Articles Tagged with Houston Trusts and Estates

Sold signThe moment you close on your home, you should make sure that your heirs will not be stuck with a no-win situation that leads to a home being abandoned, according to "What Happens When a Homeowner Dies before the Mortgage Is Paid?" in The Wall Street Journal. It may not be the first thing on your mind when you take possession of the house, but it should be dealt with as soon as possible.

The mortgage is secured by the house. Nonpayment can't damage an heir's credit score unless he or she is a co-signer on the mortgage. Nonetheless, they should keep paying on the mortgage if possible because missed payments could incur penalties and lead to foreclosure.

Lenders who are notified of the borrower's death right away are usually understanding about resolving estate issues to avoid foreclosure.

Girls fightingSomething happens when money and possessions are involved, putting even the best of family relationships at risk, according to "Keeping the Peace Between Adult Children in Estate Planning" from The Huffington Post. The best strategy is advance planning and lots of candid discussions.

Although American retirees have been ranked high as some of the most generous in the world in terms of amount of assets passed to family members, a new retirement trend has emerged. About 43% of U.S. retirees now say they continue to provide regular financial support to at least one other person, with 10% saying they were supporting at least one adult child. These changing demands on the resources of some retirees shows that inheritance planning may become a bit more complex in some families. This could mean added stress between aging parents and adult children.

You need to remember that your financial well-being needs to be the priority. Make sure that your estate plan is updated to fully coordinate with your complete financial picture. This should be adjusted when significant life changes happen or if there is a major shift in assets—like when a child needs help. For some families, dividing up assets fairly equally among adult children is not a problem. But when it's not fair for everyone involved, it can be tougher. Varying situations for each child might mean it won't be an even split.

BW signing free useMore times than one would think, the very wealthy start the process of working with an estate planning attorney, discussing the plan and figuring out how to achieve specific goals. But many stop short of actually executing the plan. What leads this to happen?

In an attempt to understand why some affluent clients choose not to take action, Forbes' article, "Why The Wealthy Do Not Implement Their Estate Plans," describes a survey conducted of 288 wealthy families (defined as those with a net worth of U.S. $10 million or more) who had engaged trusts and estates lawyers to design their estate plans but did not follow through. These folks cited a number of reasons why they didn't act on their estate plan.

Almost 90% said that the estate plan didn't deal with their goals, wants, and objectives. About half think that their estate plan was too complicated. Well, estate planning for the wealthy often requires complex strategies to achieve goals. But this shows that they needed an experienced trusts and estates lawyer to do more than simply create an estate plan. They needed a professional who was equally skilled at gauging the affluent clients' ability to cope with the complexity of the planning and to be comfortable with the plan.

Wedding cake topperIn "3 ways to choose the right life insurance plan," the New York Daily News invites readers to consider how their lives have changed over the decades, and how their insurance should change too.

Young adults have some pretty straightforward insurance needs like obtaining insurance for their first car, insuring that special engagement ring or shopping for rental insurance for that first apartment. As we get older, our needs in life and in insurance change. Saving for a down payment on the first house, college tuition for the kids, and then down the road, retirement become new priorities. And many of us will be faced with unexpected events, like illness or death of a loved one, divorce or a spouse who is forced to retire prematurely.

Make adjustments. Life insurance is an important financial tool that should never be a "set it and forget it" plan. For example, a couple has life insurance policies on which they're continuing to pay premium payments and then the husband passes away. Depending on the death benefit and her level of concern for their children's financial state, it is possible that the wife does not need to keep her life insurance policy. She could put the dollars she was paying for insurance premiums in her pocket for her desired benefit. Also, many companies have employer-sponsored life insurance plans for their employees that cover about three years of salary. Depending on the level of coverage, you might consider purchasing additional insurance outside of your employer.

Bigstock-Couple-running-bookshop-13904324Estate planning for the owner of a family business is more complex and requires more thought than estate planning for an employee who owns a home and investment accounts. In "Five things you should know about estate planning for a family-owned business," Smart Business points out, in five broad strokes, key aspects that need to be considered when making an estate plan for the business owner that include protecting the business and family members.

Identify and prepare your successors. Smaller businesses may need someone to oversee a sale or liquidation. Communication with and buy-in by your team is critical. The group should have a clear understanding of your goals, what's intended and how to achieve it, way before the time comes.

Look at your liquidity needs. Business owners are often highly illiquid because of business value compared to other assets. Liquidity in your estate is important to provide for your family and replace your earnings. If estate tax is owed, your estate will need liquidity to pay those taxes or else face a forced sale of the business. Life insurance may be a good solution, with the structuring of life insurance policies through irrevocable trusts. The business itself could have a policy on you to help pay down debt, provide working capital, or replace your on-going contributions.

Arm wrestling over moneyA settlement agreement approved today by a probate court judge in Texas has NFL owner Tom Benson's estranged daughter Renee Benson replacing her billionaire father as a trustee overseeing her late mother's assets, as reported by the San Antonio Express News in "Tom Benson's daughter wrestles control of $1 billion trust in settlement."

The trust, valued at approximately $1 billion, was set up in 1980 after Tom Benson's first wife died—but before he took over as the owner of the NFL New Orleans Saints and the NBA New Orleans Pelicans.

Forbes said the elder Benson has a net worth of about $2.2 billion.

Military man saluting flagA lieutenant colonel serving in the U.S. Army Reserves was in Afghanistan on his third tour of duty, suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and enduring a bad foot injury in 2011 when a letter arrived at his home, as described in Harvard Magazine's "Fighting for Veterans, Learning the Law." It was an important, time-sensitive letter.

The letter contained information on how he could file an appeal for disability compensation and stated that he had to respond within 120 days of receipt. But Ausmer wouldn't return home for another five months.

By the time he read the letter, he'd lost his one chance to appeal his benefits case. The Veterans Benefits Administration gave him no help, but a trio of Harvard Law School students did. They took his case, arguing that the clock on an appeals claim should start only after a veteran has returned home—rather than when a letter arrives in his or her mailbox back home.

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:

Senior on beachThe same people who put off estate planning have no problem finding the time to plan their vacations. And far too many people think the only plan they need for retirement concerns being able to pay bills.

Retirement planning is for that time when you change direction and stop the grind of working full-time. Estate planning is what Federal News Radio's article, "Estate vs. retirement planning: You bet your life, literally!" says is an after-you've-gone shopping list.

Think of estate planning as how you would like things to be, and to be divided, to minimize stress on your loved ones and avoid nasty family fights that can occur after the funeral. You can minimize problems and decide some of the tough issues before you pass away. Estate planning is a thoughtful gift for your family and friends.

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.

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