What Are Your Reasons For Not Writing A Will?

Many people have questions about what will happen to their assets and properties when they die. The answer is not always simple. The answer really depends on where you are living when you die, where your properties and assets are located, where your beneficiaries or heirs live, and the jurisdiction.

When many people ask what will happen to their things when they die, the irony is that they have more control over what will happen than they may realize. When you have a will, you can decide on what will happen to your possessions.

However, many people do not write a will, and there are many reasons why this happens. Here are some of the reasons why some people do not write a will:

I Can Do It At A Later Date

If you do not establish your will now, when will you do it? You may think you have all the time in the world to create a will, but you should not wait any longer. The unexpected can happen to anyone, including you. You should make sure you set aside some time to write your will.

I Do Not Have Any Possessions

It does not matter how much you think you have, but you do have something to leave. If you do not leave a will behind for your family, you will create more problems than they may be able to handle once you are gone. You may be surprised at the assets and possessions you have once you start listing things.

I Cannot Afford It

Although many people recommend you have a lawyer present when you are creating your will, it does not mean you have to spend a significant amount of money. You can do your part by preparing your will before you make an appointment with a lawyer. If you do not think you can create the will on your own, you should avoid doing so. The smallest mistake can mean you will not get the results you want your family to have.

Do you have reasons why you have not created a will? What are those reasons? There will always be help for those who need a will or other estate planning documents. Do not hesitate to contact us for more information or a consultation.

Early Estate Planning Can Alleviate Burdens After the Death of a Loved One

For most people, understanding what happens in day to day life is a real challenge.  However, the real conundrum occurs when trying to navigate what happens after someone passes away and all of their assets, debts, and wishes are left to be cared for by someone else.

It can be understated completely by saying that caring for a person’s estate is one of the most trying experiences of a person’s life, especially if said person is attempting to embark upon the journey without the assistance of a trained professional, who is well versed in matters related to estate planning.

Any instrument such as a will, a trust, or other device used to organize, distribute, or otherwise account for the affairs of a person who has died, is referred to as a testamentary instrument.

The system of wealth distribution in the United States focuses heavily on a concept called testamentary intent.  Simply put, testamentary intent refers to the what a person wanted to accomplish most when they made a particular provision in a testamentary instrument.

The reason behind the focus on testamentary is multi-faceted. In some ways it is seen as the right way to handle things.  After all, the person leaving the wealth was likely the person who built it to begin with, and thus should have ultimate say in what should happen to it.  Additionally, it is thought to be an incentive to be productive in life.  The idea is that if a person can leave no wealth to their heirs after death, what incentive do they have to save?

So you might ask, how does this apply to me?

The answer is quite simple.  It is obvious based on the laws written in governing estate law, that the government cares what you want to do with your property once you die.  If you do not make estate planning a priority, there will be no way for anyone to know what your wishes were.

Regardless of the amount of wealth a person accumulates, one thing that must happen at the end of every life, is the organization and winding up of the affairs of the person who has died.  When a person embarks upon the task of organizing their affairs and making provisions to wind them up while they are still alive, they are simply relieving their loved ones and the court of the primary burden of doing it.

Estate Planning can take many different forms and is relative to the extent of the person’s estate, the complexity of their wishes, the amount of money which must be paid to creditors, the number of beneficiaries they wish to name, and a number of other factors which must be considered during the planning process.

With proper planning, a person wishing to do so can set up future tax shelters for income and gifts, avoid creditors in certain situations, prepare complex trust arrangements with multiple beneficiaries, provide for the benefit of their favorite charity, establish a care fund to maintain their pet, or any number of things that people wish to do with their hard-earned money once they are gone.

Whether your estate planning needs are simple or complex, the professional estate planners at Ford + Bergner LLP can help you make the arrangements that will protect your interests both in life and after death. Contact us today for further information!

Estate Plan: Protect Your Loved One From Elder Abuse

Another year has passed us by. How did that year go by so quickly? Doesn’t it seem like we were just celebrating the beginning of 2016? Now we are a few days into 2017. Doesn’t time usually speed by us quickly when we are having fun?

This year, it is extremely important that we do everything we can to protect our loved ones so they will not be taken advantage of by other relatives or neighbors. Many people find their loved ones, especially those who are suffering from dementia or any other illness, being used and abused.

Many family members file lawsuits alleging elder abuse because one of their loved ones were tricked into signing an agreement they did not understand. Many elders have signed over the titles of their homes and signed other contracts because they suffered from an illness that limited their ability to function.

Unfortunately, this happens far too often now as more adults are seeing a decrease in their mental ability. Unfortunately, many elders are taken advantage of by people who are closest to them, including their caretakers, children, friends, and other relatives.

It is important to always have your estate planning documents in order so you will not be taken advantage of when you are older and your mental capacity becomes limited. If you have questions about how you can protect your family member from being taken advantage of and if you have questions about protecting the estate, do not hesitate to contact us today for more

How Trust Litigation Works in Texas

A trust is a legal entity into which a person transfers his assets.  It is a way for him to avoid probate and reduce estate taxes upon his death. Trusts have beneficiaries, people or entities that benefit from the trust, and they have a trustee, a person or entity that administers and manages the trust.  Most trusts run fairly smoothly, but sometimes problems arise and result in trust litigation.

Under Texas law, a trustee, also known as a fiduciary, has specific duties.  These duties include being loyal to the beneficiaries, not delegating responsibilities, keeping accurate accounts, furnishing information to beneficiaries upon request, exercising reasonable skill and care, prudently managing trust assets, defending the trust against third-party claims, keeping trust funds separate from other money accounts and more. If a beneficiary feels that the trustee has failed in any of these duties, whether due to incompetence, fraud or other reasons, then he can take the trustee to court to recover damages.

Texas’ statute of limitations – the time frame in which the aggrieved party may file suit – is four years from the date that the aggrieved party claims that the trustee mismanaged the trust.  In some cases, the court can stop the statute of limitations from running to extend the time to file.

If a judge determines that the trustee has breached his fiduciary duty and harmed the beneficiaries, then the trustee is responsible for the difference between the benefits that the beneficiaries received from the trust and the benefits that they would have received if no breach had occurred.  The idea is to make the beneficiaries whole again.

Trust litigation is complex.  If you think you have a case, then contact us.  Our experienced, talented attorneys are here to assist. Our job is to protect your legal rights.

Trusts in the Law

A trust is an arrangement where the creator of the trust establishes a relationship with a third-party, or trustee, to manage assets or property for the benefit of another, called a beneficiary. Trusts are commonly established to pass an inheritance from parent to child, where the child is minor, financially immature, or has an intellectual disability.

The trustee is a fiduciary to the beneficiary, meaning that he or she must make decisions that are in the best interest of the beneficiary. The trustee may be compensated for performing this duty, however, the trustee is prohibited from certain actions that result in self-dealing. Self-dealing is a transaction executed by the trustee for his or her benefit, rather than for the benefit of the beneficiary; it violates the fiduciary duty of loyalty, or the duty to act in the best interest of the beneficiary.

Unfortunately, too often neither the creator nor the beneficiary (or beneficiaries) monitor the actions of the trustee, which results in the depletion of the trust. Often beneficiaries remain unaware of the self-dealing until they have little to no assets remaining for their care.

Once the self-dealing is discovered, both civil and criminal actions may be appropriate. Because trust law involves a long history of complicated case-law, the impacted beneficiary or his or her guardian should consult an experienced attorney in the area of trust law litigation.

If you have reason to believe that self-dealing has impacted the trust assets managed for the benefit of you or someone you know and need experienced counsel, please contact us for a consultation.

Beginning Of The Year Estate Planning: Does Your Estate Plan Reflect Your Life’s Circumstances?

The year is over, and this is a perfect time to take out your estate planning documents and review them. It is especially important to review your estate planning documents if any major changes have occurred this year. Did you get married this year? Did you get a divorce? Did you have a child or grandchild?

Is Your Estate Plan Updated?

Your estate planning document is not just something you fill out one time and forget about it. Your estate plan needs to accurately reflect your family’s needs and circumstances. If your estate plan has not been updated in years, it could be a disaster for your family. An outdated estate plan could be much worse than you not having an estate plan at all.

Sometimes people forget to update their estate planning documents to reflect what is going on at that time. If your estate planning documents are no longer accurate and you forget to update the documents, your final wishes will not be reflected in your estate planning documents.

Is Your Family Aware of Your Assets?

When family members are not aware of assets and properties that have been left to them, a large percentage of the estate will go away because no one ever claimed those assets or properties. This is one of the reasons why it is so important to make sure you leave your loved ones a list of things that you own. Not only should you leave a list of your assets and properties, you should also inform your loved ones of where those assets are located.

If you need to discuss your estate plan with an experienced attorney, contact us today.

What Should You Do Before Sending A Will To Probate?

Before anyone can take a will to probate, there are many things that have to be done. One of the most important things you will need to do is find out who the beneficiary is in the will.

You should also find out what type of properties and assets the person owned and if the loved one left any debts. Once you find all the properties and assets your loved one own, you should make a list of everything.

For all the properties and assets your loved one own, you should list the following information:

  • Who is the legal owner of the property?
  • Did your loved one own all the property or only part of it?
  • How much is your loved one’s property worth? How much will someone be willing to pay for the property today?

If your loved one left unpaid bills and other debts, you should make a list of all the debts your loved one owed. Many people leave behind a large number of bills including credit card bills, student loans, medical bills, etc. If you are able to find the unpaid accounts, you should try to make a full list of everything.

If there are multiple people listed as beneficiaries in the will and the properties, you should know the following information for everyone:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Contact number
  • Date of birth

If your loved one’s will was not recently updated and one of the beneficiaries is deceased, you will need to obtain a death certificate before taking the will to probate. There are several things that need to be completed before a will can be probated.

For more information, do not hesitate to contact us today.