Monthly Archives: December 2013

Rezoning proposal for package store gets unanimous denial

When you buy a piece of property, you don’t have a crystal ball to tell you that you might one day decide to build a store on it, or a bar, or maybe even a daycare. So while the zoning in the area might be fine when you purchase the property, what happens if you want to use the property later for something else and it is not zoned for your purpose? You have to submit a proposal to have your property rezoned, and it is not easy. Zoning issues can be complex. There are zoning laws that must be followed. Your best bet is to have a good attorney who knows the zoning laws and can represent you in hearings before the government agency if necessary.

A convenience store owner in Longview is currently facing some zoning issues. He had decided that he would like to change his zoning from general retail to heavy commercial. He wants to change his convenience store to a package store.

His zoning proposal has been denied by the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission. The denial was unanimous because rezoning just his property would be considered “spot zoning,” meaning that it would be the only property in the zoning area that is zoned different. Texas law states that “a zoning decision that merely provides for individual benefit without a relationship to public benefit cannot be legally supported.”

Other opposition to his request comes from a church and a resident in the neighborhood who do not want heavy commercial zoning in the area. Heavy commercial zoning will allow nightclubs, liquor stores and other less reputable businesses in. Currently, the convenience store owner’s property contains gas pumps and a Subway restaurant. He feels a package store would benefit the public so they wouldn’t have so far to travel for their liquor.

The property owner might have some other options available to argue his case, such as the possibility of rezoning the entire area instead of just his property. He may also argue the point that a former City Council member was just unanimously approved for rezoning his 2.5 acres of agricultural land to heavy commercial zoning.

Source:News-Journal, “Longview Planning and Zoning rejects gas station rezoning” Richard Yeakley, Dec. 18, 2013

Big mistakes you might be making in estate planning

Many people are diligent when thinking about what will happen to their assets and real estate after they are no longer with us. While it can be an indelicate topic, some of us are conscientious about doing estate planning that covers all the bases. Sometimes, we have more than we realize, including bank accounts, retirement plans from our jobs, brokerage annuities and college savings plans. All of these should have designated beneficiaries that are current, because if not, our money and things could go to the wrong people.

As time passes, our wishes change. Relationships come and go, we get married, divorced and even have falling-outs with friends and family. There are some common pitfalls it would be worthwhile to specifically outline in order to avoid headaches later.

First, it is beneficial to get advice on what your state of residence laws say regarding one’s spouses. In some states, the spouse automatically is the beneficiary; in others, assets sometimes go to the ex-spouse, which is not what you might want.

Job changes can also affect your pension plans. When you roll over your retirement funds, your beneficiary will no longer have access to them unless you name them on the new account. Perhaps our beneficiary passes before we do. Another caveat is that our financial institution may have changed ownership. In the merging of banks, brokerage firms and mutual funds groups, some institutions get rid of older accounts. This cleans house for them but is very bad for you.

It is advisable not to appoint a minor as a beneficiary, as this could get messy with appointing conservators until the minor comes of age. Another complication could be if your beneficiary becomes disabled, which could affect that person’s �countable resources’ from Social Security or other benefits. In both of these cases, the solution might be to form a trust. A financial planner can advise you on how to do this.

Lastly, think of February 14 as a time to review your beneficiaries and estate planning. You will have received your 1099, so you will be clear as to what your contact information and assets are at your financial institution. There is no better way to show your heirs that you will be giving them a precious gift in your memory for years to come.

Source:Forbes, “The Big Estate-Planning Goof You May Be Making” Harper Willis, Dec. 16, 2013

How a living will becomes your voice after you pass

Many people put off thinking about their wills. It reminds us that we are mortals and that someday we will no longer walk the earth. If a person does not designate a spouse or other family member to implement one’s final wishes, then an alternative is a living will.

How to set up a way to honor one’s final wishes should not be the cause of lost sleep. A living will can specify the terms for what happens after a person gets too sick to make cogent decisions. It usually covers the extent of medical care one desires to undergo near the end of life. It can spell out clear wishes for what doctors should do, and for how long they should do it.

Sometimes it is hard to imagine serious illnesses or the decisions that must be made in case you are diagnosed with a terminal or painful disease. Doctors refer to artificial nutrition as the means to whether or not you would want a feeding tube if you are unable to swallow and chew on your own. Fluids and nutrition can be maintained at a life-sustaining levels over the period of time. You may need intravenous feeding or a catheter to help with bodily functions.

Another decision you could put in your living will might be if you want cardiopulmonary resuscitation or advanced cardiac life support if you stop breathing. A mechanical ventilation device can help you breathe if your lungs are not able to do this on their own. This is used for short-and long-term care.

Organ-sustaining treatments, such as kidney dialysis or mechanical ventilation are also part of the instructions you can clarify in a living will. While these treatments do not cure, they may extend the life of a loved one.

These are not easy subjects to discuss. Designing living wills might clear people’s minds and put them at peace that these life-sustaining decisions will be respected during one’s final hours. It also eases the burden of our loved ones who are already grieving for a life lost. Removing the stress of these decisions is the reason most people take on the challenge of determining in advance how they will be cared for in their final hours, as well as at the time of their death.

Source:The Daily Reflector, “Dr. K: A living will speaks for you when you can’t” Dr. Anthony L. Komaroff, Dec. 14, 2013

Qualifying for a mortgage after a short-sale

The housing market has been fraught with financial woes in the last few years. Many homeowners have faced the plummeting values of their homes, as well as being upside down with their mortgages. Foreclosures and short sales do not have to spell disaster for the typical homeowner. There is life after a short sale.

As the market appears to show some nascent sign of life, many homeowners are wondering what their chances are of qualifying for a mortgage after a short sale. Recommended are determination, above-average credit and not losing sight of the dream of ownership. According to some real estate experts, it is a common belief that those who walked away from their home with a short sale, may find it easier than expected to qualify for a loan further down the line.

After going through a short sale, the average waiting time to requalify could be from two to seven years and contingent upon the amount one can put down. Variables include the type of loan one seeks, as well as whether or not the loan is for a U.S. Veteran. Qualifying for a federal loan seems to be the most expeditious route to go, but the buyer should be ready to answer questions about the reasons for a short sale. Less-risky choices for a lender point towards non-financial variables such as job transfers above walking away from an upside-down mortgage.

Having a second chance involves paying off debt and saving money for a down payment. Efforts can pay off with a low interest rate and reasonable loan-length. One expert cautions that errors on credit reports must be corrected so the borrower is not saddled with the stigma of a short sale. Incorrect information on a credit report will add waiting time to the process. Recommendations are to keep meticulous records and documents and watch the calendar. Seven years can go by all too quickly. Your second chance at owning a home in Texas might be just around the corner., “It’s possible to get a mortgage after a short sale” Polyana da Costa, Dec. 05, 2013

Furry feline beneficiary of home plus large inheritance

When the retired president of a local labor union passed away at age 79, he left his entire legacy to his best friend. The recipient of his $250,000 estate, and a house of over 4,000 square feet, will be well-provided for until the end of his life. The aging heir is almost blind, deaf and crippled. He is also a cat.

Along with his adopted brother, the kitty will be cared for by one of the deceased’s daughters, who has moved into the spacious residence to fulfill her father’s wishes. Both house cats, according to the last will and testament of the woman’s father, will stay in the home located in a gated community.

Reportedly, the woman’s brother who took his father’s place as the union’s president, claimed his late father had made up the will several weeks prior to being admitted to the hospital, after being diagnosed with cancer. The lucky cat will stay in his familiar surroundings, the only home he has ever known. The man says his father and the feline spent hours sitting on the sofa, a unique bond forming between them. Family members took the will’s terms in stride and promised to respect the father’s wishes. They speak fondly of their father, calling him an extraordinary individual who had put the well-being of others before his own. He was an exemplary labor leader and had marched for civil rights with Dr. Martin Luther King.

People work a lifetime to acquire wealth. An individual’s final wishes may designate some surprising beneficiaries, but one’s final wishes need to be respected and carried out, regardless of any eccentricities inherent in those decisions. The critical nature of making sure we have our affairs in order cannot be overestimated. The late labor president is not the first to prefer his pet over people when designating the heir of his choice. One Italian heiress left $13 million to her cat, and in 2007, Leona Helmsley left her Maltese $12 million. It is, after all, a right we have strived for our entire lives. Attorneys can help with the creation of such wills and ensure these important estate documents are carried out to the letter.

Source:, “Man’s bequest of home, $250,000 ensures cushy life for feline beneficiaries” No author given, Nov. 23, 2013

It’s never too early to start planning for the next phase

Many of us procrastinate when it comes for distribution of our assets. While unpleasant to contemplate our demise, it is often put off until it is too late. Death and or devastating disabilities are not the kinds of situation we look forward to discussing, but a legal advisor can lessen the pain. We know our families frequently turn a deaf ear to these topics, but they need to realize that being thrown into a state of upheaval after a tragic loss is much worse.

There are some painless estate planning tips that one can do immediately that will start the process going in an innocuous way. It is always a good idea to start with a person experienced in such matters of estate planning.

First and foremost, one must create a will. It is staggering to read the statistics of the most wealthy who simply have not made the time to do so. A will can be basic, but there are many options, so be sure to speak to people who know the nuances. A testamentary trust will not take action until after you pass, so do not be afraid to consider unexpected situations that may come up that can use up funds.

A trust is generally built into one’s will. If a person with some wealth passes away and leaves the spouse a considerable amount of money, it is usually in spouse’s name. But if she remarries, and then passes away, her new husband and his heirs can inherit up to one-third of that wealth.

Baby boomers might prefer a revocable living trust for a number of reasons. If you own property in more than one state, this type of trust allows your estate to avoid each unique probate process in various states. Such a trust is portable, as it follows you along state lines.

You will need a power of attorney, as this person can make legal and financial decisions in the event you become incapacitated. This is a big decision so consider it carefully. The power of attorney must be trustworthy and efficient. It can create hard feelings especially among children so try to talk about this in advance to get their input.

All of these decisions can be mind-boggling. For this reason, there are people out there who can help you take this enormous step to ensure your loved-ones are well-taken care of you pass., “5 estate-plan strategies for boomers” Andrea Coombes, Nov. 29, 2013