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Houston Estate Planning Law Blog

Trusts: flexible and widely applicable estate planning tools

As noted in a recent article on estate planning, select trust instruments are eminently useful and powerful legal tools for still-living grantors that can be readily modified or revoked during their lifetimes.

As that article states, trusts command broad-based utility, indeed, having instant applicability and tremendous flexibility for use across a wide universe of planning concerns and considerations.

Does an adult who is single need an estate plan?

Many single people in Texas and nationally likely shrug off recommendations that they pay attention to estate planning, thinking that doing so doesn’t really begin to make sense for them personally until they marry, have children and/or accumulate substantial wealth.

Is that true? Is there a bona-fide need for single persons to focus upon estate administration considerations when they have only themselves to think about?

Most financial planners and estate experts would say that, yes, single people have strong -- even compelling -- reasons for crafting a sound estate plan.

Moreover, they would add that having “only themselves to think about” is more often further from the truth than what is actually the reality for many single people.

There are useful alternatives to appointing a guardian

Appointing a guardian to make important decisions for a loved one can be a difficult process for many families in Texas. When a loved one is apparently disabled, the emotional toll on family members is often a concern. The rules and standards that apply in appointing a guardian can also be cumbersome.

In October, we discussed the standards and explained some of the terminology involved in guardianship proceedings (including emphasizing that the concept of a conservatorship involving an incapacitated adult is addressed under the legal term guardianship). We also discussed how having a guardian appointed can allow a family to choose a trusted person to make decision on behalf of the disabled family member.

If you are thinking about long-term care insurance, note this

Given the roller-coaster ride that has centrally marked the stock market in recent years, it is eminently understandable that many soon-to-be retirees and persons already embarked on their post-career lives fret over market dislocations when they review their so-called nest eggs.

Many of those people should be more concerned about their health than they are about their money.

As noted by a recent article on long-term care, it is an extended stay in a care facility that eats up savings more quickly for most Americans than does the occasional downward churning of the stock market.

4 reasons you should write your will now

It can be difficult for individuals to consider their own mortality. Even worse, though, is sitting down to decide which of your surviving loved ones will receive your assets after you pass away. Many people are content to avoid developing an estate plan due to the unsavory nature of the activity.

No matter your health, wealth or age, it is wise to consider the impact that a comprehensive estate plan can have on your life and the lives of your surviving loved ones. While some people are content to wait and let Texas statutes do the "heavy lifting" of asset distribution, most people should consider the peace of mind and the element of control that a well-drafted will can provide.

Wills: not adequate for addressing all estate planning subjects

Although carefully thinking about a will and then following through after due reflection by executing such a document is certainly an example of good estate planning in Texas and elsewhere, it might not qualify as comprehensive planning.

A proven estate planning attorney can tell you exactly why and help ensure that your wishes regarding real and personal property, gifting, charitable contribution, family heirlooms and legacies, bequests to surviving family members and other important considerations are fully and faithfully carried out.

And it is important to note early on that merely executing a will might not get the job completely done.

Coffee baron's children prevail over widow in bitter will contest

An attorney in a will contest that played out with vigor and venom in one state's court system noted with vast understatement that a unanimous court ruling in favor of his clients on appeal was "a pretty big deal."

Indeed, it was a very big deal.

The acrimonious will dispute that dragged out through successive layers of Alabama's judiciary is also worthy of comment in this blog and other sources that comment on estate administration matters, for myriad reasons.

What exactly is a guardianship? When is it necessary?

When learning about guardianship, the first thing to know about is proper terminology. Many people use the terms guardianship and conservatorship interchangeably, and in some states conservatorship is the proper term. Under Texas law, the correct term is guardianship

When someone is incapable of making their own decisions, either due to a minor age or incapacity, a court can appoint an individual to do this for him or her. The appointed person is called the guardian and the minor child or incapacitated adult is called the ward. A guardian can be appointed to make decisions on behalf of the ward, the ward's estate or both.

Estate planning: getting it done right, and timely revisiting it

Do you know what a pour-over will is and how creation of such a document might benefit your estate planning needs?

Are you aware of the privacy considerations afforded by a revocable trust as opposed to a will, and how they affect probate considerations?

Do you fully understand all the reasons why it is just as important to periodically revisit and adjust estate planning documents as it was to have drafted them in the first place?

Are you aware that your will and one or more trusts might not comprehensively deal with all your expectations regarding inheritances for loved ones?

Special estate planning considerations in the Internet Age

Perhaps you’ve always been a careful and meticulous person, timely attending to all relevant aspects of your personal life in order to enhance predictability and certainty.

In the realm of estate planning, that implies many things. For starters, it means that you thought carefully about drafting a will and then followed through on that intent. To be truly effective as envisioned, this important planning document must be specifically tailored to all important facets of your life. Moreover, it must be void of stale information that no longer makes sense in light of circumstances that changed over time, and in conformance with legal requirements regarding drafting and execution.

For many people in Texas and elsewhere, of course, effective planning goes far beyond a will. It can also entail the careful crafting of one or more trusts, close attention paid to health care matters and long-term care planning and additional issues.

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