Month: February 2017

When a “Fair Share” May Not Mean “Equal Share” | Houston Will and Trust Lawyer

As a Houston will and trust lawyer, I can confidently say that estate plans are not one-size-fits-all. Just because most of the people you know have divided their assets evenly between their children, does not mean that is the right decision for you. To some, it may seem unfair to leave unequal amounts or different instructions to children after you die, but it may be necessary in your family and it is important for you to do what is right and best for your heirs.

For example, if you have a child with disabilities, it would make sense to leave them a larger inheritance to ensure that they receive proper care for the rest of their lifetime. Other times, we have seen clients with one financially established child that does not need a large inheritance while another child has not fared as well in life (possibly suffering a divorce, spousal death, or bankruptcy) and requires a little financial “help”. We have also had cases where the client’s child was unable to properly handle their finances, and the parents preferred to set up a trust with specific instructions on how the funds should be distributed to protect this high-risk child from themselves.  While these situations may not be “apples to apples,” it is clear that equal is not always best in such circumstances.

This choice to leave your kids an unequal inheritance is NOT to be confused with cases where parents unintentionally leave more money to one child than the others.  This is a danger and a huge reason for working with a Houston will and trust lawyer to ensure that your estate is properly distributed when you pass away.   For example, if you have only one of your children named as a beneficiary of your life insurance or retirement account, that money will only go that child – even if you have a will saying otherwise.  Worse, that child is not required to share the money with his or her siblings.  This is because life insurance and retirement accounts are distributed outside of probate court and your beneficiary designations are the final authority as to what will happen with such funds.

Here at Hegwood Law Group, we help families stay in complete control of their assets during their lifetime, and help people uniquely divide assets according the family’s needs once they are gone. If you would like the peace of mind knowing that the distribution of your assets is a result of careful consideration and choice, call us today at (281) 218-0880 to schedule your consultation.

Congratulations on starting your medical career! Now go protect your financial future!

Years and years of school, and hours upon hours working through your residency is now paying off. You have officially become an MD here in Texas. Congrats!

With the excitement of your new career, and maybe some anxiety about juggling your home life and work life, you may not be thinking about taking steps to protect your financial future. But, unfortunately your new career puts you at risk of being sued.

The statics are astounding; according to the American Medical Association, 61% of physicians surveyed had been sued by the end of their career. These scary statistics are a very good reason to get your comprehensive asset protection plan in place now before you need it.

Any asset protection attorney in Houston will tell you that a solid plan will allow you to build a wall around your personal money and property so that they cannot be subjected to lawsuits and risks related to your medical practice.

For new doctors and seasoned physicians alike, there are several asset protection strategies that can be employed. For example, you may choose to put all of your assets in irrevocable trusts. By putting your assets in a trust, they are owned by the trust. Since you no longer own the assets, they are not vulnerable to lawsuits. A properly created corporation, such as an PC, LLC or LLP may also be necessary to separate the assets of your “business” from those of your personal use (such as your family home).  Again, a qualified asset protection attorney here in Houston can help you work through all of your options based on your practice needs and desires.

Asset protection is the specialty of the law that addresses many of the concerns physicians have. There are several other strategies that you may choose to employ to organize your financial and business matters to minimize liability and lawsuit risks. There are several technical issues involved so it is always best to work with a qualified and experienced asset protection lawyer.

We invite you to contact our office at (281) 218-0880 and let us know that you are just starting your career and we’ll offer you a free consultation. Together, we’ll explore the strategies available to protect the assets you have now, and any that you will acquire in the future.

IRS Phone Scams on the Rise in Houston

It is tax time again, which means IRS scams are once again on the rise here in Houston and throughout the United States.  Predictably, many of the victims of this scam are the elderly, since they are often the most vulnerable.

Victims are contacted in a variety of ways, but the most common method is to reach them by phone. In the latest IRS scams going around, the scammer will claim to be an IRS agent and either ask for personal information (to steal the senior’s identity) or demand immediate payment over the phone.

If the victim refuses to give the information or provide payment, the caller may become hostile and aggressive and threaten to have the senior arrested. This insidious method works more often than you think, so we encourage you to talk to your elderly loved ones. Here are a few of the red flags you can tell them to watch for:

  • A phony IRS agent will demand immediate However, the real IRS will not call you about taxes you owe without first sending a statement.
  • A scammer will not let you ask questions or request an appeal.
  • The scammer may demand a specific type of payment such as a wire transfer or prepaid debit card.
  • They may ask for personal information such as credit card numbers.
  • The phony IRS agent may threaten to send law enforcement for non-payment.

Please be aware that some of these scammers are very convincing and they may already know some personal information that is online or apart of the public record.  But, if you suspect that the person on the other end of the line is not who they say they are, just hang up and report the call to your local law enforcement authorities.

If you are worried about yourself or elderly loved ones falling victim to these types senior scams, call our Houston elder law attorneys at (281) 218-0880 so that we can help protect your finances.

Should I Pre-Plan and Pre-Pay for my Funeral Expenses in Texas?

Many people come into our Houston estate planning law firm seeking to pre-plan their funeral so that they can relieve their loved ones of the burden of doing so when they are gone.  Because of the growing demand for funeral pre-planning, local funeral homes are also responding by offering different plans that allow people to pre-plan the service they would like, pick out a casket, and even pay for everything in advance. Pre-planning your funeral here in Texas can be a wise idea, but you might want to think twice before pre-paying for your final expenses in advance.

You should be aware that here in Houston the state of Texas, there are rules that often require the funeral home to invest the money paid to them so that it is available when needed. Some funeral homes put that money in a trust fund or buy an insurance policy naming itself as beneficiary.  With that said, if you are considering a pre-paid plan, you should find out the following:

  • If your funeral home goes out of business, will you lose part or all of your investment?
  • If you move out of the area, is there a penalty or complete loss of your plan?
  • If the funeral home invests the money you pay them, do they get to keep the interest or do you?
  • Can you change or cancel your plan?
  • If you sign up for a payment plan and you die before it is complete, does the funeral home have an insurance policy that will cover the remaining costs?

Because pre-paying your funeral here in Texas often comes with risks and a lot of “unknowns”, an alternative (and sometimes better option) is to work with an attorney to create a trust which will allow you to provide detailed instructions about your final wishes and set aside funds to cover the expenses.  This is all set up and controlled by you, removing the funeral home as the middle man, while still providing you with the same same peace of mind that your end-of-life affairs are taken care of.

If you would like help to independently pre-plan and pre-pay your final affairs, including your funeral,  call our Houston estate attorneys at (281) 218-0880 to  set up a consultation. If you would like, we have an expert that can review the funeral home contract that you are currently considering and tell you what other options may be available.