Livens & Reed, PLLC

Dallas Estate Planning Law Blog

Living will can be a final gift for loved ones

The majority of Texas residents prefer to make their own decisions. They do not want someone else dictating where they will live, what they will eat or where they will work. Likewise, they do not want someone else dictating what medical care they will receive even if they are unable to verbalize their preference. Yet, without a living will, this is exactly what could happen.

One's life can change in an instant; an illness or serious injury can strike without warning. When this happens, it may not be possible for the individual to express his or her desires regarding medical care. Does the individual want medical professionals to use all methods possible or does he or she want to be allowed to pass without these extremes if there is little or no hope?

When it comes to inheritance, fair does not always mean equal

In a perfect world, parents remain healthy for an extended period of time, siblings pitch in to take care of their parents, all of the siblings get along with each other and each of the siblings is a responsible individual. In reality, this is not always the case. Thus, as Texas parents are deciding on what inheritance to leave for each of their children, there are a variety of issues that need to be considered.

Some parents decide that leaving an equal share to each child is appropriate, and in many cases, it is. This way, each sibling receives approximately the same value of assets and perhaps a similar number of family mementos. Parents often look at this option as a way to keep family harmony and avoid hard feelings among the children.

Why estate planning is necessary regardless of age

Although death is never an easy subject to discuss, it is an inevitable event that will happen to every person. Having a plan in place only makes sense, yet so many Texas residents put it off until it's too late. There's a certain stigma surrounding estate planning, and, to many people, it's something that is only done during retirement age. However, planning for the future should be done sooner rather than later. According to one recent survey, nearly 80 percent of millennials don't even have a will.

A will is a legal document that spells out how an individual wants his or her assets distributed upon death. Millennials who are single may think that they don't need a will because they don't have a family of their own yet, but this couldn't be further from the truth. If a person passes without a will, it's left up to the state to decide how assets are distributed. Dying without a will can be disastrous for loved ones and could result in the loss of valuable assets.

Living trusts offer asset protection and privacy

Protecting ones assets and maintaining privacy are common goals for Texas residents. In some cases, a will is all that is needed to protect assets. However, others have discovered that living trusts offer a greater level of asset protection and the privacy that the individual desires.

Unlike a will, a living trust is not subject to probate. When the individual dies, the trustee can immediately begin taking care of matters under the trust umbrella. Assets can be managed as appropriate which can save both time and money. Additionally, since there is no probate, the terms of the trust do not become public knowledge.

Estate planning is important for Texas residents

Planning for the future is a common task. Texas residents typically plan for vacations, holidays, weekends and even their retirement. Yet, estate planning is one area in which many tend to think that they don't really need a plan. Regardless of income or age, an estate plan is an important part of planning and protecting one's assets.

The first step to accomplish this task is to determine what needs to be included. This can be done by locating important documents and making sure that they are accessible to loved ones when needed. Then, the individual will want to create a listing of all assets with account numbers and item value if appropriate; this should include bank accounts, investments, real estate, treasured jewelry, etc.

Are you sure you understand inheritance rules?

Losing a parent is never easy, and it can be even harder when dealing with complicated legal matters soon after. This is especially true when it comes to inheritances. An inheritance is usually much more than just some extra money or property to look forward to; rather, it is often a sincere and final gift from a dearly missed parent or spouse. Understanding how Texas' inheritance law works can help people make their wishes explicitly clear in their estate plans, and also gives heirs the confidence to assert their rights.

Texas is a common law state, which means that in a marriage, each spouse owns half of the marital property. Each spouse can get rid of his or her share as desired. This means that a spouse might choose to leave his or her share to someone other than a spouse in the event of death. So a parent may choose to leave all of his or her assets to children rather than a surviving spouse.

How credit card debt affects estate administration

It is not uncommon for consumers in Texas and around the nation to struggle with credit card debt. The problem is so widespread that many people carry debt for their entire lives. Some of them may wonder what will happen to this credit card debt at the end of their lives. Will their heirs be responsible for paying it or does it simply disappear? The real answer lies somewhere in between as part of the process of estate administration.

Settling a person's estate after they die is known as probate and it is up to the estate's executor to ensure that happens. The executor is typically someone chosen by the estate owner who will handle all financial matters after the owner has died. The executor has to inform credit card companies that the owner has died in order to determine if there are any outstanding debts that need to be paid. The assets in the estate may end up being used to satisfy this debt. Anything left over generally gets passed on to heirs, but if the amount of debt exceeds the estate, then the excess is typically written off by the lender. 

Proper planning can help you avoid Medicaid mistakes

Many Texas residents will, at some point, require long-term care. How they pay for that care, though, is a question to which several do not have an answer. The simple truth of the matter is, the cost of care is skyrocketing, and most people cannot afford it on their own. This is where Medicaid can prove helpful, but qualifying for it is not as easy as you would think. Numerous individuals end up making mistakes that will hurt their chances of receiving Medicaid approval.

When it comes to Medicaid, there are a few things you do not want to do. You do not want to apply for it too early, but at the same time, you don't want to apply for it too late. You also do not want to suddenly give away all your assets -- the government will take notice and question it. To learn more about these Medicaid mistakes and why you want to avoid them, please take a moment and visit our firm's website.

Advance directives are a vital part of estate planning

Taking steps to provide for and protect loved ones is a noble effort, but who will be there for them if something happens? Texas residents need to consider what will happen to them if they become incapacitated or otherwise unable to make decisions for themselves. By including advance directives into the estate planning process, both the individuals doing the planning and their families can enjoy some peace of mind.

These documents tend to work together to provide certain protections to an individual unable to protect him- or herself, most often due to an injury or illness. A living will allows an individual the chance to outline his or her preferences when it comes to certain medical treatments, especially if the person becomes permanently unconscious or terminally ill. For instance, many people do not want to be resuscitated under certain circumstances. A DNR, as it is called, could be part of a living will, among other things.

Probate is not always easy for an executor

Dealing with disputes and challenges is not always what someone imagines when he or she accepts the duty of being executor of a loved one's Texas estate. Most may imagine the executor as the one who doles out the assets according to the wishes of the deceased. However, along with the many and sometimes complex responsibilities, an executor often takes on considerable risk from the earliest days of the probate process.

Two heads are not always better than one, and a testator who names two or more individuals to be co-executors may be leaving these individuals with trouble. Working as a team is not always possible, such as when one executor lives in another state, when one has few financial skills or when one is not willing to cooperate with the other. However, even when working alone, an executor may face conflict.

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