Free Webinar | Friday, June 4th | Planning for Incapacity

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Kroloff attorney, Rebecca H. Sem, specializes in probate and trust litigation and estate planning. She will be giving an informative webinar on the ins and outs of incapacity planning so that you can begin to take proactive steps to plan for the future. Incapacity can occur at any time and at any age.  Who will handle your affairs in the event that you or a loved one are deemed incapable of managing your financial or healthcare decisions? This webinar will help you prepare.

Free Webinar | Estate Planning for Parents with Minor Children

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This webinar is presented by Kroloff Associate Attorney, Courtney S. Hayes and will feature important information for parents with minor children revealing valuable tools that parents can use to ensure their children are provided for. We’ll cover the importance of a Trust-based estate plan; Naming a guardian in your Will; Updating beneficiary designations; Setting up 529 Plans for college savings; and Using life insurance to fund your Trust. This helpful webinar will be held on Friday, May 7th at 12pm to 1pm. Join us!

Increase in California’s Homestead Exemption

Increase in California’s Homestead Exemption

On January 1, 2021, California’s homestead exemption increased by way of AB 1885, which amended Code of Civil Procedure § 704.730.

What is a homestead exemption?

The homestead exemption protects a certain amount of a home’s equity from being seized by the homeowner’s creditors to satisfy the homeowner’s debts.

The exemption primarily applies when a homeowner files for bankruptcy or experiences financial difficulty. If a creditor attempts to force a sale of the home, of if the homeowner files for bankruptcy, the homestead exemption protects a certain amount of the homeowner’s home equity from collection.

Note: the homestead exemption does not prohibit a forced sale of a home by creditors.  Instead, the exemption ensures that the homeowner receives the exemption amount out of their equity before creditors are paid from the sale proceeds.

How much did the exemption increase?

In 2020, California’s homestead exemption was $75,000 for a single homeowner, with a maximum of $175,000 for homeowners who met specific family, income, and age requirements.

As of January 1, 2021, the exemption amount increased. The amount of the increase depends on the median sales price of home sales in the county in the prior year. The increased amount will be at least $300,000, but can be no more than $600,000.  If the median sales price in the county for the prior year was $300,000 or less, the exemption will be $300,000 (even if the median sales price for the county was $220,000.)  For counties where the median sales price in the prior year was between $300,000 and $600,000, the median sales price will be the exemption amount.  If the median sales price is more than $600,000, the exemption amount will be $600,000.

For example, if the median sales price was $1,400,000 (as it was in San Francisco County in 2020), the exemption amount would be $600,000 in 2021.  If the median sales price was $435,000 (as it was in San Joaquin County in 2020), the exemption amount would be $435,000 in 2021.

What is the difference between an automatic exemption and a declared exemption?

The homestead exemption automatically applies when there is a forced sale of the home – this is called the “automatic exemption.”  It requires that the debtor have continuously lived at the home from the date that a judgment creditor’s lien attached until the date a court determines that the home is a homestead. If a creditor attempts to sell the home, the homeowner has the burden of proving to the court that the automatic homestead exemption applies.

Homeowners can alternatively declare an exemption for their home – the “declared exemption.” The declared exemption applies to both forced and voluntary sales of a home.  In order to declare an exemption, a homeowner must record a declaration of exemption with the county recorder and reside at the home on the date the declaration is recorded.  If a creditor attempts to force a sale of the home, the creditor has the burden of proving to the court that the homestead declaration is invalid. In the case of a voluntary sale, the exempt proceeds of the sale are protected from creditors if the homeowner purchases another home within six months of the sale.

Homeowners should make sure to record their declaration of exemption with the county recorder while they live in their home, and keep the recorded declaration in a safe place in case they ever need it to prove their exemption.

If you have questions about the homestead exemption or how to declare it, please contact our office, and one of our experienced attorneys will be glad to assist you.

Courtney S. Hayes published in “Across the Bar”

Kroloff attorney, Courtney S. Hayes, was published in the Spring 2021 Edition of the San Joaquin County Bar Association’s publication, Across the Bar.  Ms. Hayes’ article discusses the property tax changes and consequences of Proposition 19, which passed by a slim majority of California voters in November 2020.  The article can be viewed here:

COVID-19 Vaccination Update for Employers

Many employers are wondering whether they can require or incentivize their employees to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.  Below are a few answers to commonly asked questions.

Q:  Can I require my employees to receive a COVID-19 vaccine?

A: Yes, with some limitations.  First, you should evaluate whether the vaccine is job-related and consistent with business necessity.  Second, you should ensure that your policies provide for employee accommodations.  On December 16, 2020, the EEOC issued guidance which permits employers to require vaccinations but requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees who are unable to receive the vaccine due to medical or religious reasons.

Q: How do I determine if I must accommodate a medical or religious concern?

A: This depends on the reason you are relying on for requiring the vaccine.  For some jobs, such as healthcare, it may be the case that getting vaccinated is a standard qualification for performing the service.  The decision must be based on objective medical information.  For example, a strong factor supporting requiring the vaccine is if a government agency requires the vaccine as a condition of employing an individual in your industry.  Accommodations for an employee who will not receive a vaccine must be evaluated in the interactive process with the employee.  Some possible accommodations may include wearing a face mask while on-site even when no longer required for others, teleworking, or a leave of absence.  Denying an accommodation requires an “undue hardship” on the employer, which will vary based upon a business’s individual circumstances.

Q: Can I exclude someone from the workplace because their failure to receive a vaccination is a “direct threat” to the employee or others? 

A: In some circumstances, yes.  This is another exception to the requirement that a vaccine-related concern be accommodated.  However, the standard is very high and must be based on objective medical evidence and an individualized assessment.  The fact that employees have been working with masks for several months may make this difficult to establish.

Q:  Can I encourage vaccinations even if I do not require them?

A:  Yes.  Much like annual flu shots in some portions of the healthcare industry, an employer can encourage a vaccine and then put in place additional safety precautions for those who elect not to receive a vaccination.

Q:  Can I offer a monetary incentive for employees to receive a COVID-19 vaccine?

A:  Yes, but with limitations.  Employers should consider rules applicable to wellness programs and IRS requirements relating to taxability of such payments.  (A payment for receiving a vaccination is likely to be treated by the IRS as an employer-sponsored wellness program.)  Additionally, employers must decide how they will address employees who are not otherwise eligible for the incentive due to a medical or religious reason.

Q: Must I pay employees for the cost of the vaccine or the time spent receiving the vaccine?

A: If you are requiring the vaccine based upon business necessity, then it is likely in California that the employer would be required to cover the costs incurred by the employee in receiving the vaccine, including time spent.

Jamie M. Bossuat named “Young Professional of the Year” for 2020

December 11th, 2020 ~ The Greater Stockton Chamber of Commerce 2020 Business Awards have concluded and the honor of “Young Professional of the Year” goes to Kroloff Shareholder, Jamie M. Bossuat. Jamie is a Shareholder at Kroloff, Belcher, Smart, Perry and Christopherson. She concentrates on Employment Law and many other areas that are of great benefit to local business.

Kroloff dear friend and founding partner, Claude H. Smart passes away

Kroloff honors the passing of good friend and founding partner, Claude H. Smart Jr. — a preeminent attorney and exceptional person. Claude was a member of the firm from 1956 to 2011.

Claude Harlan Smart, Jr.

March 25, 1927 – November 11, 2020

Claude Harlan Smart, Jr. died peacefully in his sleep in Stockton, CA on November 11, 2020. He was 93. The son of Claude, Sr. and Alma Smart, Claude  grew up in San Jose, graduating from San Jose High School in 1945. He joined the U.S. Army at the age of 17. Corporal Smart was proud to serve his country on the island of Hokkaido during the reconstruction of Japan at the end of World War II. He enrolled in San Jose State University, then transferred to U.C. Berkeley, where he earned a B.A. degree in 1950. Three years later, Claude graduated from Boalt Hall School of Law in Berkeley and became a member of the California State Bar in 1954. He first practiced law in a small firm in Lemon Cove, California and then moved to Stockton, joining Yale Kroloff, Richard Belcher, and Nat Brown, the founders of the present-day firm of Kroloff, Belcher, Smart, Perry and Christopherson. Claude practiced law as a civil defense trial attorney with the Kroloff firm for over 55 years until his retirement in 2011.

In his long career, Claude tried civil lawsuits in practically every California county seat from Redding to Fresno. Among judges and fellow lawyers, he developed a reputation of integrity and outstanding legal skills. Claude held the coveted “AV” rating by Martindale-Hubbell for having the highest ethical standards and preeminent legal ability. Claude was honored with San Joaquin County Bar Association’s Law Day Award in 2003 in recognition of his significant contribution to the legal community. Many young lawyers were the beneficiaries of Claude’s mentorship and training to practice at the highest level with utmost integrity. Claude was very active in professional groups, both state-wide and on the national level, making many friends and enhancing the legal profession; these organizations included: California State Bar Joint Commission on Discovery (1984-1986); Northern California Association of Defense Counsel (President, 1979); International Association of Defense Counsel; American Board of Trial Advocates (National Executive Committee, 2002-2006; President, Sacramento Chapter,1984); Defense Research Institute (President, 1993-1994; Chairman of the Board,1994); Federation of Insurance and Corporate Counsel.

Claude was also very active in the Episcopal Church, holding leadership positions both locally and regionally. Throughout his life, Claude enjoyed playing tennis and won many doubles tournaments at his favorite place to relax, the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel in Hawaii. He was an avid baseball and football fan, with an encyclopedic knowledge of both sports. If you asked him, he could give you the starting line-up of the 1940 Oakland Oaks. Claude was a long-time Cal Bear Backer and San Francisco 49er’s fan. He traveled the world with his beloved wife, Barbara, of 58 years. He was loved by many and respected by all. Claude is survived by his wife, Barbara; daughters, Joan Gibson and Suzanne Morris; son, Stephen Smart and his wife, Kara; grandchildren, Matthew, Sara, Claudia, Tyler, and Chile; and great-grandson, Alexander.

Kroloff Shareholders Christopher Engh and Velma K. Lim honored as “Super Lawyers” in 2020

Kroloff is happy to announce and congratulate Shareholders, Christopher Engh and Velma K. Lim on being selected as “Super Lawyers” for 2020. This is Chris’ fifteenth consecutive year and Velma’s sixth! The Super Lawyer nomination process is quite rigorous and is based on peer nominations and achievements. Selected lawyers are considered in the top 5% in the state of California. For more information on “Super Lawyers” click the link provided. Velma K. Lim was named Super Lawyer in Employment Law and Christopher Engh was named for Estate Planning. Link to Super Lawyers video

Rebecca H. Sem receives the “Outstanding New Lawyer Award”.

Kroloff attorney, Rebecca Sem receives the “Outstanding New Lawyer Award” from the San Joaquin County Bar Association. The Bank of Stockton presented the award at the “New Lawyer Reception”. Mrs. Sem’s legal practice is focused on trust and estate litigation. In addition, she handles probate and trust administration, business litigation, real estate litigation and representation of REALTOR® associations.

Courtney S. Hayes joins Kroloff, Belcher, Smart, Perry and Christopherson

Kroloff, Belcher, Smart, Perry & Christopherson welcomes attorney, Courtney S. Hayes to the firm. Ms. Hayes practice centers around Trusts and Estate Planning. She assists executors and administrators in navigating the probate process. She also represents trustees, individuals and various entities in business disputes and litigation, including contract, breach of fiduciary duty, and real property disputes.

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