Tag Archives: simple will

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.

What Happened to Thanksgiving?

As I was getting ready for a holiday party a few days ago, I noticed all of the TV ads were about ttronslien-0825Black Friday sales, Veteran’s Day blow-out specials, and Christmas close-outs. Every few minutes, these advertisements were clamoring for my attention. My sweetheart yelled at me from the other room, “What happened to Thanksgiving? Did we jump from Halloween straight to Christmas?”

I had no good answer to that question. Seriously, what did happen to Thanksgiving? Most years go by with at least a cursory acknowledgment of the concept of gratitude, even if that comes in the form of reruns of A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving and vague references to turkeys being pardoned by the President. Personally, I bristle at the jilting of Thanksgiving. Halloween is fun. Christmas is great for the economy, but Thanksgiving is special. It’s a time for self-reflection, family, and football. It doesn’t get the attention it deserves. It’s the Jan Brady of the holiday season. Even though advertisers don’t care about giving thanks, I must do my part to make note of what I have to be thankful for, so here are the 4 things I’m most thankful for this year.

1. Good Health. This year I only took one sick day. Without my health and strength, I’m not able to effectively advocate for my clients. Thankfully, 2015 was very kind to me. Taking more interest in self-care and wellness has paid off in increased productivity, more efficiency, and better balance in my work and life. I have just enough time for my clients, my friends, and my family.

2. The National Spotlight on Police Brutality. Some shocking things happened in 2015. From Sandra Bland’s death to the riots in Ferguson, this year the intersection of race and our nation’s police came into the national conversation. People are becoming more aware of the inequalities present in American society, and we are finally starting to talk about the issues publicly. Sadly, people had to die to bring these issues to the forefront, but clearly their deaths were not in vain. We honor them with every step we take to hold overreaching police accountable and prevent these tragedies from happening in the future.

3. Marriage Equality.  This summer, the United States Supreme Court issued a landmark decision in United States v. Windsor that made marriage equality the law of the land. Same-sex couples now have the right to marry in all fifty states. The benefits that heterosexual couples and their children have are now afforded to all couples in this country. Religious groups still have the right to refuse to perform marriages that conflict with their religious views, but civil marriage is now a right that everyone can freely enjoy. Some of my friends and family have been able to solidify their loving relationships with the rite of marriage this year, and I am happy that this exciting time is now a reality for so many who were once deprived of a right to love in their own way.

4. Wonderful Clients. My business would not be possible without people entrusting me every day with the most important aspects of their lives. I handle some very sensitive topics for my clients. I listen to their stories of heartbreak on the verge of divorce. I walk them through the shambles of their finances when they contemplate bankruptcy. I welcome their new children into the world as we fashion an appropriate estate plan to protect their growing families. I meet their parents, their spouses, and their children. I become intimately familiar with my clients because I truly care about each and every one of them. My success depends on theirs, so anything I can do to help them is a step in the right direction for my firm. I fight hard for my clients. I tell them when they’re wrong, and I celebrate them when they’re right. We have ups and downs together, and I’m a better attorney because of those experiences. I am so blessed to have been able to serve my clients this year, and it’s my sincere prayer that I can continue to serve them and others in 2016.

If you’re looking for a lawyer who cares, look no further. For sound legal advice and a listening ear, call me at (713) 574-8626 to schedule your initial consultation. You’ll be glad you did.

 

3 Legal Things to Do Differently in 2015

CFPjCOO21. Write a will

Nobody likes to think about the inevitable but life can change in an instant. Does anyone ever plan to have  a car accident or fall ill? Of course not. But we buy car insurance and medical insurance anyway. If you have children, own a business, or anticipate having a family, a last will & testament makes your assets and wishes known to the people who are important to you. Make 2015 the year you get your affairs in order!

2. Stop paying for speeding tickets.

Most people get a citation for speeding, running a red light, expired registration, or any other traffic violation, and they look up the ticket number online or call the court before the deadline and pay the fine. Big mistake! You are entitled to a jury trial in traffic cases. This means the state (usually the city or county in traffic court) has the burden of proving you committed the offense beyond a reasonable doubt.  Before you pay that ticket, think about calling an attorney to represent you. We are often able to get your ticket dismissed or your fines significantly reduced.

Even if you don’t want to try your case, many offenses are eligible for deferred disposition, also known as probation. If you take this option, you simply pay a fine and promise not to commit the offense again for a period of six months to a year, as determined by the court. If you can successfully avoid being pulled over during that period, your ticket will be dismissed.

3.  Think about Incorporating Your Business

Did you know that if you own a business as a sole proprietor in your own name, and you are sued in connection with your work, all of your assets are at risk?  If you’re a start up with no money, you may be considered “judgment proof,” but you will (probably) not always be broke, and it’s a good idea to plan for the future. In the event that you are even moderately successful in your business, it’s a good idea to consider incorporating your business. Not only does it protect your personal assets from creditors, but there are a number of tax benefits available to corporations that could save you some money around tax season.

If you’re interested in starting the year off on a proactive note, be sure to contact an attorney at (713) 574-8626 to schedule your initial consultation.

New Parents: 4 Things You Need to Know

baby feet1. You need to meet with a financial planner. Let’s face it: children cost money. If you’re a new parent, it’s a good idea to consult with a financial planner about what kind of savings you need to begin putting in place to finance your child’s education.

2. You should purchase life insurance.  Life insurance is intended to replace the income you would provide your family in the event of your untimely death. The amount of insurance you should buy depends on the standard of living you’d like to assure your dependents. As a new mom or dad, it’s important to find out what Social Security benefits your child would be entitled to and make sure you’re able to supplement that amount with insurance proceeds or private investments. Be sure to talk to a financial adviser about the amount of insurance you should purchase. He or she will talk about your lifestyle and determine what’s appropriate for you and your family.

3. Single parents need to make sure they are receiving an appropriate amount of child support from the non-custodial parent. This one is self-explanatory. If you’re a new mom (or dad) who is not receiving financial support from the other parent, take the time to explore the Attorney General’s website for information about child support benefits. To navigate these waters, it’s a very good idea to contact an attorney to talk about what it takes to begin receiving child support for your new bundle of joy.

4. If you don’t have a last will & testament, you need to write one. If you do have a will, you need to update it to include your new addition to the family. No one wants to think about death ever, but the reality of life is that it is nothing if not uncertain. It’s a very good idea to make sure that your last will & testament is clear about who you’d like to take care of your child in the event that you’re not available to do so. If you’ve already written a will, the birth of a new child is an excellent reason to update it. Each state has different ways to handle what happens when a child is born after their parents will was written. If your will makes no mention of your child, you’re leaving your child’s fate to chance. Consult with an attorney to get your affairs in order as soon as possible.

Congratulations on the birth of your new baby. It’s my hope that you take the necessary steps to insure your child’s future. If you have any questions or would like to schedule an appointment with an experienced attorney who’s ready to help you in this new stage of your life, please feel free to contact me at (713) 574-8626 or through the contact form on my website.

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. 

Does Texas Recognize Same-Sex Marriage?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI get this question in a variety of forms from time to time and thought it would make a good topic for a blog post. To answer the question simply: no, Texas does not recognize same-sex marriage. But what does this mean to LGBTQ couples who’ve married in states that do recognize their unions?

1. Divorce is not an option in Texas.

Texas has no legal mechanism to arrange for visitation and conservatorship of children born to parents in same-sex relationships. This issue continues to be hotly contested as U.S. Supreme Court rulings continue to strike down state same-sex marriage bans. While LGBTQ couples can divide their property through a process known as partition under the Texas Property Code, the prospect of divorce available to heterosexual couples is not yet an option. For interesting reading on the controversy surrounding this issue, check out this article.

2. Your partner will not get your property if you die without a will.

Texas laws concerning what happens to your stuff when you die automatically give your children, parents, and siblings rights to your property, but they do not make allowances for non-family members. If you are gay and in Texas, you need to write a will to make sure your wishes are carried out upon your death. For more compelling reasons to write a valid will, check out this article. 

3. Your partner may not be allowed to make medical decisions for you.

Similar to the problem in point 2, the state of Texas places the responsibility of deciding medical decisions in the event of an emergency in the hands of immediate family members. If you are married or in a committed relationship that is not legally recognized, you run the risk of your partner being asked to step aside while your family takes the lead in a medical emergency. If you want to ensure your partner has access to you in an emergency and can speak on your behalf in a crisis, it’s imperative that you designate him or her as your medical power of attorney in the event of incapacity. 

For more information about the unique estate planning needs of gays and lesbians, please give us a call at (713) 574-8626 to schedule an initial consultation. 

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