Posts Tagged ‘Texas Estate lawyer’

Don’t Think You Need a Power of Attorney: Think Again! [Part I]

Friday, July 5th, 2013

While many Texas residents put off the decision to engage in developing a comprehensive estate plan, procrastination in preparing estate planning documents like a living trust, advance medical directive or last will and testament can created serious problems when a person becomes incapacitated. The failure to engage in estate planning will also cause problems for family member who have no legal document to facilitate protecting their loved one’s medical or financial interests in the face of an event that causes mental incapacity. Anyone who is not inclined to develop an estate plan should at least consider a durable power of attorney. This affordable estate planning instrument can solve a multitude of potential problems regardless of one’s age or individual circumstances. In this two-part blog post, we outline some of the advantages of having a durable power of attorney.

Execution of Documents: There are times that you may be unable to execute contracts or financial documents that are time sensitive. This unavailability may be the result of traveling or business commitments. Regardless of the reason that you are unavailable, a durable power of attorney over financial issues can authorize someone to act in your place to execute contracts or conduct financial transactions when you are unavailable to sign the appropriate paperwork. While you may have some trepidation about authorizing others to engage in contractual and financial matters in your place, an experienced Texas Estate Planning Lawyer can carefully tailor the document to the amount of discretion and range of authority that you want to grant. The power of attorney can even be limited in terms of the period that it is effective. Although a person acting as your agent under a power of attorney for financial matters owes you a fiduciary duty, you should obviously exercise care in selecting the person who you appoint as your “attorney in fact.”

Traveling Children: If your children will be spending the summer with their favorite aunt or traveling with friends, you should provide the person who will be caring for your child with a power of attorney so that they can consent to medical care. While no one wants to seriously contemplate the prospect that one’s child will be involved in a motor vehicle accident or a fall while hiking, the unpleasant reality of a family member or friend of the family trying to locate you so that you can authorize medical treatment of your child is even more disturbing. The use of a power of attorney to give a family member temporary guardianship will also allow the person to execute documents that require parental consent for participation by a minor.

Medical Care for Personal Injury: If you are injured in a motor vehicle crash or other accident so that you are unconscious or in a coma, a durable power of attorney for medical decisions can empower the person of your choice to execute medical decision and authorize medical treatments and test on your behalf. While a family member could go to court and seek a guardianship, this process involves formal court proceedings and medical testimony so it can cause unnecessary delay and entail avoidable expense. If you have a durable power of attorney prepared and provided to the person that you wish to make medical decisions if you become unable to do so, this will make the process simple, efficient and inexpensive.

Management of Financial and Business Affairs: If you are suddenly incapacitated by a catastrophic medical emergency like a heart attack or stroke or suffer other injuries that render you incapable of managing your financial affairs, a Texas durable power of attorney can provide authorization to someone you select to manage your business or finances. Again, this can be done under court supervision when a family member or someone else close to you files for a guardianship, but this is comparatively costly and will result in delay so there may be no one with apparent authority to act to protect your financial interest in the interim. Further, the person who will watch out for your financial interest will be selected by a judge who may not appoint the person who you would choose if the decision were left up to you.

Once you have made the decision to have a durable power of attorney prepared, you must consider how to go about crafting this estate planning instrument. While many people use standard forms that can be obtained in office supply stores or self-help legal books, this can lead to disastrous results. There is no assurance that these documents comply with Texas law. Further, any pro-forma power of attorney form will be a crudely written catch-all document that may not meet your particular needs or concerns. The standardized form may be too broad and grant authority to perform tasks that you are not comfortable delegating or too narrow in failing to authorize crucial tasks.

When you retain experienced Texas Estate Planning Attorney Tom Reino, he discusses your specific objectives and so that he can customize a power of attorney to fit your unique situation. Further, you can be confident that the document will comply with Texas legal requirements. 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.

Key Facts You Should Know about Living Trusts in Texas [Part II]

Monday, May 20th, 2013

This is the second part of our two-part blog covering key facts that Texas residents should know when constructing an estate plan with a living trust. While living trusts provide a valuable tool that can accomplish a range of goals, every person’s position is somewhat different so there may be some situations where a living trust is less necessary. While we attempt to address many of the key issues that people should know about a living trust in this blog, we offer a free consultation which is the best way to learn about your specific situation.

Drafting a trust document is only part of the necessary steps involved in setting up a trust.

This point is very important because many people that rely on non-attorneys or computer programs to draft trust documents never actually transfer their assets into the trust. This process of actually setting up the trust by transferring your assets into the trust is the only way to make the trust effective. If this step is skipped, your trust document will be disregarded so your assets could pass by intestate succession to someone other than who you intended.

Trusts can protect the assets in your estate from your creditors or those of your beneficiaries.

Depending on how you set up a trust, you can place assets out of the reach of your creditors or those of your loved one’s creditors. If you set up an irrevocable trust, you have essentially already passed the assets to the beneficiaries of the trust protecting the assets from your creditors. If you set up a spendthrift trust, you can structure the trust to protect assets passed to your beneficiaries from their creditors.

A living trust provides a more effective way to appoint someone to manage your financial affairs in the event of incapacity.

If you are involved in a car accident or suffer a serious medical condition so that you are temporarily medically or physically incapacitated, a living trust offers an effective tool for allowing someone to access your accounts and manage your finances while you are incapacitated. While a durable power of attorney can accomplish the same objective, many financial institutions are more apprehensive about acknowledging the authority of a power of attorney than a living trust.

A living trust allows you to maintain control over your assets.

When a person sets up a living trust, the trust can be set up so that it is a revocable living trust, which means that it can be changed, modified or even eliminated based on the wishes of the person setting up the trust. The person who is creating the trust can also be the trustee, which means there is no loss of control over one’s assets. This flexibility can make a living trust a highly attractive estate planning tool.

The need for a guardianship can be avoided by setting up a living trust.

If you suffer a sudden catastrophic medical condition so that you are incapacitated, your family could be forced to go through the cost and complexity of the guardianship process so that someone is appointed to manage your financial affairs. This process can be costly and time consuming, but the existence of a living trust makes this unnecessary as the trustee or alternate trustee will exercise authority over the assets in the trust if you become incapacitated.

At our Arlington estate planning law firm, Mr. 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.

Key Facts You Should Know about Living Trusts in Texas [Part I]

Monday, May 6th, 2013

Many people think estate planning is something that only seniors need to worry about because it involves the transfer of assets to one’s heirs when one dies. Although there is some truth to this understanding of the function of estate planning, this emphasis only covers a small portion of what estate plans can accomplish. In addition to succession planning, estate planning documents like a living trust can provide asset protection from creditors, incapacity planning in the event of a serious accident and tax relief. In this two-part blog post, our experienced Texas estate planning attorneys at the law office of Thomas D. Reino have provided an overview of some basic facts everyone should know about a living trust.

A living trust can protect you and your family from the administrative delay, hassle and expense of probate.

One of the most important functions of a living trust is to avoid the probate process which can be costly. The time lag associated with the probate process can also be difficult for your loved ones if you are the primary family breadwinner. In this situation, those you leave behind may be left in a difficult financial predicament if they must wait for administration of your estate for access to funds to cover living expenses. A living trust is already set up prior to a person’s death so there is no delay or hassle with probate proceedings.

While a living trust can be a very effective way of avoiding probate, it is not the only option. Assets like real estate, bank accounts and insurance policies may be held in “joint tenancy with right of survivorship” or have an identified beneficiary. If an asset is titled in this way, it will automatically pass to a loved one without the need for probate regardless of whether you have a living trust. However, there are advantages and disadvantages to both strategies so you should speak with an experienced Texas estate planning attorney about which approach is best suited for your individual situation. It is important to note that many assets cannot be titled this way so even if you rely on the joint tenancy approach for some assets this will not cover all of your estate.

A living trust may save you money and avoid taxes but not necessarily.

While the probate process can be costly, Texas has an expedited process that can make probate relatively inexpensive. While a trust can avoid the expenses associated with probate, the cost of setting up a trust may be comparable to this expedited probate process in Texas so it is important to obtain legal advice regarding which approach is more suited to your needs. The cost of setting up a trust also is increased because you will need a special type of will called a “pour over will” along with the trust. The function of this special kind of will is to ensure that assets not specifically placed in trust are still covered in your estate plan. The living trust may also help with estate tax avoidance depending on the size of your estate.

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.