Livens & Reed, PLLC

Dallas Estate Planning Law Blog

Who can initiate probate litigation to contest a will?

Not everyone will be satisfied with how a Texas resident decides to distribute his or her estate upon death. Some will feel as though they should have received something or received more, but not everyone can initiate probate litigation, and certainly not simply because someone did not receive the inheritance he or she expected. Contesting a will can only occur under certain circumstances and by certain people.

Like elsewhere in the country, Texas residents may change their wills when they want to as long as they have the mental capacity to do so. If someone named in the prior will discovers that he or she was not named in the current will, or the will's creator reduced an inheritance outlined in the prior will, that person could contest the will so long as there is a valid legal reason to do so. Simply changing or eliminating an inheritance does not automatically provide a reason to believe the will is invalid.

How will the new tax laws affect estate planning?

April 15 is likely not a favorite day of the year for most Texas residents and others across the nation. Many taxpayers delay filing their federal income tax returns until the very last possible minute. This year in particular, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act has presented numerous changes to which those filing must adhere. The new regulations have implications for individuals as well as corporations and estates. Experts have weighed in on how the new tax law has affected the estate planning process.

In the past, many estate plans included documents that were full of detailed calculations regarding asset distribution. These details were listed to take advantage of every pertinent tax benefit. However, under the new law, these types of calculations are no longer applicable. Therefore, it is important for those developing an estate plan to consider tax implications throughout every step of the process.

What happens if someone doesn't want to accept an inheritance?

When most Texas residents and others around the country learn that they have been included in someone's will, they begin dreaming of what they will receive one day. It may be something of monetary value, such as property, cash or a business interest. On the other hand, items of sentimental value can be just as meaningful. However, what happens if a person is not happy about receiving an inheritance?

This question was recently posed to a financial expert because of a family situation. An individual was named as the executor of the parents' estate. Unfortunately, this person had experienced a difficult childhood and truly did not want to accept anything from the estate nor be its executor. The person was able to take comfort in the knowledge that neither the job as executor or any part of the estate has to be accepted.

Study shows that few Baby Boomers have long-term care plans

Many in the Baby Boomer generation in Texas and elsewhere around the country are getting ready for their retirement years. With retirement planning, some individuals have also made steps to plan for how life will carry on after they pass away. They put funeral plans in place or make arrangements to care for loved ones after they are gone. However, a recent study showed that these consumers have not given the same consideration to what might happen to them if they live a very long life. Reports show that fewer people have long-term care plans in place.

A study conducted by a major insurance and retirement company showed that less than one third of those surveyed had done any long-term care planning. By contrast, over 80 percent had made arrangements for their funerals. The survey was conducted with individuals aged 54 to 72 in the middle-income range. Experts were concerned about the lack of long-term care planning since that expense could quickly deplete someone's retirement funds.

Estate planning important to everyone

At a certain stage in their lives, Texas residents and others around the country begin thinking of their retirement years and even to the time when they will no longer be around. If they begin the estate planning process, decisions have to be made about who will inherit their assets or, perhaps, who will care for them when they become unable to do so themselves. For individuals who are married or have children, these answers may be more apparent. However, there are many people who are unmarried with no children. Experts contend that having an estate plan is no less crucial for this demographic group.

It is crucial to name a power of attorney as well as someone who will make decisions regarding health care should someone become incapacitated. Knowing a familiar person will deal with issues regarding finances and medical decisions is more comforting than having the court appoint someone. Another important step in the estate plan is creating a will. Advisers recommend that a executor be named to handle the affairs of the estate.

Financial experts stress importance of long-term care plans

Many residents in Texas and elsewhere around the county have had to care for their aging parents, whether in-home or at some type of facility. They have seen first-hand the difficulties in securing proper long-term care for loved ones as well as the exorbitant costs associated with it. Yet those same individuals quite often have not made long-term plans for themselves, according to financial experts. However, those experts strongly suggest putting a plan in place for the future should this type of care become needed.

As life expectancies increase, the likelihood that long-term care will be needed one day also rises. It is certainly more advantageous to make decisions about one's future care while still able to do so. Creating a plan will ensure that a person's health care needs and daily routine requirements are met. Unfortunately, some people either ignore the possibility that they may need long-term care or it will be paid for by Medicare or other family members.

Why is estate planning important?

Most Texas residents and others around the country give little thought to how life will be when they are no longer around. This is particularly true of younger generations, who likely have not started families or have not yet amassed much in assets. However, financial experts believe that it is never too early to start the estate planning process, regardless of age or amount of assets.

One critical reason for developing an estate plan is to address how things will be managed should a person become unable to make decisions independently. It would comforting to know a person's affairs could be handled as desired in the event he or she becomes incapacitated in some way. Planning ahead affords the opportunity to name someone to act on one's behalf.

Younger generation expects to receive inheritance from parents

Those Texas residents who still have their parents or grandparents in their lives likely count themselves as fortunate. For many, having the older generations of family members still with them is priceless. Of course, it is natural to assume that individuals will receive an inheritance after the passing of their parents and grandparents. In fact, a recent study by a national investor management group revealed that a large number of young people expect these inheritances. However, expectation and reality do not always coincide.

Research showed that only 40 percent of parents had plans to pass anything along to their children after their deaths. This is in stark contrast to the 70 percent of children who expect to inherit something from their parents. Those analyzing this information have speculated that more people today may feel as though they deserve an inheritance, despite the desires of the older family members.

What documents are essential for estate planning?

When musical icon Aretha Franklin passed away in 2018, many reports focused on the fact that she did not have a will in place. Other notable entertainers, such as Prince and Kurt Cobain, were in the same situation, despite having all the means necessary to go through a comprehensive estate planning process. Most Texas residents are not dealing with estates of the same magnitude as these celebrities. However, it is still of utmost importance to address financial issues to avoid potential problems for one's family members.

If someone dies without a will, the probate process determines how an estate will be divided. Decisions would also be made about who should care for any minor children. Most individuals would not want to leave these types of decisions up to a court. Therefore, it is critical to include several documents in an estate plan.

Taking good care of the kids includes solid estate planning

Few Texas parents want to think about how their kids would fare if they lost both parents in an unexpected tragedy. In fact, parents spend so much time organizing and planning every aspect of their beloved children's lives that they often fail to give any consideration to what might happen to those plans in the event of such a loss. Having a solid estate planning package in place is an excellent way to protect against the worst-case scenario. Getting the job done also delivers a sense of relief and satisfaction, which is well worth the time and effort it takes to put one's intentions into writing. 

Parents should begin by deciding who would raise their kids in the case of a tragic loss. While it's tempting to just assume that someone would step in and take over, the only way to know for sure is to sit down with the intended guardians and talk about the matter in detail. It's not a bad idea to designate one or more back-up guardians in the event that the first choice is unable or unwilling to assume those duties if the need should arise. 


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