Archive for June, 2013

Important Texas Estate Planning Mistakes to Avoid [Part II]

Friday, June 21st, 2013

This is Part II of our two-part blog covering key estate planning mistakes that you should avoid to ensure that you obtain the maximum benefit and protection from your estate plan. While we have provided general information about errors committed by many people, the best way to obtain specific information about you unique circumstances is to speak with an experienced Texas estate planning attorney.

Stay away from amateurs.

There are some non-professionals that refer to their business as a “paralegal document preparation service” or “typing service.” People should be very cautious about relying on such services unless they confirm that the person providing the services is a licensed Texas estate planning attorney. Estate planning is one of the most complex areas of law so relying on a non-attorney to handle your estate planning needs is extremely risky. While a nurse practitioner may be excellent at what he or she does, you may not want this person to perform your triple bypass cardiac surgery. Given the high stakes for you and your family when setting up an estate plan, the decision to rely on someone who is not a licensed attorney with legal malpractice insurance is equally ill advised. Many people who attempt to use this type of “cost cutting” strategy make devastating mistakes like failing to fund their trust.

Provide a treasure map.

If you prepare a notebook that lists all of your assets and provides the critical financial information that a trustee or administrator of your estate will need, this can make the process of handling your estate upon death more efficient and less costly. There are many assets that you may not even remember that you have like a small life insurance policy from an employer you worked for many years ago. If you keep all of your title documents, retirement account statements, bank account records and similar documents with a list of assets and current values updated you will make administration of your estate less costly and more efficient for your family.

Make sure to get periodic estate planning “checkups.”

Many people prepare a will and durable power of attorney when they are in their thirties and presume that their estate planning is handled. However, there are many events in one’s life that will trigger the need to review your estate plan and update your documents. These may include the birth of children or grandchildren, your divorce or remarriage, divorce of a child, retirement from your business or occupation and many other major life changes. There are also frequent changes in the law that can impact your estate plan so it is important to periodically contact your Texas estate planning attorney to determine if you need to make any revisions to your estate planning instruments.

Review your insurance beneficiary designations.

Some of your assets will not pass via your living trust or a will in probate court. Certain assets like your home may pass according to the title if you own it in “joint tenancy,” which is true for many marital partners. Similarly, some assets like insurance policies will include a place to designate a beneficiary, and this designation will determine who receives the proceeds under the insurance policy. These designations should be reviewed periodically especially in certain situation, which include but are not limited to the death of a spouse, divorce and remarriage.

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. If you have questions or need estate planning documents prepared, we invite you 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.

Important Texas Estate Planning Mistakes to Avoid [Part I]

Friday, June 7th, 2013

Estate planning can provide a wide range of benefits that include ensuring the uneventful transfer of assets and business interests to your successors, protecting your net worth from creditor claims, planning for future incapacity, avoiding probate and reducing liability for gift and/or estate taxes. Despite these benefits, many people assume that they can delay the process of setting up an estate plan until they reach a later stage in life. Those who already have an estate plan in place may delay updating their estate plan although significant changes in the law or life events have now made modifications appropriate. Experienced Texas estate planning attorney Tom Reino has provided some suggestions to help people avoid significant estate planning mistakes.

Assume it is already a rainy day.

Estate planning and procrastination go hand-in-hand for many people, but the problem with putting off the process of estate planning is that you need an estate plan in place before an event making it important occurs. Heart attacks, strokes and car accidents do not occur according to a schedule or when it is convenient, but the aftermath of sudden major events like these are precisely when you need a durable power of attorney for health care and financial matters or an advance medical directive. If you suddenly pass away without a trust and/or will in place, you cannot turn back the clock and designate how your want your assets to pass to your beneficiaries. Texas intestacy law will replace your preferences and wishes in terms of the succession of your estate.

Ultimately, estate planning is about advance planning so procrastination can lead to serious issues for both you and your love ones. One approach to estate planning involves using a simple estate plan that is less expensive to set up but that meets your needs when you are younger and modifying your estate plans so that it is more sophisticated as your estate and estate planning needs become more complex.

Avoid the estate plan in a box.

There are many so-called estate planning tools that offer “cheap and convenient” preparation of estate planning instruments either by using computer programs or standardized forms. This approach to estate planning can be worse than no estate plan at all. These inflexible standardized forms are not customized to your specific portfolio of assets, family structure and other unique factor relevant to your estate planning needs. Typically, these programs are not even adjusted to satisfy the statutory requirements under the law of individual states. It is important to remember that much of the law that impacts estate planning instruments and estate planning strategies is governed by the individual law of your state. Because those who rely on crudely drafted forms may have a false sense of security regarding documents that are invalid or ambiguous, they may fail to take steps that someone who knows they have no estate planning documents might, such as signing a hospital furnished power of attorney when undergoing surgery.

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. If you have questions or need estate planning documents prepared, we invite you 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.