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Life Comes at You Fast

The following post is by Texas Personal Family Lawyer Dick T. Brown at his blog:

We’ve all seen those TV ads by Nationwide Insurance. The actor or actress is feeling all secure, then WHAM!!!, something totally unexpected hits like the proverbial "bolt from the blue."

On the morning of Friday, June 13th, Tim Russert and I had several things in common. We both had a history of battling high cholesterol and our weight. We both saw excellent cardiologists on a regular basis, had no symptoms of coronary artery disease, and our cardiologists’ testing showed we had no significant coronary artery blockage.

I, who am a little older, got to spend the evening with my sister and her husband. Tim was dead at 58 years of age. Like those commercials say, "Life comes at you fast."

In the days since that Friday, I have done a lot of thinking about all of the people I have know for whom death or disability came suddenly and without warning. My mother and a cousin both died as a result of something unexpected happening in surgery. An old friend decided to trim a tree limb before going to work, fell backwards off his ladder, and died instantly. A wonderful doctor’s wife  friend slipped on her sidewalk one morning, fell backwards, and died of a skull fracture. I thought of a colleague who was returning from a football game with his wife and a talented your dance teacher, both of whom pulled out in front of an 18 wheeler in a moment of inattention. The list goes on.

One thing we all have in common is that we are going to die. None of us knows when that will be. And, we also share a high probability of spending some part of our life incapacitated – depending on others to make decisions and care for us. Yet most of us go on from day to day as if we were immortal, not planning for those "what ifs."

A statistic that is shocking to me is that almost 70% of the parents of minor children have not even taken the first step of naming someone to be the guardian of their children is something should happen to them. And just as many Americans of all levels of wealth have made no plans for what will happen to everything they own when they die.


If you have not named guardians for your children, don’t go to bed tonight until you have done so. It’s easy. just CLICK HERE to go to a web site that will walk you step by step through the whole process!

If you are interested in finding out who will get your property when you die, call us at 770-425-6060 to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session to discuss that very subject and much more. We’ll be gald to hear from you!  Our standard charge for a Family Wealth Planning Session is $750, but we will waive it for anyone who refers to this news item or contacts us through this web site.

What is Estate Planning?

Estate planning is one of the most important steps any person can take to make sure that their final property and health care wishes are honored, and that loved ones are provided for in their absence. Though often overlooked or put off in favor of more immediate concerns, a comprehensive estate plan can resolve a number of legal questions that arise whenever anyone dies: What is the state of their financial affairs? What real and personal property do they own? Who gets what? Does a personal guardian need to be appointed to care for minor children? How much tax will need to be paid in order to transfer property ownership? What funeral arrangements are appropriate?

What is an "Estate"?

Your "estate" consists of all property owned by you at the time of your death, including:

  • Real estate
  • Bank accounts
  • Stocks and other securities,
  • Life insurance policies,
  • Personal property such as automobiles, jewelry, and artwork.

How Can an Estate Plan Help?

Regardless of your age, or the size and complexity of your estate, an estate plan can accomplish the following:

  • Identify the family members and other loved ones that you wish to receive your property after your death.
  • Ensure that your property will be transferred to those you have identified, as quickly and with as few legal hurdles as possible.
  • Minimize the amount of taxes that will need to be paid in order for your property to pass to others after your death.
  • Avoid the time and costs associated with the probate process by utilizing estate planning devices like living trusts and "payable on death" bank accounts.
  • Dictate the kinds of life-prolonging medical care you wish to receive should you be unable to make your wishes known when the time comes.
  • Set forth the kind of funeral arrangements you would like, and how related expenses are to be paid.


Advantages of Various Estate Planning Tools

There are a lot of estate planning tools available to you. The following table summarizes the benefits provided by some of the more common estate planning techniques. Talk to your estate planning attorney for the details. (Note: For definitions of the estate planning tools compared in this table, i.e. "Pour-Over Will", scroll to the bottom of this page)


Benefit of Planning Tool No
over Will
Permits you to select the beneficiaries of your estate No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Permits you to select the executor of your will No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Permits you to select the trustees of your trust No No Yes Yes Yes Yes
Permits you to select the guardians for your children No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Avoids the time-consuming and expensive probate process No No No Yes Yes Yes
Timing of Distributions
Permits distribution of assets to children other than simply upon reaching the age of majority (Ex. 1/3 at age 25, 1/3 at age 30, 1/3 at age 35) No No Yes Yes Yes Yes
Prevents conservatorship of estate owner No No No Yes Yes Yes
Protects assets from creditors No No No Yes Yes Yes
Estate Taxes
Assists married couples in reducing estate taxes No No Possibly, if properly designed to save estate taxes No Yes Yes

Allows the first spouse to die to name the ultimate beneficiaries of his/her estate while still permitting the surviving spouse to utilize the assets and while still deferring estate taxes







No Will means you have no will, and your estate passes to your heirs based on the laws of descent and distribution of your state.

Basic Will means you have a will that distributes everything to your spouse, if living, otherwise to your children when they reach the age of majority.

Pour-over Will means you have a will that distributes everything to a trust.

Living Trust means a trust designed to avoid probate and provide asset management. A basic living trust does not effectively use the $675,000 unified credits of both spouses. Remember, each person is entitled to have the first $675,000 of his or her estate pass to his or her heirs without estate taxes. This is referred to as the "unified credit." Because of this deficiency of a basic living trust, an AB Trust is often recommended instead to married couples with substantial assets.

AB Trust means a trust designed to make sure the $675,000 unified credit of each spouse is used to the full extent possible, while allowing the surviving spouse to have the use of the assets of the deceased spouse during the remainder of the surviving spouse’s lifetime.

QTIP Trust means a trust designed to permit a spouse to transfer assets to his/her trust while still maintaining control over the ultimate disposition of those assets at the spouse’s death. QTIP Trusts are particularly popular in situations where a person is married for a second time but has children from a first marriage for whom he/she wants to reserve assets.

Source: FindLaw