Tag: Trusts

Trust Lawyer in Houston Answers, “What is a Trustee?”

When you work with a trust lawyer in Houston to set up a trust, you will be asked to name a trustee. Before you can select someone for this important job, you need to fully understand the role and responsibilities this person will be given.

A trustee is the person who will manage the assets that are in your trust. Many people choose to be their own trustee and can continue to manage their affairs as normal. Married couples can be named co-trustees. In that case, when one dies, the other can continue to make financial decisions without any other legal steps needed.

You can also name a successor trustee. A successor trustee is the person who will take over your decision-making if you (or the co-trustee) are no longer able to do so. In some cases, several successor trustees are named in case the previous one is unable to serve. In other cases, people choose to select two or more adult children who will act together. Some people choose a completely unbiased corporate trustee, usually a bank or trust company, who will take over decision-making.

The following list contains some of the responsibilities that are required of a trustee:

  • Make decisions regarding assets in your trust. This typically involves managing the trust investments, property and making decisions that are in the best interest of the trust beneficiaries. Assets must also be managed according to the terms of the trust and governing law.
  • Keep detailed records for all of the trust transactions.  All transactions need to be accounted for by maintaining a record of receipts and other documentation.
  • Comply with all federal and state law requirements. It is critical that a trustee follows the terms of the trust documents and the trust creator’s instructions. Additionally, a trustee is responsible for complying with federal and state laws, meeting any reporting requirements, and filing federal and state taxes.

Administering a trust is often complicated and confusing. The trustee not only has to manage the details of the trust, they are also dealing with emotions and conflicts that can arise among the beneficiaries of the trust. That is why many trustees contact us to assist. We can help you avoid all of this by walking you through the entire trust administration process. Doing so will relieve you of tremendous stress and might help you avoid litigation brought on by unhappy beneficiaries.

Houston Special Needs Lawyer: Basics of a Special Needs Trust

For families that have loved ones with a disability, ensuring the care for their loved one once the caretakers are gone is of the utmost priority. The loss of specialized care and Medicaid or SSI benefits is a very real danger if proper special needs planning is not put in place, which is why Houston special needs lawyers often share the benefits of special needs planning involving Special Needs Trusts.

What is a Special Needs Trust?

Since even a small amount of cash assets can disqualify individuals with a disability from the care and assistance they need, it is important to not let these assets pass directly to them upon your passing. A Special Needs Trusts is the best way to ensure your loved one with disabilities keeps their care and assistance while also benefiting from the legacy you leave behind. Houston special needs lawyers design these Trusts in such a way that the assets in it do not belong to your child; instead, they are owned by the Trust and managed by a Trustee of your choosing who will direct the assets to be used for the benefit of your loved one with a disability. Medicaid and SSI will ignore the assets in the Special Needs Trust as they are not directly owned by your special needs loved one.

How may the assets in a Special Needs Trust be spent?

Assets in a Special Needs Trust can be spent in a number of ways which benefit the individual with a disability. These include education, recreation, vacations, home improvement, and certain out-of-pocket medical expenses. These expenses are considered “non-countable” by Medicaid and SSI since they do not count as the special needs individual’s personal assets. Houston special needs attorneys caution that assets in a Special Needs Trust may not be given directly to the individuals with disabilities, as this will oftentimes disqualify them from receiving state assistance.

What if I do not have a Trustee or I am not leaving behind a large sum of money?

In cases where a suitable Trustee cannot be chosen or a small or moderate sum of money is being left behind, Houston special needs lawyers often direct their clients towards Pooled Trusts. Pooled Trusts are typically run by non-profits. The non-profit will assign a Trustee who is responsible for managing the assets on behalf of the individual with special needs and the benefit of such an arrangement is that the Trustee and the non-profit are both heavily involved in the special needs community and understand the care and compassion needed to look after your loved one. While there are fees and different types of services attached to Pooled Trusts, they are often a good alternative to an individual Special Needs Trust in certain situations.

If you have any questions about how a Special Needs Trust can benefit you and your loved ones, please contact us at (281) 218-0880 to schedule a 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”