Surviving the Sandwich Generation

A unique situation is on the rise in the United States and could affect you now or in the future. People are finding themselves caring for their aging parents while simultaneously raising and caring for their children. There is a term for this; the sandwich generation. Adults who are part of the sandwich generation have a living parent age 65 or older and are either raising a child under the age of 18 or supporting a grown child.

If you are a part of this group, you are undoubtedly challenged by the emotional, physical and financial demands of juggling the roles of caring for your own children and your aging parents. With so many people relying on you, it is that much more important that you take the time to carefully plan for the stressors that can come up along the way.

If you haven’t taken some of the following steps and they still apply to you, get started immediately.

  • Have a family meeting to discuss what your parent’s wishes. If you don’t have the conversation with your parents while they are still in good health and of sound mind, there’s a good chance you’ll find yourself unprepared if a crisis occurs.
  • Plan for your parent’s future. One of the most important steps you can take towards helping your parents in the future: making sure their estate plan is up to date.
  • Plan for your family’s future. Many of the same key documents are required for your estate plan, but a few additional things need to be considered.
  • Balancing it all. Assessing your financial situation and maintaining your emotional health is imperative.  Don’t hesitate to ask for outside help.

Taking these steps can certainly help you be prepared for the “unknown.” If you have any questions about your unique situation, don’t hesitate to reach out to me.

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The Importance of Leaving a Will… and What Happens When You Don’t

February is a month notoriously marked by love and romance. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, leaving a Will is one of the most generous and thoughtful gifts you can give. While you may not exactly want to present your Will over a candlelit dinner, this time of a year is an excellent reminder that taking care of your loved ones long after you’re gone is the ultimate gift that keeps on giving.

Many people believe you should be a member of AARP or be wealthy before you put a Will in place. But that’s just not the case. Whether you are young or old, rich or poor, you should consider creating a Will.

What Happens If You Die Without a Will?

When you die without a Will, an already difficult time can become a complicated legal situation for your loved ones. The State of Texas essentially creates one for you. If you are a resident of Texas and die without a valid Will, your property will be distributed to your heirs as determined by Texas law. Your assets will be distributed according to a statutory formula that doesn’t take into account your wishes or unique circumstances.

  • The Deceased is Married. The division of property at that point is dependent on whether it is characterized by separate or community property.
  • The Deceased is Single and Doesn’t Have Children. The state looks to parents, siblings or other relatives on either side of the family to find a qualifying heir. If someone dies and leaves behind no surviving heir, the estate would go to the State of Texas.
  • The Deceased is Unmarried and Has Children. The state code prioritizes the descendants by closeness in the family tree.

Unique Situations and Other Questions

No two families are the same. While the state qualifies inheritance without a Will quite clearly and specifically (as seen above), there are still many alternative scenarios that come up that I can walk you through.

What Can Your Family and Loved Ones Do Now?

There are not a lot of options for your family if you die without a Will. By not leaving a Will, you inevitably cause difficulties for those you leave behind, at a time when they are likely already distressing. They will likely have to go through a lengthy legal process that involves time and money for them to help determine who will gain power over your estate. If a Will had been prepared, this process would be unnecessary.

I cannot stress the importance of creating a Will enough. I hope this article is useful for those who are dealing with a death with no Will left behind. I am also optimistic that this information will reassure anyone who is without a Will to seriously consider putting one together.

Click here to read a more detailed explanation.

What You Need to Know About Disinheriting a Child or Grandchild

With Halloween behind us, it’s time to look forward to the holiday season. Thanksgiving may be your first chance in months to gather with loved ones to catch up and overstuff your bellies. It is also an excellent time to think about planning for the future.

While reuniting over turkey, you may notice that some loved ones have changed, and not for the better. Maybe they have made some irresponsible life choices or you are just reminded of their bad habits. Whatever the reason, sometimes you change your mind about who you want to include in your will.

Deciding to Disinherit

In Texas and many other states, you can legally disinherit an adult child or grandchild. To disinherit someone is to intentionally prevent them from receiving property from your estate after you die. The decision to disinherit a child or grandchild can be emotionally trying and can be legally difficult to do.  Including someone as a beneficiary in your will is usually done with deep thought and consideration, so the removal should require the same amount of attention.

How to Disinherit

The best way to disinherit someone may be to add a provision to your will. It is generally advisable to plainly and clearly state your intention to omit the individual. No matter what, you should review your will with your attorney every 3-5 years or when there is a major life change. If you are considering disinheriting someone from your will, you should consult with an experienced estate planning lawyer to walk you through the process and help you accomplish your goals.

For more information on disinheritance, click here to read more.

Celebrities Who Disinherited Their Children

If you make it big in Hollywood, you’re likely going to amass a great deal of wealth. If you happen to be the lucky offspring of Hollywood royalty, it’s assumed you’re set for life. But some celebrities believe their children should have to work hard for their money. Or in other cases, internal family drama has led to one or more children being cut out of the inheritance.

These celebrities chose not to leave a dime to some or all of their children:

  • Mickey Rooney
  • Marlon Brando
  • Tony Curtis
  • Joan Crawford

Estate Planning for Blended Families

Not every blended family is going to look like the Brady Bunch. There are numerous aspects of forming a new family that can create challenges. Everything from the number and age of the children to the attitudes and actions of the other biological parents as well as the respective financial statuses of the new couple. The new couple will have separate property and may or may not be planning to have community property. The new couple will need to determine how they want to provide for each other, their own children, their step children and any children they have together. While taking care of your spouse and the children may be a top priority, implementation can be rocky. The following is a guide to help you take on some of the issues associated with planning for your new family.

Communication

The first step is to have an open and honest conversation with your new spouse about your current finances, goals for the future and how you see your assets being distributed. Sometimes this conversation is a time to discuss what legal documents include your ex. You’ve combined your life with someone new and need to make sure all documents reflect this. Bring these legal documents when discussing your options. Recognize this should not be a single conversation but a dialogue that will continue throughout your life. Your goals may change over time based on the duration of the marriage, the age of the children and the nature of the assets to be distributed.

Wills
A will is important for everyone, but they are critical for a blended family and simplifies the probate process for your beneficiaries. A properly executed Will assures that your property passes to the loved ones of your choosing. Sometimes people forget to change their will when they get divorced and remarry. Joining together a new family is an excellent time to revisit the issue because you may want to treat your minor children with your current spouse differently than your adult children from a previous relationship. You may also want to include step-children, who would not be included under the law.

Trusts

If you want to provide for both your spouse and your children should something happen to you, then outright gifts of property may not be the best solution. Many blended families use trusts to provide for a spouse, while simultaneously ensuring their children end up with property as well.

Powers of Attorney

A Power of Attorney is a document that gives a trusted individual the ability to make decisions for you. Each document will perform exactly as the title suggests. While Texas gives very broad authority to your spouse if you are unable to act, there are some exceptions and your spouse may not be the best person to take action. Additionally, if something should happen to both you and your spouse, you may need someone else to take over the decision making. If you want to name your adult children, step-children or siblings to act on your behalf, you need to document your wishes.

Taking Care of Minor Children

If you have minor children and your former spouse has been removed as a legal guardian or is no longer living, it is important to have a plan for their future should something happen to you . Minors are not legally able to control assets and a guardian may have to be appointed by the court to manage any assets until the minor turns 18. There are ways to avoid court intervention while allowing your child to benefit from the legacy you will leave them. An attorney can explain your options and help determine your best strategy.

Personal Information and Contacts

You and your new spouse may still be learning about each other, and that may include details about financial assets. Now is the time to share information regarding your 401k and bank account information. It could also be time to make changes or transfer those accounts. It will be so helpful for your grieving spouse and family to not have to play detective after your death.

Hire and Attorney

Every state has different requirements regarding who will have the right to make decisions if you should become incapacitated or pass away. It’s important to talk to an attorney to develop a plan that meets the needs of your unique family situation. You don’t want to make promises to loved-ones and then have a plan that leaves them high-and-dry.

For more detailed information on planning for a blended family CLICK HERE.

Everything You Need To Know About Guardianships

We’ve all seen those tragic turned inspirational movies where parents die and leave behind an orphan – insert just about any Disney movie. Sometimes it’s a more thought-provoking flick where an adult has lost their ability to care for themselves. Either way, this is a tale as old as time, yet so little is known about guardianship.

A “guardian” is someone who is chosen or appointed to make legal decisions for another person who is unable to make those decisions on their own. Guardianship can be over a child or an individual who has become incapacitated through age or disability.

Diffhappy family with child and shopping bags in cityerent Types of Guardianships

Many people assume that a guardian is someone who simply cares for someone who is unable to care for themselves. That is not the case. There are actually two types of guardians and guardianships. We commonly think of a guardian as someone who is appointed to care for the well-being of an individual; guardian of the person. There may also be a guardian of the estate, who is appointed to manage that individual’s property. The incapacitated individual is referred to as the ward by the courts.

Guardian of the Person

A guardian of the person is authorized to make decisions involving the life and person of the ward, including health care decisions and place of residence. This guardian is tasked to oversee the ward’s personal care, medical care, maintenance and support. As stated above, guardianship can be over a child or an individual who has become incapacitated through age or disability. But what does that mean, specifically?

Guardian of the Estate
A guardian of the estate is someone who attends to the ward’s financial affairs. They can be the same or different from the guardian of the person. Their duty is to manage, protect, preserve and dispose of the ward’s estate in the ward’s best interests, in accordance with the law. The guardian isresponsibleto use the estate assets to provide for the care and maintenance of the ward. Generally, the guardian is granted the authority to make decisions on the ward’s property and estate as if it was their own. The court is responsible for settling conflicts between the two. Ultimately, the court will side with whatever is in the ward’s best interests.

Why Legal Representation is Important

There is no telling what the future holds, so establishing guardians for you and your children is not something to be put off. Consult an attorney and get started on the legal documents that put your own wishes into place. Verbal discussions amongst family and friends is not enough to protect you and your loved ones from an unexpected outcome.
If you are considering becoming a guardian, it is equally important to consult an attorney. The process is tedious and can be very expensive. It is wise to consult an attorney before going down the road of becoming a guardian, as there may be better alternatives out there for everyone involved.

Read more about Guardianship here.

Back-to-School Season: A Wise Time for Estate Planning

As summer winds down parents and kids are preparing for a brand new school year. Whether your kids are little or headed off to college, you’re busy settling into a new routine. Estate planning is probably the last thing on your mind. But the beginning of a new school year can actually be the perfect time to give your estate planner a call.

During the first week of school most parents have to fill out an emergency contact form. These forms are critical for the safety of your child. You must list who the school should call in case of an emergency when parents can’t be reached, and who might be authorized to make medical decisions for your child if their parents are unavailable. The names you put on these forms can be the perfect way to start thinking about who you (and your children) love and trust enough to serve as guardians of your minor children should anything happen to you. All parents wish to provide for their children and protect them from harm whenever possible. Make sure your legal documents are in order to ensure their safety should something unexpected happen to you.

Parents of college students have a different set of challenges. Despite this being your baby, your child is now considered an adult. This means that hospitals and medical personnel are no longer required to ask the parent’s permission before performing medical procedures. In fact, once your child turns 18, health care providers are no longer allowed to share information with the parents at all. To avoid any roadblocks, you can have your young adult execute two documents:

  • A Medical Power of Attorney: Nominate an agent for medical decisions
  • A HIPPA Authorization Form: Give permission to receive medical records

Vaccines, school supplies and a new wardrobe are just a few of the many things you need before the bell rings. Taking care of estate-planning at this time can lift a heavy burden of stress from both parents and children, leaving you all free to enjoy the new year together.

Learn more about how to protect your child here.

Commit to Your Estate Plan Before Committing to a Trip

Putting your affairs in order with an estate plan will make for a smoother transition to the loved ones you leave behind.  This is especially important if you plan to travel. Before you hit the road or jet set away this summer, make sure you’ve got these essential documents in order.  The preferred ending to your trip is a return home with some new wonderful memories.  However anything can happen while traveling, and being prepared will prevent your family from facing additional stress winding up your estate in the event of a tragedy.

An estate plan should include at least these four key documents:  will, medical power of attorney, durable (financial) power of attorney and a living will.  However, there are many other documents that may address the specific needs of your situation.

Must Haves

Will
A properly executed Last Will and Testament assures that your property passes to the loved ones that you choose. The preparation of a will can be accomplished simply by writing it in your own handwriting and signing it, but it is safer to use an attorney to draft your will and supervise its execution.

Durable (Financial) and Medical Power of Attorney
Powers of attorney allow you to name who should handle your finances and make medical decisions if you are unable. Furthermore, there are separate documents for financial and medical decisions so that you can easily name different people for these tasks if you wish.

Directive to Physicians (Living Will)
Directive to Physicians is the Texas document known as a living will. The purpose of a living will is to provide direction to medical professionals and loved ones on the type of care you wish at the end of your life. A list of specific procedures that should or should not be performed can be included. A person can be named to make decisions for you if you are unable to make decisions for yourself.

Other Important Documents for Specific Needs

  • Declaration of Guardian in Advance of Need (Adult Guardianship)
  • Appointment of Guardian (Child’s Guardianship)
  • Organ Donation
  • Disposition of Remains
  • Trusts

Read more here on how to plan ahead.

Estate Planning for Millennials

60431b1a424c6524e5e2b71e2fdae3f9If you consider yourself a Millennial then you are a part of the largest generation in history with over 80 million people. Many of you tend to “live in the moment” and are holding off on milestones such as marriage, children, and home ownership.  But what about planning for your future? Even if you don’t think you need an estate plan, chances are that you do. Below are 3 questions you can ask yourself to see whether or not it’s time to start creating an estate plan.

Would You Go Skydiving Without Signing a Waiver?

Many Millennials are thrill seekers and love the rush of doing something risky. Traveling the world, skydiving or bungee jumping are all exciting adventures, but having a Will in place may come in handy just in case something should happen. Many people believe that creating a Will is a complex process, but it doesn’t have to be. Whether or not you are waiting to own a home or acquire assets, you need to create a Will to avoid chaos after you pass away. Creating a Will lets you plan ahead to protect and provide for the people you leave behind.

Who Will Look After Fido?

Millennials are waiting longer to become parents but haven’t wasted any time becoming guardians to furry friends. Do you realize that sweet Fido might not be protected if something tragic occurs? Many laws view pets as property and if there aren’t proper plans in place, your fur baby might not end up with the person you choose. To read more about the different options that are available for estate planning for pets, click here.

social-media-icons-for-blogs-2-2Who’s Going to Update Your Status?

Millennials have grown up in the digital age which has made you fast adapters of technology. Updating social media, sending emails, and checking online accounts have become second nature. What happens to your lifetime of online files and accounts if you suddenly pass away? Luckily you can protect all of these digital assets by including them in your estate plan. Click here to read more information on how to protect digital assets.

There are many other decisions that you should consider when creating an estate plan, but these questions can help you see the importance of planning for your future. You can still “live in the moment” while protecting yourself and your loved ones.

Prince’s Estate Quandary: Not a Walk in Paisley Park

PrinceWhile the country still mourns the loss of music icon and pop superstar Prince, news reports continue to surface that there’s still no trace of his Will. While the search continues, the court has appointed Bremer Trust as special administrator during the proceeding.

Tyka Nelson, his sister, came forward with the original petition for the appointment of a special administrator for the estate and also listed five half-siblings as heirs which could further complicate things. In Minnesota, half-siblings are treated the same as full siblings which could turn the distribution of Prince’s assets and estate into a full blown family battle.

The goal of an estate plan is similar for most people: divvy up your stuff and give it to the people you love the most. But when blended families plan for their future an extra layer of complexities are added. Every state has different rules about the rights full and half siblings have in the probate process. Don’t you want to eliminate the risk of family drama after you’re gone?

The bottom line is whether you are a rich celebrity or an ordinary middle-class person; you have to create a Will to avoid chaos after you pass away. Creating a Will lets you plan ahead to protect and provide for the people you leave behind and serves as a guide so they can follow out your wishes. It’s important to talk to an attorney to create a plan that meets the needs of every unique family situation.


Other Famous People Who Died Without a Will

Many people find it hard to believe that Prince passed away without a Will, but according to a 2015 Rocket Lawyer Survey, 64% of the total American population doesn’t have a Will. The majority of the people surveyed confessed that they simply hadn’t found the time to create one. If you fall into this category, it’s probably a good idea to dedicate some time to protecting your assets. If not, important decisions will be left up to the law rather than in the hands of your loved ones.

Here are a few more celebrities who did not plan ahead:

  • Abraham Lincoln
  • Jimi Hendrix
  • Bob Marley
  • Howard Hughes
  • Pablo Picasso