Estate Planning Is Not Just for the Rich

Posted by Harvey L. CoxSep 08, 20210 Comments

There is a common misconception "out there" that estate planning is just for the rich. Let me clear that up.  Estate planning is NOT just for the rich. It's for everyone. That's right, everyone. It doesn't matter what you do for a living, whether you have a dozen kids or no kids, whether you think you have an estate to plan or not, estate planning is for you.

Is It Time to Update Your Estate Plan?

Posted by Harvey L. CoxSep 03, 20210 Comments

Estate planning documents are prepared based on a snapshot of your life at the time you prepare them. The documents accomplished your goals and objectives then.  But, life changes.  While your estate plan may have achieved your objectives then, your goals now may be different.  So, the documents you have may not accomplish your goals at this point in your life.

Dying Without an Estate Plan in Texas

Posted by Harvey L. CoxAug 23, 20210 Comments

If you die without an Estate Plan, Texas law has a formula that determines the distribution of your assets. That formula does not consider your wishes or unique circumstances.  The following summary explains how Texas law distributes your assets if you die without a plan.

A Word About Probate

Posted by Harvey L. CoxAug 20, 20210 Comments

All property left by a Will must go through probate.  Probate is the legal process by which a Will is “proved” and accepted in court as a valid last testament of the deceased.  Once the Will is proven to be valid, the legal process of administering the estate of the deceased begins.  The administering process involves distributing property according to the Will.  Probate can be a tedious and expensive proceeding.

Understanding the Tax Consequences of Gifts

Posted by Harvey L. CoxAug 18, 20210 Comments

Janet is diagnosed with terminal cancer.  She has three grown children.  Janet heard that her children would likely spend thousands of dollars to probate her estate after her death.  Since her only real asset is her family home, she is concerned that they will spend too much on probate to get the house in their names.  Janet also heard that she can help her children avoid probate by deeding the home to them while she is still alive.  Janet hires a lawyer to prepare a deed transferring her home to her children while she is still alive.

Ya Gotta Realize that Wills Are Easily Changed

Posted by Harvey L. CoxAug 12, 20210 Comments

John and Diane have been married for over 30 years.  They have no children together, but each of them has two children from prior marriages.  In their Wills, they provide for each other first and then leave the assets equally to all four children.  What they don’t consider when drafting their Wills is that the survivor of the two of them can always change the Will to leave everything to only that survivor’s children. 

Be Aware of Poor Writing

Posted by Harvey L. CoxAug 05, 20210 Comments

I see a lot of poor writing when reviewing estate plans for clients.  Most of the worst writing I see occurs when people attempt to write their Wills using forms found on the internet, including LegalZoom and Rocket Lawyer.  I addressed do-it-yourself estate planning in a previous post.  In case you didn't see it or you've forgotten what I said, you should run, not walk away from forms found on the internet.  Proper estate planning isn't as simple as a few fill-in-the-blank forms.  You must know the legal effect of the wording that goes into your estate plan.  You need an estate planning attorney to make sure the language in your estate plan correctly accomplishes what you want to achieve.

Do NOT Rely on Co-Ownership of Property to Avoid Probate

Posted by Harvey L. CoxJul 07, 20210 Comments

In Texas, co-owners of property can have a right of survivorship to the property they co-own.  Co-ownership with the right of survivorship means that when one co-owner dies, the surviving co-owner becomes the sole owner of the property without the necessity of opening a probate estate.  But, using this method of estate planning can cause unexpected tax and legal problems.

Don't Make the Mistake of Thinking All Estate Plans are the Same

Posted by Harvey L. CoxJun 23, 20210 Comments

have seen a lot of poorly drafted estate plans.  Inexperienced attorneys wrote some of those plans.   Financial planners and CPAs even wrote some of them.  With the proliferation of wrong information on the internet, I have seen more than a few poorly written do-it-yourself estate plans from forms found on the web.  It isn't a good idea to find forms on the internet and then complete them by just typing your name in blank spaces.  And, just because you pay for a form on the web doesn't mean you're getting something that fits your needs. 

Naming Children as Beneficiaries of Life Insurance

Posted by Harvey L. CoxJun 15, 20210 Comments

Many parents with minor children have not acquired substantial assets, so they use life insurance to provide financial security for the children in case one or both parents die.  If you name your minor children as beneficiaries and they are minors when you die, the insurance company cannot legally pay the life insurance proceeds directly to them.  In this scenario, it will be necessary to ask a court to appoint an adult to manage the money for the children until they reach adulthood.  You can avoid this situation by establishing a trust for the children and naming the trust as the beneficiary of your life insurance.

The Advantages of a Trust

Posted by Harvey L. CoxJun 10, 20210 Comments

In another post, I talked about why a Will is not the best tool to address your concerns for quickly transferring your assets, keeping your estate private, or properly leaving money to minors. A Trust, however, does address these concerns. Here's how: Asset Management If you have heirs...

The Problem with Wills

Posted by Harvey L. CoxJun 08, 20210 Comments

A Will is supposed to allow you to leave your property efficiently to your loved ones, but it rarely does that.  Leaving property through a Will is like pouring a pitcher of water into cupped hands to take a drink.  Most of the water spills onto the floor and disappears before you can use it properly.