Tag Archives: last will & testament

Doing Well by Doing Good

March is an important month in my life. I was born on March 19th, and as my birthday DSCF9141approaches, my desire to make good on the New Years promises I made to myself is renewed. One of those beginning of the year promises involved spending more time in service to others, outside of my professional obligations. Recently, I took a step toward fulfilling that goal by meeting with Mike Jansen and Dayton Gilbert of the American Heart Association. I had questions about the organization, and they were very generous with their time and insights over coffee.

One of the challenges that my clients and I face is how to balance the demands of daily life with the need to give back to the community. Many of my estate planning clients are Baby Boomers, thinking about how to equitably divide their assets. Those of this generation who are religious routinely leave bequests in their wills to their local church, synagogue or mosque. The other segment of my estate planning practice are newlyweds and young parents. They want what’s best for their families in order to secure their future. Each of these types of clients asks for advice, recommendations, and warnings about how to arrange their affairs in the face of the unknown. I advise each of these groups to consider making a testamentary bequest to a reputable charitable organization.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death among American men and women. The American Heart Association funds heart research, hosts scientific sessions for continued advancement of the medical community, and educates the public about lifestyle, diet, and stress management. Its primary goal is to connect the best medical research to the doctors who need it most so that they can save lives by decreasing risks in current procedures. Due to the AHA’s efforts, scientists have learned how to slow down heart attacks and make stints safer and more effective for the people who need them to keep their arteries free from blockages that cause heart attacks.

My first professional experience with the American Heart Association happened in 2014 when I participated in a marketing campaign known as Free Wills Month. The AHA was one of the featured organizations, and it sent several informational booklets and newsletters detailing its mission. I felt comfortable recommending it to clients considering a charitable bequest in 2014, and I have continued confidence in that recommendation.  The impulse to serve others is a noble one. If you have been fortunate enough to leave assets to your spouse, children, friends, family or faith tradition, why not support a good cause? I encourage you to think seriously about donating your time, influence, and money to a cause you believe in. Both of my parents have heart disease; the efforts of the American Heart Association have tangibly benefited my family, and if you look deep enough, you’ll probably find they have helped yours too.

For more information about this wonderful organization from the Sugar Land attorney who cares, give me a call at (713) 574-8626. Also pay a visit to the American Heart Association website here.

Top 5 Must-Have Estate Planning Tools for LGBTQ Texans

LGBT_flag_02Previously, I discussed the precarious state of gays and lesbians in the state of Texas. For more information on this topic, please check out this blog. This is a follow-up to identify some basic estate planning documents that truly everyone needs, but particularly unmarried couples and domestic partners of all orientations. So without further ado, I present the top 5 documents that you need to protect your family and your rights. 

1. Medical Power of Attorney

This document would allow your partner, best friend, or whomever you designate to make medical decisions on your behalf in the event that you are incapacitated. In Texas, the default rule is that immediate family members (spouse, parents, or siblings) are the only ones authorized to make choices for you in an emergency. However, if you aren’t legally married and you have a strained relationship with your family, the default rule would obviously not be appropriate for you. A medical power of attorney allows you to identify specifically who you are entrusting with this responsibility. Having this in place puts your doctors on notice about who is authorized to act for you and allows him or her to be present in restricted areas in hospitals that are often limited to immediate family. 

2. HIPAA Authorization

In order for your partner, best friend, or whomever you’ve designated to be your medical power of attorney to access your medical records, you will need to execute a HIPAA authorization. This form indicates that you’re allowing your private medical records to be accessed by the person you designate. The privacy of your medical records is very important, and this form certifies that your medical power of attorney is authorized to review your medical records to make decisions for you in the event that you cannot do this for yourself. Keeping your loved ones informed about your health needs is important if they have been given this responsibility, so it’s unwise to have a medical power of attorney without a HIPAA. 

3. Statutory or Durable Power of Attorney

This power of attorney works a bit differently from a medical power of attorney in that it relates to your finances and you do not necessarily have to be incapacitated for it to take effect. Some people such as soldiers and individuals who work overseas for extended periods of time execute statutory or durable powers of attorney that designate someone to manage their finances while they are out of the country. However, it’s wise to have this document in place to empower your partner or whomever you designate to handle your finances in the event that you become disabled or incapacitated. The powers of this document are incredibly broad. Your agent will be able to file your taxes, buy and sell property in your name, manage your investments, and other wise have access to your income in the same way that you would, unless you place restrictions on their power. It’s very important that you know and trust the person you place in this capacity. This is a great tool for LGBTQ couples because it allows each party to have joint responsibility and access to the other person’s finances. 

4. Designation of Guardian Before Need Arises

 None of us likes to consider the possibility that we might be so incapacitated in the future that we might be unable to care for ourselves, but the hard truth is that it is a very real possibility for all of us. You, and you alone, are best qualified to specify whom you would like to have serve as your guardian if the need ever arises. We all hope and pray that we will never be in the position of needing a guardian and chances are great that most of us will not, but if we are ever in that position, it could be comforting to know that our expressed wishes will still be considered.

So long as you are not already incapacitated, you may designate by a written declaration the identity of guardian for both your person and/or your estate. This means you may designate a guardian for the care of your physical needs (food, clothing, shelter, medical care, and necessities) and for your estate, meaning your financial affairs. 

5. Last Will & Testament

This one is self-explanatory. If you have any property that you would like to give to your partner, to charity, or to any individual or organization of your choice, you need to execute a valid will. Without a will, your property automatically passes to your family members. 

For more information about how to protect your valuables and your loved ones, please call an experienced attorney to schedule an initial consultation at (713) 574-8626. 

Couples Wills: Buy 1 Get 1 Free (713) 574-8626

couple facesThe Law Office of Kimberly D. Moss is proud to present a new promotion effective June 2014!

Cohabiting or married couples can get a great deal on a simple will by contacting us for a joint consultation. For the price of one will, two people can have their simple wills written for the low price of $99.00! All you have to do is schedule an appointment, attend together, and leave with your last will & testament and peace of mind.

Call today to make an appointment! (713) 574-8626

What Do I Need to Write a Will?

funaFree wills month is upon us, and in honor of the promotional my firm is proudly participating in on behalf of the American Heart Association, Texas Children’s Hospital, and The University of St. Thomas, I thought it would be a great idea to shed some light on important things to consider when sitting down to write a will. If you are meeting with an attorney to have a will written you will need the following information:

  • Bank information: institution names, account types, and account numbers
  • A general idea of what you’re leaving behind and to whom
  • A designated person you trust as your executor and an alternate person
  • Funeral and burial requests, if any

1. Banking and financial information

This one is pretty obvious. We need to know what exactly you’re leaving, and that is difficult to do without the specific name and account number of bank accounts, securities, and other intangible assets. Try to bring along a statement from each financial account you intend to leave to your loved ones.

2. A general idea of what you’re leaving behind and to whom

Whether your earthly possessions or small or large, it is imperative that you know what you have and who you’d like to have it. Plan to take some time writing a list of your worldly possessions: your house, vehicle, investment accounts, retirement benefits, jewelry, artwork, and business interests are examples of some of the things you may want to specifically include in your will.

3. A designated executor + an alternate

The person you name as the executor or executrix of your will has the responsibility to ensure your will is submitted to the appropriate probate court and that your wishes are honored. Make sure you choose someone you trust. It can be your spouse, best friend, close sibling, or anyone else that you deem appropriate. Keep in mind, however, that life is uncertain, so there is a possibility that the person you’d most want as your executor dies before you do. In that case, it is highly recommended to name at least two people as your executor. To be on the safe side, come up with at least two people you would trust acting in this capacity and make sure to let them know you’ve included them in your will as an executor. You wouldn’t want to name someone as the executor of your will who is unwilling or unable to serve, so try to give your selected folks advance notice.

4. Funeral and burial requests

Although rare, some people make their funeral and burial requests known in their Last Will & Testament. This is the place where you can let your family and friends know your wishes ahead of your death. Whether you desire cremation, a memorial service, or to donate your body and organs to scientific research, your will is an opportunity to spell out your desires about your final resting place and ask that your family honor your requests.

I Don’t Have Much. Why Should I Have a Will?

Everyone should have a will.

Many people are under the mistaken belief that because they make modest incomes, have no investments, no real property, no business, and no children, they don’t need a Last Will & Testament. I’m here to demonstrate that this idea is very wrong. A Last Will & Testament is essential for everyone in almost every scenario because without one, the state is allowed to distribute your belongings after you die. You have no control whatsoever of what happens to your property if you decide to forgo a will.

You may be thinking, well if I don’t own anything, I don’t have anything to worry about, right? Not necessarily. Just because you don’t own anything today does not mean your circumstances may not change. You may get married and become entitled to what’s known as community property through your spouse, or you may have any number of life events that change your life financially, such as inheriting property from a loved one, or (luckily) winning the lottery.

Even if you don’t own very much, shouldn’t you be able to decide what happens to your meager belongings if you should suddenly pass away? In Texas and many other states, there are default rules for people who die without a will in place. Those default rules are known as intestate succession laws. Essentially, those laws determine who gets your stuff and how much of it, based on whether or not you are married, have children, or any family members living after your death. These laws get very complicated and cover not just immediate family, like your parents and siblings, but aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and grandparents. However, intestate succession laws simply identify who is entitled to your property. Your family still has to go through a court proceeding to address administrative duties such as changing the property currently in your name to someone else’s and ensuring that all remaining costs, taxes, and fees associated with your estate are paid.

In the event that no one is available to claim your property because you don’t have a will and your family members cannot be found, your belongings “escheat” or transfer to the State of Texas. This is a common law doctrine that basically entitles the state to take ownership of your property to prevent it being in limbo and without a recognized rightful owner. Isn’t that depressing?

In order to identify who you’d like to take possession of your belongings, it is imperative that you draft a will. Otherwise, you are leaving quite a bit to chance. To begin the process of planning your estate, please contact an experienced attorney. The Law Office of Kimberly D. Moss would be glad to help you in this process. We can be reached at 713-574-8626 and moss.law.houston@gmail.com. Make an appointment today!

Why It’s a Bad Idea To Write Your Own Will

 

Don't Let This Be You

Holographic wills can be trouble.

When discussing estate planning with people, I’ve heard it said a few times, “I could just write my own will.” While this is true, it is not as simple as it sounds. There are rules associated with writing a will, whether it is formally drafted by a professional, or if it is written by a person for their own benefit. For a moment, let’s take a look at the intricacies of a self-written, or holographic, will.

In Texas, a holographic will must meet two basic requirements.

1. It must be wholly written in the handwriting of the testator.

2. It must be signed by the testator.

Unlike a formal will, a holographic will does not need to be acknowledged by two witnesses, but it must still be readily identifiable as a will. The written document must be a final and lasting statement of one’s intent for their property. The courts call this “testamentary intent.” This means that a list of property, notes about what to do with said property, or a memo of thoughts concerning a person’s estate would not meet this test because these are considered intermediate steps, intended to be converted into a last will & testament.

With the increase in internet-based kits that claim to be “all you need” to write your own wills and legal documents, it is important to remember that very often these kits do not meet the basic requirements established by the state. It is very difficult and expensive to remedy a will that has been found to be insufficient, and that cost will be born by your surviving loved ones. Although the intent of a will is to clearly guide your family and loved ones, an invalid will could actually result in a hardship for them. To ensure that your last will and testament meets the standards set by the state of Texas, please contact an experienced attorney to discuss your desired wishes and protect your assets from excess taxation and obstruction.

The Law Office of Kimberly D. Moss would be glad to guide you in this process. Please call 713-574-8626 to schedule an appointment.