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Abstract: This case study focuses on a how a family's assets were acquired and titled

in relation to the distribution of the assets upon the death of the husband or wife to their designated heirs. This case will incorporate the knowledge of Property Interest, Community Property, Methods of Property Transfer and the Probate Process.

Introduction: Peter and Kate Gabriel are a married couple that are currently 67 and 64 respectively. This is Peter's second marriage and he has a son from his first marriage named Tony. Peter and Kate have 2 children of their own named David and Paula. Each of the 3 children have one child, so Peter and Kate also have 3 grandchildren. Peter and Kate just retired to California and were previously living in New Jersey.

Current Situation: Peter and Kate are starting to get their estate documents in order and want to make sure that their assets will transfer in the manner they wish and that they are fully aware of the probate process in relation to their assets. They have asked you to evaluate their current titling of assets in relation to their wishes on how to transfer assets. The family tree looks like this...

Peter and Kate

Tony                                                   David                                                 Paula

(Son from previous marriage)                           (Son)                                                  (Daughter)       

Tony Jr.                                               Sarah                                               Ged

(Grandchild)                                        (Grandchild)                                       (Grandchild)

In a perfect world, Peter and Kate have heard that they would be best to avoid the probate process. They are not sure why this is the case, but the person that told them has a great amount of credibility with them. As for the distribution of their assets, they want to make sure that both David and Paula share equally in the assets when both pass away. However, Peter is concerned about his first child Tony. He wants to make certain that Tony and Tony Jr. are also taken care of to some extent and wishes to give them $100,000 at his death. Kate is not too fond of Tony, and Peter is concerned that if he passes away first, and all the assets go to Kate, that she may not take care of his wishes for Tony and Tony Jr.

Financial Information: Below is a listing of current assets along with the current account titling and comments about some of the assets.





Checking Account



Community funds

Savings Account



Community funds

Investment Account

Solely Owned - Paula


From an inheritance

Investment Account



Community funds

IRA Account



Peter's estate is beneficiary

IRA Account



Kate's estate is beneficiary

401(k) Account



Beneficiary is Kate

401(k) Account



Beneficiary if Peter




Bought with community funds




4.    How should Peter guarantee that Tony gets his $100,000 at Peter's death? Will there be issues with the way the accounts are currently titled? Can Peter simply change beneficiary designations in his IRA and/or 401(k) accounts being that he is married? Should Peter consider gifting assets to Tony while he is alive?

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