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Estate Planning Archives

The formalities of a valid will in Texas

Most of us understand the importance of having a valid will, but very few understand the requirements upon which a will's validity depends. A will must satisfy two kinds of criteria to be valid. First, the will must satisfy the formal requirements of execution and being witnessed. Second, a will must satisfy the requirements relating to the testator's state of mind at the time that the will is signed.

Living together has legal risks as a couple ages

More and more Texas couples are choosing to live together without getting married, especially if one or both partners are over the age of 50. This choice has many reasons, but according to several studies, the most prevalent reason is the memory of a difficult divorce and a wish to avoid repeating this experience. Living together has an appeal for many people who want to emphasize the emotional connection and avoid the restrictive formalities of marriage. However, living together has a number of legal risks that should be explored before beginning co-habitation.

What is a Texas special needs trust?

Texas parents with special needs children are constantly faced with the question of how to provide for the child's expenses. This question is especially vexing when the issue is estate planning. Special needs children often rely on a variety of state and federal programs to provide financial assistance, but eligibility for these programs can often by undercut by estate plans that do not take into account the limits on the child's income and assets that can affect eligibility. The solution to this problem is often provided by a special needs trust.

Estate planning and annual gifts

Recently on this blog, we discussed the federal estate tax and noted that its exemption is now set at $11.4 million. Since Texas has no state estate tax, and few Texas individuals leave behind an estate worth more than $11.4 million, most Texas families need not concern themselves with estate taxes when they are preparing their estate plans.

Clearing up some estate tax myths

Estate planning and probate are subjects that can profoundly affect people's lives, and yet they don't come up very often in conversation. One of the few occasions on which the popular news media will discuss the subjects is when there is a courtroom battle over a famous person's will. Another is when there is a political battle over the estate tax.

How often should I update my estate plan?

Your will is meant to be the last statement of your intentions about how to distribute your property after you are gone. However, a lot can happen in your life after you sign your name on your finished will. If you don't update your will to reflect these changes, you may end up leaving a plan that does not reflect your wishes. In the worst cases, an out-of-date will can lead to confusion, disputes and even litigation.

How does a Texas health proxy work?

The disposition of assets is a major part of estate planning, but it is not the only part. Another important part of estate planning has to do with how health care decisions are to be made if the person doing the estate planning becomes incapacitated. There are a number of instruments available for Texans who have feelings on how health care decisions should be made if they lose the capacity to make their own decisions. This blog post will discuss one of these instruments, the medical power of attorney.

Estate planning decisions should be informed

As mentioned many times before on this blog, Houston residents, along with their counterparts across the country, often delay talking about end-of-life decisions and how they would like their assets to be distributed amongst their heirs. In the absence of a healthcare proxy or a financial one, family members are left to make important, life altering decisions in an emotionally charged environment and this can lead to family disputes in the long-run. This could be avoided if individuals take the time and make the effort to make these decisions and create comprehensive estate plans.