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Dallas Estate Planning Law Blog

Should parents discuss their resources with beneficiaries?

Many families in Texas avoid conversations about old age and death. While it is certainly not a subject on which to dwell, certain discussions are necessary. Heirs often find it difficult to locate statements, settle accounts and more because a deceased loved one's finances were not discussed. Silence about inheritances can also lead to contention between beneficiaries down the line.

Adult children may have many concerns about the finances of elderly parents if they avoid conversation about it. Children may want to make sure their parents will receive the necessary long-term care when the time comes. This includes accommodation, pet care and more. However, having no information about the available resources can cause high levels of stress that may even be unnecessary.

Asset protection of digital assets is part of estate planning

In Texas and elsewhere, there is a lot of attention paid to the expanding topic of the integration of estate planning procedures and the so-called "digital assets" that many people are beginning to amass. It is currently a "catch-up" process as the law tries to keep up with the lightning pace of online computing growth. However, the legal system is adjusting and the process of asset protection of digital assets is quickly getting up to par.

The most important law on the subject is the Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Act (UFADDA). This uniform law, already passed in many states, was developed by estate planning experts to integrate digital assets into mainstream estate planning. The law has not yet been formally adopted in Texas but an official committee of lawyers and academic experts is working on deciding whether to accept the law and what modifications may be desired.  

Facts to know during National Long-Term Care Awareness Month

Texas and other states recognize November as National Long-Term Care Awareness Month. Everyone should take a serious look at this topic because the costs of long\-term care can easily wipe out one's retirement assets and deny the funds to one's heirs after death. Well-known statistics make it doubly hard to ignore the subject in that most elderly persons will need such care in one form or another at some point in time.

One major tool used by people to combat these issues is the long-term care insurance policy. One should do some research and determine which companies would be the better fit for the person's age and circumstances. Different companies write their risk positions differently, tending to attract and benefit more effectively certain segments of the elderly population over others.

Texas estate planning permits handwritten wills

Many people have definite ideas about what should happen to their estates after they die. Nevertheless, most people have not made provisions for their assets by writing a will or establishing a trust. For some, it may be the difficulty of considering their own mortality that causes them to delay estate planning. Others may believe making a formal will is too expensive. In Texas, however, there is an alternative.

Formal wills are usually written by attorneys and witnessed by two or more people. For less formal wills, many simply write their wishes by hand. This is known as a holographic will. The obvious benefits of holographic wills are that they do not cost any money, and a person can make one in the privacy of his or her home. However, if certain guidelines are not followed, a holographic will may be more trouble and cost one's estate more money than making a formal will.

Estate planning gives choices for privacy and preserving assets

In Texas, as elsewhere, when a person dies with assets in his or her name, there must usually be an estate filed to account for the assets, pay bills and fees and administer the deceased person's estate. What is left is the proceeds that may be distributed to the beneficiaries. If the decedent engaged in estate planning during life, the estate will end up being distributed as he or she desired.

In that event, the executor of the estate, who is the person appointed in the will to administer the estate, will perform all the statutorily required procedures of estate administration. Hopefully, the decedent will have updated his or her estate planning documents every few years to make sure that ownership in assets has not become outdated and to make sure that all beneficiaries are still the correct choices. Deaths, divorces, births, marriages and the like are all events that could affect the way assets should be titled and the beneficiaries who are selected for distribution of assets.

Estate administration for Prince continues with muddled issues

Another near catastrophe in the saga of the estate of deceased superstar Prince has emerged. The probate procedures in that litigious estate will generally be the same as they would be in Texas, so that The estate administration problems regarding Prince's estate can be instructive. The problems are all because Prince did not engage in estate planning and did not even make a will to guide the disposition of his assets.

In such cases, the court will hear contested matters and decide per the evidence and the applicable law. This will apparently be done regarding the issue of one deceased individual, Duane J. Nelson Sr., and his heirs. Prince reportedly referred to Duane as his brother when they were both alive. Now, Duane's heirs are in court asking for distribution of Duane's share to them.

Estate planning awareness is observed nationwide this week

October 17 to 23 marks the observance of National Estate Planning Awareness Week. The purpose is to assist the public in Texas and nationwide in understanding and appreciating the importance of estate planning to one's overall financial plan. Polls show that almost half of the public believes that estate planning is only for a small class of very wealthy people.

That is not the case. Everyone with assets will benefit by an estate plan. On a very basic level, a person can cause complications for him or herself and any heirs by not planning ahead. The failure to plan can result in significant extra expenses and fees that could have been avoided.

Lack of estate planning now may lead to family problems later

Many people in Texas may have read news this past summer concerning the death of pop superstar Prince and the fact that he died without an estate plan. Of course, no one knows the reasons for this; however, in the past, many have said they avoid estate planning discussions because they do not like to think about their own mortality. Not taking time to craft a thorough plan may lead to family problems in the future.

You may be surprised at how many families become entangled in contentious battles that linger for years when a loved one has died with no estate plan in place. The subjects of such arguments may be even more surprising. Battles often break out over seemingly insignificant items, such as books, furniture or other personal things.

Without estate plans, beneficiaries may be denied digital assets

Advancing technology has changed many aspects of daily life. The way people in Texas work, learn, shop and entertain themselves have all been altered by the internet. Because use of the internet may place a person's privacy and safety at risk, laws were made to protect people's online accounts from intruders. Unfortunately, those same laws may cause frustration for fiduciaries and beneficiaries if access to them is not granted before a person dies.

The urgency to protect sensitive electronic information means that new laws are not likely to offer too much access to personal digital accounts. Estate planning advisors recommend that people take proactive steps to avoid having their electronic assets lost forever after their deaths. New laws being passed across the country are allowing limited pieces of information to be retrieved by a person's loved ones. However, that information may be restricted to contact lists and not personal data such as pictures or emails.

Life insurance retains a key role in estate planning

Life insurance is a popular tool that is often used in planning a person's estate. This also applies of course to the estate planning regarding a married couple and their children. Traditionally, in Texas and elsewhere, the purchase of life insurance was designed to pay taxes at death.

For a married couple, the estate tax exemption can now be parlayed into an equivalent of over $10 million in exemptions before a federal estate tax must be paid. With federal estate taxes largely off the table for most estates, other estate planning uses have come to the forefront. One obvious use is to pay for the immediate expenses of death, such as burial and funeral expenses, along with administrative fees and state tax assessments.

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Addison, TX 75001
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