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Houston Estate Planning Law Blog

Opinion: Former NBA owner's estate planning case instructive

Many of our readers in Texas and elsewhere -- especially sports enthusiasts -- are likely familiar with the sad saga surrounding the Los Angeles Clippers basketball team. Earlier this year, the team’s owner, billionaire Donald Sterling, made racist remarks that resulted in the National Basketball Association banning him for life and seeking to wrest control of the team.

That resulted in a flurry of activity, with the bottom line being Sterling’s approval for his wife, Shelly, to negotiate a sale.

She did just that, with a fellow business mogul -- Steve Ballmer, the ex-CEO of Microsoft Corp. -- agreeing to buy the team for a reported $2 billion.

Passing along a family business through estate planning

Our attorneys are widely experienced estate planning lawyers who frequently find it necessary to remind clients -- or even inform them for the first time -- that estate administration runs a wide gamut and can effectively address broad-ranging concerns.

When many people think of estate planning, they focus -- and sometimes unduly so -- on will execution. Although there is certainly no question that crafting a well-tailored will and occasionally revisiting it thereafter as necessary is of central importance for many individuals and families engaged in estate planning, estate administration can go far beyond will considerations.

A will, yes, but perhaps one or more trusts as well

What do you do if you’re a baby boomer couple in Texas or elsewhere seeking to provide lasting security for a child with a disability that will render it unlikely he or she can live fully independently after reaching adulthood?

That is far more than a theoretical question for many would-be estate planners across the country, who balk at making purposeful and timely decision owing to one or many reasons.

One reason in many instances is that loving parents simply -- and understandably -- lack the requisite knowledge to know what will best protect a disabled child in the future. How can a sufficient amount of money be set aside? How can it be protected from tax authorities or other creditors? Who should be appointed to promote a child’s best interests, and how can that be ensured?

Remember to review and update your estate plan regularly

Estate planning is an incredibly important way to safeguard your family’s future when you are no longer around, as well as a way to leave a legacy. Despite the importance of having a solid estate plan in place, many people put it off for years. Some never have the chance to start one due to an untimely death.

If you already have an estate plan in place, you are ahead of the curve and should feel good about what you have accomplished. However, estate planning isn’t a “one-and-done” deal. Chances are good that a will drafted 15 years ago would look a lot different from one drafted today. Because we experience many changes throughout life, it is important to review your estate plan at least once a year.

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.

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