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As more people become interested in drafting estate plans—recognizing the inherent benefits to planning ahead—they wonder whether they can do it themselves. This approach—called DIY estate planning—is when people utilize websites and books to draft their own Houston estate plan. While this may appear to be a more cost-effective and quicker solution, there are major drawbacks to DIY estate plans that Texans might not realize at first. Below are some aspects to consider when deciding whether to draft a DIY estate plan or to work with a knowledgeable estate planning attorney throughout the process.

Why an Estate Plan is Not So “Simple”

Many individuals starting the estate planning process assume it will be simple: they only need a basic will, detailing who will receive their assets and belongings when they pass away. However, it is rarely that easy. Websites may be effective for filling out a generic form, but then people do not know what else, if anything, should be included in the estate plan. Not only are most Texans unaware of the other critical aspects of an estate plan—such as tax planning, financial planning, and senior care—but they assume a will can be a page or two long without getting into the details. Estate planning attorneys go beyond creating a will: they help people create healthcare documents—so doctors know what to do with end-of-life care—and financial planning documents so loved ones are secure in their future finances. This goes above what a DIY website can provide.

Many Texans have considered the medical care they would want if they were extremely ill. However, if these wishes are not written down, family members or medical professionals may act in a way contrary to what the person would have intended. In order to ensure this does not happen, people can create an advance healthcare directive.

Advance directives are a legal document that expresses a person’s decisions related to end-of-life care. Below is a more detailed explanation of what to include in a Houston advance healthcare directive, along with the repercussions of not making one.

Why Advance Directives are Critical

Thinking about long-term care—especially as a person ages—can be an overwhelming and scary process. However, as time goes on, it can be more difficult for seniors to obtain proper long-term care. This is why planning ahead is essential. Elder law attorneys will discuss financing for long-term care, which includes often applying for Medicare and Texas Medicaid. Although these are difficult conversations to have, starting the process as soon as possible can ensure a smooth transition when the time does come for new housing or medical care.

Plan Now, Avoid Care Issues Later

The Massachusetts Attorney General recently announced a settlement with a nursing home to resolve allegations that they failed to meet the needs of their residents. The Attorney General’s investigation found that within the time span of a year, the nursing home admitted residents that they did not have trained staff members to properly care for them or the necessary equipment. This also included the staff failing to properly prevent the development of ulcers on residents. The case is an example of a nursing home failing to properly care for its residents.

For many Texans, the thought of their family members fighting after their death because of the contents of their will is something they cannot bear. In many cases, this fighting can lead to a family member contesting the validity of the person’s will. One solution to this potential issue is to include a no-contest clause within a person’s Last Will and Testament. A no-contest clause provides for the disinheritance of an heir if they challenge the validity of the will. Because there are details specific to a no-contest clause, along with the ability to contest a no-contest clause, Texans should be aware of the purpose and effect of a no-contest clause before incorporating it into their estate plan.

What is a No-Contest Clause?

A no-contest clause prohibits beneficiaries of the will from challenging its terms. In the will, the no-contest clause will state that if a beneficiary contests the will and loses this challenge, the beneficiary will receive nothing. This greatly disincentives people from contesting the will if they are merely unhappy with the terms of the will. Instead, beneficiaries are likely to only challenge the will if malfeasance or manipulation occurred. However, if a beneficiary challenges the will and is successful, the no-contest clause would be voided along with the will.

As individuals in Texas get older, there are new issues they must face like obtaining long-term care and applying for benefits. All of these issues fall under the category of elder law. Elder law is an aspect of estate planning that focuses on the needs of individuals as they age. However, with many nursing homes closing, it has become even more imperative to plan ahead for long-term care. While this may be an overwhelming and scary concept, elder law attorneys are skilled at navigating these issues and ensure elders can obtain the care they deserve.

Big Shifts in Senior Living Care to Come

Five Star Senior Living—a major senior living business with over 1,500 retirement communities—has announced they will exit the skilled nursing business by the end of 2021. Instead, the business is shifting to smaller senior living communities that do not require the same elder care and skilled nursing capabilities. As more businesses like Five Star get out of the senior nursing facility business, it will become harder for elders to obtain long-term care.

Estate planning is a crucial measure that ensures a person’s assets are given away according to their wishes; otherwise, the inheritance could be diminished by court costs and other fees. While many people have come to realize the importance of estate planning generally, they have many questions and fears about the costs of a Houston estate plan. This may deter Texans from creating an estate plan, but it should not. Below are common questions and answers about estate planning fees and the benefits of hiring an estate planning attorney.

Why Should I Hire an Estate Planning Attorney?

Many Texans believe that hiring an estate planning attorney is costlier than using an online website; however, there are innate benefits to using an estate planning attorney. Firstly, internet sites do not provide specified advice for clients and their specific needs. An experienced (key word) estate planning attorney will tailor all estate planning documents to the person’s desires and requirements. Especially for people with unique family circumstances, this is a must.

Being deceived by anyone can be upsetting. However, when it is someone who claims to have your best interests at heart—and it impacts your financial future—it can become downright infuriating. There are ways to discern between companies who are only out for their own selfish financial gain—and will even lie to clients about what is best for them—and those that actually care about an individual’s situation and their family. When it comes to Texas estate planning, finding an estate planning attorney who will handle the matter with grace, hard work, and efficiency is critical.

Texas-based CLA Estate Services, Inc. and CLA USA Used “Scare Tactics” to Dupe Seniors Into Buying Estate Plan Products

In Seattle, a judge ruled that a company providing estate planning services must pay more than $6.1 million to people in Washington because it pressured people to buy its products by using “scare tactics.” Specifically, the company scared seniors into believing they would be left vulnerable unless they purchased the company’s Lifetime Estate Plan and set up revocable trusts, which gave the company further access to their funds over time.

For individuals with minor children, thinking about who would care for them if the parents died unexpectedly may be difficult but necessary. This designation can be made as part of a Houston estate plan, which appoints a person to serve as the legal guardian of a child—only in case of their parents’ untimely passing. Parents without a will should prioritize drafting one, as this documents the individual’s wishes and intents.

When deciding who to name as guardian—or whether to change the designation—there are several aspects to consider:

Factor #1: Location

With the recent election and inauguration of the 117th United States Congress, new bills are being introduced that impact all aspects of a person’s life. According to a recent news source, one such bill is Senator Bernie Sanders’ proposed estate and gift tax reform legislation. For individuals with an estate plan in place, the introduction of new legislation gives cause for concern that it may impact their estate plan. The bill will reduce the estate tax exemption to $3,500,000 and increase the estate tax rate from a flat rate to a progressive one. Because the nuances of such a law can be confusing, below are some common questions and answers about the new estate tax bill.

What Does the Bill Propose?

The bill seeks to reduce the estate tax exemption from $11,700,00 to $3,500,000. This means if an estate is valued at over $11,700,000 currently, the heirs of the estate will need to pay a tax. If the proposal is enacted, the heirs of an estate valued at over $3,500,00 will have to pay the tax. Additionally, if the bill passes, anyone who received more than $1,000,000 in gifts from a loved one as a part of their estate plan will have to pay a tax too. The proposed exemption limits are per person; therefore, for married couples, the total exemption limit would be $7,000,000. After 2022, the exemption will continue to rise with inflation.

When a person has property or assets they would like to pass onto loved ones, their best option is to open a trust to manage their assets. However, there are many types of trusts, so it may be difficult to determine which type of trust is the correct one for an individual and their beneficiaries. One type of trust Texans should consider is a spendthrift trust. A spendthrift trust manages a person’s money and property, so the beneficiary of the trust is unable to sell or misuse the funds by receiving them all at once. By creating a spendthrift trust, the creator of the trust can limit a beneficiary’s access to the entirety of the assets at once—which is especially helpful if they are afraid they may spend the money unwisely.

What Is a Spendthrift Trust and Who Should Use One?

A spendthrift trust limits the ability of the beneficiary—the person who will inherit the property—to access the property or assets that are placed in their name. Instead of directly providing the beneficiary with the assets from the trust, the beneficiary receives the assets through the trustee, a third party who manages the trust. While the way the beneficiary receives the assets depends specifically on the trust, some options include regular payments from the trust, as well as the trustee purchasing goods on behalf of the beneficiary with the assets from the spendthrift trust.

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