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Estate Planning for the Nontraditional Family

Posted by on Oct 15, 2016 in Estate Planning, Uncategorized | 0 comments

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“THE LEGAL CORNER”

By Sam A. Moak

Estate Planning for the Nontraditional Family

The information in this column is not intended as legal advice but to provide a general understanding of the law. Any readers with a legal problem, including those whose questions are addressed here, should consult an attorney for advice on their particular circumstances.

We have moved along way in 16 years, and whether you agree with them or not, it is becoming increasingly common in the United States to encounter a group of people who reside in the same household, but who are not part of what might be considered a “traditional family.” The Census Bureau estimates a tenfold increase in the number of unmarried partners’ households since 1970, and this figure does not account for gay and lesbian couples.

In this article, the term “nontraditional family” encompasses the following family groups: (1) unmarried adults who are opposite sex partners, (2) unmarried adults who are same sex partners, and (3) single parents and adults with children, whether minor or adult children. To a great extent, each of these types of “nontraditional families” share similar characteristics for income and transfer tax issues. In addition to the similarities, there are issues which are unique to same sex couples. I will attempt to highlight some of these areas this week.

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Welcome Angela Shimek Valis to The Firm

Posted by on Jul 1, 2016 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

We are pleased to announce the addition of Angela Shimek Valis to our firm as an associate attorney.

Mrs. Valis comes to us from Gonzales Texas where she was a partner in the firm of Reese, Escobar, Valis & Symms, LLP.
She is married to Garrett Valis who coaches at Sam Houston State University girls softball.

Mrs. Valis is a native of Shiner, Texas. She attended Texas A&M University where she attained her Bachelor of Arts degree in Speech Communication, graduating magna cum laude with both University Honors and Foundation Honors. After leaving Aggieland, Angela earned her Juris Doctorate at St. Mary’s University School of Law in San Antonio, Texas.

While at St. Marys, Angela was Editor-In-Chief of The Scholar: St. Mary’s Law Review on Minority Issues. Upon graduation from law school, she received the “Law Student of the Year Award” from the National Association for Women Lawyers.

Angela has experience in Real Estate, Trademarks, e-Discovery, Business Organizations, Wills & Estate Planning, Probate, and Oil & Gas.

Please help us in welcoming Angela to our practice.

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Worries of the Sandwich Generation

Posted by on Jul 1, 2016 in Estate Planning, Uncategorized | 0 comments

THE LEGAL CORNER

By Sam A. Moak

Worries of the Sandwich Generation

The information in this column is not intended as legal advice but to provide a general understanding of the law. Any readers with a legal problem, including those whose questions are addressed here, should consult an attorney for advice on their particular circumstances.

The Sandwich Generation is getting worried. Who are they? Adults stuck between young children and older parents, both of them requiring the adult’s supervision and/or financial care.

What are they worried about? Well, a lot of things, but in specific: how to pay for their parents’ medical care now while also planning for their own future long-term care costs. (Not to mention taking care of the little kids too.) According to a new Associated Press poll, nearly 10% of adults age 40 or older are currently supporting at least one child while also providing regular care for an older relative. In other words, they’re “sandwiched.” Understandably, that gives rise to financial fretting.

Unfortunately, the worrying doesn’t seem to translate to action. The same poll finds that 54% of those sandwiched Americans have done “little or no planning.” Worrying but not planning is a recipe for unhappiness and misfortune. Proactive measures are surprisingly easy to take, and they can afford you tremendous peace of mind — not to mention a better forecast for the future. So why not make those next steps? Or at least look into them?

You might say, “Sam, we don’t have kids.” Procrastination is common across all walks of life, but studies show that those without children are the most likely to postpone planning for the future. That’s curious, given that providing for one’s progeny accounts for only one small part of a comprehensive estate plan.

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ENSURE YOUR FINANCIAL PRIVACY

Posted by on Jul 25, 2014 in Articles, Uncategorized | 0 comments

 

“THE LEGAL CORNER”

By Sam A. Moak 

ENSURE YOUR FINANCIAL PRIVACY

The information in this column is not intended as legal advice but to provide a general understanding of the law. Any readers with a legal problem, including those whose questions are addressed here, should consult an attorney for advice on their particular circumstances.

There is a federal law that affords consumers significant say over the privacy of their financial information while still allowing financial institutions to share information for normal business purposes. This Act covers banks, savings and loan institutions, credit unions, insurance companies, securities firms, and even some retailers and automobile dealers that extend or make arrangements for consumer credit.

There may be more forms of personal information gathered by the institutions than you realize. They may have credit reports and records of how much you buy and borrow, where you shop, and how well or poorly you pay your bills on time.

The Act protects your financial privacy in three basic ways: First, in a privacy notice, the institution must tell you what kinds of information it collects and the types of businesses that may be provided with it. Institutions must send out a privacy notice once a year. Second, if the institution is going to share your information with anybody outside its corporate family, it must give you the opportunity to “opt out” of that kind of information sharing. The third layer of protection requires the institutions to describe how they will go about protecting the confidentiality and security of your information.

A privacy notice from your bank may not be the kind of mail you rip open with eager anticipation, but you should take the time to look it over carefully all the same. Somewhere in the formal verbiage you should look especially for these items:

What kinds of information may be shared, both with affiliated companies and with outsiders? Don’t expect great specificity on this in the notice itself. The Act requires only a description of basic categories of information, with some examples.

What information can you not prevent your financial institution from sharing? Recognizing some circumstances in which the institutions should be allowed to share financial information with outsiders without the consumer’s consent, the Act does not allow you to stop the sharing of information that is needed to help conduct normal business (such as for outside firms that process data or mail statements); to protect against fraud or unauthorized transactions; to comply with a court order; or to comply with a “joint marketing agreement” entered into with another institution.

How do you go about “opting out” of the sharing of information of outside entities? Sounds simple enough, but the institution may require you to exercise this option by calling a specific phone number or by completing a form and mailing it to a particular address. If you opt out by phone, to be safe you may want to follow up with a written version, keeping a copy for your records.

Our privacy rights are particularly sensitive, especially when dealing with finances. Take the time to carefully read the notices you are sent and make sure you are protecting your privacy. It should reduce the number of solicitors and may prevent the theft of your identity.

Sam A. Moak is an attorney with the Huntsville law firm of Moak & Moak, P.C. He is licensed to practice in all fields of law by the Supreme Court of Texas, is a Member of the State Bar College, and is a member of the Real Estate, Probate and Trust Law Section of the State Bar of Texas.

www.moakandmoak.com

 

 

 

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Stop Inheritance Feuds Before They Start

Posted by on Apr 25, 2014 in Estate Planning, Uncategorized | 0 comments

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“THE LEGAL CORNER”

By Sam A. Moak

STOP INHERITANCE FEUDS BEFORE THEY START

The information in this column is not intended as legal advice but to provide a general understanding of the law. Any readers with a legal problem, including those whose questions are addressed here, should consult an attorney for advice on their particular circumstances.

Family members routinely fight over cash, stocks and other large assets after a relative dies. But some of the most bitter fights are over trinkets. More than half of lawsuits over inheritances involve items worth less than 10 percent of a person’s estate, according to an article on dailyfinance.com. That’s because they have emotional not financial value. One family fought over their mother’s passport, even though it had no financial worth.

 To avoid such fights, conversations should be started early. Either the older or the younger generation may initiate this talk, but the idea is to get an idea of who wants what. To assist in this you should make an inventory of your possessions to discuss with your attorney. Share the list with family members.

 It is also a good idea to have your property appraised. You can use the local appraisal district’s valuation for real estate, but understand it may not be accurate. Personal property items, other than automobiles, may be difficult to assign values to, so seek help. If there is a great disparity in value of items, then you might consider selling them. Cash is always easier to divide among heirs.

You know your family better than anyone else. If you know they do not see eye to eye, do not rely on them being able to work together to divide assets. You will have to divide them or give your executor the ability to do so. However, please make every effort not to burden your executor with refereeing family disputes.

You might consider including a list of personal property in your Will. However, be aware your Will becomes a public record and the whole world will be able to see the list. Talk to your attorney about alternatives to listing items in your Will.

The best way to avoid a fight or conflict is through careful planning, done way ahead of time. Do not put off until tomorrow what needs to be done today. Seek the guidance and advice of an attorney who handles estate planning. There is a good chance he or she will have experience with “sticky” matters and how to best avoid them.

Sam A. Moak is an attorney with the Huntsville law firm of Moak & Moak, P.C. He is licensed to practice in all fields of law by the Supreme Court of Texas, is a Member of the State Bar College, and is a member of the Real Estate, Probate and Trust Law Section of the State Bar of Texas.

www.moakandmoak.com

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Danger of Adding Others to Your Accounts

Posted by on Jun 21, 2013 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

“THE LEGAL CORNER”

By Sam A. Moak

Danger of Adding Others to Your Accounts

The information in this column is not intended as legal advice but to provide a general understanding of the law.  Any readers with a legal problem, including those whose questions are addressed here, should consult an attorney for advice on their particular circumstances.

 Various types of bank accounts held in the name of a single individual or entity have the virtue of simplicity, and the added bonus that the accountholder does not have to wait to make decisions until after a consensus has been reached with others. But sometimes other considerations make it desirable to add someone else, usually a relative, to an account.

 That is a perfectly reasonable step to take, but it is important to consider the ramifications, especially as it may affect federal deposit insurance for accounts insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). Of course, another overriding consideration having more to do with human nature than federal regulations is whether there is a trusting relationship between or among everyone whose name is on an account.

 Joint Bank Accounts

Under FDIC rules, a joint account is a deposit account owned by two or more people who have equal rights to withdraw all of the deposits and to close an account. Married couples, assuming they want to share the funds in the account, like the convenience of such a joint account so that either person can write checks on the account and pay bills from it. At an FDIC-insured institution, each co-owner is insured for up to $250,000 for his or her share in all joint accounts in that institution. But if all persons on the account do not have equal withdrawal rights, the account will not necessarily be FDIC insured up to the same amount as for a true joint account under FDIC rules.

 If the goal is to give someone limited access to a bank account when needed but not to grant ownership rights to the account, an alternative is to grant that person a power of attorney. Powers of attorney, which typically authorize someone to represent or act on another’s behalf in financial matters, can be crafted to permit the desired amount of access to bank accounts.

 Safe-Deposit Boxes

The various states and banking institutions have their own rules and procedures for access to safe-deposit boxes. Since granting a second person access to a safe-deposit box amounts to giving that person the right to empty the box without the need for anyone else’s approval, this is a step that should be taken only with care and forethought.

 Credit Card Accounts

There are two different ways to give a second person the ability to use a credit card. Making that person a co-owner means that he or she will be financially responsible for all of the debt incurred with the credit card, regardless of which co-owner authorized a particular charge. In the alternative, an authorized user of the card may or may not be financially responsible for the debt, depending on the cardholder agreement. The card owner can put restrictions on authorized users, such as how much debt the authorized user can incur with the card.

 Cosigning Loans

Succinctly put, a cosignor on a loan has agreed that the creditor can look to him or her for satisfaction of the debt if the debtor does not pay the debt. This obligation may well extend to any late fees and collection costs made necessary by the debtor’s delinquency. On top of that, the cosignor’s own credit rating could take a hit if the debtor doesn’t pay the debt or pays it late. All in all, the watchwords for cosigning on a loan are “proceed with caution.”

If you want someone to assist you with paying bills or managing your accounts, then you should consider talking to an attorney about the benefits of a Durable Power of Attorney.  Additionally, seeking legal advice before you cosign on a loan, would be a wise decision.

Sam A. Moak is an attorney with the Huntsville law firm of Moak & Moak, P.C.  He is licensed to practice in all fields of law by the Supreme Court of Texas, is a Member of the State Bar College, and is a member of the Real Estate, Probate and Trust Law Section of the State Bar of Texas.

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