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Second marriages can help individuals cope with the pain associated with losing a spouse through death or divorce. If other beneficiaries are involved, you should consider what will happen to your assets after you pass away. You cannot guarantee that everyone in a blended family will be happy with the arrangements associated with your second marriage. Fortunately, however, it’s possible to avoid some mistakes so your family does not lose out on receiving an inheritance. With adequate estate planning, you can also make sure that your former spouse does not receive an inheritance if you do not intend so.  To better prepare your estate if you’re in a second marriage, this article reviews several estate planning tips that you should consider utilizing. 

# 1 – You Don’t Have to Treat All Heirs Equally

Most spouses do not marry while they are in equal financial positions. This is even more true for second marriages. If your new spouse moves into your residence, you might want your children to receive proceeds when your home is sold instead of your new spouse. Remember, in these situations, there is no established order that your assets must pass on equally to your children. There are various reasons why you might decide to treat your children unequally including children with disabilities, children who suffer from gambling conditions, or various other factors. 

Understandably, many clients want to appoint children or grandchildren to receive their assets. Appointing a minor beneficiary directly to an account, however, can present its fair share of challenges. Unfortunately, clients often assume that the estate planning process is complete after they sign a will and trust. These individuals often then name the same individual named in their estate planning documents as the direct beneficiaries of their accounts. Remember, if a designated beneficiary is a minor at the time of an account owner’s death, several undesirable results can occur. This article reviews just some of the most important reasons why you should be careful when appointing a minor beneficiary. 

Problems with Naming a Minor

Some substantial reasons exist to dissuade you from naming a minor as the beneficiary of your estate. The most substantial of these problems include the following:

In the recent Texas of Marshall v. Marshall, a beneficiary initiated legal action against a trustee as well as five co-trustees of two trusts addressing claims that they had breached fiduciary duties. After the original lawsuit was filed in Texas, the trustee filed a petition seeking declaratory relief and requesting that the court declare the co-trustees were sufficiently appointed. The beneficiary obtained a temporary injunction preventing the co-trustees from receiving compensation as well as disposing of trust assets or participating in litigation.

The court of appeals reversed the litigation on the grounds that permitting the lawsuit to continue did not constitute a miscarriage of justice. The court of appeals also reversed other aspects of the temporary injunction on the grounds that there was no evidence to support that irreparable harm would occur otherwise.

The Role of Co-Trustees

Many people were forced to think about how to adequately manage their estates in 2020. While a will and last testament was for many years the most common estate planning, trusts have grown in popularity. As part of a will, a person must specify how his or her properties should be distributed after that individual passes away, while family trusts are established for either a specific individual or a group of people who are not specifically named. This article reviews some valuable details you should understand in deciding whether a will, a trust, or both a will and trust are right for you.

Critical Differences between Trusts and Wills

While the critical differences with trusts and wills teal with the time when the assets are transferred, some of the  other vital differences between trusts and wills include the following:

As we proceed into 2021 and emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, many fundamental aspects of daily living have been challenged. Among many lessons people learned from the pandemic, one of the most critical ones is the importance of asset protection. Private placement life insurance provides individuals with the opportunity to allocate alternative investments in a tax-efficient manner while creating efficient strategies that do not exist with other life insurance options. Various factors make it an ideal time to consider using private placement life insurance including high lifetime exemptions and attractive federal estate and income tax rates. This article reviews some critical details that you should consider about deciding whether private placement life insurance is right for you.

 How Private Placement Life Insurance Functions

Private placement life insurance trusts are a special type of life insurance that has a high cash value compared to a low death benefit. To minimize fees, the life insurance aspect is kept as affordable as possible, which permits the cash value of the policy to drive death benefits. The purpose behind private placement life insurance trusts is to amass a substantial cash value within a life insurance policy to take advantage of the tax-free handling of income as well as gains from the underlying investments in the policy. 

One of the most important elder law decisions is picking the best nursing home. While this decision is often financially motivated, it’s also critical to find a facility that offers the best possible care to fit your needs. Unfortunately, not all nursing homes are capable of meeting everyone’s needs. To help process best, Medicare has implemented a five-star rating system.

The Separate Nursing Home Ratings

Not all nursing homes meet Medicare standards. After an in-depth review of a nursing home, Medicare assigns facilities with a rating based on a one to five scale with one being the worst and five being the best. Five-star ratings for nursing homes are based on the following separate categories:

  One of the most undesirable situations in the field of estate planning is a person becoming incapacitated or passing away without the proper estate plans in place. To die intestate means that a person passes away with no legal will. This means that if a person intestate, the distribution of that person’s assets is determined based on New York law rather than any consideration for the needs of the deceased person’s loved ones. 

Tragically, many people die without the proper estate planning tools in place. For example, Black Panther star Chadwick Boseman passed away without a will. Boseman’s case is unique because he filed some estate planning documents, but not enough to fully oversee how his estate was handled. Consequently, the distribution of Boseman’s assets was left to the control of a California probate court to distribute Boseman’s estate which is valued at $939,000. Given the celebrity of Boseman’s film roles, his estate was likely worth much more but passed on many assets to trusts. Curiously, however, wills are often written contemporaneously to wills. Boseman’s story brings to mind why you should ignore some of these common reasons and engage in adequate estate planning sometime soon.

# 1 – To Make Sure Your Children Are Cared For

In the recent case of Odom v. Coleman, a brother and sister initiated legal action against another in a matter involving their father’s estate. The dispute between the two siblings focused on whether the father’s estate should be reformed in accordance with Texas Estates Code Section 255.451(a)(3) that allows courts to modify or reform a will if necessary to correct a “scrivener’s error” in the terms of the will to conform with the testator’s intent which must be based on clear and convincing evidence.

The Will In This Case

The will in this case contained a residuary clause that passed on personal property to the son and then the daughter. A rigid interpretation of the will found that the deceased man’s real property would not be included in the residuary cause instead passed through intestacy. The son then initiated legal action to revise the will to omit the word “personal” in the residuary clause. The trial court ultimately for the son and the daughter appealed.

In the recent Texas appellate case of Maxey v. Maxey, a dispute occurred involving the probate of an estate in which two sisters mediated and reached a settlement agreement addressing the division of real property. The two sisters disagreed on how to divide property among several trusts and as a result initiated legal action against one another. Following mediation, the sisters entered into a settlement agreement to divide real estate. The parties then disagreed on what the settlement agreement meant and again initiated legal action against each other. The trial court ultimately found that the settlement agreement’s terms were ambiguous and submitted the meaning of an agreement to a jury. Following a jury trial, the losing sister appealed.

The court of appeals later reversed this decision and held that the settlement agreement was not ambiguous. The court instead found that language used was not reasonably susceptible to multiple meanings. Because the language in the settlement agreement was found not to be ambiguous, the court found that the jury should have determined the parties intent as a matter of law and did not need to rely on extrinsic evidence. Consequently, the court remanded the case back to trial court to construe the settlement agreement and properly divide the real estate.

When trusts and estate cases arise involving real estate, parties often must mediate and settle disputes. One of the valuable takeaways from the Maxey case is that it emphasizes that parties can enter into enforceable and unambiguous settlement agreements that divide real property provided that they create adequately detailed descriptions. Fortunately, besides stating property descriptions, there are also some other helpful steps that parties can follow to avoid trusts and estate planning contests or disputes.

The coronavirus pandemic has substantially altered the way that we engage in business. There are, however, ways to sign estate planning documents remotely without needing to be in close proximity to anyone. 

To better prepare you for navigating the estate planning process remotely, this article reviews some important details that you should remember.

# 1 – Executive Order No. 202.7

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