Category: Estate Planning

Who Needs to Consider Trusts for their Children in Houston?

There are a lot of reasons to consider setting up trusts for your children, but trust and estates lawyers in Houston see far too many cases where this just is not done.  One of the biggest reasons for not setting up a trust could be that you feel you do not have enough assets to warrant one.  We hear about “trust fund babies” and automatically think of the super wealthy, not regular folks like ourselves.

Really, though, even those in the middle class should be thinking about setting up trusts for their children.  Even if you do not have a lot of extra money lying around, you have other assets that can quickly add up in value.  Add to that the payout from a life insurance policy, and you suddenly realize that you have quite a bit of financial worth that might be left behind to children who are not ready to handle it.  Anything more than about $100,000 is reasonable to consider putting into a trust for children.

What Does the Trust Do?

When you set up a trust with your trust and estates lawyer in Houston, you will discover that there are many different ways to use this tool.  One of the most important benefits of a trust is that it allows you to stipulate how your children will use the money you leave behind.  If your intention is for your kids to use the money for college, but they want to use it to buy a sports car instead, what is to stop them?

In your case, the trust is what can stop them.  You can implement restrictions on how the money is spent.  You can, for example, determine that the funds in the trust are designated for specific functions, such as paying for education or day-to-day expenses.  In some cases, there is a designated adult to help keep things on track, although this person must be chosen wisely.  In other cases, the parent sets age limits on the trust, assuring that the children do not have access to the money until they have more time to mature.

Protecting the Trust

Another reason to consider a trust is to protect your children’s money from misuse by the adult in charge of the funds.  In the case of a “custodial” account, the person in charge can have a lot more say in how the money is spent.  This could translate into frivolous expenses, including paying himself or herself an unrealistic amount to “manage” the funds.  With a trust, however, the person in charge (the “trustee”) is held more accountable and is required to follow your wishes.

If the trustee does manage the funds poorly, it is also possible that your child would have some legal recourse, as the trust is a legal contract.

Talk to a Houston Trust and Estates Lawyer

The best way to determine if a trust is right for you and family is to talk to a Houston trust and estates lawyer.  Our attorneys are available to sit down with you to review your estate plan and consider how a trust or other estate planning tools can best meet your needs.  To schedule a planning session, call us at (281) 218-0880 and mention this article.

Houston Will Lawyer: Estate Planning Is About Creating Your Legacy

As a Houston will lawyer, I would like to talk to you today about one of the most overlooked aspects of estate planning – the opportunity to create your legacy.

Believe it or not, creating a legacy is not all about having libraries and hospitals named after you. There are great ways that you can help your family remember your values and beliefs that will cost you little to nothing.

A very thoughtful (and completely free) way to create your legacy is to write annual letters to your children and other important people in your life.  These letters can be kept with your estate planning documents.  Then, each person will have a special message sharing your feelings and thoughts.

The letters do not have to be held back until your death, either. Many people choose to present the letters to their children upon graduation or on their wedding days.  Estate planning certainly deals with death, but it also gives us a reason to think about life and the way we want to live it.

Another way to create a legacy is to determine important causes in your life and then support them through your estate planning. Whether you are an avid contributor to the American Cancer Society or you have a soft spot for a local animal shelter, these are the kinds of non-profits and charities you can support to ensure your values are represented in your planning.

Many nonprofit organizations will happily work with you to put together some kind of a giving plan for your estate.  There may be tax benefits in addition to knowing that you are doing something important for the world.

A Houston will lawyer can also help you with setting up a family trust that can be used to further causes that you or your loved ones are passionate about.  This is a great way to build a legacy, not just for yourself, but for your entire family.  If you are unsure of how or why you should set up a family trust to create your legacy, definitely take the time to meet with a qualified estate planning lawyer.  He or she will likely have many other suggestions for ways to use your planning in order to help build your legacy.

Houston Estate Lawyer: 3 Talking Points to Help Your Reluctant Spouse Get Serious About Estate Planning

Need help motivating your spouse to meet with a Houston Estate lawyer?  In my experience, I have found that the planning process is usually initiated by one spouse and is often met with hesitation by the other. It is understandable why one or both spouses would be reluctant to meet with an estate planner. Thinking about our death is scary, and many people will avoid any attempt to broach the subject.

Unfortunately, while we stick our heads in the sand, life continues to happen, and our need to create an estate plan does not lessen. But you know that, right? So, below I have laid out the top three excuses I hear, as well as a few quick talking points that you can use to help your spouse understand the necessity of planning for the future.

  1. We have plenty of time to deal with this…” is the most common objection to creating an estate plan. Most people want to wait until later in life before creating an estate plan, but this is a mistake. As you know, tragedy can strike at any time. People also mistakenly believe that they only need an estate plan if they have a great fortune. Estate planning is much more than dividing your assets. With an estate plan, you can can ensure that there are guardians named who can care for your kids if you die while they are still young, or appoint someone you trust to make financial or medical decisions if you are incapacitated.
  1. “If something happens to me, you (the spouse) will inherit everything anyway…” is another common excuse you might hear to avoid creating an estate plan. While the spouse will inherit the majority of the estate, this is not a good reason for not creating an estate plan. What if something happens to both partners? If you have children, who do you want to raise your them if something happens? With an estate plan, you can make your wishes known and avoid long and costly custody battles for your loved ones. If you are on a second marriage, then you won’t inherit without a plan.
  1. If all else fails, you can remind your spouse that you, in fact, already have an estate plan. You have the default estate plan created by the state of Texas, and the state does not take any of your wishes into consideration. The process of settling one’s estate through the courts is long, expensive, and stressful for your loved ones. With an estate plan, this can all be avoided. Children of second marriages are usually disinherited.

There are many more advantages to be gained from creating an estate plan and absolutely no advantages for doing nothing. An estate lawyer in Houston will be able to create a plan that is right for you and will never pressure you to into doing anything before you are really ready. Call our office today to start this difficult, but necessary, conversation.

 

Houston Estate Planning for the Chronically Ill

More than half of Americans now have at least one chronic health condition, mental disorder or substance abuse issue. That is a staggering statistic, even for me as a Houston estate planning lawyer that works with sick and disabled clients every day.

There are two common definitions for chronically ill. The first definition is a disease that a person will live with for many years. This types of illness include diabetes, cardiovascular disease, lupus, MS, hepatitis C, and asthma. The legal definition of chronic illness states “the person is unable to perform at least two activities of daily living such as eating, toileting, transferring, bathing and dressing, or requires considerable supervision to protect from crisis relating to health and safety due to severe impairment concerning mind, or having a level of disability similar to that determined by the Social Security Administration for disability benefits.”

Everyone needs estate planning, but for the chronically ill there is a high sense of urgency. For healthy people, a will or trust plans for the “what if?” When you have a chronic illness, you are planning for the “here and now.”  We can help you set up a plan for your care and well-being by naming someone who can make medical decisions if you are not able to do so yourself. Without a plan that includes a HIPPA authorization and healthcare directives, the person that you choose may not legally be able to speak for you.

Additionally, an estate planning lawyer in Houston can help you utilize tools such as trusts to protect assets so that you can be eligible for Medicaid without totally scrambling your nest egg.  A living trust can also give you the peace of mind knowing that your estate will easily be passed to your heirs without going through the probate process when you do eventually pass away.

The bottom line is this: do not assume that because you are suffering from a chronic illness that it is too late to take steps to better your financial situation or safeguard your family.  Even if you are (or have a loved one) currently in a nursing home, there may still be options!  The first step is to simply contact our office. We will schedule a planning session with you and walk through all of the avenues of protection that could work best for your family.