities. An experienced California criminal defense attorney will explore all avenues of reasonable doubt and work to protect your rights.