Month: September 2017

Houston Business Planning Lawyer: What Happens to Your Sole Proprietorship When You Die?

Sole proprietorships are a common type of business. For sole proprietorships, the business owner and the business are the same legal entity. The business owner of a sole proprietorship is personally responsible for any debts the business incurs. However, unlike a corporation, the sole proprietorship belongs to one person and is legally a business indistinct from that one person. Once the sole proprietor dies, the business does too, creating estate planning problems.

Problem: The business’s assets go into your estate. Your business is legally no different from you, even if you have a tax ID, even if your business has a storefront, employees, and assets that are clearly not personal, like manufacturing equipment. If you die with or without a will, the assets that you use in your business could go into Harris County probate for weeks, months, or years.

Problem: Your business creditors can go after any part of your estate. If you owe money to any entity, they will get first crack at your estate. Say you have a bad year. You are $30,000 in debt, and your business doesn’t have enough assets to cover the costs. If you die with this debt, almost anything in your estate may be liquidated to cover business debts, including your house if you are single.

Problem: If my heirs run the business, they may run into legal problems. Your heirs of your estate might be vulnerable to lawsuits if they try to wind down the business themselves. In Texas, your business dies with you, and there may be legal problems if your heirs run the business as if you had not died.

Solution: Create a trust to wind down the business. A Houston will lawyer can help you create a trust for your sole proprietorship so that upon your death, the trust gets the assets, and the administrator of the trust can wind down your business and have any remaining assets go to your estate. This may or not be available, depending on the type of business, so check with a Houston estate lawyer first.

Solution: Create a buy-sell agreement affective upon your death. In Texas, you may be able to create a buy-sell agreement with someone, like your adult children, to go into effect upon your death. Your estate lawyer can help you create this agreement. Essentially, you sell your business to someone, but you continue to run it in good faith. When you die, the sale is complete. They can stay in business, or they can shutter it.

Solution: Incorporate your business and will your shares to your heirs. A sure way to make sure your heirs get your business without losing an inheritance from your personal estate is to incorporate before you die. This makes your business a distinct legal entity, and you can own some or all the interest in the corporation. Your Houston estate lawyer can draft your will so you portion the corporation amongst your heirs as you see fit.

If you have questions about how to best plan for the eventual succession of your business, feel free to contact our Houston estate attorneys to schedule a consultation.

 

Houston Probate Lawyers Answer, “Will My Inheritance Be Taxed?”

One of the most common questions our Houston Probate Lawyers get from people who just inherited assets is whether or not they owe taxes on the money or property they just received. It is an excellent question, but the answer is a bit more complicated than yes or no. If you have just inherited from an estate, the answers below will help guide you in the right direction.

Income Taxes

The IRS requires everyone to claim every source of income when they file a tax return, however the IRS does not consider inheritance to be part of your income, so you likely do not have to claim it on your tax return.

Capital Gains Tax

You have to pay capital gains taxes anytime a gain is achieved. For example, if you buy a house to renovate and resell, you would have to pay capital gains taxes on the money you made above the original purchase price if it is not your homestead.

If you inherit an asset and the value of that asset increases, that asset would be subject to capital gains taxes from the date your inherited the asset, not when it was originally purchased.  This is called a step up in basis.

Death Taxes

There is a federal estate tax that applies to any asset transfer that is valued over $5.49 million (2017). However a spouse can transfer unlimited assets to their spouse without having to pay the federal estate tax. Some states also have an inheritance taxes, but Texas does not.

Hopefully, you now have a better idea about how your estate will be taxed when it is handed down to your heirs. If you anticipate that your estate is structured in a way that will require your heirs to pay substantial taxes, it may be in your best interest to speak to a qualified estate lawyer. There are many legal ways to reduce the tax burden on your estate. To set up a consultation, call the Hegwood Law Group at (281) 218-0880.

Houston Estate Lawyer: How to Plan for Religious Needs

When meeting with a Houston estate lawyer, people discuss their financial, legal, and personal concerns and desires, but they often forget to discuss their religious or spiritual desires. If religion is a significant part of your life, it only makes sense to incorporate it into your estate plan.

Where to Find the Information You Need

If you would like to ensure your estate plan upholds your religious preferences, you will first want to provide that information to your Houston estate lawyer. Further, if you have specific desires related to giving to your religious organization, share this with your estate planning lawyer, as well. Setting out your goals in advance will help your attorney incorporate them into the planning process.

Most Common Estate Planning Issues Affected by Religion

Once your lawyer understands you goals, he or she will point out several areas of your plan that may be impacted by your religious beliefs. Here are a few to consider:

Final Arrangements

Burial and funeral arrangements are the most obvious aspect of estate planning that would be influenced by religion. Many religions require certain types of ceremonies or burial locations. To ensure that your wishes are followed, it’s important to include them in your estate plan.

Health and End-of-Life Decisions

Living Wills and Healthcare Directives are also influenced by religious beliefs. Some religions have official positions on life support, blood transfusions, etc. If you want your end-of-life care to align with your religious beliefs, be sure your wishes are properly laid out in your legal documents.

Distribution of Assets

Some religions require you to distribute your estate a certain way. Even if it does not, you may have a desire to leave part or all of your estate to your particular faith community. A qualified estate lawyer can help you create a charitable giving plan that faithfully conforms to your religious beliefs.

Each estate plan is unique. That is why it is important to seek the counsel of a qualified estate planning lawyer to make sure that your plan accomplishes your goals. To set up a consultation today please call the Hegwood Law Group at (281) 218-0880.

Be Organized and Ready When Meeting With Your Houston Trust and Estates Attorney

Estate planning does not have to be a long, complicated process. Before you meet with a Houston Trust and Estates attorney there are certain documents you may want to bring with you.  Having these documents with you at your initial meeting can greatly simplify the process.

First, you will want to create a list of all your assets and liabilities. Everyone will need to do this at some point during the estate planning process and the sooner you get this completed, the sooner your estate plan will be finalized. If there is something you forget it to list, it is not the end of the world and your Houston estate lawyer will recognize the error. Here are some common assets and liabilities you will want to include:

  • Any bank accounts. Having recent statements is a great way to go.
  • Investment accounts
  • Stocks and bonds
  • Life insurance and Annuity policies
  • Deeds for properties you own
  • Retirement plans
  • Business partnerships or LLC interests
  • Money owed to you
  • Personal effects
  • Loans and credit

You will also want to determine who will inherit your estate. A Houston Trust and Estates attorney can help you narrow down candidates, but at the end of the day those decisions will be made by you. If there are certain items or properties that you want a specific person to receive, let your estate lawyer know. Also, if you have someone in mind to act as the executor, guardian for minor children, or medical power of attorney, let your Houston estate lawyer know so they can begin creating those legal documents.

By doing these things in advance, you will have a great head start. The result is a more streamlined process and a stronger sense of control over the planning of your estate. Both you and your lawyer will benefit from from clear, concise communication. To set up your consultation today please call the Hegwood Law Group at (281) 218-0880.