Monthly Archives: October 2013

Texas Department of Insurance can clear up beneficiary questions

If someone in Texas has wisely worked with an attorney to plan for what happens in the event of death, his or her heirs will have clear guidance about what they will receive, as well as to what the individual’s estate includes. Sometimes, however, it is not entirely clear who is supposed to get what or even what comprises the loved one’s estate. When someone has failed to create an estate plan, individuals who think they may be beneficiaries of a life insurance plan may wish to consult the Texas Department of Insurance.

The department has recently launched a new program called the Life Policy Locator Service, which helps individuals determine whether they are beneficiaries of someone’s life insurance policy or annuity. The program is currently only working with Texas insurance companies, but it could spread to other states if it is successful.

If someone believes he or she should have gotten some or all of the benefits from a life insurance policy when a friend or family member died, he or she can fill out a search request form off of the Texas Department of Insurance’s website. Within 30 days, the department will respond with any relevant information. Currently, there are 28 insurance companies participating.

One sign that there may be a life insurance policy to look into are regular payments to life insurance companies. Moreover, many people purchase life insurance through their work, so contacting an individuals’ employer after his or her death may uncover some information.

Granted, the best way to avoid this hassle is to encourage all family members to carefully create an estate plan that clearly lays out who is to receive what in the event of death.

Source:Times Record News, “Think you’re an heir? Ask the state,” Oct. 24, 2013

The other side of guardianship: mental health

Last week we told you about Casey Kasem and his children’s attempt to gain conservatorship over their father. They were concerned that his health was so poor that he was unable to make his own medical decisions. Ultimately, the court disagreed, but it presented one side of why someone may need a conservator or guardian. The case of Amanda Bynes presents the other — mental health.

Any El Paso fans of Amanda Bynes knows that she has been acting erratically lately. The former child actress has been accused of throwing a bong out of her window, of driving drunk and having marijuana in her possession. She also allegedly started a small fire in someone’s driveway. All of these indicate that Bynes may be dealing with some mental health issues.

So, after a judge ordered her to undergo psychiatric care, her mother was also basically named her conservator. This means that her mother can make important decisions for her daughter while she continues her mental health treatment at a private facility. It also helps protect Bynes and her money from any poor decisions she may make because of her poor mental health.

Although family members hope that their loved ones will never have mental health issues, these kinds of situations happen more often than people think. When they do happen, a family member can file to be an individual’s guardian in Texas court, explaining exactly why it is important that the individual needs help making decisions.

For Bynes’ mother, all the judge had to do was look at her daughter’s very public meltdown.

Source:Los Angeles Times, “Amanda Bynes under mother’s conservatorship, moves to private rehab,” Richard Winton, Sept. 30, 2013

Who you leave money to is up to you, but make sure it’s clear

Many people in Crane County may fantasize about receiving a significant inheritance from a wealthy, far-off relative that they barely know. All of a sudden, someone would come home to a gift of a couple hundred of thousands of dollars. If it happens, it can certainly be a financial boon, but it is something that not many people should bet their financial health on. Oddly enough, however, 25 percent of people between the ages of 18 and 59 expect to receive an inheritance at some point in their lifetimes.

They may be disappointed, especially since 1/3 of wealthy baby boomers have said they plan on leaving money to charities, not to their children. Ultimately, how parents want to set up their estate plan is up to them, but it is important that they explain their decisions. Of course, they need to work with an estate planning lawyer to get everything in order, but they should also take the time to explain and to set their children’s expectations about what will happen after they die.

Perhaps the parents want their children to make their own money. Maybe they feel like they’ve already given their children enough. Or, it may be that they are concerned that they will live longer and run out of money to give to their children. Regardless of why, it is important that parents tell their children not to expect an inheritance and certainly not to plan their finances around one.

This is not to say that there won’t be some people in Texas who will receive an inheritance from their parents. Even for those that do, however, it should be more of a pleasant surprise instead of an expected certainty.

Source:Sacramento Bee, “Kid and Money: If you plan to leave an inheritance, manage expectations,” Steve Rosen, Oct. 14, 2013

Casey Kasem’s wife, children fight over his care

As some Texans age or develop certain medical conditions, it is increasingly apparent that they need help with their care. More so, however, they may need help making important decisions. From health care to money, when someone is no longer able to make his or her own decisions, he or she needs a guardian. By filing with a Texas judge, a concerned relative or friend can apply for guardianship.

The decision of whether an individual needs a guardian or whether the applicant is the appropriate guardian, however, is up to the judge. For Casey Kasem’s children, the judge has ruled that Kasem did not need a conservator. The radio and television personality, who lives with advanced Parkinson’s disease, is currently being cared for by his wife.

Kasem’s children believe that their stepmother is keeping them from seeing their father and from making decisions about his medical care. As part of the judge’s decision, the judge took some time to visit Kasem, yet it seems he has not received information about Kasem’s condition from his doctors. Despite this, he issued his ruling that Kasem did not need a guardian.

As parents and family members age, it can be incredibly difficult to come to a consensus on what is best. Many relatives want to respect a loved one’s wishes, even if he or she no longer has the capacity to make his or her own decisions. Sometimes, however, there is disagreement, which could lead to competing claims for conservatorship. By building a solid case with an elder law attorney, however, it may be possible to show why one individual is the more suitable guardian.

Source:The Associated Press, “Judge Rules Casey Kasem’s Care is ‘Adequate’ — For Now,” Oct. 15, 2013

Dispute between property co-owners lands in Texas court

Potentially complicated litigation faces two co-property owners this month in a Jefferson County courtroom. The conflict not only brings up breach of contract issues but involves accusations of unpaid rent as well — both serious real estate matters that require legal help in order to sort out. It’s a situation some of our readers may be able to relate to but hope to never find themselves in down the road.

The complication in this particular case stems from a dispute between the two property owners about paying upkeep on the property and how profits should be distributed. According the female plaintiff, she and a male resident owned several properties jointly under Texas real estate law. But as she explains in her complaint, her co-owner disappeared several years ago, leaving her to bear the entire cost of upkeep on the properties.

Recently though the co-owner returned and is now “demanding his share of the profits from the rental properties.” This has created its own complications because the female owner filed a prior partition suit against the male owner from which she says she has not received compensation. She also claims in court that the male owner has lived in one of their properties since August 2011 and has not paid rent for that time either.

Real estate disputes such as this can be tricky situations and often require extensive help from attorneys before a resolution can be met. While your own property dispute may not involve complexities such as this, it’s important to remember that you can seek legal representation so as to ensure you’re getting the fairest outcome in your own dispute.

Source:The Southeast Texas Record, “Dispute over shared property leads to lawsuit,” Matt Russell, Oct. 8, 2013

Recent seminar in Dallas brings up estate planning concerns

Nearly everyone in Texas, at some point in their lives, will have to think about planning their estate and getting it ready for their eventual death. While this is an often awkward process for many people, it’s a necessary part of getting older and makes those difficult end-of-life decisions easier for your family members to make down the road.

But while this may be easy enough for most families across Texas, this process can create problems for less traditional families, including those in the gay and lesbian community. Because Texas does not recognize same-sex marriage as being legal, some people may not be listed as beneficiaries in a will. Same-sex couples can also run into problems with powers of attorney and those listed as the next in line to make health care decisions as well.

These and other issues were brought up recently at a Dallas church during a seminar presented by Equality Texas. The organization touched on the often difficult situations that same-sex couples in the state face when it comes to estate planning and offered advice to those who have found themselves struggling to make their plans adhere to state laws.

While naming a beneficiary in a will and allocating a health care proxy are among the top two issues facing same-sex couples in the state, they may also encounter problems with spousal inheritance and even potential issues with estate taxes as well. For those Texas residents who missed the seminar, consulting with a knowledgeable attorney in their area can be done at any time. Lawyers in this field can often help you work through this difficult challenges and help you adhere to state laws as well., “Local Briefs: 10-04-13,” Oct. 4, 2013

Estate planning and administration: this is a team sport

When someone in El Paso wants to create a will or trust, he or she will likely turn to a lawyer for help. It makes sense, lawyers know how to protect estates and to pass them along to the correct heirs and beneficiaries. Estate planning lawyers also know about the taxes, fees and other costs associated with estate planning and administration, yet many of them need to work with appraisers to select the proper estate tools.

An appraiser’s job is to estimate the worth of an estate, but since appraisers may be called in long before a person dies, they can only make a reasonable estimate as to what the estate will be at the person’s death. For some people in Texas, however, the value of an individual’s estate may also increase after death, which a skilled appraiser should be able to recognize.

One case of the value of an estate increasing over time is that of Michael Jackson’s. At the time of his death, he was just getting over allegations of child molestation and he hadn’t had a successful record in a while. After he died, however, his music started selling again and any mistakes he may have made were forgotten. Jackson’s estate continues to earn money, over four years after his death.

The biggest reason behind having an accurate appraisal of an estate is that an estate administrator can provide an accurate estimate of how much an heir or beneficiary must pay in taxes and fees following a loved one’s death.

Source:The New York Times, “Putting an Estate Value on the Assets Unique to You,” Paul Sullivan, Sept. 27, 2013