Estate Planning

Different Types of Trusts in Estate Planning

A trust is simply a contract between a “trustee,” who manages the trust, and a “grantor,” who establishes the trust. It is set up for the benefit of the “beneficiaries.” The trust document sets out the terms.  A trust is often considered the foundation of estate planning. While a trust is frequently characterized as a method to avoid probate, it has many other uses. For example, it can be used...

Hit by a Semi – Trusts Imposed in Secret

Trusts can pop up in the darndest places. Take wills, for example. In one case, Sam, a lawyer, drafted a will for his long-time friend and client, Nancy, that stated she was leaving all her property to him “to be distributed in accordance with the specific instructions I have provided him.” The will did not contain the specific instructions. Nancy died, leaving no husband and no children. Her will was probated and...

The Morning After – Executor’s Role After a Death

If you have never served as an executor of a will, then you probably have no idea what your official duties are in the first moments and days following the person’s death.   Executor’s Role Directly After a Death There is a legal answer to that question – you have none. That is because you are not yet the executor.  An executor is a court-created role. You are not an executor until...

The Two Most Important Documents of Your Life – Court Cases Lead to Changes

Karen Ann Quinlan. Karen Cruzan. Terry Schiavo. These 3 women are associated with court cases involving the right to die.  Right to Die Cases In 1975, Karen Quinlan attended a party where she drank alcohol and took tranquilizer pills. Quinlan went into respiratory failure, suffered irreversible brain damage, and fell into a coma. She was 21 years old.  Quinlan was placed on a ventilator and feeding tube. Her parents wanted the ventilator disconnected...

Dividing Family Possessions: A Perilous Process

My husband comes from a large, loving, boisterous family. Growing up they were anything but wealthy; it was the kind of household where there was always food on the table but seldom enough for seconds. Their house was small and modest.  As time passed, the kids grew up and moved away and married. Their father died and the time came when their mother realized the house was too much to...

Never Say Never – Can You Revoke an Irrevocable Trust?

How do you spell “relief” in 2021?     F-L-E-X-I-B-I-L-I-T-Y. As in travel, work location, masking, and estate plans.   Estate plans?  Unfortunately, yes. Many estate plans originated decades ago and have been rendered obsolete by family, economic and tax changes.  Most estate plans can be changed. A modification here, a restatement there, perhaps a revocation followed by an execution of a new document – all possible. Other estate plans, however, are unavoidably tied to the...

When Your Ex is X’d Out: Divorce Triggers Automatic Revocations

Call it the law of unintended consequences.  A final divorce, which is certainly consequential, can have all sorts of surprising consequences. Some might be welcome, while others can result in havoc. Revocation of Beneficiary Designations One surprising consequence is the statutory automatic revocation of beneficiary and agent designations made before the divorce is final.  Life insurance is a perfect example. If you named your spouse as the beneficiary of your life insurance, then...

Important Things to Consider When Your Child Turns 18

Did you know that you are no longer the legal guardian of your 18-year-old son or daughter? Eighteen is the age of majority in Texas, meaning that after their 18th birthday, young adults are presumed competent to make decisions about health care, finances, and other important areas of life.   Health Care Decisions What does that mean for your son or daughter in their senior year, or graduating from high school and...

Murder, Mayhem and In-Laws – Purposeful Conditional Bequests

Don’t let the grave stop you from harassing a boorish in-law.  Texas thinks it is a fine idea. It is completely legal to write your will in such a way that your daughter does not receive her inheritance until after she has divorced her husband, or he has died. It does not matter that your will could give the impression that the husband is a worthless or profligate husband who...

Five “Secret” Laws that Could Undermine Your Estate Plan

Lurking just beneath the surface of every will are the “secret” terms – those default provisions that the law helpfully inserts when the document is otherwise silent. They can undermine the best of estate plans.   These provisions are not highlighted anywhere. There is no caution light that flashes to notify you of the danger. This is just knowledge that most estate planners – and a very few other souls –...

15 Common Estate Planning Documents You Should Know About

When you undertake your estate planning, you don’t want to do only a so-so job. This is not an area of your life where you just want to “wing it.” You want to make sure you have all of the essential legal documents to your estate planning, and you may want to venture beyond the essential to the non-essential, but helpful, documents. In order to do that, you need...

When Virtual Becomes Reality: Cryptocurrency Comes Riding into Texas

Cryptocurrency is finally becoming accepted in the estate planning world. It just received another big boost in Texas with the enactment of HB 4474, the Virtual Currency Bill. You certainly cannot ignore cryptocurrency, with its $2 trillion valuation, but you probably want to be cautious for now.     What is Cryptocurrency Here is an abbreviated explanation. Cryptocurrency is digital cash. It is transacted through a blockchain, which is the name for the...
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