Category: Trusts

Houston Will and Trust Lawyer Offers a Checklist for Trustees

If you have been asked to serve as trustee for someone’s trust, it is your responsibility to successfully carry out that person’s wishes, as well as follow state and federal laws. The role of trustee is an important one, and if you have never served as a trustee before, you may be thinking, “Where do I start?!” As a Houston Will and Trust lawyer, I hope to provide you some guidance in this area.

We get calls from concerned trustees often and understand that the job can be overwhelming. Our first bit of advice to you is: breathe!  You will get through this.  Next, begin working through the steps below.

  • Read the trust- The trust will have all the information you need to carry out the wishes of your loved one. It is important to read it carefully so that you fully understand what is expected of you.
  • Create a checking account for the trust- A checking account should be set up with the money from the estate. You will need funds to make distributions and payments, and you will want to keep track of them in a checking account that is solely used for purposes of the estate.
  • Think of the beneficiary’s interests- You have a fiduciary duty to the beneficiaries of the trust, so it is important to always think of their interest when it comes to the trust.
  • No personal finance dealings with the trust– This one may seem obvious, but it should still be stated that you should not borrow money or lend money to anyone from the trust.
  • Provide anyone listed in the trust with a report of annual account activity- You can simply provide a copy of the checking and investment account statements, or, if you wish, you can present a more formal trust report prepared by an accountant or attorney.
  • Invest trust funds prudently and productively– For this step we strongly suggest that you consult with an investment professional. It is important to invest the funds wisely and have a diverse portfolio, but steer clear of anything too risky.
  • Stay in contact with the beneficiaries– It is important to understand the needs of the beneficiaries since ultimately you are working for them. Keep them informed.
  • Be aware of any beneficiaries receiving public funds– If any of the trust’s beneficiaries receive public assistance, you need to make sure any proceeds of the trust do not jeopardize their benefits. This is especially important when it comes to adults and children with disabilities.
  • File annual tax returns

Being a trustee is a big responsibility and hard work. But the good news is that you do not have to do it alone. Our Houston Will and Trust Lawyers can help you through the process to make sure that you are taking the right steps. Contact us today at (281) 218-0880 to schedule a free consultation.

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.

Complete a Complete Estate Plan

When it comes to planning, the focus is typically on making you better prepared for the future. That means limiting taxes, creating wiser investment strategies, knowing when it’s best to claim Social Security and developing sustainable retirement income plans. All of these help you on the path to your financial future and your long-term goals. But The Brainerd (MN) Dispatch reports in “3 common estate planning questions, answered,” that there is, however, one exception. That’s estate planning. While much of financial planning primarily benefits you, your estate planning primarily benefits your family and loved ones. 11-14-16

The basic component of your estate plan is your will but there may be other parts you need. Depending on your estate, you may want to consider a trust, in addition to healthcare directives, powers of attorneys and guardian designations. You should also remember that your will isn't necessarily the only instruction when it comes to distributing your assets. The beneficiary designations on your retirement and brokerage accounts, and the life insurance policies you own will take precedence over what you say in your will. Review beneficiary designations regularly to be sure the money in your accounts or the death benefit on a life insurance policy goes to the right person.

A trust can be complicated, so talk with an estate planning attorney to see if it makes sense and whether you'll actually benefit from using a trust. If most of your assets are covered by beneficiary designations or owned in joint tenancy, those assets are already exempt from probate, so they won’t necessarily benefit from a trust strategy.

The executor or the personal representative is the person who will be responsible for carrying out the instructions in your will, settling your debts and paying taxes on your estate. As far as selecting an executor, it should be someone with the capacity to carry out the needed tasks of the position. It also needs to be someone who is willing to serve and is familiar with your situation such as a family member or a close family friend.

If you don't spend every last dollar you have to your name on the day you die, you'll need to have an estate plan. Speak with an experienced estate planning attorney to develop one.

Reference: The Brainerd (MN) Dispatch (Sept. 23, 2016) “3 common estate planning questions, answered”