For most wills here in Texas, one of the things that needs to happen for the will to be valid under state law is for the will to be witnessed by at least two people. These witnesses are to sign their names on the will. Such action by the witnesses is to happen in the presence of the person whose will it is.
There are many questions a Texan who is planning to form a will may have on the issue of witnesses. One such question is: Can a minor be a valid witness to a will?
Many people here in Texas have charitable organizations that they strongly admire the work of and care a great deal about. Sometimes, a person will have a desire to not only support the charitable organizations they care about during their lifetime, but to provide such support after their death as well. Estate planning can make fulfilling this desire possible.
There are many different types of after-death goals a person can set their estate plan to achieve. Providing after-death financial support to charitable organizations is one such goal.
So, you think you've got a good handle on estate planning because of your demonstrated acumen in the realm of financial management.
That might be so, but it is more likely that a narrow focus on how money management and asset flow will look in retirement seriously compromises the more comprehensive thinking that needs to take place to ensure a tailored and seamless estate plan across all relevant dimensions.
Rather than fashioning a gentle segue into this blog entry focusing on how things can go wrong with life insurance beneficiary designations, let's employ a real barn burner right at the outset as an example of how horror can strike unexpectedly and toss best-intentioned plans right out the window.
Here's the hypothetical (which, rest assured, has been a real-life outcome in some situations).
The widow says that the stepkids are unlawfully claiming personal property that was bestowed upon her. The children counter that many of the assets claimed by their stepmother belong to them and that they "are heartbroken" that she has acted against their deceased father's wishes. The trustees have weighed in with comments underscoring their power to act, which they say is being undermined. An attorney for the trustees says that what has become an acrimonious spat should have remained a purely private matter.
And the judge? He just wants the at-odds parties to work things out as best they can informally. If they can't, a June 1 court date looms.
Wills, trusts and other estate planning tools help you protect your assets, provide guidance for family members and prevent consequences or distributions that go against your wishes. Selecting an executor for your estate or an administrator for your will is an important part of the process.
An executor will have the responsibility and the authority to collect assets, pay debts or claims against the estate, pay taxes, distribute property and assets to beneficiaries, and manage the property in the estate. This is a serious task, which means you need to choose wisely when designating your executor.
As we have previously noted for readers from time to time, estate planning-related stories involving high-profile individuals and families are sometimes much more than pure entertainment fodder.
Put another way: They can put a quick and potent spotlight on relevant topics ranging from will contests and probate administration to relevant elder law considerations and long-term care planning.
"[G]ood planning while the parent is still of sound mind can minimize the damage."
That is a statement that fairly jumps out of a recent article focusing on dementia, a disease that reportedly affects more than five million Americans across the country.
Many people in Texas and across the country harbor a number of material misconceptions about estate planning. Following are a couple big ones, tagged as myths.
First, myth number one: It's all about the will.
When putting together estate plans, if a loved one in your life is living with a disability -- and is mentally unable to manage his or her own finances -- you may want to consider working with an attorney to create a special needs trust. This is an estate planning tool that ensures resources are given to a loved one, without having to worry about that person losing any government assistance.
In the most basic of terms, according to a FindLaw article, a special needs trust allows you to name a trustee and a beneficiary. The beneficiary will be the person receiving the assets, while the trustee is the person who will be in charge of managing the assets. This trustee should be someone who you know could handle this responsibility. If no one is named, the court will appoint a third party.