Livens & Reed, PLLC

Dallas Estate Planning Law Blog

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.

An estate full of clutter may require careful cleaning

Perhaps one of the most emotional and tedious jobs a Texas family has is cleaning out a home after a loved one dies. This may be especially true if the loved one was sentimental and held on to countless trinkets and other memorabilia. While it may be tempting to bag it all up and toss it on the curb for trash or recycling, handling the situation in this manner may create serious problems, especially for the estate executor or personal representative.

The fact is that among the piles or drawers full of seemingly worthless stuff, the deceased may have stashed valuable items that legally belong to the heirs of the estate. Instead of clearing it out in one fell swoop, it may be wiser to take the time to organize the contents of the home and sort through the items carefully. While this may be time consuming, many people are careless with money, deeds and other documents, and haste increases the risk of disposing of vital or valuable objects.

Transfer on death accounts can be useful in estate planning

National surveys show that over 55% of adults in Texas and elsewhere around the country do not have a will or trust in place. Without these documents, many families find themselves in probate court after the loss of a loved one. Furthermore, having a will alone does not necessarily keep family members out of probate. This could lead to unwanted conflict and potential legal battles. However, with thoughtful estate planning and the establishment of certain accounts, this strife can likely be avoided.

A transfer on death (TOD) account can be a useful part of an estate plan that can help families stay out of probate court. This account allows someone to transfer assets to a designated beneficiary after his or her death. In fact, more than one beneficiary can be named to an account that allows assets to be divided as desired. Like assets named in a will, no beneficiaries named in a TOD account have any access or control of them until the owner dies.

Living trusts can help achieve many estate planning goals

The many tools available for estate planning can help ensure that each Texas resident has the opportunity to create his or her plan according to specific wishes. Of course, these many tools can also seem overwhelming to individuals who may not know much about estate planning. Fortunately, information is available on the uses of planning options, including living trusts.

It is common for people to think that trusts are only used by the super rich. However, that does not have to be the case. Trusts could benefit anyone in various ways and help achieve specific planning goals. For instance, some people may want to control how beneficiaries use funds or when they are able to obtain those funds, and creating trusts with these stipulations could provide control even after the person has passed.

Estate planning can now provide for a digital legacy

Most people are familiar with popular components of a contemporary estate plan in Texas. These components can include wills, trusts, medical directives and power of attorney documents. In addition to safeguarding our physical and financial assets through estate planning, there is now a need to provide protection and dispensation instructions for one's digital assets. This has been taken up under measures such as the Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act (RUFADAA) which has been passed by many states, including Texas.

This law allows one to designate a person as the legal heir to one's digital assets. These assets could include phones, computers and online social media accounts and even bitcoin accounts. Simply entrusting passwords and account information to an individual could leave that person open to charges of hacking or worse. Digital authorization can be granted through a will or a trust. The advantage to a trust is that it can also provide for access in the event of one's physical or mental incapacity.

Important to plan for cost of long-term care now

According to a report from the Department of Health and Human Services' Administration on Aging, adults from Texas and all across the country over the age of 65 will eventually need some assistance with basic life tasks. On average, women will need help for over 3.5 years with bathing, dressing and eating, while men will require just over two years of assistance. While this need for long-term care is evident, the cost of the care is prohibitive for many.

Studies show that many senior adults depend on relatives to provide them care. However, conditions often require them to live in a skilled nursing facility or seek in-home care. The cost of each of these options can quickly mount and deplete what little savings some retirees have amassed.

Estate planning carries particular weight for single parents

Many Texas residents and others around the nation understand the importance of planning for the future when they will no longer be around to care for their families. While not a pleasant topic, estate planning is a necessary process to ensure that one's loved ones will be cared for properly. If a family has children, they often become the major focus of most decisions within a plan. This becomes even more critical if the person creating the estate plan is a single parent.

For example, a child would not typically have to move if one of his or her married parents were to pass away. However, after the death of a single parent, the minor children would have to likely leave their current home and possibly, even their city of residence. Therefore, the decisions made while estate planning carry much weight.

Franklin's handwritten wills raise new inheritance questions

The news in Texas and around the nation was full of stories regarding how Aretha Franklin died without a will in August of 2018. Many questions involving inheritance issues arose since there was no estate plan in place, specifying who should receive her assets. Recently, three handwritten wills were found at Franklin's home, creating even more confusion about the Queen of Soul's legacy.

A total of 16 pages, full of notes and edits, were discovered. These documents would not even be considered as wills in several states. However, Ms. Franklin's home state, as well as Texas, accepts holographic, or handwritten, wills in some cases. However, there are guidelines that must be met in order for such wills to qualify.

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.

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