Articles Posted in Estate Planning

Some conversations are easier than others to have with your parents—as a child, a teenager, and even as an adult. And as parents age, there are certain aspects of life their children may be concerned about—especially when planning ahead can potentially avoid disasters in the future. One of these topics is estate planning. While starting the conversation about estate planning with parents may not be easy, it is critical to do so in order for children to know how their parents would like future decisions to be made. Below are some questions that children can ask their parents about estate planning to begin the conversation and ensure they are taken care of in the future.

Do You Have an Estate Plan in Place?

The first question that elder parents should be asked is if they already have an estate plan in place. Some individuals may assume they do not need a will, most likely because they do not have significant assets to pass on, but this is not the case. Having a will can ensure the assets and personal property a person does have is passed on to who they would actually like to receive the gifts and not have to go through a long, drawn-out process.

Additionally, there are other documents in an estate plan that are critical for aging loved ones to have, such as a financial and medical power of attorney—having these documents allows a designated loved one to make decisions on their behalf in case they are physically incapacitated or mentally unable to do so for themselves anymore. These estate planning documents can also identify how they would like to be cared for in the future and how drastic of medical treatment they should receive. This allows loved ones who have to make this decision the peace of mind, knowing they are making choices the person would approve of. Even if an aging parent says they do have an established estate plan, it is still a good idea to have an attorney review it every few years to make sure it is accurate and up to date.

Continue reading

Many experienced estate planning attorneys have a list of the worst estate planning mistakes that Texans can make. For many attorneys, at the top of the list is inadvertently leaving money to the wrong person in their estate plan. Most people have strong preferences on who should inherit their money and property after they pass away—this is why they have an estate plan in place. However, even individuals with estate plans may make mistakes that lead the wrong person to benefit from the error. Below are some of the most common estate planning mistakes and how they can be avoided, according to Texas estate planning attorneys.

Ex-Spouses Inheriting Money

One estate planning mistake that many people fear is their ex-spouse inheriting their money or property after they pass away. Most formerly married couples do not want their ex-spouse to receive their assets if they die first. While most state laws ensure former spouses lose property rights after a couple is divorced, individuals must change their beneficiaries on estate planning documents as well.

Before getting divorced, most individuals will name their spouse as their beneficiary—for pensions, insurance policies, and bank account beneficiaries as well. If the beneficiary designation is not changed after the divorce and one of the former spouses passes away, then their ex may inherit the asset. Estate planning attorneys can help advise clients on changing these designations as soon as the divorce is finalized and provide recommendations on who should replace the ex-spouse as the beneficiary.

Continue reading

Because estate planning laws are constantly changing, individuals often wonder if they should be changing their estate plans or utilizing other strategies. Some of these changes are known—such as the reduction of the federal estate tax exemption in 2026—whereas others are passed by Congress last minute and can be difficult to predict. In order to prepare for these changes, estate planning attorneys have recommended two strategies for some married couples hoping to limit their federal estate tax liability: the spousal portability election and bypass trusts. Below is information about both of these strategies, and how they can be helpful to Texas married couples going through the estate planning process.

What is a Bypass Trust?

A bypass trust allows married couples to not have to pay the estate tax on certain assets after one spouse passes away. When one spouse dies, the assets within the estate are split into two separate trusts: a marital trust, and a bypass trust. For those assets placed in the bypass trust, the surviving spouse does not own those assets but can access the trust and utilize some of the funds within it. Someone must act as the trustee of this trust, it can be the surviving spouse, and ensures the assets are divided appropriately into each trust and that the trust’s assets are being carefully managed. The assets not placed in the bypass are placed into the marital trust, which the surviving spouse can access at any time and use the funds as they see fit.

Bypass trusts are useful for individuals hoping to limit their federal estate tax liability because up to $24.12 million in the bypass trust are not subject to the estate tax. And assets in a bypass trust are not overseen by the probate court process. Similarly, assets in a marital trust are not subject to the estate tax at all.

Continue reading

When crafting their estate plan, many individuals want to leave assets or gifts to their children, grandchildren, or other loved ones under the age of 18. However, there can be unique issues presented when gifting assets to minors, as compared to other adults. Most people do not consider these implications when crafting their estate plans. But there are ways in Texas to still gift property and assets to minors in which they can benefit from these gifts in the future. Below is information about these options, along with explanations of the most common questions asked about gifting to minors in Texas.

Why is Gifting to Minors Different than Gifting Assets to Adults?

One reason why individuals must gift differently to minors is that people under the age of 18 lack the legal capacity to own property. So, when a loved one passes away and has left assets in their will to a child, there are different rules that apply. Similarly, people may be afraid to leave assets or property to minors—worried they would mismanage the funds or not be responsible enough to handle such a gift. This is a common concern; however, it should not be the reason that minors are not included in a will.

The Texas Uniform Transfers to Minors Act

One method to still gift to Texas minors—while avoiding all of the complications above—is the Texas Uniform Transfers to Minors Act (TUTMA). Under this act, all assets gifted to a minor will be held in a custodial account until they reach the age of 21. As well as invoking the TUTMA in the will, the individual gifting the property must also name a custodian in their will. This custodian will manage the assets for the minor’s benefit until they can utilize them.

Continue reading

While families usually think about creating estate plans and planning for the future as a single unit, this is not always advisable. Every individual has unique estate planning needs that may differ from their spouse or children. For example, women may want to think differently about estate planning—and specifically saving for retirement—than many men. This is for a variety of reasons, including the gender pay gap and higher life expectancy, among others. Below are some of the explanations for why women should approach estate planning differently and how to overcome these obstacles.

Longer Life Expectancy

On average, women have a longer life expectancy than men. While this does not sound critical for estate planning and retirement purposes, it should. When saving for retirement, women may not be considering that they may live beyond their life expectancy. If they outlive their life expectancy, they may not have saved enough for retirement. Thus, they would not have enough money to live comfortably—and have the discretionary funds for health expenses.

For many parents, it can be difficult to think about how their children will have to take care of them in their old age—and how they will have to pick up the pieces once they pass away. Because of this, many parents will avoid including their children in the estate planning process or, worse, not take any estate planning measures at all. While the initial goal may have been to avoid burdening their children, not creating an estate plan can have the opposite effect. Below are some tips and information that individuals should take now to prevent uncomfortable situations—often that their children will have to handle—in the future.

Create a Will

One of the most important estate planning steps is to create a will. Having a will in place dictates how a person’s assets are to be distributed. If a person does not have a will and they pass away, their assets will go to probate court where a judge will decide who will receive the items in the estate. This process can take months or years and is often difficult for loved ones to handle and manage during an already emotionally fraught time. Similarly, having a will in place reduces the stress that loved ones face of knowing whether the assets are going to the person the deceased would have wanted.

Implementing a Power of Attorney

Talking with loved ones about who will serve as a power of attorney can reduce future family infighting and worries when a loved one becomes ill or incapacitated. A healthcare proxy makes decisions on another person’s behalf when they become physically or mentally incapacitated and thus cannot make these choices for themselves. Many parents do not want their children to have to make these decisions; however, many children would rather be in charge of their parent’s medical decisions than see an uninterested party make them—or worse, have no one who is able to make these decisions at all.

Continue reading

When people focus on creating or updating their estate plan, many wait so they have certainty about their tax situation. Because laws are constantly being passed that may impact their taxes—both now and in regard to their estate plan—individuals assume it is best to wait to review the plan until these bills have been passed. However, because of these constant changes, waiting is not advised. Additionally, there are non-tax aspects of estate planning that should be finalized as soon as possible. Below are some of these aspects and explanations for why estate planning should not be delayed.

Reason #1: Guardianship for Children

For individuals with children, it is essential to have an estate plan in place. Because if the person dies, having an estate plan allows them to name a potential guardian. This would be the person who would take care of the children. In many cases, this would be the surviving spouse; however, there should be a section addressing if the surviving spouse pre-deceases the other or if the partners die in a common accident. Without an estate plan, there may be fighting amongst family members or loved ones about who should raise the children if a tragedy occurs, and their parents pass away. Avoiding this potential struggle is easy by creating an estate plan.

Over time, people have recognized the differing needs individuals have when it comes to estate planning. While they may know that no two people will have the exact same estate plan, depending on the person’s livelihood, relationship with loved ones, and even their sex. This is surprising to most individuals. For example, women may have some unique estate planning needs that most men do not have. These needs extend to all aspects of the estate planning arena, including retirement needs, caretaking responsibilities, and end-of-life care. Below are some common issues that women face when going through the estate planning process, along with how life insurance may be the solution to these difficulties.

Earning Challenges

One such struggle with estate planning that women face is the earning power challenges that make it difficult to plan for retirement. Considering women still only earn approximately 82 cents for every dollar a man makes—with the amount being lower for women of color—this makes it even more essential to plan ahead for the future. Without adequate savings for retirement, women may feel they need to work even longer in order to be financially secure in their final years of life.

The estate planning process can be complicated for those just beginning since there is a lot to learn. Because of this, most people do not know how probate can impact estate planning overall. Probate is the court administration of an individual’s estate—which occurs after they have passed away. Depending on the amount of planning an individual has done before they die, the probate process may either be smooth or difficult. Below are some common questions and explanations about the probate process and how Texas estate planning attorneys advise their clients on these issues.

What is Probate?

After a person’s death, the court reviews the deceased’s debts in probate—if they had any—and then distributes their remaining assets to loved ones. Most people are surprised that regardless of if the person had a will or not, they will go through the probate process. If the person had a will in place, called a testate, then the process is much easier and is less likely to be questioned. However, if the person did not have a will, called intestate, the process is often much more complicated. This is another reason why it is critical to have an estate plan in place.

Contact Information