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.

Houston Special Needs Lawyers: Creating a Special Needs Trust or “SNT?” for Your Child with Disabilities

One of the tasks an estate lawyer in Houston may handle is estate planning for children with disabilities. Children with disabilities need ongoing care, including financial care, throughout their lives. The best course of action for a parent of a disabled child is to speak to an estate lawyer in Houston to establish a special needs trust (“SNT”). An SNT makes sure that your child benefits from your estate without making them ineligible for SSI or Medicaid benefits.

Estate planning is complicated enough, but trying to do your best by your child can make your head spin. Willing them a lump sum, property, or other wealth directly may disqualify them from SSI and Medicaid and puts in their hands assets they may not be able to properly handle. However, if you leave them nothing, then they are without the financial security you have provided for your other children. If you give the assets you intend for your child with disabilities to their siblings for safekeeping, it legally becomes the siblings’ property. It won’t be protected from the siblings’ creditors, and it may be considered communal or joint property if the sibling is married when they receive it.

The best solution is to create a third-party special needs trust or SNT. A trust is an asset administered by a third-party trustee on behalf of a beneficiary. The third-party trustee is someone besides you (the benefactor) or the beneficiary (your child with special needs). Anyone you choose, including one or more of your other children, can agree to be a trustee. The trustee doesn’t own the assets, and they can’t make decisions that are against the beneficiary’s interests. The money in the trust is belongs to the trust and is spent solely on behalf of the beneficiary.

An estate lawyer in Houston can create a third-party SNT for your child with disabilities. Assets in a third-party SNT come from someone other than the beneficiary. They are also not used to determine your child’s eligibility for SSI and Medicaid. This is because the beneficiary, your child with special needs, doesn’t actually own the assets in the trust, so it is not considered a personal asset when determining eligibility for benefits. The trust can help to cover costs beyond what Medicaid and SSI provide, like dental care, transportation, and private nursing or care.

For example, a father may hire an estate lawyer to create a third-party SNT for his son with disabilities son who lives in an assisted living facility. Medicaid contributes nothing to the cost of assisted living, and SSI only covers a portion of the cost. The SNT, however, covers the rest of the cost. It also covers costs for things like dental cleanings, new clothes, and entertainment.

An estate lawyer in Houston who is experienced in creating a third party SNT can help you provide for your child with special needs. They can help you give your child all the benefit you can provide without forcing him or her to give up other benefit.

Harris County Probate Law – The Basics

Probate law varies from state to state, but there are several things that you and your Harris County probate lawyer can expect to happen during the process.  The following is a simple breakdown of some of the most common aspects of probate law in Texas.

First of all, probate is the name of the legal process that takes place to distribute a person’s estate once he or she has passed away.  With some exceptions, such as trusts, life insurance payments, retirement plans, and a few other things, all of a person’s assets must go through this process in order to ensure they are being distributed legally.  An “estate” is not just a term used for rich people.  The majority of the assets left behind—houses, vehicles, money, personal property, retirement accounts, etc. are all considered part of the estate.

Once an individual passes away, someone will need to petition the court to be named as the Executor of the estate.  Typically, this is a family member or close friend of the deceased.  If the deceased had a will, he or she will likely have chosen the person they want to fulfill that role.  If not, however, the courts will decide who should have the position if multiple people step forward.  This person will work closely with the probate lawyer throughout the process.  It is a big responsibility and can be time consuming.

Again, if there was a will, then one of the first steps the executor and the Harris County probate lawyer will do is to “prove” that the will is valid; this is the first part of the court process.  They will then compile a list of assets, debts, and heirs to be presented to the courts.  The executor and probate lawyer are also charged with alerting creditors and family members of the death.

Because the probate process can take a considerable amount of time, it is also the executor’s job to manage the assets of the estate throughout the legal proceedings.  Many people find that this job is much easier under the guidance of the probate lawyer, as the attorney will likely have far more experience than the executor.

Based on debts and assets, the personal representative will have to determine whether or not assets will need to be sold to pay for outstanding debts, including taxes.  The representative is also required to have all the assets appraised for value.  If there is a will that bequests money to heirs that is currently tied up in investments, then the probate lawyer will also help the executor sell those assets to meet the terms of the will.

A good Harris County probate lawyer will be able to guide the representative when it comes to how to manage, sell, and distribute assets according to the findings of the courts.  Once all the property has been distributed, the executor and probate lawyer will follow up to make sure the estate is “closed.”

If you would like to talk to an experienced Harris County probate lawyer, feel free to call us (281) 218-0880. With the mention of this article, we will be happy to offer you a free consultation.