The Livens Law Firm

Dallas Estate Planning Law Blog

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. 

Should beneficiaries know about trusts ahead of time?

Many Texas parents, and even grandparents, often want to make sure that their young loved ones are provided for in the event of their passing. It is common for individuals to use estate planning tools, like trusts, to protect and allocate assets. However, some people may wonder whether those beneficiaries should know that the trusts exist.

Deciding whether to tell a trust beneficiary about the account is a personal decision. Some parties may worry that the kids will not want to work hard to earn money or will not consider the true value of money because they have trust funds waiting on them. Even if the inheritance will not occur for a number of years, some hesitation about making the trusts known may exist.

Those with young children should start estate planning earlier

Most Texas residents and others around the nation don't tend to spend a lot of time dwelling on what life will be like when they are no longer around. For those who do consider this scenario, they may begin the estate planning process, primarily to determine how their assets will be distributed among their loved ones. In addition, most individuals typically start the planning process later in life. While asset distribution is a major component of any estate plan, experts recommend that parents of young children start their preparations much earlier to avoid complications later.

Estate plans should include much more than specifying who should receive property or a share in a business. When minor children are involved, it is imperative to consider how their lives would be affected if their parents were deceased or unable to provide care for them. Certainly, making plans for their living arrangements would be of utmost importance.

Things to consider when making decisions about long-term care

When loved ones become unable to continue caring for themselves, many Texas residents and others around the country are faced with the decision of determining how that care will be provided. This process can often spur caregivers to consider their own future needs. In fact, a person should consider their own long-term care while still able to make competent decisions.

There are so many options available now for those who can no longer live on their own, whether due to physical limitations or failing mental capacities. Some individuals may need around-the-clock skilled nursing care, while others could thrive in an assisted living environment. Many families also make the use of in-home health care or as-needed adult day care services. To assist families in their decision-making process, the National Institutes of Health has provided some suggestions.

Estate planning should move beyond only development of will

Statistics show that over half of Texas residents and others around the country do not have a will. Most experts would assert that a will is typically the most basic document developed when someone begins the estate planning process. However, while an important piece to a comprehensive plan, advisers warn that there are potential concerns to having only a will.

One possible concern to some individuals is the issue of privacy. Wills are public records once they are filed with the court and are thus accessible to everyone. However, if a person developed a living trust instead, the documents would remain private. Trusts can also help someone avoid probate.

House set to consider Medicaid planning bill

Long-term care planning is a complex issue for Texas residents and others around the nation. As lifespans continue to increase, more senior citizens wrestle with the questions of how and where they will receive care should they become unable to look after themselves. A bill before the nation's House of Representatives could affect the practice of Medicaid planning as part of long-term care options.

Currently, an individual must go through a rigorous application process to meet Medicaid eligibility requirements from both the state and federal level. If approved, the person can receive nursing home care in a skilled care facility. "Spousal impoverishment" rules must also be applied when determining eligibility for Medicaid. This bipartisan bill, scheduled for a vote in mid-January, would protect a portion of the assets and income for the spouse of a person receiving Medicaid care through home and community programs.

Divorce requires changes to estate planning documents

There are numerous issues to address when a couple from Texas or anywhere around the country goes through a divorce. Issues regarding child custody and property division are typically at the forefront of the parting spouses' minds. It is likely that estate planning may not be a topic that automatically arises during divorce proceedings. Yet, the documents included in a person's estate plan should be carefully considered.

When a divorce or other significant life event occurs, it is vital to review one's estate plans. State laws regarding ex-spouses vary widely, so a thorough examination of all documents is essential to ensure that the correct people are named as representatives or beneficiaries. In some situations, such as when a couple has children together, it may be appropriate for former spouses to continue as guardians or beneficiaries. However, most other types of accounts likely require a change to new designees.

Boomers consider long-term care for themselves, loved ones

Many Texas residents and others around the nation are part of the so-called sandwich generation. That is, they not only have the responsibility of raising their children, they have also assumed responsibility of caring for their aging parents. Statistics show that over half of the people in the baby boomer generation are in this situation. While some of those individuals may have considered the costs of long-term care for themselves, most have not thought about the financial impact of providing this care for others.

As the average age of life expectancy increases, consumers have to take this into consideration as they plan for their retirement years -- for themselves as well as loved ones. It is impossible to know with certainty what one's condition will be in the future. Many senior citizens live active lives, with few physical or cognitive limitations. However, at some point, many others require some level of assistance to provide routine care.

Estate planning is important process to consider

Most individuals in Texas or anywhere around the nation avoid thinking about a time in the future when they are no longer around or are unable to take care of themselves. Yet, that is a topic that should be addressed when someone is still able to make decisions about how things should be handled when that time comes. It is important to discuss the issues as part of one's estate planning process.

Having a will is typically the first -- or only -- document in the majority of estate plans. Yet, the AARP cites that almost 60 percent of people in the nation do not even have a will. Experts recommend going beyond drafting a will to include directives on what should be done should a person die or become incapacitated.

Estate planning should be an ongoing process

Statistics from the AARP reveal that almost 60 percent of people from Texas and elsewhere around the country do not have a will in place. Given a will's importance, the omission of one is often considered to be the biggest mistake made in estate planning. However, having just a will alone is likely not enough. It is imperative to routinely review and revise estate planning documents at several crucial times.

Experts suggest making updates at several crucial times. Certainly, financial advisers recommend a review of one's estate plan if it was developed over three years ago. Tax laws or other regulations may have changed that could have a significant impact on a plan. Since each state has unique estate planning laws, a move to another state would also warrant a review. This is particularly important if some of the assets, such as property, remain in the former state after the move.

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