It is a common misconception that financial management and estate planning are reserved for the wealthy. Regardless of how much you have in the bank, you and your family can benefit from planning ahead for the future. If you fail to do so, you could leave your family scrambling if you’re suddenly incapacitated. When you are on a fixed income, finances matter more than ever –for example, your car and rent payments must still be made, even if you have suffered serious health problems and can no longer work. Plan ahead to make the best out of the worst case scenario.
Powers of Attorney
Should you be involved in a life-changing accident and end up unconscious in the hospital, who will make decisions on your behalf? It is a question that many people fail to consider, and once you are incapacitated, it’s too late. An experienced estate planning lawyer can help you execute a medical power of attorney so that your wishes are respected should you become incapacitated. The documentation will also point to a specific person who can make important medical choices for you. A living will sometimes referred to as an Advanced Directive, can also be executed with the medical power of attorney to allow you to specifically state your wishes when it comes to your end of life medical treatment. It is also important that you have a financial power of attorney prepared. Anyone who travels frequently can benefit from having a trusted friend or family member named as their agent to act on their behalf regarding finances and property management. Of course, should you become incapacitated, designating someone as your power of attorney can also be incredibly useful to ensure that your bills and other legal and financial obligations are met?
Guardians for Minors
When preparing for the future, it’s also essential to consider who you’d like to appoint as guardian for your minor children in case you’re unable to care for them yourself due to incapacity or death. While this outcome can be difficult to think about, it’s important that your kids have security during this difficult time. Without a will, the guardian will be selected by the courts. This person may not be your first choice to care for your children, so it’s important to have your wishes documented.
Wills or trusts are also worthwhile if you have specific wishes for your material possessions and who receives them. The value of a beloved heirloom may not be monetary: In many cases, the keepsakes we pass down through the generations aren’t worth a lot of money but possess a great deal of sentimental value. Without a will or trust in place, the fate of your treasured possessions is in question. Your heirs will be forced to decide among themselves how to divide items up “evenly.” When used along with a will or trust, a personal property memorandum allows you to dictate who will receive your most precious keepsakes. Another benefit of the personal property memorandum is that you are able to change the document as often as you want without having to update the will or trust. While you might not have ever considered an estate plan and what it might entail, it’s worth meeting with a trusted estate planning attorney to discuss ways to prepare for your future. Regardless of your income or net worth, it’s always a good idea to have a plan in place to protect yourself, your loved ones, and the things you hold most dear in life.
When most people think of estate planning, they think of assets that include money, real estate, and personal property. But, included in someone’s estate could be invaluable personal property, such as family heirlooms or keepsakes. This type of property should not be overlooked in your estate plan just because it may not have a high dollar value because it still has sentimental value that cannot be quantified. Part of a thorough estate plan is determining how you want these priceless family heirlooms and keepsakes distributed once you are gone. Personal property and family heirlooms specifically cause more family turmoil than larger assets worth more money.
Issues You May Face
An “heirloom” is a particular piece of the personal property passed down from one generation to the next and will continue to be passed down for generations to come. Be sure to talk about the family heirlooms and keepsakes with your family so that feelings and expectations regarding these items are out in the open. Also think about having your heirlooms and keepsakes appraised, if possible, by someone reputable so you can provide your heirs with the necessary documentation, and so the items can be appropriately identified in your estate planning.
How to Distribute
When it comes to family heirlooms and keepsakes, the typical division plans may not work. If the item is of low dollar value, there may not be a way to equalize the distributions monetarily. This can also be the case if the dollar value of the keepsake is incredibly high compared to the value of the remaining estate. Furthermore, if there is only one of such an item, there is no way to split one thing between multiple people. Whether it’s great-grandfather’s WWI medals, the cherished family crystal, or your mother’s pearls, you will need to decide the best way to distribute these assets based on your unique family situation. Regardless of who receives these items, they are usually distributed by way of a personal property memorandum in those states that permit this practice.
The personal property memorandum allows you to express your wishes and avoid the hard feelings that could come about by leaving all of the personal property equally to your children. This document is a written statement regarding the specific property; the document is then referenced in your last will or living trust and identifies who should inherit what property. This document also has the added benefit of being able to be modified or revised without the need to execute a new will or amend your trust. However, please remember, the personal property memo is not to be used in place of a will but instead as a helpful tool for the executor. Also, if you have mentioned a specific item in your will, you do not want to include that item in the memorandum.
Gifting During Life
Because of the sentimental nature of family heirlooms, you may want to consider gifting these items during your lifetime instead of waiting until your death. If you gift your family heirlooms and keepsakes during your lifetime, there is personal joy in witnessing your loved one receiving the family treasure. That being said, be careful of gift tax issues that may be incurred depending on the value of the item. Another concern that you may want to address depending upon the value of the family heirloom is whether or not this lifetime gift should be considered part of the recipient’s share of your eventual estate.
Estate Planning Advice
A comprehensive estate plan that considers all assets – including family heirlooms and keepsakes – is key to making sure your wishes are followed once you are gone.
Why It’s the Perfect Time to Set Your Kids Up for Success
As spring break swiftly approaches, the parents of young adults experience a mixed bag of emotions.
It can be exciting to see your children branching out and becoming successful adults in their own right — a time full of hard work and self-discovery that hopefully lays the groundwork for a fulfilling career in the coming years.
But, it can also be a time of anxiety for some parents. We all want to know that we are doing absolutely everything we can to make sure our kids stay safe, healthy, and secure so they can pursue their dreams to the fullest.
Preparing for legal adulthood #adulting
Whether your child is just turning the corner on their senior year of high school or they’re already in the midst of their undergraduate studies, their 18th birthday undoubtedly marks the transition to adulthood when it comes to their legal affairs. This can impact you as their parent in a few distinct ways:
• Medical decisions: When your children become legal adults, you no longer have the authority to know their medical details or make healthcare decisions on their behalf. Without proper legal documents in place, you may need to petition a court to be named as guardian or conservator — a time consuming, expensive, and distracting process.
• Probate: Many young people own cars, have a checking or savings account, and have life insurance. Some people are concerned about planning “too early.” However, there’s never really a time that’s too early. By working with your children now, you’ll instill a great habit of being proactive when it comes to legal affairs while providing protection for your family along the way.
A simple way forward
Turning 18 isn’t just an opportunity to be able to vote or serve in the military. It’s also the first time individuals need to come in and have a conversation about estate planning.
As a parent, it’s an opportunity to help your child enter the world of adulthood and maturity. It also presents a unique opportunity for families to work together toward a common goal and can serve as a bond-strengthening experience for parents and children alike.
Here are some of the preliminary documents we can use to lay the foundation of your children’s estate plans:
• Asset inventory: Asset inventories are a great way to get the ball rolling for those brand new to estate planning. Include assets like insurance policies, valuable or meaningful personal property or heirlooms, savings accounts, real estate, investments, and retirement plans.
• Basic will: Wills contain instructions for the management and distribution of assets after death.
• Living will: This document records the individual’s wishes in the event of terminal incapacity.
• Revocable trust: A revocable living trust is a great way to keep an individual’s assets out of reach from potential court interference. And since they are revocable, these trusts can be altered as often as necessary throughout the course of one’s life.
• Financial power of attorney: A financial power of attorney is the document used to appoint a person to handle the individual’s financial affairs.
• Healthcare power of attorney: This type of power of attorney covers medical decision-making that could impact an individual’s health and lifestyle if they become unable to make those decisions themselves due to mental or physical impairment. In concert with a revocable trust,
Now is the Right Time to Act
Estate planning for young adults doesn’t need to be prohibitively expensive or time-consuming. Work with us to build a plan so you and your children can get back to the business of being in such an exciting part of life.
Whether your children are returning from spring break trips or getting ready for graduation in a few months, now is a great opportunity to give us a call today to discuss how we can work together to keep your children and family fully protected, no matter what life brings their way.
Your wedding is over, and the day was absolutely perfect. You went away on your honeymoon with your new spouse and had the time of your lives. Now you are back and can breathe a sigh of relief and watch the rest of the years ahead unfold before your eyes.
Well, not so fast. Now that your honeymoon is over, there are several things you should be mindful of making sure that the legal and financial parts of your life correctly reflect your newly married status. As you start living happily ever after, make sure to attend to these post-honeymoon to-dos during the first few days (or even weeks) after your wedding. This will help you enjoy the memories of your wedding and honeymoon for years to come.
9 Things To Do After Your Honeymoon
The following checklist can serve as a reminder of some, but not all, of the tasks to which you should give your immediate attention:
- Meet with an estate planning attorney to discuss the creation of a will or trust, or to update one from before you got married;
- Review and update your medical proxy documents and provide copies to your necessary doctors’ offices;
- Check and update beneficiary designations on any life insurance policies, 401(k)s, IRAs, annuities, and other investment accounts;
- Seek advice from your tax preparer about whether or not you should adjust your withholdings to reflect your new marital status;
- Obtain life insurance, if you do not already have coverage, and designate a beneficiary and a contingent beneficiary;
- If you have or are planning to move, notify your auto insurer, banks, employer, and anyone else of your new address;
- Add your spouse to your group health and dental insurance policy, if necessary;
- Change ownership of real property, if you choose to, to reflect your marital status; and
- In addition to the above, if you decide to legally change your name make sure to notify the following institutions:
- Department of Motor Vehicles;
- Creditors and debtors;
- Social Security Administration;
- Passport office;
- Insurance agencies;
- State taxing authorities;
- Telephone and utility companies;
- Banks, financial institutions, and any necessary Government agencies.
We are here to help guide you through the estate planning process and to make sure that the financial and legal aspects of your life correctly match your new marital status. Contact us today to learn about how we can help you enjoy your wedded bliss with financial and legal security.
No matter who you are, or where you are at in life, it is essential to have a will. A will allows you to have control over what happens to your assets and personal belongings if you die, plus it will enable you to take steps to care for your family.
Life is always changing—as a result, even if you already have a will, it is possible you may need to revisit and revise your current will. Certain life events can change your thoughts about both who should receive your assets and how they should be distributed.
When Should You Update Your Will?
A few of these life events that could cause you to take a second look at your will include: children, divorce, and death.
- Children: Having children is often the main reason people decide to create a will in the first place. If you already have a will and then have a child, it is important to revise your will to include your child (or children). Perhaps the most important revision would be to name a guardian for your minor child(ren). Typically, if only one parent dies, the surviving parent will become the guardian of the minor children. However, if both parents die, things can get more complicated. If you don’t have a guardian named in your will, the decision of who should parent your child(ren) in the event of your untimely death could be left up to a Court. To avoid this, take time to name a guardian for your child(ren)—this way you can choose someone you trust to love and care for them just as you would.
- Divorce: Divorce is another life event that may cause you to take another look at your will. A divorce often results in splitting assets between the two spouses, which may mean that you don’t end up with an asset listed in your will (a specific home, car, bank account ). Additionally, you will want to name new beneficiaries or recipients for your assets, since your ex-spouse will likely no longer be the person you choose to leave them to. If your ex-spouse was listed as the executor of your estate, you can name a new executor.
- Death: On occasion, someone you list in your will may die before you. If this happens, you will want to revisit your will. If the death was of the person you named as your child’s guardian in the event of your death, you will need to pick another trusted individual. If it was someone you picked as a beneficiary to inherit a personal asset or money, you will want to name someone new, especially if the asset has sentimental value.
Unfortunately, even if we take time to plan for our future, things can change. Unexpected life events may require you to revisit, update, and alter your will. To make this process simple, you should reach out to an experienced attorney.
What happens if I Die without a Will?
The State does not automatically get your property if you die without a Will. The only way your Estate will Escheat to the State is if you have NO living heirs: no parents, no siblings, no spouse, no children, no grandparents, no aunts or uncles, or any cousins. In fact, in Texas there is no limit on the degree of relationship required to qualify as an heir; this includes distant relatives or the so-called “laughing heirs.”
The State of Texas has drafted a will for you. Therefore, if you die without a will, Texas has laws that state what will happen. For example, the intestacy statue provides that if you are single and don’t have any children your parents will inherit your property equally. What if you didn’t want one of your parents to inherit your Estate. This is an excellent example of why you need a will.
Second, if you die without a will, it will be twice as expensive and more time consuming for your loved ones. The documents that are required by the court when there is not a will are doubled. For example:
Will No Will
Application to Probate Application to Probate
Application to Determine Heirship
Ask Court to Appoint Guardian Ad Litem
Judgement Claiming Heirship
These extra steps will cost your family anywhere from an additional $2,000 to $5,000. Then, if one of those long-lost siblings, cousins, or other relatives contest the Estate, you can expect to pay five to ten times more. Contested probate battles are some of the longest, most brutal, and most expensive cases. Often families can pay upwards of $50,000 to $100,000 or more depending on the size of the Estate and how long the parties disagree.
“Broadly stated, a will is the legal declaration of a person’s intentions that are to be performed after his death.” 
The origin of the term Last Will and Testament dates to before the King’s common law courts in England when the English law custom was to double words of English origin with synonyms of French or Latin origin, like “Free and Clear” and “Had and Received.” 
It’s important to know that every state is different. In Texas, a will allows you to name an executor, name a guardian for minor children, leave instructions about what happens to your property, and even care for your pets.
Creating a will is an integral part of planning just like life insurance. None of us like to think about our demise, but looking to the future is imperative if you want to save your family heartache and expense. The process of drafting a will and making an estate plan brings peace of mind, knowing your loved ones will be taken care of when you are gone. It also saves your family a considerable amount of money.
How it Works
Whether you hire our firm or another firm, there is no time like the present! The first step is hiring an attorney. Second, is a consultation with the attorney. You need to work with the attorney to provide your personal information. Then, the attorney will draft your documents, and you will work with the attorney to finalize your will and disability documents. Lastly, there will be a will signing with you, two witnesses, and a notary.
A will may be of any length and typically includes the testator’s signature, the signatures of two witnesses, and a named living executor responsible for ensuring the terms of the will are fulfilled in compliance with the judgments of a probate court. The probate court oversees the executor and makes sure they are carrying out your wishes. A will designated as an individual’s last Will and Testament becomes the final authoritative document that supersedes any other wills.
Consequences of No Will
Most importantly, when a loved one passes away without a will, it costs twice as much. If you die without a will in Texas, the Texas Estates Code dictates how your assets will be distributed. Who gets what depends on who your living relatives are at the time you pass away. If you die without a will and you do not have any family then your property will go to the State, but this is extremely rare.
Lastly, having a will and an estate plan will give you a greater peace of mind. Without a will, you may have fears about how future affairs will be handled. Knowing that you have an official plan in place will allow you and your family to feel more at ease about the future.
– Erin C. Callahan, Founding Attorney