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The value of a will, estate planning in Texas

Families in Texas and across the country are complex. Many include loved ones who are not biologically related, while others may not have a strong relationship with those who are considered kin. As a result, having a will in place can ensure that a person's wishes are met following his or her death rather than having the state make decisions regarding guardianship of children or distribution of assets based on biological ties.

A will serves a variety of functions. In addition to detailing how a person's assets will be divided, it also details guardianship. In some situations, parents prefer to leave their children in the care of a close friend as opposed to a family member. However, without a will in place, the parent's wishes may be unknown or ignored.

Guardian: A single word with many forms under Texas law

So, you are a relatively healthy adult in Houston. Maybe you have family, siblings or children. Maybe you don't. What difference does it make? You're healthy and you are fully capable of dealing with the day-to-day issues that we all confront. But what if all that changes?

It can happen suddenly. One minute, you may be driving down a busy downtown street. Out of nowhere, another vehicle t-bone's you and you suffer a traumatic brain injury. Less sudden, but no less catastrophic, you develop a degenerative neuromuscular disease and you slide into a state of incapacitation. If you don't have bases covered in your will or through a trust, appointing of a guardian may be required.

What if toxic pollution erodes value of bequeathed assets?

The best-laid plans can be messed up by things not anticipated. This is something about which skilled estate planning attorneys in Texas are aware. Estate planning actions taken with all good intention can lead to some very unsettling family conflict if proper care isn't taken. What's most unfortunate is that oftentimes the issue doesn't surface until after the person making the bequest has died and the estate is in probate.

A scenario out of California is what brings this issue to the fore for this entry on our blog. On the face of things, everything seemed straightforward. An elderly couple with three sons decided to will three parcels of land to their offspring. The belief was that each of the properties was about equal in value. But in the course of the planning process, they learned that one site might be chemically contaminated and need cleanup. Talk about your devaluation.

Divorce and estate plans can clash without due diligence

Life can be complicated. It's common for people in Houston and the rest of Texas to do all they can to avoid problems. For many, this means denial and not undertaking the process of estate planning. For others, it means taking the step to draft a will but not going whole hog on a comprehensive plan.

Depending on your particular circumstances, doing the minimum might be all that is required. It can be easy to act and then put it out of your mind. However, to paraphrase a common idiom, life happens. When it does, perhaps you make some adjustments in your plan. If you don't cover all your bases, however, life can hit the fan.

Is LTC insurance costing so much as to be put out of reach?

Last week we offered perspective on the value of long-term care insurance. The reality is that everyone in Texas is getting older and the expectation of many experts is that extended stays in assisted living or nursing homes are not so much a possibility as a probability for many of us. In that light we noted that many experts agree that having LTC insurance is a wise idea.

There are many reasons someone might not be able to get their hands on an LTC policy, however. If they come to the market late in life, such as when they are on the brink of retirement, many companies become risk averse. As important as including LTC coverage as part of a broad estate planning strategy may be, it doesn't do much good if no one will sell you the product.

Is it worth getting Long-Term Care Insurance?

There is a cost to getting older. It is inevitable. The vigor most of us in Texas enjoy through most of our lives doesn't usually last to our dying day. For some the decline can be sudden. For others, issues related to aging can strike relatively early and last for years.

Private insurance can help cover some of the costs with a properly structured policy. Medicare and Medicaid will help, but only so far. Long-term insurance is available, but a lot of insurers have stopped selling the product. When it's available, it can be expensive and rates just seem to be going higher. You have to ask if it's worth it.

Deadline could be looming for 1 popular family trust tool

Have you ever heard of a family limited partnership or family limited liability company? Forgive yourself if you haven't. If you have and you're among those in Texas who have thought about setting up an entity using one of these trusts as part of a comprehensive estate plan, you will want to read further.

Those with experience in this area of law know that these vehicles have been used for quite some time as a way to reduce taxes. However, the Treasury Department recently announced its intention to change the rules to make them less beneficial. The reason for the action, officials say, is abuse by wealthy families that has cost the government millions in revenue.

Making an advanced directive known in an emergency situation

You're a thoughtful person. You understand you won't live forever. That's why you take advantage of one or all of the estate planning solutions available to everyone in Texas – working, of course, with an experienced attorney.

As we noted in our previous post, a number of different options exist. In particularly serious situations, when a person is clearly incapable of making decisions to protect his or her own interests, it might be wise to have someone named as a guardian. Even if you are of sound mind and body now, you can't be sure you'll stay that way. For those situations, alternatives such as assigning power of attorney for medical or financial decisions might be recommended. There is also the advanced medical directive or living will.

Is there something shy of seeking guardianship over a loved one?

The application of available tools to create a conservatorship is not something that should be done in an off-handed way. Those with experience in helping Texas families with such estate planning needs know how valuable the assignment of a guardian can be for a loved one who can't make crucial life, health and financial decisions for themselves, but the process can be daunting.

Indeed, establishing a guardianship situation is legally complicated by design. It's one way officials ensure that whoever is appointed to the task on behalf of a ward understands the responsibilities and the consequences that could be possible if they fail to act in the ward's best interest. It can also be so expensive to administer that it is legitimate to explore if other options exist.

What factors might influence how estate assets get divided?

When individuals in Houston are building an estate, they might not give much thought to what form that structure is taking. They might not even give much thought to the fact that an estate is being created.

You buy a home with the idea that it will be shelter for your family right now, you don't necessarily think about what the place will represent in the event you die. The same could be said for pieces of art you purchase. You typically buy such things for the pleasure they deliver today. Maybe one of your heirs will develop a sense of attachment to a particular piece. Who knows? Moreover, does anyone really think much about the tax implications down the road? Qualified estate planning, administration and probate attorneys do.

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