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The firearm industry is heavily regulated, and a mistake during the ownership transfer of a firearm can become a felony. A gun trust can prevent these errors from occurring. But because gun trusts are not well-known, many people have questions about what a gun trust really is, and if they would benefit from getting one.

What is a Gun Trust? What Does a Gun Trust Do?

A gun trust is a term for a revocable or irrevocable trust to take title to firearms. In practice, this allows the orderly transfer of the weapon upon the death of an individual to their designated beneficiary.

There are unique challenges that families with adopted children face; however, most of these families do not know that estate planning is one of them. A Houston estate plan is essential for all people, but especially for families with adopted children because of the different laws they are subjected to. Texas law treats families differently, based on whether the children are legally adopted or not. Below are various estate planning and inheritance situations, all of which depend on the legal make-up of a person’s family.

Legally Adopted Children

When children have been legally adopted into the family, they have the same legal rights as biological children. This includes equal rights in estate planning situations, and biological and adopted children will receive the same inheritance and property when their parents have passed away. Therefore, legally adopted children will be treated the same if the parent has a will and trust in place. This occurs even if the adoption is finalized after the will or trust has been created.

At the beginning of every new year people make resolutions they hope to accomplish over the next twelve months. While the most common resolutions involve things such as exercising more and being kinder to others, resolutions about estate planning should also be at the top of this list. Because there are many resolutions people can make about estate planning – depending on where they are in the planning process – below are a few estate planning resolutions to consider with the new year.

1. Resolution: Create an Estate Plan

For individuals who do not yet have an estate plan in place, this is the year to do so! Life often has unexpected twists and turns, so it is always better to be prepared and have an estate plan. Even for people who do not think they need an estate plan – either because they do not have any assets, or their assets will go to their intended beneficiary even without a will – these are often mis-assumptions. In fact, drafting an estate plan is not a complicated process, especially when there are experienced estate planning attorneys able to help.

Thinking about death can be extremely upsetting. People do not want to imagine their loved ones coping without them or having to handle their affairs after they have passed. However, some of these worries can be avoided. Older Texans can help their heirs before they die by keeping their affairs orderly and having a Houston estate plan in place. These steps may seem unnecessary but can help loved ones avoid key errors that often occur after a person’s death. Below are some tips everyone can follow, so their beneficiaries and loved ones will be able to efficiently execute their estate and wishes.

Have an Estate Plan in Place

While this tip may seem obvious, having a detailed estate plan in place is the only way to truly ensure a person’s wishes are honored after their passing. Estate planning is arranging – during a person’s life – the management and disposition of their estate after they have passed away. Often, this includes writing a will and naming beneficiaries who will receive any assets or property the person owns. Without an estate plan, loved ones will need to go to probate court before any assets can be distributed. The time and money spent going through this process – often a considerable amount – could all be avoided if the individual had created an estate plan. Then, their loved ones could focus on grieving and emotionally recuperating, rather than paying legal and court fees as the probate court process drags on.

When people start to think about the Houston estate planning process, they often think about doing it themselves. Either because of cost or other reasons, they believe this to be a better option than hiring an estate planning attorney. These estate plans, nicknamed DIY estate plans, are often riddled with mistakes and can be extremely expensive to fix. In fact, it is often far cheaper to hire an estate planning attorney to draft the plan first than to create a DIY estate plan that ultimately cannot be executed. Below are some common questions individuals have when debating whether to create an estate plan themselves, or to contact an experienced estate planning attorney.

What if I Have a Straightforward Situation?

People often assume they only need to hire an estate planning if they have millions of dollars in assets or have a complicated familial situation. However, these are not the only people that can benefit from utilizing an estate planning attorney because there is no such thing as a straightforward situation. Not surprisingly, every person and their loved ones are unique, so their estate plan needs to be unique too. DIY estate planning websites do not ask very specific questions about the client, instead just inquiring about their relatives and who they would want to care for their minor children if they were to pass away. This does not delve into the questions necessary to create an appropriate estate plan.

Most individuals have heard of a power of attorney but are unaware of what a power of attorney actually is. In short, a power of attorney gives another person the ability to act on another’s behalf, either for a temporary or permanent amount of time. There are different types of powers of attorneys, each of which is utilized for different purposes. Below are some common questions about power of attorney documents and why they are critical Houston estate planning documents.

What Is a Power of Attorney, and Are There Different Types of Powers of Attorney?

A power of attorney is a legal document that authorizes a designated individual – the agent – to take action on behalf of another, called the principal. There are different types of power of attorneys. Depending on the purpose of designating a power of attorney, the principal may give the agent very broad power or limit their authority to a single purpose or transaction. For instance, a special power of attorney is utilized for a single occurrence, such as when a person wants to buy a house but cannot attend the closing.

When a person dies with a legally valid will, their property is distributed according to their wishes as outlined in the will. However, when an individual dies without a will, the estate is distributed to the decedent’s heirs according to Texas intestacy laws. Regardless of whether there is a will in place, the process of distributing the deceased’s assets is called probate. However, the Houston probate process is often expensive and time-consuming.

Probate is the process in which a court recognizes a person’s death, resolves their debts, and distributes their property. For individuals with a will in place, this is a simple process where the judge recognizes the validity of the will and handles the property according to the decedent’s wishes. However, without a will, the process is a lot more complicated. In Texas, the distribution of property is determined by how closely a person was related to the decedent. In these cases, the nature and quality of the relationship are irrelevant. Sometimes, the decedent’s assets are not distributed according to their desires.

Intestate Distribution

Individuals are normally told not to share their passwords with anyone for security purposes; however, there is one important exception. Individuals should make sure they have shared their passwords with a loved one, in case of their death. Doing so can be critical, as digital assets have become more and more prominent. People store important information online now, with no recourse if the person dies without giving someone else permission to access their digital information after their death. Below are some tips that individuals can use – either when crafting their Houston estate plan or afterward – to ensure their digital assets are not lost after their passing.

Creating a Digital “Vault”

Estate planning advisors will often tell their clients to create a drive or “vault” to store important documents and information. This can include estate planning documents, copies of personal identification, credit card information, and mortgage paperwork. Individuals should also include their digital login information and passwords too in this drive, so estate executors and loved ones have the ability to access it.

Despite the importance of having a Houston estate plan, over 60% of people do not have a will. Those without a will often cite several reasons, including that they do not believe a will is necessary, and the cost of creating a will is too high. These misconceptions stop people from creating a will or estate plan, when it is actually vital for everyone – despite age or health – to have one in place. Below are common misconceptions that many Texans have about estate plans, and why people should contact an estate planning attorney right away.

Misconception: “I’m Young, I Don’t Need an Estate Plan”

Many people – even those with families – do not believe they need an estate plan because of their youth. Unfortunately, tragedies occur every day, and it is impossible to predict the future. If a person owns any property or assets – regardless of their age – they should have an estate plan in place, so their wishes are honored after their passing. Otherwise, the individual will have no say over how their assets are bequeathed. When a person dies without a will in Texas, a judge will decide who inherits the assets. Although the assets are often given to the deceased’s spouse, children, or relative, this process is complicated as the court evaluates the assets and necessary evidence.

Creating a Houston estate plan is a great first step in ensuring a person’s assets and wishes are managed after their passing. However, without frequently reviewing the estate plan and updating it as needed, the process will not go as smoothly as anticipated. Many people are unaware of when an estate plan should be reviewed or updated. Below are some common questions people have about reviewing an estate plan, as well as specific instances that precipitate the need to update the plan.

A New Addition to the Family

Often, young families will create an estate plan and name their children as beneficiaries. However, additions to the family – such as a new child or grandchild – will often be overlooked as a beneficiary if the estate plan was created before their arrival. Because of this, people should update their estate plan after a new addition, so the new family members are named and specifically included as beneficiaries. This process may also include changing the estate plan to remove individuals from the will, either due to death or divorce in the family. Because family dynamics are constantly changing, it is important estate plans are regularly updated to ensure it reflects the current family structure and dynamics.

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