SUMMERTIME, and the living is easy–SORTA

Summertime is fast approaching and kids will be out of school and trips will be taken.  It’s not too late to have a simple will drawn up so that you can feel more secure about the future in the event the unexpected should happen.  Typically, simple wills and powers of attorney that are necessary for you to give trusted ones the ability to help you make decisions when you can’t, take about 20-30 days from beginning to end to create.  That will get you out to the beach or the mountains or overseas with full confidence in your decisions.  Call today!  NEW NUMBER–713 588 4474.

THE P WORD! DON’T LET IT GRAB YOU!

And I’m not talking about anything our President-Elect may have said or done!  I’m talking about PROCRASTINATION.

When “death and dying” come up most folks say “turn the channel” or “I’m tuning out”.  Admittedly, the subject is not as lively as elections or football or reality shows.

But it is necessary to plan for an orderly estate transfer – whether you are 25 or 75 years of age — and it is a responsibility too important to put off. If the topic stops you cold, you are not alone.  Surveys estimate that 70 percent of people do not have wills.  One explanation is that the topic of death is an uncomfortable one.  But usually it’s that “I’ve Been Meaning To Do That” but can’t get myself off square one.

Some of the reasons that most people procrastinate about wills and estate planning include:

General Avoidance. The process is emotionally challenging. For example, creating a will can be very stressful since it can bring up questions of unresolved family conflicts, loyalty and deciding who gets what and even whom do I love the most.

Other family members can discourage planning.  It may be upsetting to others who would also rather avoid confronting them. Many of us dismiss the effort with such comments as “Let’s not discuss this now” or “We can see that Grandma is going to outlive all of us.”

Estate planning requires decisions we would rather not address.  And, there may be many details involved. Often, family members feel a loss of control as they allow experts to advise them on planning.  We don’t like thinking about our own or a loved one’s demise.  The reason usually is that “as long as I do not think about it, it won’t happen”.

BUT– we can’t afford the luxury of procrastination for the sake of our loved ones. I’ve personally seen many occasions where a family or individual waited too long and assets ended up unnecessarily paying estate taxes, leaving widows and children with major lifestyle losses.  Or worse.

Estate planning is one of those things we do because we have a spouse, children or other loved ones. Do it for them.  Happy Thanksgiving!  713 880 3329.

Do Estate Planning During the Upcoming Holidays

HOLIDAYS AND ESTATE PLANNING—7 TIPS TO CONNECT THE TWO

Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays present two opportunities to sit with family and discuss estate planning. For many of us, one of these holidays is the only time in the year or in many months, when all or most of the family gets together. Let 2015 be the year when you consider finally letting the appropriate family members know that you want to have a sit-down with them to discuss what happens when you go on to a permanent holiday in Heaven. Here are seven items to keep in mind as you go about this:
• Let everyone involved in the meeting know ahead of time that you will be discussing estate issues. Exercise discretion.
• Keep the meeting as short as possible with time for questions
• Convene the appropriate group at a sit-down, formal meeting, with no interruptions
• Review your current will, powers of attorney, directives and trust documents so that you are current on who plays which role and what the documents say
• Make the group as small as you need or feel comfortable with. If you only want to talk about a medical power of attorney, for example, discuss that document with only the agents you name in it
• Advise the appropriate family member(s) where your will and other important documents can be found, and most importantly
• Begin the process of having your will and related documents prepared, if you have not done that yet. That will be a great holiday gift to yourself and your family.
This month we will be giving thanks for all we have and most of us will celebrate again in December. Having a firm hand on your estate plan will make the celebrations more significant and the unknowns of the future less stressful.

Estate Planning for Digital Property

Not long ago our most valuable and important information was stored in filing cabinets, safety deposit boxes or shoe boxes in the closet. These days a great deal of our critical information is stored online and we have created innumerable accounts such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. We also do a ton of business online using accounts that require password and user IDs to access. This includes not only payment of bills and financial dealings, but also purchase of digital and other assets from such sites as Kindle and Amazon.

The amount of digital information is also increasing at an incredible rate. For example, in 2014 a study found that the amount of information in the digital universe would fill a stack of iPad Air tablets reaching 2/3 of the way to the moon and that by 2020, there will be 6.6 stacks.

If you become incapacitated, your agent in a power of attorney will likely require at least some access to your digital information, including passwords and user IDs. And if you pass away your executor will definitely require that information in order to carry out the fiduciary duties expected of an executor.

Although some sites allow you to name someone to have control of your account when you die (Facebook, for example), the best way to ensure that what happens toyour digital information and accounts is what you want to happen is to inventory your digital information such as accounts, passwords, user IDs, etc. Leave that information accessible to an agent in case of incapacitation and to your executor in the event you pass away.

If you have too many passwords and IDs for a list or to remember, there are a number of password managers such as Dashlane, Last Pass and Sticky Password that allow you to store all your passwords and gain access to all of them with one master password. This is especially effective when you create new accounts as these password managers will ask you if you want to store the password and user ID while or after you’ve created a new account. I use one of these and when I first signed up I believed I had in the range of 30-40 accounts that needed passwords and user IDs. Then I had 73. Now have over 100.

Planning is the easiest way to pass on your valuable and sentimental digital assets. Attorney David J. Maldonado focuses on two areas: guiding families on the best path to having their affairs in order and leading startup and growing businesses to success with a solid legal foundation. A lawyer and businessman for almost three decades, I stand ready to assist you today by helping you turn “I’ve been meaning to do that…” into “I did it.” Families and business owners call today, 713-880-3329. www.maldonadolawyer.com.

Pet Trusts

Does Santa Claus have a Will and Pet Trusts?

YOU BET HE DOES. Santa and Mrs. Claus are the ultimate planners, no? Each year they receive billions of gift requests and not only must they keep track of them, but also they have to deliver the gifts. On time, every time. So, some time ago, the Clauses made out wills and established independent Pet Trusts to protect their loved ones and their reindeer—The Rudolph the Reindeer Pet Trust, the Comet Pet Trust, the Vixen Pet Trust, etc. In fact, Santa says: “Ho, ho, ho! Wills, powers of attorney, advance directives and especially Pet Trusts, make the perfect holiday gifts for your loved ones—furry or not.”

Santa took time out to chat during his yuletide preparations and here are Santa’s Top 10 reasons why the holiday season is the perfect time to go from “I’ve been meaning to do that” to “I did it”. Time to get your wills, pet trusts and other estate documents done. Do it for your pets!

1. Wills provide peace of mind for you and yours. They provide your direction on what should happen with your property when you depart us. However, a will alone is not enough to take care of your pets. That’s why Pet Trusts exist and the holidays remind us how important our pets are to our families.
2. Pet trusts provide continuing care for dearly beloved reindeer and other pets.
3. Pet trusts set out detailed instructions from the pet’s owner to the trustee the owner names, on how Donner and Blitzen and Taco the Cat and Lucy the dog should be cared for.
4. A pet trust is effective during and after the owner’s death. No need to wait for the will to be read or for any will contests to be settled.
5. Distribution of funds for a pet’s care is controlled by a pet trust. The money can come from basically any source, including cash, a part of an insurance policy, a 401k or home sales proceeds.
6. A trust can dictate that pets who live together can be kept together. A HUGE factor for Santa’s reindeer!
7. You can include all present and future pets in a pet trust. So, in the event a new reindeer should come along (we’ll call her Wilona), she will be cared for.
8. A pet trustee can be an individual or an institution. ROBA (Reindeer Owners and Breeders Association), perhaps.
9. A pet trust can state that owner and pets stay together in the event of the owner’s incapacity. That is, Thomasina would accompany her owner to an appropriate nursing home.
10. Vixen prefers a specific shade of hoof polish and Prancer is vegan. Yes, you can be that specific in a pet trust.

Have a great holiday and superb happy new year! Call today—we’ll take you from the “I’ve been meaning to do that” group, to the elite “I did it” club. 713 880 3329.

David

Why Estate Planning Is REALLY Important For Single Parents–6 Things Single Parents Should Think About

Why Estate planning Is REALLY Important For Single Parents–6 Things Single Parents Should Think About:

1. Who should raise the children in the event of death or disability.

2. Who will manage the assets in the estate after the parent is gone.

3. Setting up a trust can ensure that the children are cared for in the manner the parent prefers and that the assets are managed appropriately.

4. How much money will be needed to allow the child to maintain their lifestyle and pay for college.

5. How should the children be raised and the assets be managed

6. Who should act under financial and medical powers of attorney for the children

Peace of Mind by Planning. Having your will, financial and medical powers of attorney and advance directives done now would be a meaningful holiday gift.

Call today to have the right documents done by end of year–throughout Texas. 713 880 3329.

How Do I Include a Charity In My Will? Just Say: “X number of $ to Red Cross”?

No, actually. Chris Reid of Houston’s American Red Cross chapter has taught me that there are specific methods of giving to charities or non-profits that will best meet the intent of the giver. Here are 7 tips that will help you make the most of your charitable bequests:

1. Be Specific–a bequest “to my favorite charity” may work if it is well known which one that is. But if you’re charitable in your lifetime, chances are good that you are charitable to more than one group, making it difficult to determine which of those is your favorite.

2. Be Specific About The Ultimate Recipient–do you mean for it to go to the International Red Cross, the American National Red Cross or for the use of the local chapter (such as the Greater Houston Area or Dallas-Fort Worth Chapters)? Or maybe even a specific service line of the Red Cross (e.g., Disaster Relief or Service to the Armed Forces)? This matters because if you want a certain entity to receive a gift, it might not make it there right away after your death unless you are specific.

3. Be Specific About The Purpose Of The Gift–is it to fund Houston Salvation Army Santas during the holidays? Thanksgiving? Christmas? Or is it for the Salvation Army to use as it sees fit in the way it thinks is best and most needed? If the latter, say that in your will.

4. Tell The Charity You’re Going To Give It A Gift–it’s best to discuss plans with the charity in advance, so it can be prepared for the money and create plans to use it. This is more important if you plan to leave tangible objects, such as artwork to a museum and can ensure that the charity actually can accept the object before leaving it. Also, talking to the charity in advance about any restrictions to the donation can help prevent misunderstandings going forward.

5. Tell Your Family About The Bequest To The Charity–one of them will likely be your executor after you pass away, so it will make the probate process easier for the executor. Also, you can explain to family members why money is being given to the charity and not to them. In end-of-life situations what is obvious to you is almost never obvious to the family.

6. Endowed Or Not Endowed?–consider whether you want the funds you give to be “endowed” funds. Every charity handles their bequest gifts a little differently, but for the most part unless the donor specifies that the funds are to be endowed it is left up to the charity on how to allocate the funds. Many donors like the idea of their gift being endowed since it will live on long after they are gone.

7. Consult A Professional Before Making Gifts–in your will or during your life. The vehicles available can get complicated. Knowing how a charitable remainder trust differs from a charitable gift annuity, for example, is something you should know before using either.

Gift-giving in Wills is an art. Contact me and we’ll make sure you’re a Picasso or DaVinci.

dmaldonadolaw@gmail.com.
(713) 880 3329

Everyone gets organized at some point, they just might not be around for it.*

This quote says a ton, no? Without proper planning, our affairs will get organized, just without our say-so, if we pass on without proper estate planning. How often can we dictate or know what will happen to us in the future? NOT. OFTEN. And if we haven’t prepared, the person who is the most important, you, doesn’t get to play a role at all, unless you’re brought back to life somehow. (I would not cross my fingers on that one. However, it is alleged that Walt Disney’s still got his fingers crossed, hoping that someone will come up with a cure for his life-ending malady and revive him).

So, as you are around now, and if you have not had wills and estate planning done–do this now. Even if your family (or your culture) has frowned on this kind of planning in the past, be the person who breaks the mold. Many of the people I know are the firsts in their family: first college-goer; first high school diploma-earner; first doctor; first lawyer; first vice president; first millionaire; and so on.

Be the first. Set the example. Get all of your crucial end of life papers and planning done. Today. Show your kids the way.

Notable Recent Deaths (this section will be a recurring tip of the hat to famous and to just plain cool people who died recently):

Paul Revere of the ’60s/’70s band Paul Revere and the Raiders (Most famous hit: Indian Reservation–“Cherokee People!!!–Cherokee Tribe!!!–So proud to live!!!….**”).

Joel Krog, the captain of SMU’s only NCAA Final Four basketball team, laid the groundwork for the great SMU teams that featured Houston Jones High School’s Gene Phillips and Dallas Roosevelt’s Ira Terrell.

Bob Crewe, of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons group, who co-wrote many of their hits, but also “Lady Marmalade”, performed by LaBelle. Racy at the time with the “Voulez-vous couchez avec moi?***” lyrics.

* Sue DeRoos, professional organizer.
** “So proud to die!!!”.
*** “Ce soir”.

Joan Rivers and Robin Williams

A big salute to Joan Rivers, who was one of the funniest comics of all. Also a nanu-nanu to Robin Williams. Sorry that we lost both.

It’s been reported that Joan and Robin thought significantly ahead and provided well and thoroughly for their children and grandchildren in their estate plans. In Joan’s case, she apparently was careful and diligent in her affairs, with reports that everything she had went to her daughter Melissa. Of course, Melissa’s son Cooper will be seen after by Melissa now, who stands to inherit close to $300 million. Without a second marriage or a blended family, Joan’s affairs will be settled quickly. And due to that, her daughter was allowed to attend to funeral arrangements and mourn without the stress of unsettled matters.

Mork also did well in his planning. In his case, he demonstrated an excellent tool for distributing assets wisely and fairly. He established 3 individual trusts for his children, with each receiving 1/3 of their bequests at age 21, 25 and 30. This forethought takes care of his children and provides some posthumous wisdom on their handling of their inheritances. He also placed his home and his ranch in an irrevocable real estate trust, thus insulating his estate from a large estate tax bill.

So, we take away several lessons: Think ahead. Plan ahead. And follow through.

As busy as Robin and Joan were in their careers and lives, they made enough time to take care of their children. I hear a lot of “I’ve been meaning to do that…”. But there’s nothing like sitting at a table and signing your will and other estate documents that make you feel a sense of accomplishment and peace of mind. I bet Joan and Robin would have agreed.

David

Can a Divorce Affect a Will?

Congratulations to Rory McIlroy and the US’s own Mo Martin, for winning the Men’s British Open and the Women’s British Open, respectively.

Mo Martin was ranked 99th in the world and had never won an LPGA event before she played the British Open and dang near double-eagled the 18th
as she went on to win her first event, and a major at that!

Speaking of golf and divorces, I was typing my last message two weeks ago when Tiger almost missed the cut at the British Open.
He did not. But, you may have heard that he did get divorced several years ago and thus:

5 Things to think about when divorcing or divorced :

1. Updating your will. In Texas, when a marriage is dissolved, the provisions of a deceased spouse’s will are approached as though the surviving spouse died first. So alternate executors and contingent beneficiaries come into play. If those need to be changed because of a divorce, it should be done, and can be done even if the divorce is not final.
2. Updating your life insurance and retirement beneficiaries. You may still have the ex as a beneficiary.
3. Not waiting for the divorce to be final. See 1.
4. Updating your “ancillary documents”, that is, Powers of Attorney for medical and financial decisions and the persons who are appointed as alternates if your ex-spouse was the original appointee.
5. Consulting a qualified estate planning and wills attorney on what steps to take.

Until next time. As the US and Russia are in the news, I will provide my inside tips on visiting Moscow, which I did last month.

(The above is for information purposes only and should not be considered legal advice).