Monthly Archives: February 2014

Plan for your future with an advanced directive or living will

As we make our way down our chosen path of life, we sometimes get wrapped up in the now, and not think that someday we might be unable to function on our own. In this case, we need to consider planning drawing up a will and an advanced directive.

If an illness or a debilitating disease occurs, we might lament not having planning for a will or for an advance directive. This applies to civilians in Texas as well as to those in service to our country.

If and when the time comes you are unable to make decisions regarding your medical care, you must choose someone you know and trust who can act on your behalf.

The person you choose to have durable power of attorney will be a designee to act as the decision-maker in your health care. It should be a trusted individual, such as a friend, guardian or family member. In the absence of this choice, your physician will choose a person for you based on your preferences.

The individual should be aware of your plan for medical treatment and how those decisions should be carried out. You need to make your wishes clear in a written format while you still have the lucidity to do so.

An advance directive can be provided for any Veterans Affairs or civilian hospital. Your directions should include a living will as well as a durable power of attorney for health care. A living will includes an advanced directive because you specify what your choices consist of regarding future treatment options, such as a provision for sustaining life or any preferential medical care.

An advanced directive is your decision and is your right to make sure your wishes are respected.

It is advisable to provide a copy of your advanced directive to your doctor to be filed in your medical records, as well as for you to keep one in a safe place. It can be updated at any time.

Whether you are a veteran or a civilian, an unexpected state of incapacitation or serious illness may be too late to draw up a will or advanced directive. There is help out there to take care of this in advance whenever you decide you are ready to take this important step.

Source:ROTOVUE, “Make a living will or advance directive” Luis J. Alers-Dejesus, Feb. 12, 2014

Texas foreclosure rates still high despite economy rebound

The threat of a foreclosure can make you feel terrible and like you’re losing the place you call your own, but you may be surprised to hear that delinquency mortgages in Texas have been as high as one percent recently. What does that mean to you? It means that around 39,000 foreclosures were completed in all of Texas in 2013, which makes Texas the number 4 state on the National Foreclosure Report from CoreLogic.

According to the story from Feb. 10, by the end of Dec. 2013, one percent of all mortgages left outstanding in Texas were considered to be in serious delinquency. Serious delinquency occurs when home owners have not paid their mortgage payments for 90 days or longer. In the United States, the average percentage of homes in serious delinquency is 2.1. While Texas may be doing better than some areas, the housing market is still following national trends.

When considering deeply underwater mortgages, which are mortgages where the loan-to-value ratio is 125 percent or higher, a homeowner could be left owing 25 percent or more on their home than it’s worth. In Texas, around 11 percent of homes were considered deeply underwater in Dec. 2013. That’s about 400,617 homes. In the U.S., that number is an astonishing 9.3 million residential properties. However many that seems, it’s actually a decrease from the 10.9 million homes deeply underwater in Jan. 2013, according to the story.

Much of the loan-to-value ratio problem came about during the downturn of the U.S. housing market. When homes lost their values, even selling wouldn’t result in getting out of debt. For some, that means foreclosure, but there are options for each individual case.

Source:Go Banking Rates, “Texas Among Top 5 States for Completed Foreclosures” Amanda Garcia, Feb. 10, 2014

US farm succession a family business

In the U.S., farming and agriculture play a dominant role in the economy. Frequently farms and ranches are passed down from one generation to another. The assistant director for agriculture, resources and community for neighboring Kansas State research spoke at a Women in Agriculture Conference for Seward County. He stated that, as in many facets of life, communication skills go a long way, especially in succession planning and estate planning.

Ensuring a successful transition from one generation to the next involves several key steps. First, senior members of the family business should provide clear goals, along with the transition of how assets will be passed along to heirs.

While estate planning is key, succession planning must be examined in order to ascertain whether the next generation will be compatible with business and management philosophies. These issues require the input and consideration of heirs and family managers, along with individuals that might be outside the family nucleus.

Recommendations included prioritizing values including strategic planning, maintaining a sense of trust in all stakeholders, and the ability to perform objectively in the conflict resolution and building consensus skills.

Business philosophies and financial risks need to be assessed, along with outlining the responsibilities of labor and management. Multiple iterations of the plan might be crafted and approved by an informed estate planner, along with an honest appraisal of any awkward family secrets.

All meetings would involve multiple specialists, including counselors, mediators, financial mediators and legal advisors. Facilitators should also be allowed to pull in other resources such as communication specialists, conflict management specialists, counselors, mediators, financial managers and lawyers.

It is never too early to start planning for the future. Especially in cases of passing down a family business, all involved parties should spend quality time with planned periods of rest. This should include a variety of experts in various fields that can provide support and assistance to develop and maintain a plan to provide for continuing sound business planning and provisions for heirs and beneficiaries in years to come.

SourceLeader & Times, “Passing on the family farm” Robert Pierce, Feb. 01, 2014

Controversy continues with stalled talks over drilling in Denton

In a response to community concerns over safety and drilling rights in Denton, developers continue to move forward to allow drilling and hydraulic fracturing that some locals feel is too close to housing communities. While the negotiations to provide a decision over these rights have stalled, energy agencies intend to keep exploring whether their companies can keep holding their ground in maintaining existing rights to the leases in the city.

Following a split decision vote, the city council pledged to continue negotiations with the energy company that would support a retroactive period for the last three months.

Over a hundred members of the community vocalized their protests on the stalled negotiations and requested a temporary halt to the drilling.

Original talks resulted in a standstill months ago following a suit against the energy company filed by the city. Although the charges were eventually dropped, drilling continued as the two entities engaged in talks to resolve the issue. The energy company reaffirms its authority to keep working on the existing wells, as the original permits were still in effect and authorized by the city.

In efforts to exercise reserved rights at a local gas well, one housing developer has proposed the city council allow a zoning modification that would permit construction of more homes near the well site. The council approved the zoning change. The protesters voiced concerns to the council over lack of police response to their complaints regarding foul odors emanating from the proximity of the wells. They warn this could be the symptom of a more serious issue. One area resident was concerned with the water line running near the drill site. He stated the presence of leaks could seep into the creek running into the local lake, posing a potentially serious safety violation.

The situation in Denton is one case that points to the complexity of a real estate dispute involving developers, builders and concerned community members. Land use, zoning issues and municipal property ordinances involve complex processes that affect everyone. To ensure each case is in compliance with property regulations, there are guidelines in place the average citizen may not be aware of that necessitate the advice of a well-informed professional. In such cases like the Denton controversy, all stakeholders have a right to seek advice from a legal professional as to the adherence to the laws governing real estate.

Source:Denton Record-Chronicle, “Denton council to continue talks with EagleRidge” By Peggy Heinkel-Wolfe, Feb. 04, 2014

Bank of America accused of using unfair foreclosure practices

Most of us have heard more about home foreclosures in the past five years than ever before. If you haven’t been involved in one, you probably know someone who has. Texas has had their share of people being dislocated during the recession. However, like everything else, there will be companies trying to take advantage of every situation, including foreclosures.

Numerous ads have also been on the market with mortgage companies promising to help lower rates with refinances or companies promising to help prevent foreclosures. In addition, some banks have even been accused of using unfair practices to drive people into foreclosure.

Bank of America is one such bank. Recently, they lost a case against a man who claimed that “unfair and deceptive” practices resulted in him losing his home. Bank of America has allegedly been accused before of tactics such as stalling homeowners in loan modifications, dishonestly denying modifications and rewarding staff for deliberately contributing to homes being foreclosed on.

The 32-year-old crane worker in this case lost his home to foreclosure by Bank of America in 2009. He claims that he was told not to make his house payments in order to qualify for a loan modification; however, once he was delinquent on his payments, he didn’t qualify for the loan modification. By this time, he was too far behind to bring his mortgage current.

He also claims that BANA consistently contacted him, offering to help him refinance, which he wanted to do, but they would not help him do it or tell him what he should do. He did not want to lose his home. He told them he would do whatever he needed to.

Bank of America allegedly could still appeal the case. The man’s attorney stated that he had never seen a Superior Court overturn a home foreclosure sale that occurred four years ago. He also noted that the trustee on the home, ReconTrust, was a subsidiary of Bank of America. That would make them biased in the foreclosure action.

People who are facing foreclosure may be able to contest a foreclosure action on their home in a court of law if they believe their mortgage company is using unfair practices. Attorneys can investigate to ensure that all actions taken by the mortgage company are above board and legal. In this market, too many companies are looking for loopholes to take advantage of unfortunate situations.

Source:;, “Judge Overturns Bank of America Foreclosure” Ansel Herz, Feb. 05, 2014