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Houston Estate Planning Law Blog

Important decisions for the estate planning process

For some people in Texas, it is difficult to plan for death for a variety of different reasons. Many people believe that they will always have another day to go through the estate planning process. Unfortunately, unexpected accidents occur and medical issues arise that could ultimately prevent a person from creating the necessary documents that would both ensure that his or her wishes are known and provide for loved ones. If the estate planning process has been completed, families who are undergoing a great deal of stress may be better prepared for the decisions that must be made following the loss of a family member.

People who are anticipating the estate planning process must take stock of both their financial circumstances as well as the role they want certain people to play. A list of assets as well as their value, including real estate, life insurance policies and business interests, help create a better picture of the size of an estate. Additionally, a person going through the process will need to name people to fulfill certain roles. An executor will gather and distribute assets while naming a guardian helps ensure that underage children are cared for by a person of the parent's choice. Also, naming a medical power of attorney helps ensure that an individual who is aware of the person's wishes can make medical decisions if he or she becomes unable to do so.

Who/what is the federal estate tax on?

Different estates raise different sorts of estate planning/administration concerns. Some estates raise estate tax issues. When a person dies and their estate is a particularly high-value estate, their estate might trigger the federal estate tax.

When it comes to any tax, among the details it is important to know is who/what the tax is on. An important thing to note about the federal estate tax is that the tax, if it is triggered, is not put on the estate's heirs. Rather, it is put on the estate itself. So, when an estate triggers the federal estate tax, handling matters related to the tax is often among the responsibilities of the personal representative of the estate.

Timing decisions regarding a trust

There are a variety of methods a person could use for distributing an asset or group of assets to their loved ones after their death. One is using a trust.

When it comes to using a trust to distribute assets to loved ones, there are many key decisions that will generally have to be made regarding the trust. One is what particular terms the trust will have regarding the distribution of assets placed in the trust.

3 Texas cities make list of best places for retirees

As a person gets older, their needs, desires and situation can shift significantly. So, retirees may be looking for very different things when it comes to what community they live in than was the case when they were younger. This sometimes leads individuals to move to a new state when they retire.

A recent list indicates that retirees may find some parts of Texas to be attractive retirement destinations. The list is of the 25 best cities in the U.S. for retirees as compiled by Forbes. The factors that were considered in coming up with this list include both finance-related factors (like cost of living and taxes) and non-monetary factors (like climate and air quality).

Art, estate taxes and irrevocable trusts

One type of collection some individuals have is an art collection. Art collections can have many benefits for a person. However, they can also pose some challenges. 

For example, they could potentially raise estate tax issues. Pieces of art can be quite valuable. Thus, there are circumstances under which an art collection could put a person's estate at risk of crossing the value threshold that would expose it to federal estate tax liability upon the person's death. 

Caring for an adult child with special needs

As their child is approaching the age of adulthood, one thing a parent may be thinking about quite a bit is their child's future. What kinds of worries, concerns and hopes a parent has about their child's future will very much depend on the specific characteristics and situation of their child. 

For parents of children with special needs, one thing they may be particularly focused on when it comes to their child's future is ensuring their child will continue to get the care they need after they become an adult. 

Many baby boomers making their homes more elder-friendly

A person's needs can change greatly as they grow older. This includes their needs regarding housing. A home that was perfectly fine to live in when younger could be a tough place for an elderly person if it has lots of tight spaces, lacks helpful safety features, has lots of stairs/steps or has other not-so-elder-friendly characteristics.

When a person starts experiencing physical health problems in their elderly years and has a house that is not very elder-friendly, they could face the choice of either trying to make their house more elder-friendly on the fly or moving (such as to an elder care facility).

Don't forget about your estate plan when divorcing

There are all kinds of critical roles a person can assign in their estate planning. These roles can involve many important things, including assets, estate administration, trust administration, medical decision-making authority and financial decision-making authority.

When a person is married when they set up their estate plan, it is not uncommon for them to assign these kinds of roles to their spouse. Examples of roles individuals sometimes name their spouses for include:

  • Will executor.
  • The trustee of a trust.
  • The person medical decision-making authority is given to in a medical power of attorney document.
  • The person financial decision-making authority is given to in a durable power of attorney document.
  • The beneficiary of a will, trust, pay-on-death bank account, retirement account, life insurance policy, brokerage account or annuity.

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