Saturday, January 14, 2017

Your Minor Children and Naming a Trustee in Your Will

Most parents of minor children know that they need to have a current Texas will. But not everyone understands how important it is to name a Trustee to take care of financial matters and how doing so can decrease the time and money spent in legal fees and court time later on. 

Naming a person whom you trust to be the Trustee of your minor children's finances is crucially important.  This position is also sometimes called the "Guardian of the Estate" or "Guardian of the Finances".  

The person who "guards" your child's finances does not have to be the same individual who is "Guardian of the Person" for your child, but, if you prefer, both positions can be filled by one person.

The Trustee (Financial Guardian), will decide how money is spent for your child.  This person will decide when to distribute money and allow unusual expenses, and how to plan for college.

If you are deceased while your child is still a minor, the probate judge will make decisions based upon your Will. If your Will does specifically name a Trustee for the children, the Judge can allow the Trustee more latitude in decision-making (independent administration- that is, more independent from court involvement).  This saves time and money and is preferable to having to have frequent hearings and/or continuous requests for the Judge's approval.   

However, the Judge must look out for the interests of your child, try to follow your wishes, and must also follow the law.  Leaving things "open to interpretation" or worse, not addressing the issue at all can create uncertainty, expenditures and delay. 

If you have minor children, make sure that your Will has appropriate provisions regarding Guardians and Trustees!

Wills, Probate & Family Law
"Passionate, Professional & Personal. We Make the Difference." For Over Thirty Years.
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Wednesday, January 4, 2017

What Happens to Social Media Accounts When Someone Dies?

Have you ever considered what would happen to your social media accounts and digital assets if you were to die? 

There are steps you can take right now, AND you can make "digital asset planning" part of your Estate Plan.   

  1. You can have language put in your will that ultimately leaves your digital assets to a certain beneficiary and/or specifies that your Executor will be able to access and terminate or distribute these accounts. 
  2. Some sites allow you to name a "legacy" owner. Facebook, for instance, allows you to name someone who has your authority to take over your Facebook account if you pass away. 
  3. Some password programs allow you to "share" the information with another person immediately, insuring that the person that you trust will have access to all your passwords should something happen to you (even a temporary disability that leaves you unable to act.)
  4. Powers of attorney that allow someone to act for you if you are unable to do so are part of a complete estate plan.  You can specify access to digital accounts as one of the powers that you give your Agent.  This will allow someone to access these accounts if you are living, but unable to act for  yourself. 
  5. Don't put your specific passwords, screen names, account numbers or login information in your legal documents.   Your Will and Powers of Attorney will eventually be seen my many eyes and may even be filed in court records.   Keep a separate list (digitally or hard copy) in a safe, accessible place, free from prying eyes. Update it as needed. 
  6. Don't use the same password for everything, and don't use "common" passwords like "1234".
  7. Keep in mind that many things today are tied to online access. For instance, if you no longer accept hard copy billing statements and pay all of  your bills online it may be difficult or impossible for someone to get access to your accounts to pay your monthly bills without some type of legal documentation such as a power of attorney, court order, or letter of representation from an estate attorney). So you may need to be certain that you make certain passwords accessible to a trusted person. 
  8. You may own digital assets that are intellectual property. These include graphics, websites, platforms, apps, blogs and the like. This is property that will pass to your beneficiaries so make sure that you leave the proper identification, access information and practical instructions in an accessible place and make sure you include these in your estate plan. 
  9. Untended accounts that are left to languish can create a security and privacy risk for your estate if a hacker obtains private information from an unguarded account. 
  10. A wills and estate attorney can help you plan for the practicalities of your individual situation, as well as drafting your legal documents for you.

Family Law, Business Law, Real Estate Law, Probate
"Passionate, Professional & Personal. We Make the Difference." For Over Thirty Years.
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Thursday, December 29, 2016

Resources for Living and Working in The Woodlands Texas

To our readers who live here in The Woodlands and are looking for a central place to go to keep up with all the activities, laws, changes, requirements, and benefits of living in The Woodlands, check out The Woodlands Township website.   It is chock-full of  information and is constantly being updated.

Want to know the schedule for monthly & holiday events?  Want to know when the Ice Rink is open? Looking for a new club or cause to join in the new year?  Need to know about The Woodlands Covenants, Restrictions, and Easements?   They are available online, in their entirety and searchable, with just a few clicks (both residential and commercial).

Information about economic development is easily accessible for businesses.

My personal favorite is the "Residents" tab, which includes a calendar, festival information, and information about parks, pools, trails, and activities.

If you recently visited The Woodlands and are considering moving to our area, check it out.

Even someone who has been here for years can learn a lot about our area on this site!

Kalish Law Office is proud to be entering our 33rd year in The Woodlands!

Family Law, Business Law, Real Estate Law, Probate
"Passionate, Professional & Personal. We Make the Difference." For Over Thirty Years.
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Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The 4 Ways to Divorce

Years ago, divorces were all handled pretty much the same way. A divorce may have been contentious or amicable, but the legal procedures didn't vary too much.

Now, there are choices.  These choices allow for greater flexibility in choosing the amount of money spent, the amount of time spent, the emotional energy required, and the type/level of analysis of the assets and debts of the couple.

  1. Pre-Divorce Planning: The first way available is to do some work "pre-divorce".   Prior to even filing the case, some or all of the work of dividing assets and debts and agreeing on child-related issues can be accomplished.  One way to do this is through pre-divorce mediation.  The spouses can attend a mediation session with a family law mediator in which they work out the practicalities of the divorce. They can mediate about issues during the divorce (who is responsible for what and child support/visitation issues while it is pending), and can also work on deciding the ultimate terms of the split, reaching an agreement. 
  2. Collaborative Divorce:  Collaborative Divorce is fairly new. In this process, the parties agree that they will cooperate and share information and that the divorce will not be contested. The case is designated as collaborative and each party has an attorney. Meetings occur and information is shared.  Other neutral professionals (financial planners, therapeutic counselors, realtors) may be part of the team.  If the divorce becomes contested, all agreements are off and the parties must retain other lawyers. This process emphasizes cooperation and respect. 
  3. Traditional Divorce/ Pre-trial settlement:  A divorce may be filed in the traditional way, with or without an allegation of fault.  Since mediation will normally be required by the judge in most Texas divorces, mediation occurs prior to hearings.  The couple may settle the case and enter into a binding settlement agreement, which is entered as a court order and removes the need for trial before the judge. Some people are also able to reach an agreement on their own or with their attorneys' help, without the mediation process. Settlement before the trial date removes the financial and emotional cost of a trial. 
  4. Traditional Divorce with a Trial in Front of Judge or Jury:   The traditional "day in court" still exists, for those who need it.  We have all seen television, and seen the dramatic and emotional world of "Divorce Court" and other such shows. Unfortunately, a full-blown trial is often emotionally difficult, but there are times when it is absolutely necessary.  In those cases, it is important to have a support group to count on, including an attorney you can trust and work closely with. 
Family Law, Business Law, Real Estate Law, Probate
"Passionate, Professional & Personal. We Make the Difference." For Over Thirty Years.
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