Livens & Reed, PLLC

Dallas Estate Planning Law Blog

Stepparent handling estate administration may concern children

When a loved one does not make end-of-life preparations, it is easy for issues to come about among the surviving family. Some family members may realize that there is a chance for problems before their loved one's passing, but due to mental decline or other issues, the person is unable to create an estate plan. As a result, Texas families may be left to find the best way to handle estate administration and any resulting conflict.

In many cases, stepparents can cause biological children to have concerns over their biological parent's estate. If the biological parent did not create an estate plan, those concerns may be even greater. In some cases, a stepparent may claim everything relating to the estate and tell the children that they get nothing. However, that is not how the process has to play out.

Long-term care planning should include durable power of attorney

Making decisions for oneself is important for one's own sense of personal autonomy, but unfortunately it is not always possible. This is why long-term care plans should always include durable powers of attorney. Although some people in Texas might feel hesitant about giving giving others the right to make medical decisions, failing to do so could lead to undesirable outcomes.

A durable power of attorney names one designated person for communicating medical wishes and making decisions on another's behalf. This does not mean that the designated person can make those decisions whenever he or she wishes. The power of attorney only applies when the individual who created it is incapacitated or otherwise unable to communicate his or her medical preferences.

New law could affect IRA inheritance

Most people in Texas and across the country spend a large part of their lives planning for their retirement. In an ideal situation, a person has more than enough to provide support throughout his or her retirement with perhaps even some leftover to leave to beneficiaries. However, some professionals warn that the recently passed Secure Act could have a significant impact on those anticipating an IRA inheritance.

Before the law went into effect, beneficiaries who were not married to the owner of the IRA had the option of withdrawing only the required minimum distribution, calculated based on several factors, such as the recipient's age, which reduced the tax burden. In some cases, a benefactor might use a trust to pass the IRA to beneficiaries and including a provision that the latter are only allowed to withdraw the required minimum distribution to protect the asset from being wasted. However, there are no required minimum distributions under the new law for inherited IRAs, and other forms of retirement accounts, until 10 years have passed and the beneficiary is required to withdraw all funds and close the account.

Medicaid planning may help with future care costs

Though most people hope that they will maintain their good health and senses until their dying day, that is not what happens for a significant number of individuals in Texas and across the country. Needing care in a nursing facility is common for people over the age of 65, and though necessary, it can be costly. As a result, some people look into Medicaid planning early in hopes of obtaining assistance.

Medicaid can certainly be helpful to individuals who qualify. However, meeting the qualifications is not always easy. If individuals have too much in assets, they may not be able to obtain benefits from this program. This is the reason that many people choose to plan ahead. Spending down assets could help certain parties have a better chance of qualifying for benefits.

Help creating power of attorney, advance directives in Texas

When most people in Texas think of estate planning, the first thing that often comes to mind is tools such as wills and living trusts. While these documents are important parts of a plan, there are others that can also help provide families peace of mind should the unthinkable happen. Fortunately, the attorneys at Livens & Reed, PLLC have the necessary skills and experience to guide the creation of such documents, including granting someone power of attorney.

A will can provide instructions on how a person wants his or her estate divided and who will provide care for minor children. However, it does not typically provide for a contingency in which the creator is still alive but unable to make decisions for him or herself. Fortunately, a person is able to name someone to serve as power of attorney who can then make decisions regarding medical and finances of the person granting the POA.

When does a will need to be updated?

For many people in Texas, the process of planning for a future in which they are not present is a difficult task to undertake. However, creating a will and other estate planning documents often provides peace of mind to many people, because with it comes the knowledge that they have expressed their wishes and taken action to provide for minor children. But a will is not a static document and needs to be updated periodically.

Many people who have gone through the creation process often wonder how often it is necessary to review such documents. Many professionals recommend reviewing a will and other documents anytime there is a significant change in family status or assets. This includes a marriage, birth, divorce or death as well as making a large purchase (such as a home) or selling a significant asset.

Ensuring an estate plan fully meets the creator's needs

It is usual for people in Texas to plan for the future. Often, these plans consider important financial considerations that are part of an estate plan. While there are a variety of different options and tools available to those completing such planning, there are ways for people to create a plan that is enforceable and fully represents their wishes and goals.

The first way -- and perhaps the most important -- is to ensure that there is an adequate plan in place. While some people may have a general idea of what they want to happen to their estate following their death, distribution will follow state law if there is not an enforceable plan. Having an experienced professional participate in the creation of such a plan is often critical to ensuring its enforceability.

What is a trust?

To many people in Texas, the estate planning process is based solely on the creation of a will. While this document has an important job, such as naming a guardian for a deceased child, there are other tools that can be beneficial. For example, many people decide that a trust is a good option for managing their assets and providing protection for them.

A trust is an agreement between the trustor (person whose assets are being addressed), trustee (the party responsible for managing the assets) and the beneficiaries. Once created, assets must be placed into the trust. Unlike a will, a trust can help avoid the lengthy and public probate process.

An experienced attorney can help prevent estate planning mistakes

There are many people in Texas who spend a great deal of time planning for their future. As such, they carefully consider how they want their estate divided upon their death and create a plan that explains their wishes. Unfortunately, certain mistakes during the estate planning process can ultimately mean that those wishes are misunderstood or susceptible to a legal challenge.

For example, it may be tempting for some people to undertake the creation of certain aspects of the plan on their own without legal guidance. In fact, the handwritten will of Aretha Franklin was discovered after her death. If authenticated, her estate will go through the probate process. However, as it was unwitnessed, the court could determine that it is not legally binding.

What is elder law?

People in Texas often want to plan for the future, including through estate planning. While in the past, this often primarily included the creation of wills and trusts to determine the distribution of assets upon their death, that goal has shifted so that it now also encompasses matters of planning for long-term care. This includes issues related to elder law.

As people in the United States begin to live longer, their financial planning for the future has also shifted toward ensuring that they have the medical care necessary. In the 1990s, the field of elder law emerged in response to this need. As part of this, people seek help understanding the complex rules of Medicaid as it applies to the costs of nursing home care.

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