Archive for January, 2013

Texas Estate Planning FAQ [Part II]

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013

This is the second in a series of FAQs that address common questions we receive regarding estate planning issues at the Texas estate planning law office of Thomas D. Reino. If you are considering creating an estate plan, updating your estate planning documents or just have general estate planning questions, the best way to obtain detailed information is to schedule a consultation. We have provided answers to basic questions, but you can obtain more detailed information during your initial meeting with a Texas estate planning attorney in our office.

Why can’t I just use legal software to prepare my own estate planning documents?

Although you can use this type of software, there is significant risk associated with using these generic programs. Texas has very specific legal requirements for a last will and testament and other estate planning documents. These programs may not take into account the specific Texas substance and form requirements for particular estate planning documents to be enforceable. If a will is not prepared properly, the will may be determined to be invalid so that state intestacy law dictates how your property passes rather than your will.

Is it true that probate should be avoided at all costs?

While probate can be time consuming, slow and costly in many jurisdictions, Texas has a process called “independent administration” that avoids these pitfalls. While in some states the drawbacks of probate make it essential to have a living trust to avoid probate, this is not necessarily the case in Texas. This expedited process can take as little as three months depending on the circumstances and may be no more expensive than use of a living trust. The tax implications of a will and living trust are also similar so probate is not necessarily a process to avoid at all costs like it might be in some other states.

Do I need a durable power of attorney?

If you become incapacitated because of a coma or mental incapacity, a durable power of attorney for financial decisions permits you to designate someone as your “attorney in fact” to manage your financial affairs. The power of attorney can provide broad powers to dispose of property, manage assets, execute contracts and manage all your financial affairs with broad discretion, or the authorization can be narrowly tailored to a single task like executing a specific contract.

Will my heirs have to pay estate tax?

The federal estate tax is levied against the “taxable estate” transferred to one’s heirs. The value of one’s taxable estate is based on the fair market value of assets in the estate less liabilities and funeral costs. The majority of parties pay no estate tax because $5 million (adjusted for inflation) can be transferred without any estate tax liability.

What does intestacy mean?

If you do not have a will or trust, state law will determine how a decedant’s assets are distributed upon death without regard to a decedent’s wishes or intentions.

At our Arlington estate planning law firm, Thomas D. Reino carefully evaluates your estate to create an estate plan that is appropriate for your specific situation. While this blog post provides answers to some common estate planning questions, the best way to get more detailed information is to contact us at 817.303.2133 or send us an email at tom@tomreinolaw.com so that you can set up an initial consultation.

Texas Estate Planning FAQ [Part I]

Wednesday, January 9th, 2013

There are many questions we receive from those throughout Texas about estate planning and probate issues. The most effective way to obtain detailed legal advice on issues related to protecting your estate as well as disposition of your assets is to schedule a free consultation with a Texas estate planning attorney. However, we understand that sometimes it is helpful to have basic general information when considering whether to put together an estate plan or meet with a probate attorney. We have provided answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs) regarding a range of estate planning issues below.

Why do I need an estate plan?

An estate plan ensures that your wishes are observed in terms of disposition of your property at death and that your family is provided for because of your financial planning. Your estate plan also should include tools so that you can designate the type of extraordinary medical care you wish to receive and designate someone to make decisions regarding your medical and financial matters if you become incapacitated. Parents even use estate plans to designate a guardian for their children in the event they die.

Do I really need an estate plan if I already have a will?

While a will is a valuable estate planning tool, it does not cover all estate planning issues. Although your will may indicate how you want your assets distributed among your family and/or friends, it does not take effect unless you have passed away. This means that it does not address who will manage your financial affairs or make medical decisions for you if you become incapacitated. There are a range of documents that must be executed to have a complete estate plan, which typically should include at least the following: durable power of attorney, directive to physician (also called a living will), medical power of attorney, last will and testament and HIPAA authorization. Although there are other estate planning documents that may make sense given your individual situation, these are a good foundation if you are building an estate plan in Texas.

What kinds of medical issues can an estate plan cover?

There are a range of health care issues that may be covered by your estate plan including the following:

HIPAA Authorization: The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act is a federal statute that restricts who may have access to your medical records and information and prescribes penalties for violating your privacy. If you prepare a HIPAA authorization, it permits you to designate who may have access to this information so that your medical provider and insurance company will share information with the individual that you designate.

Medical Power of Attorney: A medical power of attorney permits you to designate someone to make medical decisions on your behalf if you become mentally incapable of making decisions or unconscious. This document will authorize someone to act in your interest in making health care decisions if you are incapacitated by severe injury like a car accident or suffer incapacity because of age.

Directive to Physicians: If you suffer a terminal condition, a directive to physicians (also known as a living will) permits you to decline extraordinary medical measures or designate those measures that you find acceptable.

At our Arlington estate planning law firm, Thomas D. Reino carefully evaluates your estate to create an estate plan that is appropriate for your specific situation. While this blog post provides answers to some common estate planning questions, the best way to get more detailed information is to contact us at 817.303.2133 or send us an email at tom@tomreinolaw.com so that you can set up an initial consultation.