Livens & Reed, PLLC

Dallas Estate Planning Law Blog

Does a childless couple need a will?

Many people in Texas have a certain idea of what a family looks like. However, the reality is that families come in all shapes and sizes. For example, many couples, for a variety of different reasons, do not have children. Because there is a misconception that a will is only necessary to ensure that children are provided for in the event their parents are no longer able to provide such care, many childless couples may not fully understand the implications of a lack of an estate plan.

Regardless of whether there are children involved, a will can help determine how a person's assets are divided. Those without children often want their friends, favorite charities or alma mater to benefit. Without a will in place, however, the state in which the couple lives will make a determination regarding the division of assets.

Including pets as part of the estate planning process

Families in Texas and across the country can have a variety of different compositions. In fact, some families may count more than humans as members of their family. For many, the family pet is a member of the family whose owners want to ensure is protected even when they are not around to do so. Fortunately, there are measures that can be taken in the estate planning process that can help ensure this.

It is often beneficial to have a conversation with friends or family members to help determine who would be willing to take care of the pet in case the person becomes incapacitated or passes away unexpectedly. Unfortunately, animal shelters are accustomed to receiving pets from owners who can no longer provide appropriate care. Fortunately, there are steps that can help ensure an animal receives appropriate care.

Is it necessary to have a will if there is a trust?

Many people in Texas go to great lengths to make plans for the future, even including planning for a future in which they may no longer be present. Often, this includes the creation of important estate planning documents, including a trust. However, some people may be confused about whether they need a will in addition to a trust. 

Trusts are powerful tools that give those who create them a great deal of control over their estate. They do have testamentary benefits, meaning that they can transfer the decedent's assets upon his or her death. However, they can only do so for assets that have been transferred into the trust.

What is elder law?

Depending on a person's age and physical and financial well-being, his or her legal needs will likely differ. This is especially true for the elderly in Texas and across the country. As such, there are attorneys who specialize in elder law, ensuring that the needs of the elderly and their families are adequately met.

One important aspect of elder law deals with the appointment of a guardian or conservator. Guardianships and conservatorships often impact the elderly because they are more often affected by incapacitation due to their age or illness. A court will make a determination whether a guardian is needed, and the person named will be in charge of making medical and other care-related decisions. A conservator serves a similar role but handles his or her ward's financial concerns. 

Absence of a will can create family conflict

No family is perfect. While all have their disagreements, there are some siblings who simply cannot get along. Unfortunately, this contention can continue -- perhaps even intensify -- after a parent passes away. However, having a will in place in Texas -- and giving the appropriate people access to it -- can often help reduce confusion and arguments between siblings following the death of a parent.

Unfortunately, uncertainties about a will has one woman in another state questioning the decisions made my her sister following their mother's death. The woman says that her sister -- who was their mother's caretaker -- claims there is no will, arguing that their mother did not want her to have any inheritance. In the meantime, the woman claims that her sister is selling her mother's belongings.

Role of power of attorney in elder law

Planning for financial security later in life is important, and many people in Texas understand this. However, people do not always anticipate that there may come a point when they might not be able to handle their own finances. Financial powers of attorney can help address this issue and are an important part of elder law. However, having a power of attorney for a loved one can be difficult, so here are a few things to keep in mind.

When managing a relative's finances with a financial power of attorney, it is possible that other family members might second-guess decisions. Disputes between family members can even lead to audits of that person's activities. Even though most people who hold powers of attorney do their very best to fulfill loved ones' wishes and needs, audits leave these individuals in vulnerable situations.

Who pays the debts of an estate when a loved one dies?

These days, few people across the country pass away without leaving debts behind. The creditors owed those debts will attempt to collect them regardless of the passing of a loved one. The question many Texas residents may have is who is responsible for the amounts owed -- the estate or family members.

Many creditors will begin making calls to next of kin demanding payment. Those relatives should know that in most cases, they are not legally responsible for the debts of a deceased loved one regardless of what a creditor or debt collector may say. Even so, there are instances in which a family member may end up responsible for a decedent's debts.

It's never too early to consider how to pay for long-term care

Many Texas residents and others around the nation often worry about the time in their lives when they are no longer able to care for themselves. With studies showing that most senior adults over the age of 65 will need assistance to eat, dress or take a bath, these concerns are warranted. Long-term care costs can be exorbitant, and it is recommended by financial experts that everyone should have a plan to address this future need.

The Department of Health and Human Services Administration on Aging reports that, in many cases, long-term care is provided by family members with no cost associated. However, over 33% of senior adults will eventually live in a skilled nursing facility with an estimated price tag of more than $100,000 a year. Home healthcare services, which cost over $50,000 annually, are sought by about 40% of older adults.

The executor can prepare for probate before the loved one passes

Closing a Texas estate can come with many complications. The executor of the estate will have a number of responsibilities to handle during this time, and without the right information, this person could face more difficulties in an already trying process. Fortunately, if an individual knows that he or she will take on this role, preparing before the loved one's passing may be useful.

One of the most important steps to take is to ensure that the executor knows where the important estate-related documents are. The important documents can include the original will, property titles and deeds, and insurance policies, among other documents. The executor and the estate owner can work to determine a secure place to keep the documents until they need to be accessed.

Estate planning is essential after Alzheimer's diagnosis

Alzheimer's disease is a progressive, debilitating form of dementia that affects millions of people in Texas and the rest of the country. It is a horrific diagnosis to hear about, for the patient as well as family members. While certainly one's attention should be given to treatment of the disease and how to keep it at bay, a person's plans for care and finances also need to be addressed. Experts highly recommend going through the estate planning process to formalize these directives while able to do so.

As Alzheimer's progresses, the ability to make competent decisions decreases as memory loss occurs. Therefore, it would be wise to thoroughly discuss one's plans and wishes with family members and involve them in the decision-making process. This would be a good time to review any existing legal or financial documentation and make appropriate changes, taking the disease into account.

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