Special Needs Trusts: Five Things to Know

A family with a member that has special needs, whether physical or mental, has many challenges and worries. For many parents, worrying about what happens to their child with special needs after the parents pass away is one of them. Often times, parents disinherit their child with special needs, leaving additional money to other children or relatives with the expectation that those third parties will care for person with special needs. This leaves too much unsettled and too much at risk, however, and can create unnecessary issues.

Supplemental Care Special Needs Trusts can help parents and guardians feel secure in the knowledge that their child with special needs will still be qualified to receive government benefits while receiving supplemental support to ensure quality of life.

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Here are five things to know about Special Needs Trusts:

  1. Supplemental Care Special Needs Trusts are created to hold property and distribute funds so that a disabled beneficiary remains eligible for government benefits like Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid. They are different from General Care or Support Special Needs Trusts, which are designed to be the sole source of income for a person with special needs and will disqualify that person from receiving government benefits.
  2. It is very important that the trust be set up correctly. Incorrectly, parents and guardians face the risk of accidentally disqualifying their child for public benefits, so working with a qualified team is essential.
  3. Once the trust is established, it will need to be funded. Funding for the trust can be granted in a will, as part of a larger estate plan, by life insurance or distributions from other accounts upon death, by third parties, or by the creator of the trust during their lifetime.
  4. The role of trustee should be considered very carefully, as this person or persons will be responsible for managing the trust, making investments with trust assets, keeping records, and making distributions. In order to maintain eligibility for government benefits, the beneficiary of the trust cannot have any control over the trust; they cannot demand distributions, change the terms, or manage the assets.
  5. Telling family and friends about the trust is important. They might make provisions in their own estate planning for the person with special needs, leaving money directly to that person. Doing so could disqualify the person with special needs from receiving public funds. If family and friends know about the trust and the reasons behind, they will know to direct their gifts to the trust.

For more information on trusts of all kinds, contact us.

Can the Executor Sell a Home Inherited to Someone?

Nothing could be more exciting than inheriting someone’s house under their Will.  Often homes are not only the most expensive item in a person’s estate, but often we attach a lot of fond memories attached to a household. However, if you suddenly find a “for sale” sign on the lawn, if the executor of the estate allowed to sell the house when it has been designated to pass to you?  The answer is yes, but only in certain circumstances.

The biggest reason that an executor would sell a house designated for a particular person is that the estate owes debts that cannot be paid without selling the house.  If the debts of an estate exceed the actual assets of an estate, the executor may need to sell the home to settle the debts.  If, however, the home was co-owned by a surviving spouse who also lived in the home, then the executor will not be able to sell the home because it is the surviving spouse’s homestead.  The homestead exemption protects the house from sale, even if there are creditors.  This exemption does not protect second homes or vacation homes, which makes it so the executor may need to sell these secondary properties. After the sale, the inheritor may be entitled to the remainder of the sale not used for the debt.

If no necessity exists to sell the house because of creditors or other reasons, the executor cannot just sell the house for no reason.

If you have been left a house or other asset by a loved one and believe and executor is trampling on your rights, contact us today. We not only help people craft estate plans, but we also represent those that need any help in the process of carrying that estate plan out.

Estate Planning for Minor Grandchildren Beneficiaries

To many grandparents, their grandchildren are precious. You don’t want to miss a single moment of them growing up, but if you can’t be there, you also want to make sure that they have the best shot at life. For this, your estate can help take care of grandchildren if it is your time, but the issue is that there are special considerations that must be made for those that are still considered minors. So if you are estate planning with your grandchildren in mind, here is what to keep in mind.

Grandchildren Dependent on Their Grandparents

In case where grandparents are the ones who are taking care of minor grandchildren because their parents are deceased or otherwise not in the picture, these grandparents want to protect those children as if they were their own. This means that in their estate plan, they will want to name a guardian for their grandchildren in their will. They will also want to add in a HIPAA release that will allow the medical records for their grandchildren to be released to another in case of an emergency or if the grandparent is incapacitated.

Finally, it may be wise to invest in life insurance to make sure those minor grandchildren are taken care of in the event of an unexpected passing.

Inheriting to Minors

Unfortunately, minors cannot directly receive any assets as gifts or inheritance. However, this doesn’t mean you cannot leave them anything. Instead, your estate plan should appoint a guardian to manage those assets until the minor comes of age. These guardians are appointed by the court, but this option can be expensive.

As a more affordable alternative, if a child is inherited assets under $50,000, a Child Uniform Transfer to Minors Act account can be opened and managed by a trusted adult of your choosing. For assets above that, they can be placed in a 529 Plan, which can be used to provide for any educational needs.

If you are a grandparent worried about how your estate will be handled for your grandchildren after you pass on, contact us today to let us help you put plans into place to provide for them.

Life Events That Should Trigger and Estate Change

When you do your estate planning, you do it in such a way that it is ironclad and will last a lifetime, however long that may be. While this should indeed be the way you do your estate planning, estate plans don’t last lifetimes. In fact, they should be reviewed and edited often during your hopefully long life. While you should look over it every now and then, there are actually specific life events that should merit looking and often changing your estate plan. Do you know what they are?


If you are swearing to spend your life with someone, obviously you would want them provided for if you pass away. However, while marriage is an event that merits reviewing your estate plan, dying without a Will still results in your new spouse receiving a portion of your estate, but that portion may not be as much or as little as you would have chosen to leave them.


Texas law automatically terminates any provision for a spouse upon divorce.  So, if you get divorced and fail to update your Will, your ex-spouse still will not benefit from your Will.  However, it is always best to review and modify your Will after a divorce so that you can confirm who will receive your assets and who will be your executors, trustees, etc.

Death of a Spouse

The death of a spouse is definitely a time to review your estate plan.  Not only are they likely listed as a beneficiary and executor under your Will, but they are probably also listed as agent under your powers of attorney for financial and medical purposes.  As a result of their deaths, you will need to update your estate plan to confirm your new beneficiaries and to designate new people to make medical and financial decisions for you.

Having a Child

The birth of a new child is always a time to review your estate plan.  Have you provided financially for your child?  Have you designated guardians for your child in the event that you and your spouse pass away?  Have you established a trust to manage your child’s assets if you were to die before your child was old enough to manage their own money?  These are all questions that you need to ask yourself when you experience the joy of having a child.

Have you gone through any of these life changes? Then it is time to update your estate plan. However, if you haven’t yet even started for planning for your family after your passing, contact us today.

Where Does Intellectual Property Fit Into The Estate Plan?

You might think you don’t have any intellectual property, such as things like authorship or trade secrets, but in today’s world, assets that you can’t actually touch are more common than ever. A popular example of this is those that retire and take up article writing as a hobby online to share their knowledge. Suddenly, they start to make a little money, then maybe a lot more over time. Alternatively, a more modern example that will become an issue in the upcoming years may be YouTube videos.

When you pass away, who will take over receiving compensation for these pieces of intellectual property? Like any other asset, intellectual assets can be placed in a will or the funds can be given to a trust and that will take care of the issue. However, if you create content as a hobby, you might not realize it needs to be included in an estate plan.

Often, the best idea may be to transfer this intellectual property while you are still alive. However, if a loved one has passed and left behind intellectual property, you may be able to retain the rights as the creator’s legal heir and under copyright law. Copyright law states that the family of the creator will maintain rights for the author’s lifetime plus 70 years, which is often substantial enough to sustain the family. Furthermore, a family member could transfer the copyright to themselves and keep expanding it.

Has a loved one passed away with a substantial amount of intellectual property and your family doesn’t really know what to do? Then you should contact us today. Unfortunately, like estate law, intellectual property law can be highly technical too, even more so when the creator has passed away. Let us help you decide how that intellectual property is divided and inherited to help ease your headache.

3 Life Events That Should Have You Revisit Your Will

Any time that we assist clients in preparing a Will and estate plan, we always advise them that they should think about reviewing their decisions every 3 to 5 years, or upon a major change in family circumstance.  While changes in family circumstance can be exciting, stressful, unexpected, etc., they often impact the decisions that you made  under your Will and estate plan.  What are some common changes in family circumstance that might impact your Will?


The birth of a new child or grandchild is an exciting change in your family.  However, neither children nor grandchildren are automatically included in a Will.  Instead, you need to take steps to add them to your Will, and you may want to include special provisions for who raise your children if something unforeseen happens, who will manage money for them if you passed away unexpectedly, etc.


If you created a Will prior to being married, it will not automatically include your spouse upon marriage.  Rather, after you are married, you should revise your Will to include your new spouse to ensure that your assets (or some portion of your assets) pass to that new spouse.  If you have children from a prior marriage, you will want to carefully consider the provisions for your children versus the provisions for your new spouse as blended families can always present challenges.

Buying or Moving House

Anytime that you move and/or purchase a new or second home, you should review your Will and estate plan.  For instance, if the new home is out of state, you may need to take action to protect it from probate in the other state.  You may also want to divide your houses differently if you have multiple homes versus only one home.

Are you considering a Will or ready to begin the estate planning process? Then contact us today to see what we can do for you.

Does a Prenuptial Agreement Affect an Estate Plan?

Prenuptial Waivers

The important thing to consider in terms of a prenuptial agreement’s affect on your estate plan primarily is the waivers. A prenup can include a number of waivers that work to protect your estate plan because even if an estate plan is in place, a spouse still maintains a fair bit of power.  Often, a prenup dictates what each spouse is entitled to receive both upon divorce and upon death.  For instance, in Texas, many prenuptial agreements provide that neither party creates any community property.  This means that one spouse could have a much larger share of the marital assets than the other spouse.   Upon death, the deceased spouse’s estate would only contain the assets that the prenuptial agreement specified.

Can You Edit a Prenuptial Agreement?

Prenups are often done before marriage, but you might delay to make an estate plan for years into the future. This leaves many wondering if you can edit a prenup to better work with your estate plan – you can! Like any agreement, as long as both parties agree on the changes to a prenup, it can be changed even if you are already married.

However, if the prenuptial agreement is fundamentally unfair and you somehow forced your spouse to comply, the courts may not choose to uphold the rules put forth after your death. However, if you treat your spouse fairly in the prenuptial agreement that waives some inheritance and the estate plan that gives them a fair share, then the courts are likely to uphold your careful planning.

If you’d like to learn more about the estate planning process or even get your own plan going, contact us today.

Estate Planning: Be Prepared for These Uncomfortable Questions

Estate planning, as you can imagine, is actually a highly personal process. It is kind of like going to the doctor where you need to be ready to disclose some things that you may not bring up in polite conversation. However, rest assured that there is always a reason for all the uncomfortable questions. By knowing what to expect, you can better prepare. So what are some questions that may come up?

Do You Have Any Health Problems?

It may not seem like any of your lawyer’s business, but primarily what they need to know is whether you have a condition that may cause incapacitation in the future, or if you are suffering from some health issue that may result in your death on an accelerated timeline. If you have a disease that could deteriorate your body and mind rapidly, it needs to be planned for.

Is Your Marriage Stable?

Marriages have good years and they have bad years, but is it, for the most part, stable? If there is the possibility of a marriage ending, you may not want your ex-spouse getting everything, and this issue may affect the decisions that you would make in your estate planning.

Do You Have Children Out of Wedlock?

This can be an extremely sensitive subject, but if you have a child that was the product of a different relationship than your current marriage, then they are still considered a legal heir to your estate. Your lawyer will need to consider the best way to advise you on addressing the inheritance issues related to this other child.  Failing to do so could result in your estate plan causing litigation when you are gone.

Do Your Beneficiaries Have Drug, Alcohol, or Gambling Problems?

No one wants to air the dirty laundry of their family, but this does need to be acknowledged. No parent wants their children to squander their inheritance away on habits that will hurt them. By letting your lawyer know, they can set up stipulations that will prevent the child from being able to spend all their inheritance right away or only receive it once certain criteria have been met.

While every client’s situation is unique, there may be additional uncomfortable questions that your lawyer may need to ask. However, if you are beginning the estate planning process, contact us today.  We are happy to explain to you why any of our questions are important, and we will seek to guide you making sound decisions in your estate planning.

Issues That Arise With DIY Estate Planning

There may be some small allure in dividing up your worldly possessions among your loved ones, but for many, the worst part of estate planning is actually doing it. You have to leave the house and go talk to a lawyer for a few hours. Even if your lawyer is a great person, it is still not a very fun way to spend your time. Instead, there are some that may choose a few DIY maneuvers for estate planning.

Some may choose to write a handwritten will, which is actually fine because Texas law recognizes the validity of handwritten wills. However, others may search the internet and end up on websites or various digital software products that promise to set up wills and trusts for them. While some of these products may do just that, often the biggest issue that comes with DIY estate planning products is when it comes to having the documents properly witnessed and executed.

A proper type-written Will requires two independent witnesses.  Without their signatures, the Will does not meet the requirements of Texas law to be valid and will be subject to being challenged by a member of your family. This can be done if one of the beneficiaries isn’t exactly happy with the amount they are getting. By claiming the Will invalid, they may stand to inherit more without it in place.

Furthermore, when you choose to DIY a trust yourself, the issue you run into is the lack of guidance. Trust law and administration is by no means easy to do, and often the complicated nature can lead to errors if done incorrectly. Without guidance in managing and funding the trust properly, that whole trust may be ravaged by penalties or end up distributing very little after your death.

Are you ready to start planning your estate to provide for your family? Contact us today. It may be easier just to try and do it yourself but by spending the time to contact an attorney, you can make sure it is done right the first time.

How a Trust Litigation Attorney Can Help You

Planning for your financial future is extremely important. While it is important to plan for your long-term financial needs, it is also important to make sure you have a plan for after you pass on. While a trust can be used to organize your finances and provide directions, there are situations in which something goes wrong with the trust and execution. There are several situations in which it would be a good idea to hire a trust litigation attorney to help you solve any trust problems that you can have.

 Question Validity of Trust

One situation in which you should hire a trust litigation attorney is if you have a question about the validity of a trust. If you believe that the trust documents were signed while the signer was under influence, coercion, or simply did not have the lack of capacity to make a financial decision, you can call the entire validity of the trust into question. In these situations, your trust litigation attorney could put the entire trust on hold until the situation is figured out.

 Poor Accounting of Trusts

After a trust needs to be executed, a trust administrator is responsible for accounting for all assets and liabilities. The administrator is then responsible for following certain instructions in the trust and then providing the remaining assets to the beneficiaries. If you feel that the administrator did not account for assets and liabilities correctly, you should have a trust litigation attorney hired to force the administrator to provide further detail and support for the accounting.


You should also hire a trust litigation attorney if you feel that there was a misappropriation of funds. In these situations, an attorney will be able to provide you with assistance to ensure that all funds are returned to the proper location.

 If you are a beneficiary of a trust and need legal representation, contact us to learn more about the services that we can provide.