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Houston Estate Planning Law Blog

Estate administration: Plan now, when you can see clearly ahead

“[B]etter late than never” is an adage that does not apply to estate planning.

So notes a writer in an estate planning article from Forbes that focuses on the essentials and provides some meaningful tips for people who have thought about but not implemented a solid plan to provide for their future.

In millions of cases across the country, that future of course encompasses loved ones. Perhaps they are contemplated in an asset-transfer scheme. Maybe one or more family members have special needs that need to be purposefully addressed through specific estate planning instruments. Perhaps there are children from multiple marriages that must be considered.

When should you update your Will?

One of the basic documents that can be crucial in estate planning is a will. Wills allow a person to express his or wishes for how property and other assets should be distributed after death. 

Preparing your will can be difficult; it may be uncomfortable to make these types of plans and it can be a complicated legal process that ends up overwhelming people. However, those who have a will in place know that it can be a great source of relief to know that your wishes are expressed and your loved ones will be taken care of. However, updating your will can be essential in making sure the terms and allowances stay relevant over time. 

Boomer focus: taking action on long-term care planning

The baby-boomer generation is filled with hard-working planners. But they often neglect one important aspect of their estate and retirement planning: long-term care.

With the coupling of today's spiraling health care costs and an aging demographic group that is seeing high numbers of its members living to truly advanced ages, money pegged for health care is truly a bigger issue for millions than it has ever been before.

Special needs trust: a potentially invaluable legal instrument

The parameters of a so-called "special needs" trust are somewhat implicit in its terms. That is, this highly specialized estate planning instrument helps provide for the singular needs of a family member who needs some assistance.

That need for assistance is most commonly seen in the realm of finances or daily care, with the beneficiary of a special needs trust most often requiring help with money matters or assistance targeted toward alleviating the effects of a limiting disability.

Of course, that can certainly be promoted through a will inheritance, direct cash transfers and other forms of wealth distribution, but families who are acting out of love often employ their hearts more than their heads.

Is acceptance into the Medicaid program guaranteed?

Many Americans, including some Texas residents, are a bit unclear on the details of government programs centrally involved in the administration of long-term care for elderly persons.

For example, it is certainly not uncommon for people in many instances to lack a full understanding of the differences between the Medicare and Medicaid programs that assist eligible Americans in various ways.

Some people believe, for example, that the Medicare program is the government initiative most closely tied to nursing home care.

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.

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