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Dallas Estate Planning Law Blog

Living trusts can be an integral part of wise estate planning

Living trusts can be an essential aspect of a person's estate plan. Estate planning in Texas and everywhere else utilizes a will to dispose of any assets owned at the date of death by the testator, who is the person who made the will. Estate planning uses living trusts to dispose of assets during life with the option of making the transfer of assets either revocable or irrevocable.

The key difference between living trusts and a will is that the transfer of assets during life through a trust vehicle obviates the need to have those assets go through probate upon death. Probate is the legal administration of assets through the decedent's estate, along with paying creditors and disposing of those assets that remain through the dictates of the will. Assets may be taxed in some instances when they go through probate.

Many considerations go into elder law planning for a loved one

According to one specialist on the subject, long-term care in this country has become convoluted and in need of a legal overhaul. Because of the levels of uncertainty built into the system, elder law planning in Texas and elsewhere must take place as early as possible. As previously mentioned, it can be decisively important to have discussions and family meetings with the elderly loved one regarding desirable options.

One of the problems is that it may be necessary for an individual or a couple to spend down their assets well in advance of any period of future disability or incompetence. Somehow, we've inherited a system that demands poverty, so that Medicaid can step in and finance long-term care. Irrevocable trusts and other directed spending can be useful in preserving assets for beneficiaries while becoming positioned for later government aid.

Despite exemptions, taxes remain a component of estate planning

Estate planning with respect to federal estate taxes is fairly easy for most people: the person's estate at death has to be larger than $5.43 million in gross value to be subject to federal tax. Some states, however, collect an inheritance or other type of death tax. Texas does not have an inheritance or other death tax, making estate planning for taxes a fairly easy tax for the average Texas resident.

The current federal and state rules may change in the future, so that it can't be said that the current situation will last. The best thing to do is obtain a consultation with an estate planning attorney to determine whether your situation will involve an actual estate tax based on changes in the law. The relief in death taxes has also created a change in focus for estate planning specialists.

Diagnosis of dementia calls for long-term care plan

When a loved one is struck with the unthinkable, such as a diagnosis of impending Alzheimer's disease or another type of dementia, planning should start immediately if it's not already in place. Unfortunately, both in Texas and throughout the country, the stress and shock of coping with such an overpowering disease is combined with extraordinary medical expenses that few can afford. Therefore, long-term care planning for dementia can bring about substantial benefits, both economically and emotionally.

If planning is not already substantially in place, active planning should start as soon as the diagnosis is received. The foresight of advance planning carries a benefit in addition to financial: the loved one who has received the diagnosis may be able to effectively participate in much of the planning process. The first step may be to get a family meeting and take a look at the expenses and potential expenses involved.

Estate planning is critical for asset control and peace of mind

The federal estate tax does not kick in unless a person's estate is worth more than $5,340,000. Most people do not have to worry too much about the federal estate tax, therefore, when they do their estate planning. However, some states have an inheritance or death tax that applies to estates of a far lower value. Texas currently does not have an inheritance or estate tax, but there is always a possibility of change, so that it is advisable to check with an estate attorney to find out of whether there is an inheritance tax in the state.

For married couples, with proper estate planning, the federal estate tax will not kick in for estates up to $10,680,000. Regardless of whether your estate would be subject to taxes, there are other vital concerns that militate in favor of estate planning. For example, in order to protect your assets and needs for future contingencies, you should make a durable power of attorney, a living will and health care proxies now.

Elderly planning can take on a personal face during holidays

Many different groups have holiday celebrations coming up in the next few months. We all know that the holidays can sometimes bring on the blues or temporary feelings of depression. Past memories and present loneliness may cause an older person to take on symptoms of depression. In Texas as well as everywhere else, it's up to the person's loving family members to step up and do some elderly planning to get the loved one through the holidays, the New Year and beyond.

There's no reason why these activities cannot be focused on uplifting the elderly parent's spirits based on prior habits and enjoyed activities. According to an article published by a registered nurse and elder care coordinator, it helps to recreate experiences of prior happy memories for the loved one who is disabled to one degree or another. Assisting the parent in purchasing gifts for family members can be helpful.

Rival interests highlight importance of long-term care planning

There appears to be a competition between retirement planning and the need for long-term care funding. Add to that, the view shared by many observers in Texas and nationwide that Americans are in denial about the prospective need for long-term care, and a real problem seems to be emerging. The picture is not made brighter by the projected inability of Medicare and other government sources to fund the costs of long-term care into the future.

Originally, long-term care was to be covered for all Americans under the Affordable Care Act. However, the political forces wore that idea down, and the funding to do it did not materialize. It was decided to let the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services maintain the responsibility. In addition, private insurers have come up with a proposal that calls for 401(k) withdrawals to be tax-free if used for long-term care insurance premiums.

Elder law planning extends quality of life in one???s last years

If you're one of the millions of baby boomers hitting retirement age, it is an ideal time to set up an elder law plan under Texas law. It will provide for long-term care if it becomes necessary. The fact is that becoming immobile and/or infirm in old age does not have to be the end of a useful and enjoyable life. However, the ability to function may be exacerbated by pressing financial and family strife caused by a lack of elder law planning for such a time.

There are various subjects to pursue regarding maximum long-term care planning.  For example, will your home be compatible for certain special needs that may arise? This means looking at the setup and structure of the home, identifying where entrances may have to be modified for wheelchair access and the like. If there are two floors, preparations may need to be made for mechanized access to the upper sections.

Estate planning can benefit by the use of living trusts

There are many reasons why an estate plan in Texas might include the use of living revocable trusts. Such living trusts give the grantor the opportunity to distribute assets while alive and to fashion trusts in the shape and manner desired to provide for one's heirs. Because they are revocable, the grantor retains control over the assets should changes be desired.

A trust can be funded with cash, life insurance, securities or any other assets. The popularly cited benefit of living trusts is that they do not go through probate at death. Thus, they are kept private as opposed to testamentary assets, which are a part of the public record of the decedent's estate.

Celebrities make mistakes in their estate planning provisions

Mistakes in the estate plans of recently deceased celebrities can be useful learning examples for residents of Texas or elsewhere. For example, a living trust is attractive to celebrities and many people because the terms remain private: it does not go through the public probate process at death. However, a seemingly unimportant estate planning mishap can defeat one of its major goals.

Thus, for example, Robin Williams wanted to provide for his three children by setting up an irrevocable living trust, which gave him the added benefit of the terms being private. However, the plan did not say precisely what would happen if a co-trustee passed away. When it actually happened, the surviving trustee was compelled to file a petition to request the court to appoint a successor.

Our Office Locations

The Livens Law Firm
2516 Harwood Road
Bedford (Fort Worth), TX 76021
Phone: 817-545-3425
Toll Free: 800-569-2663
Fax: 817-545-9847
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Austin Office
3 Lakeway Centre Court
Suite 120
Austin, TX 78734
Phone: 800-569-2663
Fax: 888-545-9847
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Addison Office
14135 Midway Rd.
Suite G-250
Addison, TX 75001
Phone: 972-685-5202
Fax: 972-685-5606
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