Articles Tagged with Houston Guardianship

Boy birdwatchingFrankly, there is less room for error when a single parent is managing all of the responsibilities of raising a family. Five key planning guidelines are the focus of the Parent Herald's article "5 Financial Planning Tips For Single Parents For Your Family's Protection."

Here are the top five most important tips:

  1. Create a safety net. Most important is to have sufficient emergency funds that can be your financial safety net. Single parents should save at least six months' worth of expenses in an account that's untouched until an emergency occurs.

Baby feetLearning that your family will include a special needs child dramatically changes the narrative for families and most don't know what to expect, from providing care to financial planning. The New York Daily News explores the financial planning that needs to take place in "How to prepare a financial plan for families with special needs children."

Experts estimate that raising a child to age 18 costs roughly $250,000 and those parents of children with disabilities and special needs will have costs that could be as much as 10 times more. With these types of financial challenges, here are some key areas to focus on to protect and grow your money.

  • Assemble a team of experts. That team should include an elder law attorney, doctor, accountant, and government benefits specialist to help you understand Social Security, Medicaid, and other state and federal government programs;

TulipsThrow open your windows, put the screens back in and get ready for more outdoor time, whether that means gardening or walks in the park. While you are at it, refresh your estate plan. If it has been three years or more since you last had it reviewed, it is time. This is especially true if your family has experienced any life changes, like marriages, births, deaths or divorce.

Many folks think they don't need estate planning because they don't have enough money for that, or they own everything jointly, says a recent article from CBS Boston, "Spring Cleaning: Estate Planning."

So why bother with a will? What happens when you both die? What if you have kids? Who is going to care for them if you pass away? Do you have things that you would want friends or family to have?

Family with dogFor a generation that is proud of their ability to ignore all kinds of taboos, millennials are no different than any other generation when it comes to discussing end-of-life care and estate planning with their parents. It's up to you, Baby Boomers, to initiate the conversation with your millennial children and make sure that they – and you – understand the basic documents needed for estate planning and end-of-life care.

Benzinga's recent article, "Millennials and Estate Planning: How to Get Started," says that when you do begin discussing end-of-life care, you need to understand the documents involved.

Here is a list:

MarriageFrom the following Forbes article, "8 Reasons to Revise Your Estate Plan Today," we learn that 51% of Americans age 55 – 64 don't have a Will. That's bad news for their families, who will have to deal with the estate plan default: whatever the rules are for their state. But for those who are smart enough to have an estate plan in place, there are still some maintenance issues that need to be addressed with a review every now and then. Everything changes over time, including your personal and financial situations and tax and estate planning laws.

Even if your estate plan was crafted by a skilled and experienced estate planning attorney, you'll want to talk to him or her if any of these things occur:

Marriage or Re-marriage. This doesn't automatically change the provisions of your will or trust and won't necessarily provide for your new spouse. Talk with your attorney to ensure your plan reflects your new goals, both individually and as a couple.

Fight over moneyFamily members are fighting to lift a shroud of secrecy following the death of a successful bishop who built a real estate empire and a megachurch. As reported in The Detroit News in "Family battles over megachurch founder's estate," the estate of a Pentecostal bishop from Detroit could be valued at up to $10 million. The bishop's heirs want their inheritance, and the church is pushing back.

Bishop William Bonner's two adult grandchildren say his survivors are being shut out of their inheritance, and they believe officials with a Harlem church are hiding money and records about property that belongs to the family.

Bonner died in April at age 93, after suffering from dementia and complications from a stroke. He founded Solomon's Temple in 1944, which has grown into a 2,500-seat sanctuary. His real estate empire includes as many as 30 homes and other properties in several states, his family says. His survivors want the church to open its books on his financial affairs to give them more information about the bishop's Will detailing property and cash that they claim should be part of their inheritance.

Baby feetAn unmarried father-to-be asked what he needs to do to protect the mother of his child in the column "Having a baby, but not married? Some financial advice," from New Jersey 101.5. His concern is well founded because if something unfortunate happened to him, she would not be first in line for his assets. He also asks if the necessary documents are prepared while they are unmarried, what needs to be changed when and if they do get married?

In many states, the rights of unmarried couples are different than those of married couples. As far as a minor child, child custody issues are the same whether or not you are married, as the courts make decisions based upon the best interest of the child. Of course, the surviving parent will be the default guardian, but in the event that both parents die, issues can arise without a will and the designation of an alternate guardian. In addition to an unforeseen death, you also need to consider what could happen if you and your partner split up.

Distribution of property is very different between married and unmarried couples that break up. If you are married, almost all property will be distributed equitably and alimony can be awarded. However, when unmarried couples split up, individual property is retained by the original owner—and only jointly-owned property, like a home with both names on the deed, is divided between the parties. Further, neither party of an unmarried couple gets alimony, but this can be addressed by an unmarried couple if they sign a Cohabitation Agreement.

Black white photo of handsThose holiday gatherings were important for Houston families.  And, family gatherings can be a valuable time for family discussions and decision making. This is particularly true for families facing the issues of legal incapacity, according to The Huffington Post. The article, "Legal Issues for Concerned Family and Friends of a Possibly Incapacitated Individual," advises that functional capacity is contextual. The challenges an individual faces in daily living and how well they are being addressed is sometimes hard to pin down. The legal terminology is frequently vague and inconsistent. Terms such as "incompetent," "unsound mind," and "incapacity" are used interchangeably.

State statutes typically define an "incapacitated person" as someone who, because of a physical or mental condition, is substantially unable to provide food, clothing, or shelter for himself or herself, to care for the individual's own physical health or to manage the individual's own financial affairs.

The courts will often require expert testimony and reports as to the individual's physical or mental state before rendering a judgment. Many states use a required standardized "Certificate of Medical Examination" form to be submitted to a court, which has the specific statutory definition of incapacity. It will often have boxes for the physician to check and a space for his or her comments.

Heirloom watchThe only way to make sure that your wishes are carried out after your death is to have the proper estate planning documents prepared in advance, according to a post from, "Money Matters: Common estate planning mistakes." Some people make the mistake of thinking that estate planning will be extremely complicated, while others think it will be far simpler than it ever could be. While every situation is different, there are a number of mistakes that are common at every income and asset level.

Failing to plan. Many of us don't have a will—but like it or not you do have an estate plan. The plan is called the law of your state and the probate judge. If you die without a will, your estate will be divided according to intestacy laws. In that case, there's no guarantee this will be what you wanted. A one-page will or a more complex plan with other strategies like a trust can help reduce estate taxes, save on administrative costs, and put you in the driver's seat when deciding how your assets are to be distributed to your heirs, charities, or to help a family member with special needs. Another important point: in many states a will is the only way that you can name a guardian for your minor children. So, if you move from one state to another, be sure to check local laws.

Failing to maximize your marital estate exemption. The new portability law provisions ease some of the estate tax planning burden by allowing each individual a $5.43 million federal estate tax exemption in 2015. If one spouse dies without using up his or her $5.43 million, the unused portion may be transferred to the other spouse for use at the survivor's death (hence the term "portable."). You should also remember to investigate any state estate taxes when reviewing your strategy and make certain to discuss how portability is elected with your attorney.

Bulldog readingTrusts offer many advantages in estate planning. Privacy, avoiding probate, more control over personal finances, the ability to more closely monitor investments and tax planning are a few of the reasons to incorporate trusts into your estate plan, according to a recent article in Wilmington Business, "Selecting the Right Trustee."

Selecting the right trustee to execute your plans is just about the most critical decisions you can make—maybe even as important as the terms of the trust itself. Think about these qualifications when selecting your trustee:

Administrative Skills and Knowledge. Your trustee must perform a lot of different tasks, like safeguarding assets, collections, reinvestment and distribution of income, document interpretation, bill paying, and many others.

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