Three More Tips To Plan Your Will

If you are one of those people who are avoiding it, you really need to write your will. It is really important that you plan ahead for your family! Be as specific as possible to avoid any confrontations down the line.

If you are struggling, here are some more tips to help you plan your will.

Remember that you can give people money without worrying about taxes. Most people don’t want to give their family members money because they worry about the income taxes. However, for most people, they won’t have to pay any taxes on money that they inherit. If you are concerned about it, seek legal advice.

Have all of your papers in a safe place. Even though your retirement accounts, life insurance, and other important papers don’t need to be in your will, they should be close by and easily available. Make sure that they all have a beneficiary so that your family can use them.

Don’t forget about a living will. Though you may not need it at your age, it doesn’t hurt to have a living will. This gives your family members instructions in case you are seriously injured. If you don’t want any drastic measures taken, make sure that your living will is up-to-date.

When planning your will, make sure that all of your other paperwork is in order (and easily found). You may also want to write a living will if you have specific instructions that you want taken in case of an injury. Don’t avoid giving people money just because of taxes. If you are really concerned, seek legal advice to ensure that your family members will be taken care of properly.

Contact us for all of your legal needs.

What Happens To Your Children If You Don’t Have a Will?

As a parent, you would do anything for your child. Does that include after you are gone? You will still want your children to be well taken care of, even if it can’t be you. However, what happens to your children if you don’t have a will? The fate of your children rests in the hands of the state – which is not always a good thing.

Most of the time, children are placed with their other parent. Unless incapacitated or unfit, the children will usually go to the other parent first. This can be a problem if you have several children by different parents because your children will be separated, even if they are used to being together.

If the other parent is unfit or can’t be found, another guardian will be appointed. If you are re-married (to someone else), your spouse may be able to keep your children if he or she is willing. Family members can try for guardianship, though there are cases when a judge will appoint someone else, especially if your family members are elderly.

Judges do want to do what is best for your children. There are even some states that allow children to have a say when it comes to who they want to live with. They try to find people who have a relationship with your children though it is not always possible.

There are times when your family may petition the court to name themselves as guardians of your children. This can become a long drawn-out court battle, though the court may rule in their favor. Instead of letting the courts decide, you should make sure that your children are well taken care of by writing a will!

Contact us for all of your legal needs.

Lessons From Prince About Estate Planning

You might not see movie stars and musicians at the local grocery store, but you may have more in common than you think with famous entertainers. Just like them, you could need estate planning tools to ensure the financial legacy you leave behind is used how you want it to be. Prince’s story shows others how to make smarter estate planning choices.

No plans and huge government fees

Prince had no will, or any other estate planning documents, so the majority of his assets are going to the government. A 40% percent federal tax coupled with a 16% Minnesota state tax turn the late celebrity’s $200 million fortune into about $88 million. Since the singer was unmarried, childless and didn’t stipulate who his assets should go to, the $88 million gets divided equally between his six siblings.

Charitable giving

As Prince was extremely wealthy, he could have established a private foundation. Giving money to charity reduces the value of an estate and comes with tax benefits, so this is an option even for those who don’t have the capital to start their own foundation.

Using a trust

One kind of trust that may have worked for Prince is a Grantor Retained Annuity Trust. A GRAT generates income for the grantor for a fixed amount of time while the remainder of assets in the trust go to beneficiaries. Assets belong to the trust instead of the grantor, so there is no estate or gift tax.

Contact us today to learn more about your estate planning options.

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.