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Houston Estate Planning Law Blog

Joseph Yule dies, leaves $18k estate and lessons re: elder abuse

Ninian Joseph Yule Jr. passed away recently. He was 93 and had been in show business for more than 88 years. He starred in more than 200 movies -- even if he was not the lead, he was always a star. Like so many actors of the 1930s and '40s, his personal life was often more interesting than his work. He was married eight times and had as many or more children and step-children. His was not the typical story of an actor who peaked early and then fell apart.

This guy, this Ninian Joseph Yule Jr., had his downs, but they were always followed by ups. His resilience and adaptability were evident when, having never played Texas Hold 'Em before, he was, according to IMDb.com, ranked seventh on the World Poker Tour Invitational.

From the age of 7 or so, he was known to the public as Mickey Rooney. At the time of his death, his estate was valued at just $18,000.

Reverse mortgages can mean reversal of fortune for heirs, p. 3

We are wrapping up our discussion of the long arm of a reverse mortgage. A reverse mortgage is a loan against the equity in your house. To qualify, the homeowner must be 62 or older and must meet a few other conditions. The loan does not come due until the borrower dies or moves. We have been talking about how lenders are enforcing the loan terms when the borrower dies.

According to the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, lenders are required by law to offer the borrower's heirs a chance to settle for a percentage of the loan amount. Borrowers' heirs say that such an offer would be the exception rather than the rule: Lenders have been demanding full payment before the estate has settled, and, if payment is not forthcoming, lenders have started foreclosure proceedings.

Reverse mortgages can mean reversal of fortune for heirs, p. 2

Discussing reverse mortgages reminds us somehow of Jessica Rabbit, the impossibly sultry wife of the title character in "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?." At one point in the movie, she tells a detective, "I'm not bad. I'm just drawn that way."

On the surface, a reverse mortgage offers a senior easy income by cashing in on his home equity. In practice, however, a reverse mortgage may make life for the senior easier but leave his heirs with a lot of debt.

Reverse mortgages can mean reversal of fortune for heirs

Alex Trebek is one of the many celebrities to appear in television ads for mortgage lenders. Trebek is not talking about just any mortgage, and he is not talking to just any homeowner. He is talking about a reverse mortgage, and his audience is any person age 62 or older who is feeling a little cash poor.

In these commercials, Trebek and Pat Boone and even former Senator Fred Thompson explain how easy the process is, each with a unique but studied air of "I wish I'd thought of this." The sales pitches are effective. It is all too easy to understand how appealing the product would be to a 70-year-old homeowner on a fixed income that is not enough to pay for air conditioning in Houston's sweltering summer heat. 

Months after his death, actor's daughter lives in legal limbo

Paul Walker and the mother of his now 15-year-old daughter were never married. Various news outlets reported that Walker was a devoted father, but only came to that recently. His daughter grew up with her mother, far away from the actor, though news outlets suggested they shared custody. A couple of years ago, though, she left her mother's care and moved in with her father.

When Walker died in November 2013, he did leave a will. His will named his father as executor of his estate and left the entirety of the estate to his daughter. The probate court in his home state -- he neither lived nor died in Texas -- has appointed Walker's father to be executor, but almost four months after his death, his daughter's future is still uncertain.

Power of attorney docs can be an important part of an estate plan

Sometimes, a medical condition or the effects of old age make it so an elderly individual is no longer able to take care of their own affairs. When this occurs, what will often happen is that one of the individual's family members will take up the managing of the individual's affairs and care.

One could see how such a transition could have the potential to be confusing, chaotic and even contentious. Thankfully, there are ways that individuals can, through advanced planning, help make it more likely that such a transition will go smoothly if they ever end up becoming incapacitated during their elderly years.

Dementia complicates both estate planning and administration

Regular readers of this blog know that it's never too early to start making plans for how your assets and property will be divided after you're gone. But death isn't the only event that could prevent you from making the right choices about your estate

There are many other circumstances that require early planning, and chief among them may be dementia. According to the Alzheimer's Association, 1 in 3 senior citizens dies with some form of dementia, and there's no telling just when it will begin to take effect or how rapidly it will progress. Once it does, sufferers begin to lose the capacity to make important decisions; this includes allocating money and possessions to their loved ones. 

Where there's a will, maybe there should be a living trust, p2

After a brief foray into celebrity probate, we are going back to the discussion started in our Feb. 13 post. The topic is living trusts and how they may complement -- or even take the place of -- a will in an estate plan. Remember, this is a general discussion. There may be nuances that exist in Texas but not in another state.

When we left off, we were talking about a hypothetical situation involving Josie and two of her prized possessions: an antique car and a Robert Rauschenberg collage. She places the car in a living trust that allows her to use it during her lifetime and, on her death, gives the car to her nephew. The Rauschenberg is not in the trust, but Josie has left it to her nephew in her will.

Learning from Philip Seymour Hoffman's estate plan

On the individual level, it may seem to many people that unexpected life events don't happen very often. After all, it's easy to go along with the flow of life and assume that regularity will always be the norm. The reality, though, is that unforeseen factors disrupt people's lives all the time, and your estate plan should account for unwanted surprises in order to protect yourself and your loved ones.

The recent death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman sank the hearts of people around the world. His death was sudden, but even so, his will had reportedly not been updated since the birth of two of his children. Hoffman did create a trust for his eldest child and left the remainder of his fortune to his partner Mimi O'Donnell, but the actor's estate plan was far from comprehensive.

Where there's a will, maybe there should be a living trust, too

Most of us have heard it a hundred times -- just in the last week, even: Baby boomers are entering retirement. Approximately 10,000 Americans will turn 65 every day for the next 16 years. It is not too late for these soon-to-be retirees to establish an estate plan that will protect their assets and keep the tax obligation low. Many boomers, in fact, may relocate to Texas, because we have neither an estate tax nor an inheritance tax.

An estate plan will not only provide direction to heirs about what will happen to the testator's assets after he dies, but it could also provide for his own care if he becomes incapacitated. Just as a funeral trust can take care of burial costs (we wrote about funeral trusts here), a living trust can take care of expenses for someone who becomes disabled or who simply cannot take care of himself anymore.

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