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Houston Estate Planning Law Blog

Business owners: Focus more on planning, less on taxes

Steve Parrish, a contributor on business topics for Forbes, thinks that too many business owners are failing to see the forest for the trees.

Put another way: To their ultimate financial peril, many planners are focusing unduly on tax avoidance rather than on the larger and more general matter of implementing a sound and comprehensive estate plan.

To be sure, Parrish is not advising business owners in Texas or elsewhere to forgo a thorough analysis of and response to business-related taxes that might ultimately loom large in estate planning. He is simply saying that unduly focusing on tax issues makes for a rather narrow and parochial planning approach and that a broad and all-encompassing focus should centrally mark estate planning considerations.

Lou Reed's Estate-Planning Decisions Draw Scrutiny

For those people who care about the details of late rock-and-roll icon Lou Reed's estate plan, there is a lot of public information available.

Reed, the long-time venerated singer of the avant-garde pop group Velvet Underground, died in October of last year. Owing to the singer's musical royalties and other wealth, he had a sizable estate to convey to heirs.

The details of his estate plan are steadily leaking out in the press, a fact that financial commentators are noting and pointing out could have been avoided through the implementation of alternative planning strategies and processes.

Inheritance focus: when estate leaves bills and liabilities

Here’s a bottom-line takeaway for estate heirs from a recent Forbes article written by an author who focuses on estate planning matters. Have a solid understanding of the estate’s unpaid bills and liabilities before spending down that inheritance.

The reason: You could be on the hook for outstanding financial obligations owed by the estate to creditors. Those could range from something as mundane as remaining car payments to more complex obligations revolving around unpaid tax obligations.

Voiced concern of the truly wealthy: leaving money to the kids

Those of us who don't qualify for the title of "super rich" -- defined in a recent media article as families with wealth at the threshold level of $10 million or beyond -- have likely fantasized on at least one occasion what life would be like if we were the scions of such fortunes. How would we spend the money?

According to recent surveys and interviews with many first-generation creators of such fortunes, there is a strong chance that, even if we were next in line to receive the riches of staggeringly wealthy parents, there is a strong chance that we would be disappointed.

The reason: They just might forgo the sprinkling of any of that wealth on us.

Trusts: Creative and flexible estate planning tools

A couple with a relatively sizable real estate, savings and business portfolio recently posed a question regarding estate planning that they sought to have answered in a newspaper's money-related forum. Their question was logical and their concern quite common, and we pass along the details to our readers in Texas and elsewhere, hoping that they find the subject matter relevant and the advice instructive.

The couple's concern was with the assets they sought to pass along equally to their two adult children. They cited stress over the half that would be inherited by their son, given his unstable marriage and his spouse's proven track record of bad money management.

"We want to be sure to protect his part of the inheritance," they wrote. "What should we do?"

Estate planning evolves in the digital age

Do you sometimes think back a few years and simply marvel at how technology has advanced and changes the world?

Characters in old sitcoms carting around cellphones that are 10 times bigger than offerings today seem hilarious. Computers years ago were massive, heavy and inordinately expensive things. Today's counterparts cost a fraction of what they used to, deliver the world with a mouse click and sometimes weigh only ounces. Virtually (no pun intended) everything that relates to technology is now faster, smaller, lighter, sleeker and far more mobile.

For many individuals and families, important estate planning-related considerations have also evolved over time because of technology.

The case for young people and purposeful estate planning

Thinking about estates, legacies and solid planning based on what is personally meaningful has always been a mainstay for individuals and families with an eye on asset preservation, inheritances, tax avoidance and other key planning matters.

For a variety of reasons, that same degree of purposeful planning has not always been on display with select pockets of individuals and groups across Texas and the rest of the country.

It has always been a common refrain among young people, for example, that estate planning is not immediately meaningful to them, being something that they can attend to in future years. The same logic prevails for many unmarried persons generally, as well as among individuals without children or other surviving relatives.

Aging in America: Many people lack facts, financial preparation

The sheer disconnect that is on clear display throughout the United States concerning the realities of care needs for many people in their advancing years and their woeful lack of preparation to face those needs is something to behold.

One writer in a recent Forbes article calls it “depressing,” adding that many people “remain largely clueless” about the financial requirements they will face during the latter stages of life.

That reality -- and, indeed, a wealth of statistics indicate that it is a reality -- spells obviously negative consequences for many people who are aware of it and do little or nothing to prepare for it. On the flip side, there is the potential for glass-half-full news and better relating to the financial picture of many adults who enter their senior years having taken some preliminary action to get ready for them.

Long-term care: Timely action can greatly affect affordability

As we have noted before for our readers, elder law matters often revolve around a common set of issues that need to be closely considered and acted upon to ensure peace of mind for seniors as they approach or pass beyond retirement.

Asset distribution, inheritances, legacy concerns and other matters relating centrally to finances all need to be dealt with, of course, to help fully effect a sound and well-tailored estate plan. The question, “Where will I live?” is also a common concern for many seniors that needs to be addressed and resolved.

When estate planning is about the legacy

“Our family didn’t think of anything but leaving everything to us,” says one fundraising professional.

That person offered that comment in the context of estate planning, impliedly noting a shift in thinking across the generations.

That shift is marked by a fundamental change in planning that is occurring for individuals and families across the country. A developmental director at Houston’s MD Anderson Cancer Center states that estate planning is in many instances now marked by “a move from success to significance.”

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