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Set up a special needs trust to protect your child's benefits

Parents in Texas who have special needs children have unique concerns when it comes to passing their assets on after their deaths. For instance, a disabled person can have his or her government benefits revoked if he or she experiences increased cash flow or receives assets from a parent's estate. It may seem wrong, but it is how things work. A special needs trust can keep this from happening.

In order to allow one's child the ability to maintain his or her disability benefits, there are several important estate planning steps one can take. Setting up a special needs trust is just one of them, but it may be the most important. By placing assets in this type of trust, they will not be passed directly onto one's child. Instead, a trustee will be assigned to manage one's estate. This person will be able to distribute the assets in a way that will not affect the child's benefit eligibility.

Take the time to prepare a will

Quite a few people in Texas and elsewhere do not have estate plans in place. Each has his or her own reason as to why not. However, taking the time to prepare a will is not something that one should put off for too long.

A study was recently conducted by BMO Wealth Management regarding estate planning. According to the results, 52 percent of those surveyed do not have estate plans. Now, the number of people surveyed was not released, but still, 52 percent is pretty significant. That is a lot of people who have not taken the steps necessary to protect themselves, their assets, their children and other loved ones in the event of their death or incapacitation.

Thinking about preparing a generation skipping trust?

Whether you reside in Texas or elsewhere, when planning your estate it is reasonable to want to minimize how much Uncle Sam has the right to claim. A trust can help address some of the tax concerns you have, but what kind is best for your situation? For some, a generation skipping trust may provide the protections desired.

What is a generation skipping trust? If you have a fairly large estate and your children are relatively well-off on their own, you may want your assets held for distribution to your grandchildren. This is what a generation skipping trust can do for you.

Is adding someone to a property deed a good estate planning move?

When it comes to planning one's estate, people will do quite a few things and jump through a lot of hoops in order to avoid the need for probate. One thing that some individuals will do, whether they reside in Texas or elsewhere, is add loved ones to their property deeds -- such as the deed to a house. This makes them co-owners and prevents the properties from being subject to the probate process. While this can work, is it the best estate planning move?

The answer to this question will be different for everyone. At the end of the day, there are a lot of negatives that accompany adding someone to a property deed. For the original owner, the negative consequences include Medicaid eligibility delays, title complications, tax issues and potential property liens if the now co-owner goes through divorce or has other financial struggles.

What can be done during estate planning to avoid will contests?

Creating the perfect estate plan, one that covers everything, is easy to understand and makes the distribution of assets to beneficiaries a simple and straightforward process may seem like an impossible task. After all, it is not possible to make everyone happy. There may be those family members who feel the need to challenge the plans that have been put in place. There are things that Texas residents can do during the estate planning process that will help prevent will contests.

One of the most important things one can do to help avoid will contests is make sure his or her estate plan is updated when necessary. Life changes happen. Failing to update an estate plan to accompany those changes will only cause problems down the line.

Is there anything that I do not need to include in my will?

Making sure one's estate is in order in the event of one's death is something that everyone should take the time to do. It certainly does not hurt to be prepared. When writing one's will, there is a lot to consider. A question some Texas residents may have when going through this process is whether there's anything that does not need to be included in a will?

A will covers a lot of ground. It is in this document that one can list beneficiaries and provide information about how assets are to be distributed to loved ones, friends and charities. As wills are not generally looked at until after a funeral takes place, it is not the place to give information about end-of-life care or funeral wishes.

Guardianship of adult: Roles, responsibilities and limitations

Being appointed a guardian of an adult is a significant job. With it there comes numerous responsibilities and certain limitations. If you are considering taking on a guardianship, it is normal to have questions about what your role will be in the life of the individual placed in your care. This week's column will address some the most common questions Texas residents may have about guardianships.

If you are made a guardian over an adult, what exactly will your role be in his or her life? Before taking on this responsibility, it is wise to know what will be expected of you and the impact it will have on your life and the life of the person placed in your care. The roles and responsibilities of a guardian are many. These include:

  • Provide for everyday needs
  • Advocate for legal rights
  • Make medical care and treatment decisions
  • Handle financial affairs
  • Ensure a safe and appropriate living environment

Doing medical care planning now can prevent issues in the future

Getting older, getting sick and needing medical assistance is all a part of life. Whether people like to think of these issues or not, they happen. Being prepared for these things is important, but it is something for which many Texas residents fail to effectively plan. Taking the time to handle medical care planning now will only make things easier down the road for one's family.

A lot of people are unsure of where to start when is comes to medical care planning. There are numerous things to consider, so it is understandable that it can feel a bit overwhelming and even confusing. When it comes to planning for future medical needs, the best place to start is weighing the options for care and looking at one's current insurance coverage. By reviewing just these two things, one can make informed decisions about what further coverage may be needed or desired and what kind of assistance truly is within one's reach.

Is a will all I need?

Knowing where to begin with estate planning can be rather confusing. There is a lot of information out there and numerous opinions about what should and should not be included. For instance, many Texas residents may be unsure about which documents they really need -- such trusts or wills. This week's column is going to address what a will is and if it alone will meet your estate planning goals.

What exactly is a will? To many, a will is the foundation of an estate plan. In this document you will name beneficiaries and specifics about property distribution. You can also name personal representatives to handle your affairs if you become incapacitated or in the event of your death.

What is the purpose of estate administration?

When a loved one passes away, what happens to his or her assets and debts? If a will or trust has been created, there are likely to be specific instructions for beneficiaries to follow in order to take care of these things. If not, it will be up to the court to decide. Regardless, every estate in Texas or elsewhere must go through the estate administration process.

Estate administration is the process of closing and distributing an estate. This usually takes place in probate court; however, there are select few cases that may avoid probate altogether. During the estate administration process, an executor or administrator will be responsible for making sure debts are paid and assets are distributed appropriately.

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