Houston Estate Planning Law Blog
ENTREPRENEURS SHOULD CREATE SOLID ESTATE PLANS
If you do not already know, estate administration is the process of collecting and managing one’s estate after death. Often, it is best to leave behind a clear and concise plan. For entrepreneurs in Texas, it is especially important to leave a good plan for family, friends and the people in charge of estate administration. Therefore, assets can quickly be divided and debts paid. While estate planning is often the last thing on a busy entrepreneur’s mind, leaving an estate untended can bring about financial and emotional problems.
If you are in charge of finances and run day-to-day operations within the business, your spouse should also understand business operations and finances. Many company owners fail to realize the impact that having a business can have on families once they are gone. Many people prefer the stake in their company to pass to business partners, but if this plan is overlooked in estate documents and preparations, one’s investment in a company can land on a spouse. Ensuring a buy/sell agreement is in place can help avoid this problem. Such agreement can detail plans about the business and how shares should be sold.
Also, if you own a business, you probably want to protect your assets, which you have earned from operating the company. An irrevocable trust can be an important tool to help protect assets from creditors. These types of trusts act as “protective housing” for someone’s assets and also give the grantor tax relief while transferring assets to the trust.
Proper estate planning can offer those in charge of estate administration a sense of relief when having to manage the estate. It can also help protect financial assets, avoid issues with ownership of any businesses and also provide heirs with the inheritances they deserve.
Source: Forbes, “Preparing For The Inevitable: 3 Keys To Estate Planning For Female Entrepreneurs,” Judith Schreiber, June 13, 2012
Continue reading: ENTREPRENEURS SHOULD CREATE SOLID ESTATE PLANS
ESTATE ADMINISTRATION: CAREFUL PLANNING IS REQUIRED FOR SENIORS
Many seniors look to professionals to help them plan for the distribution of their assets following death. Having the advice of a competent professional to guide you in estate planning can be a great investment for Texas seniors. However, if the estate planner that you choose is unaware of all of the complexities of your situation you could find yourself with serious monetary problems.
In recent news, the Government Accountability Office has issued a report to Congress urging the Veteran’s Administration to make changes in the services that they provide to seniors. One issue is the need to protect elderly veterans from incompetent or unethical estate or financial planning services.
As one might guess, if a senior follows poor financial or estate advice, they could find themselves unable to pay for their current or future health care needs. In addition, the GAO urges the VA to implement better screening measures that would ensure that only those veterans with financial need are able to collect pension benefits.
In a study, the GAO looked at a sample of 25 organizations that provide estate planning or financial advice to senior veterans. They found that a common recommendation was for seniors to place their assets into an annuity. However, some types of annuities, such as deferred ones, are not the best option for seniors because they would be unable to access their money if they needed to pay for health care without incurring significant fees.
Furthermore, the Assisted Living Federation of America gave a statement to Congress on the issue, asserting that the actions of predatory financial or estate advisors should be considered a form of elder abuse. The group recommends establishing clear eligibility rules for VA benefits, and for close monitoring of professionals who help guide seniors through the estate planning process. Another suggestion was the implementation of a look-back policy, under which VA workers could look through past financial transactions to determine if applicants transferred assets in the timeframe just prior to applying for benefits.
In the end, senior veterans in Texas who are thinking ahead and considering estate planning options may want to heed the warnings issued by the ALFA. Furthermore, individuals should make sure that planning for the distribution of assets after their death does not interfere with their access to hard-earned benefits when they are most needed.
Source: Senior Housing News, “GAO, ALFA Warn VA to Protect Senior Veterans from Financial Exploitation,” Alyssa Gerace, June 10, 2012
Continue reading: ESTATE ADMINISTRATION: CAREFUL PLANNING IS REQUIRED FOR SENIORS
DO YOU KNOW HOW MUCH YOUR DIGITAL ASSETS ARE WORTH?
Many Texas residents do not really think about their electronic assets. Do you have hundreds of songs downloaded in your iTunes music library? Do you have digital books stored on your electronic reader? According to reports, if your personal, social and financial world is moving online, sources say that you should ensure that your passwords are part of your estate planning process. The last thing you want is one unknown password driving a wedge between your beneficiary and his or her inheritance.
Specifically, technology experts claim that an average 65-year-old has approximately 20 percent of his or her life recorded in a digital space. Furthermore, teens have up to 85 percent of their life documented in the digital world.
With this in mind, estate planning involves a thorough assessment of exactly what personal information is stored electronically. Additionally, one must document how to access this information.
Your family may not be aware of online assets, such as music, digital currency, domain names or book portfolios. Experts say that individuals do not consider these items when they contemplate and tally their total assets. Instead, people think about homes, cars and bank accounts.
For this reason, it is important to know whether the estate executor or beneficiary has legal access to the digital accounts.
Ultimately, keeping track of your electronic assets is important. If you are unsure of how to make estate plans with all of your electronic assets, you may need to speak to a qualified estate planning attorney. He or she can assist you with gathering all the important and necessary information.
Source: Financial Post, “Estate planning: Who gets your iTunes?” Julia Johnson, June 11, 2012
Continue reading: DO YOU KNOW HOW MUCH YOUR DIGITAL ASSETS ARE WORTH?
GRANNY SNATCHING: GUARDIANSHIP PROBLEMS
Some Texas residents may have heard of the elderly abuse called “granny snatching.” This has been in the news and states are beginning to consider new laws to prevent this abuse from occurring. The practice of granny snatching involves feuding families that are trying to seek control of an elderly relative. One relative may have guardianship over the relative; however, when the elderly person visits another state, another family member may try to snatch guardianship away. Estate administration means many things, but sometimes it can involve caring for elderly relatives during the end of their lives.
Recently, there have been several cases of granny snatching in the United States, and unfortunately, some people who have sought to strip guardianship rights away from others have been successful. These battles can deplete an elderly person’s estate and lead to long and costly court battles. A new bill proposal would help states network with each other to recognize guardianship laws in other states, potentially preventing this practice.
The proposed law, which is currently being considered in New Jersey, would provide jurisdiction over the elderly person in the event a disagreement occurs between relatives about the state with the proper authority. This bill would define the person’s home state as the place where the individual has been living for the past six months, consecutively. Passing this bill would allow states into a network of states with the same law that could protect elders from feuding family members.
Currently, this bill is being considered in the state of New Jersey but since 2007, the District of Columbia and 31 other states have passed this law. If a person under guardianship moves states and both states have recognized this law, it could prevent a full out court proceeding concerning guardianship. Estate administration sometimes involves complexities concerning members of the family in addition to members that have passed. With this law, trusted members of a person’s family can stay appointed as a rightful guardian and reduce costly court battles for families in conflict.
Source: NJ Spotlight, “New Jersey Considers Law to Prevent Granny Snatching,” Beth Fitzgerald, May 21, 2012
Continue reading: GRANNY SNATCHING: GUARDIANSHIP PROBLEMS