Livens & Reed, PLLC

Dallas Estate Planning Law Blog

Estate planning is an important process for all

Thinking about the future when one will no longer be around is not often a pleasant activity for most Texas residents. However, planning for the future is necessary if one wants to ensure that family members are protected. It is critical that those decisions can be made while a person still has the capacity to do so. Yet, many individuals avoid the estate planning process, even while recognizing its importance. Experts want to put some common misconceptions aside to emphasize the need to have a comprehensive estate plan.

Often, people don't see the need for an estate plan because they are not wealthy. However, regardless of the amount of savings or size of the property, it is likely that someone would want to pass that along to a specific person. Having a will that designates who should receive one's assets is a basic component of an estate plan. The will can also contain information about guardianship for minor children or specify preferences about final wishes.

Avoid some common misconceptions about estate planning

Texas residents often discuss their retirement years with financial planners, frequently going to great lengths to assure that they will have sufficient income streams when they are no longer working. Some also have wills in place that name beneficiaries who will receive assets after their passing. While these are important steps to take while thinking about long-terms needs, many individuals do not fully plan for all aspects of their future. Experts report that comprehensive estate planning is often overlooked or considered unnecessary.

Financial advisers stress that estate planning should be deemed as simply planning for life. Estate plans include directives about how things should be handled after one's death, yet they can also address many more important issues. It is important to consider questions regarding long-term care or end-of-life decisions before one may become incapacitated. However, some people do not see the need for estate planning for various reasons.

Ask parents about long-term care needs, other retirement plans

Many Texas residents and others across the country are blessed to still have their parents involved in their lives. However, as parents age, a host of questions arise regarding their futures. Some individuals may ask their parents about their retirement funds, wills or long-term care plans out of concern. However, those same individuals may not have considered that the answers to those questions may have a significant impact on their lives as well.

Unfortunately, there are many financial concerns that come with getting older, such as ensuring that one has sufficient income to pay for everyday expenses. Then, it is critical to have the appropriate documents in place to make sure that a person's estate will be distributed as desired. One component that many seniors overlook is the potential need for long-term care. Failing to handle any of these issues can have a major effect on family members. Therefore, no matter how uncomfortable a discussion may be, it is imperative to talk about these subjects with aging parents while still possible.

Estate planning: Name the right people to safeguard your interest

As Texas residents make plans for their futures, they often have to ponder some difficult scenarios. They have to think about the possibility of no longer being able to take care of themselves independently or to make competent decisions on their own. Determining who will provide that care and make those decisions is a major component of the estate planning process. Certainly, everyone would like to think they would choose someone who would look out for their best interests. Unfortunately, that is not the case in every circumstance.

Recently, a financial adviser shared the story of a woman who was devastated to learn that a person she had trusted had depleted her savings. The woman had granted her son Power of Attorney in the past. This gave her son the authority to handle her finances should illness or injury prevent the woman from taking care of things herself. The woman was preparing to move into an assisted living facility when she discovered that more than $350,000 was gone from her savings account.

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.

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