Do you have a will already? If not then get one so your family can avoid litigation!
Many people think that estate planning is only for the elderly or the wealthy, but have you thought about what would happen if you unexpectedly died? Do you really want to leave you wife and kids to figure out how to manage your affairs while they are grieving? If you have a will, then your family has options on how to proceed and it makes the legal process less trying on them. It is even a bigger issue when you are in a blended family. Imagine your minor children living with your ex-spouse becoming a one-half owner of your house with your current spouse. This in it self creates drama for all those involved when it could be avoided with a simple document expressing your desires.
Many people believe that having a will makes their family go through the costly process of probate, however, in Texas the process is not costly and its a lot easier than letting Texas laws decide who gets your stuff.
How does the probate process work? After you pass away, your executor, who you named in your will, will collect and distribute the assets to your beneficiaries during a process known as probate. This will include settling any debts you have with creditors. The process is inexpensive, simple and non intrusive into your loved ones lives.
What happens if you don’t have a will?
- If you are married and all your kids are from your spouse? Your spouse gets your community property and your spouse splits your separate property with your kids.
- If you are remarried and have kids from another marriage? Your new wife and your kids share all your property. In this scenario it is common for your wife and kids to become joint owners of your home.
- If you are single with kids? Your stuff goes equally to your kids and if one is not living then their share goes to their children (your grandchildren from that kid).
- If you are single without kids? Your stuff is divided between your parents, if one of them is deceased then that parent’s share goes to your siblings.
So you can see how the laws in Texas might not be how you want your things to be distributed and having a will leaves the decision solely up to you! We can always find a distant relative to be your heir, but do you really want someone else deciding? So get a will today! My office can help, just call 817-336-2400 and ask for Patricia Cole.
Preplanning to avoid probate litigation!
There are several things you can do now while you are alive to prevent your loved ones from having to probate. This is especially important if you are married and your spouse will be your sole beneficiary. This is not to say you should not have a will. Everyone should have a will just in case some asset comes up that we didn’t plan for properly or in the event you die accidentally and litigation ensues.
- Name Beneficiaries – you can name your beneficiary on various types of accounts, including bank accounts, life insurance, retirement accounts, and investment accounts. Review these accounts every few years to ensure they have the beneficiary of your choosing.
- Joint Tenants with Right of Survivorship – when you purchase a house ask the title company have the deed read “joint with right of survivorship” which transfers the house to your spouse immediately upon death. If you already own your house, you and your spouse can execute a new deed that makes the ownership “joint with right of survivorship” so that the house is automatically transferred upon death.
- Living Trust – while this may seem to be the most straight forward approach, only an attorney can tell you if you really need one. Many people get living trusts and never properly fund them so probate turns out to be necessary anyways. Also a living trust does not protect you from liability as many people think it does.
- Transfer on Death Deed – this document is a new statutory document created by the Texas Legislator to help protect your real estate. While this document is a deed, it is not a traditional deed, in that it does not immediately transfer ownership to your beneficiary but allows you to instead retain all ownership rights. Upon your death the real estate automatically transfers ownership to your named beneficiaries. These types of deeds are used mostly by people wanting to transfer their home to their children or grandchildren upon their death.
For more ideas and ways to plan so your family can avoid probate court contact your attorney! Remember that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”.
Estate planning in anticipation of divorce litigation!
Trusts can be useful tools in a divorce proceeding especially when a spouse has a direct or indirect interest in a trust. Counsel should identify specific trust features that could make a difference and impact whether trust assets can be reached, potentially affecting alimony and property division determinations.
Within the context of a divorce, trust and estate attorneys should understand specific discovery techniques family law practitioners may use to determine whether a spouse has an interest in a trust, whether that interest is material, and what attack can be made against the trust. The key is make sure your attorney is knowledgeable before you do any estate planning in anticipation of a divorce.
Common Mistakes Women Make in Estate Planning!
A large amount of women hold a substantial amount of wealth in this country, however, many do not take the correct steps to protect their assets. It’s a simple fact that Women live longer than men! By the time a woman is 85+ she will outnumber men by 25% and she is 9 times more likely to live past 100 than a man. When the husband gets ill, becomes disabled or passes away, it is the WIFE who is left to deal with the couples finances. Therefore, it is necessary for women to get more involved in the couple’s finances well before any of these life changing events occur. What should a Woman avoid?
Putting off Estate Planning. Probating an estate without a will takes longer, cost more money, requires more court involvement and the state law determines who gets your possessions. But the biggest reasons you should have a will is to keep the family harmony! There’s no excuse for putting your family through the drama of trying to probate an estate without a will!
Trying to Do It Yourself! There are numerous ways to transfer assets upon death and a will is just one of them! There are also numerous documents you may need depending upon your own circumstances.
- Who gets your stuff once you pass?
- Who gets the responsibility of being your executor and what does that mean?
- Who makes decisions for you upon disability or incapacitation?
- Who makes burial decisions once you pass?
- Do you need a Special Needs Trust now or upon your death so your spouse or child doesn’t lose disability benefits?
These are all good questions to iron out with a professional! The cost of preparing a will by using a professional should not prevent you from being prepared. You can spend a little now or a lot later! However, the main reason you should leave it to the professionals is because doing it your self means there is good chance that you will make a mistake! I have had small and large estates where the person used a computer form incorrectly and it left us trying to figure out what they wanted to accomplish and cost the beneficiaries additional unnecessary expenses. I have also had clients write their own will giving away each of their assets to a specific person, but they forgot about after acquired items or potential future litigation.
Failing to Understand your financial situation. Many women find themselves lost when their husband passes away or becomes incapacitated because he was the one that handled the finances. While you may not want to be the one to deal with the bills on a daily basis you should always know what assets you have as a couple, how those assets are disposed of upon death, and what your estate plan is as a couple.
Failing to Probating Husband’s Estate. Women are more likely than men to put off probating their spouses estate. Many women think that they get it all so there is no need to probate, but this always causes problems down the road. It is necessary to probate the will to transfer assets such as, bank accounts, investment accounts and real estate. What happens when you want to sell or refinance your house and it is still in both names? What happens when you pass away and your children try to probate your estate and there are joint accounts or property?
In Texas, a Will can only be probated within 4 years of death unless there are extenuating circumstances and then it can only be probated as a Muniment of Title. So waiting to probate a Will seriously limits your options! Do you really want your children to have to deal with your husband’s estate years down the road? Do you really want the Court to tell you that you now only own one-half of your house because you failed to probate?
If your husband doesn’t have a Will, then it is important to probate now rather than later! The main reason is because you or your children may not be able to find witnesses in 10 or 20 years. So as you can see it is very important to consult an attorney after your spouse dies to discuss the ways you can go about making sure you preserve your rights.
Failing to Consider the Possibility of Incapacity. Women live longer and are more likely to be the caregiver of their husbands or parents, so it is likely that a woman is going to have to deal with long-term care during her lifetime. For this reason, it is important for women to be informed, involved and understands her financial affairs. Here are a few questions you need to discuss with your estate planning attorney are:
- Do I need a Guardianship Designation? It lets you chose now rather than allowing a Court to decide who will have control over your person and finances if you become incapacitated or the POA’s are not enough.
- Do I need to provide for a Special Needs Trust for disabled or incapacitated spouses or children? If your spouse or child receives financial assistance, you would not want to leave them assets that would affect this assistance.
- Do you need a Lady Bird Deed? This tool could help preserve your home to be left to your children at your passing being used to pay your creditors.
Failing to Consider Burial Plans. Since you will likely outlive your husband, have you considered that it will be up to you to make the funeral plans after his passing. Many women are too upset about their loss to handle these arrangements so it is left up to the children or funeral home. But what if you and your husband could make these plans in advance of either’s passing? This doesn’t mean you have to purchase burial plots and pay for burial plans! This just means you have a written plan in place and designate an agent to carry out this plan after you are gone. It makes sense to have such a plan because it is easier on the remaining spouse who has to deal with the loss or with the spouse’s other family members.
Choosing your agent for a POA is serious stuff! Understand their fiduciary duty!
Many people know they can find the Statutory Power of Attorney form online. But what they do not usually understand is the extent of the authority they are giving to their agent and how the form needs to be filled out properly to be accepted once incapacity occurs.
Giving a person agency over your financial affairs means they step into your shoes and can do all kinds of things, such as, sell your house, cars, spend your money, make investments on your behalf, etc. Therefore you should makes sure you do not not give away too much authority!
Texas law does provide that an agent under a power of attorney owes the principal a fiduciary duty. However, many times it is all but difficult to recover lost money or assets because the agent has already spent the money or disposed of the assets.
Therefore, the important lesson is to choose your agent carefully and use an attorney to make sure the POA does exactly what you need it too!
Estate Planning advise from Warren Buffett!
Marvin Blum (pictured on the far left) generated quite a bit of media coverage this past weekend when he posed a question to Warren Buffett at the Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting, where an estimated 35,000 shareholders gather each year in Omaha. Marvin’s question and a summary of Warren Buffett’s comments are below.
“I’m an estate planning lawyer, and it’s interesting as we wrap up today to ponder that the baby boomer generation is about to pass along the greatest transfer of wealth in history. I can design plans that eliminate estate tax and pass down great amounts of wealth to the next generation, but many of my clients come to me and say they want a plan like Warren Buffett’s, leaving their kids enough so they can do anything, but not so much that they can do nothing. Now they ask me, and I am asking you, ‘How much is that, and how do you keep from ruining your kids?'”
The following is a brief summary of Mr. Buffett’s insightful response:
• I think that more of our kids are ruined by the behavior of their parents than by the amount of the inheritance.
• I rewrite my will every five or six years.
• When your children are old enough (mid-thirties or thereabouts), you should explain your estate plan to them – It’s crazy for them to read the will for the first time after you’re dead.
• If your child is named as executor, your child should understand how to carry out his or her obligations that are embodied in the will before I sign that will, and we should talk it over.
• Rather than creating a dynasty of sorts, if you’re very wealthy, the money can have far more utility to society than to create a situation where your kids don’t have to do anything in life except call a trust officer once a year and tell him how much money they want.
• If you’re going to leave each of your children different mixes of assets, you want to make sure your definition of equality is understood by the children.
Marvin’s question drew immediate attention in the news media with coverage in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Bloomberg Business Week, The World-Herald, and commentary from these sources was syndicated and reprinted globally by many other outlets.
Article was provided by the Blum Firm, P.C.
Why you need a directive to physican!
Many of you know I am very adamant that all my clients have a Physician’s Directive (Living Will), so I never charge for the document. Why is it so important you ask? Well, there are various reasons and scenarios that come into play that many people just do not think about. Here is a wonderful article by attorney Harvey Cox that does a great job of illistrating why end of life decisions are so important, regardless of your age!The Difficulty of Life or Death Decisions By: Harvey Cox
Understanding the Oil & Gas world – Part II
PART II OF OIL & GAS OUTLINE
Here is Part II of the Oil & Gas Outline provided by the author Derek Fletcher a Managing Director and Wealth Strategist at U.S. Trust, Bank of America Private Wealth Management. I have not altered the context of Mr. Fletcher’s work, however, I have reduced it down to include only the basic information and broken the outline into two separate blogs.
As is the case with many industries, the oil and gas business has adopted a specialized, unique and, in some instances, humorous vocabulary. Below are some of common terms utilized in the oil and gas business:
1. The Players.
a. Landman. A person in the oil and gas industry whose responsibilities include acquiring oil and gas leases, examining and curing titles and managing an oil company’s leases. This term applies to both men and women and it is not advisable to use the terms ‘Landwoman” or “Landperson” !
b. Lessee. The person entitled under a lease to drill and operate oil and gas wells. The lessee will pay the lessor a royalty and retain the balance of the production. The lessee is commonly referred to as the “operator” or “working interest owner.”
c. Mineral interest Owner. The owner of the minerals under a tract of land. The mineral interest owner has the right to extract the minerals or lease that right to another party. The mineral interest owner has a right to bonus payments, delay rentals and royalties.
d. Operator. The working interest owner who is responsible for the daily operations after production has commenced.
e. Purchaser. The company that remits payment to the various interest owners, including the royalty owners and working interest owners.
f. Surface Owner. The owner of the surface estate. While a party can own both the surface and the minerals, the term “surface owner” generally means a person who owns only the surface and none of the minerals.
2. The Economics.
a. Bonus. The consideration paid by the lessee for the execution of an oil and gas lease by a landowner. If the bonus is to be paid out in installments over a number of years, it is referred to as a “deferred bonus.”
b. Carried interest. A fractional interest in oil and gas (usually in the form of a lease) where the owner of such interest has no obligation for the operating costs. Instead, the owners of the remaining fractional interest in the property bear the costs and reimburse themselves out of the production proceeds, if any.
c. Carved Out Interest. An interest created out of a greater interest (e.g., the creation of an overriding royalty interest out of a working interest).
d. Delay Rental. Consideration paid by the lessee to the lessor for the right to delay drilling operations or production during the primary term of the lease.
e. Depletion. The exhaustion of a reservoir (or the reduction in value of the reservoir) caused by the extraction of minerals.
f. Nonparticipating Royalty Interest. A royalty interest which does not “participate” in (i) bonus or rental payments, (ii) the right to execute leases or (iii) the exploration and development. Instead, it entitles the owner to an expense-free interest in any oil and gas if and when produced.
g. Overriding Royalty Interest. This is an interest that is similar to a royalty interest but which is carved out of the working interest of an existing lease. It is commonly expressed as a fraction of production from the lease but is free of exploration and development costs.
h. Production Payment. A production payment is a right to minerals in place that entitles its owner to a specified fraction of production for a limited period of time, or until a specified sum of money or a specific number of units of mineral has been received.
i. Royalty Interest. The interest in production reserved by a mineral interest owner upon entering an oil and gas lease. The royalty is commonly referred to as a fraction of the total production of oil and gas (or the proceeds) and is free of exploration and development costs. Historically, a standard oil and gas royalty was 1/8 – although it now has a range of 1/8 to 1/4.
j. Shut-in Royalty. A payment made when a well that is capable of producing in paying quantities is shut-in due to the lack of an available market. The payments are generally expressed as a particular amount per acre. These payments enable the lessee to keep the lease alive without actual production for a reasonable period of time.
k. Working Interest. Interest under a lease which gives the lessee the exclusive right to explore and develop the property. In exchange for this exclusive right, the lessee must bear all costs associated with such exploration and development.
3. Miscellaneous Terms.
a. Barrel of Oil. 42 U.S. gallons of oil at 60 degrees Fahrenheit weighing approximately 306 pounds. A barrel is the most common unit used for measuring crude oil.
b. Casing. Round steel tubes of varying sizes, weights and grades that can be interconnected into a string. Casing is run into an open borehole and cemented into place. It is the outermost tube in a wellbore and prevents the borehole from caving in.
c. Casinghead Gas. Is basically the gas produced from an oil well. It is a gaseous hydrocarbon which is found in liquid form prior to production but which converts to a gaseous form upon production.
d. Condensate. Liquid hydrocarbon which is found in gaseous form in the formation prior to production but which converts to liquid form upon production. Generally speaking, this is the oil produced from a gas well.
e. Crude Oil. Hydrocarbons found in liquid form in the formation prior to production and remaining in liquid form upon production.
f. Directional Drilling. The drilling of a well that materially departs from vertical drilling (e.g., horizontal drilling).
g. Division Order. A contractual agreement between the party distributing production proceeds and the various interest owners setting out the proportions of production that each owner is entitled to receive. The division order generally requires the payee to stipulate as to the size of the interest involved, warrant title to the same, agree to prove title to the payor’s satisfaction if a dispute arises, indemnify the payor for payments made in accordance with the terms of the division order and other related matters.
h. Dry Hole. A well determined to be incapable of producing in paying quantities.
i. Farmout. An agreement between operators whereby the owner of a lease transfers the development rights (or some portion of it) to another operator in exchange for consideration (often a payment per acre, an overriding royalty interest or a reversionary working interest).
j. Executive Right. The power to make executive decisions regarding the mineral estate, including the power to lease. The executive right can be severed from other incidents of mineral ownership.
k. MCF. Abbreviation for 1,000 cubic feet of gas. MCF is the most common unit used for measuring natural gas.
l. Mud. Drilling fluid which is pumped down the drill pipe through the drill bit and circulated back to the surface. The purpose of this process includes maintaining hydrostatic pressure, lubricating the drill bit, carrying rock cuttings to the surface and preventing the pipe from getting stuck in the borehole.
m. Natural Gas. Hydrocarbon found in gaseous form in the formation prior to production and remaining in gaseous form upon production.
n. Permeability. A measure of the ease (or difficulty) with which a fluid can move through a porous formation (such as shale, sandstone or limestone).
o. Pooling. The joinder of several small tracts for purposes of securing a drilling permit.
p. Porosity. The ratio between the volume of pores within a formation to its total volume. In general terms this is the space in a formation where oil can be held.
q. Primary Term. The period of time during which a lease can be kept alive even though there is no production in paying quantities.
r. Secondary Recovery. Application of various liquids, gasses, heat, etc. at a time in which a reservoir has reached the exhaustion of the natural energy needed to extract the oil.
s. Secondary Term. The period of time during which a lease can be kept alive by virtue of production in paying quantities.
t. Section. An area of one square mile – which equals 640 acres. Sections are divided into quarters – each representing 160 acres.
u. Tertiary Recovery. Use of chemicals or energy to enhance recovery methods for the production of oil or natural gas.
v. Transfer Order. If an interest subject to a division order is transferred, the party distributing production proceeds will require a transfer order to be executed by the transferor and transferee. The transfer order will describe the interest being transferred, the date of the transfer as well as making the transfer subject to the original division order.
w. Tubing. Like casing, tubing is round steel tubes of varying sizes, weights and grades that can be interconnected into a string. Tubing runs inside the casing and is the path through which oil and gas is brought to the surface.
x. Unitization. The joint operation of all or a portion of a producing reservoir often to make secondary recovery operations more economically feasible.
y. Wildcat. An exploratory well that is drilled in an unproven area.
Understanding the Oil & Gas world – Part I
PART I OF OIL & GAS OUTLINE
Do you own oil & gas interest? Many people in Texas have some sort of mineral interest. When you deal with the landman or operator, do you understand all the nuances of the oil & gas world? Many people have a basic understanding, but do not usually have enough information to feel truly knowledgeable. Therefore, I am providing a great outline in two separate blogs for your reading pleasure.
The author of this outline is Derek Fletcher a Managing Director and Wealth Strategist at U.S. Trust, Bank of America Private Wealth Management. I have not altered the context of Mr. Fletcher’s work, however, I have reduced it down to include only the basic information and broken the outline into two separate blogs.
The mineral estate is a tract of land that is distinct from the surface. It includes five primary attributes: (i) the right to explore (ingress & egress), (ii) the right to develop (executive right), (iii) the right to receive bonus payments, (iv) the right to receive delay rentals and (v) the right to receive royalty payments. Accordingly, in the estate planning context, a client may own or be willing to transfer one or more of these various “sticks.”
Steps in the Exploration and Production Process. In order to appreciate oil and gas as an asset, it is important to understand the general activities involved in the exploration and production process.
Step One: The Survey
a. Geological Maps – identifies sedimentary basins and favorable geological locations.
b. Aerial Photography – identifies promising land formations such as faults or anticlines.
c. Magnetic, Gravimetric or Seismic Studies – provides information regarding the various rock strata below the surface.
(1) Magnetic Survey – measures the intensity of the magnetic character of the rock strata.
(2) Gravimetric Survey – measures the variations in gravitational fields.
(3) Seismic Survey – measures the various reflective properties of the rock strata as sound waves are transmitted below the surface. The seismic survey is the most common assessment method.
2. Step Two: Exploratory Drilling
a. Exploratory boreholes are drilled on a promising geological area in order to determine whether, in fact, hydrocarbons exist.
b. Once drilling begins, “mud” is circulated down the borehole and back to the surface. Casing is run into the completed sections of the borehole and cemented into place.
c. When a hydrocarbon formation is found, initial testing is performed to determine the rate flow rates, thickness and internal pressure of the reservoir.
3. Step Three: Appraisal
a. If exploratory drilling produces favorable results, additional wells will be drilled in order to ascertain the size and extent of the field.
b. The economic feasibility of development and production IS determined during the appraisal process.
4. Step Four: Development and Production
a. If commercial quantities of hydrocarbon are discovered, the next step involves development and production from the reservoir.
b. If the field is small, the appraisal wells may simply be used to develop the field.
c. If the field is large, additional production wells may be drilled.
5. Step Five: Enhanced Recovery
a. Many wells are free-flowing – meaning that the underground pressures are sufficient to carry hydrocarbons up the wellbore to the surface.
b. If the underground pressures are insufficient, some fonn of additional lift may be required – such as a pumping mechanism or the injection of gas, water or steam to maintain the necessary pressure.
c. It may also be necessary to stimulate production by fracturing the formation referred to as “fracking.”
6. Step Six: Processing
a. This is the process whereby the fluids produced (oil, gas and water) are separated.
b. Oil must generally be free of dissolved gas.
c. Gas must be stabilized and free of liquids and other elements such as hydrogen sulphide and carbon dioxide.
d. Water must be treated before disposal.
Enforeceable contracts made by email
With today’s electronic world, the issue of whether you can create a binding contract through email signatures often comes up in business. In Texas, the elements that are generally required to create an enforceable contract are (1) an offer; (2) acceptance in strict compliance with terms of the offer; (3) a meeting of the minds with respect to both the subject matter of the agreement and all of its essential terms; (4) a communication that each party has consented to the terms of the agreement; (5) for a written contract, execution and delivery of the contract with an intent that it become mutual and binding on both parties; and (6) consideration (the giving of something of value).
In Texas, a contract may be written or oral, unless the contract is required by law to be in writing. A written contract must spell out the agreement and be signed by both parties. An example of a contract required to be in writing is a settlement agreement in a lawsuit, which must also be signed by the parties and filed with the court to be binding.
The Texas Uniform Electronic Transaction Act allows for electronic signatures to create an agreement. Whether the parties agree to conduct a transaction by electronic means is determined from the context and surrounding circumstances, including the parties’ conduct. UETA allows for the enforceability of electronic signatures once the parties to a transaction have decided to carry on dealings by electronic means. In Texas, the Courts have consistently held that an email signature is comparable to a manual signature. Therefore, if someone makes an offer to settle a matter with you and you then accept that offer, all by email, then a contract has been created.
A party that agrees to conduct a transaction by electronic means may refuse to conduct other transactions by electronic means. If you no longer want to transact business by electronic means, you just need to notify the other party in writing that you no longer agree to conduct business by email.
If you want to ensure you do not create a contract by email, you might consider putting a disclaimer on your emails that states: “This email is not intended to create or form a contract between the parties”. This may be ineffective if the substantive body of the email contradict and override this statement, so I suggest starting your email out with this language.