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Lisa Galvan Law, PLLC Blog

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Student Debt Keeping You From Buying Your First Home?

You go to college and receive your degree, perhaps followed by a masters or doctorate degree, as well. You meet someone special and get married. You might want to buy your first house, but you have that “thing” hanging over your head - student debt. You have racked up thousands of dollars while furthering your education and now you are being told that you have too much debt or that you simply can’t save the 20% that is needed for your down payment on a home. 

Student Debt Wearing You Down?

When you first obtained that loan to pay for your college tuition, you thought you were moving in the right direction. Many people fail to think about what life will be like after signing that dotted line. After graduation, many people do find a job and start making decent money. It is widely accepted that the average worker with a bachelor’s degree makes more than one without a bachelor’s degree. However, the added expense of paying off one’s loans can quickly become a burden. In these cases, people start to put off buying things that they want and have worked hard for such as a house.

In most cases, the down payment for a house will be about 20% of its total cost. For those who are already paying student loan debt it can be hard to save that kind of money. According to Trulia, 30 of the top 100 markets in the country show that saving for a home can be faster and easier without a degree. Nonetheless, it can be done! Don’t count yourself out just yet!

There is Still Hope!

Student debt can be a burden, but there are many programs that are dedicated to people who are trying to buy a house. In Texas, there are two programs that offers assistance, Loans & Down Payment Assistance and Mortgage Credit Certificate Program.

The Low Interest Rate Loans & Down Payment Assistance program offers assistance to teachers, firefighters, police and correctional officers, veterans, and low and moderate income homebuyers. In some cases, this program provides 3%-5% in down payment assistance that does not need to be repaid. The Mortgage Credit Certificate Program is available to certain individuals such as teachers and low and moderate-income homebuyers and is exclusively for first time home buyers or people who have not owned a home in the last three years.

We Are Here to Help!

Don’t let your student loan debt be the reason why you cannot buy your dream home. There are programs that are available to you. Contact Lisa Galvan Law, PLLC and I will help you achieve your goal of owning your first home.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Why Singles Need Estate Plans

 The traditional nuclear family of the past has been in rapid decline. An estimated fifty percent of San Antonio’s population is now classified as single. Moreover typically delicate topics such as estate planning are often viewed as points of discussion for married couples looking to pass their assets down to children and grandchildren.

However, for the single individual, estate planning is central to ensuring one’s final requests are granted.

Who is the Heir?

For Texas singles who pass away without a valid will or trust, the laws of the state of Texas will determine who inherits their property. Without a proper estate plan, the final say as to how your assets are dispersed belongs to the State, often resulting in costly and unfavorable results. In rare cases in which no surviving family can be found, control of your assets is then given to the state.

For unmarried couples, irrespective of relationship length, proper planning is crucial to ensure a loved one is cared for after you are gone. Here, the importance of creating a will and/or a revocable living trust that appoints a trustee, will help ensure peace of mind that your assets are distributed how you wish after your death.

Planning For Incapacity and/or Death

If a single adult person becomes incapacitated during their lifetime, without having the proper planning in place, a relative or stranger may have to petition the Court to become appointed as your guardian. To avoid this costly process, delegating who has control over your estate including your finances and health is of utmost importance. At a minimum, one should have the following preparations in place: 

  •  While in good health and state of mind, a “living will” or advanced medical directive allows an individual to specifically state any medical treatment needs, should you become incapacitated and unable to recover. This initiative can also limit medical care received.
  • Powers of attorney, designating an agent to act for you should you become incapacitated.  A complete estate plan will contain powers of attorney for both financial and medical matters. It is important to bear in mind that a power of attorney ceases to be effective upon your death.
  • A person's will or a revocable living trust states that an appointed person of their choosing, shall act as the executor (or trustee) for settlement of your estate and dispersal of property upon your death. The will can ensure that assets pass to the appropriate beneficiary, including specific individuals or charities, but must pass through probate. A revocable living trust can help distribute one’s assets, and is often used to avoid probate, if funded properly. 
  • With bank accounts, life insurance policies, and retirement plans, working singles often have an opportunity to name beneficiaries directly. In the midst of life events such as the birth of children or divorce, keeping designated beneficiaries current is a must in order to safeguard the distribution of your hard earned assets.

Call an Experienced San Antonio Estate Planning Attorney

Admittedly, it can be difficult to think about the future of your estate. For single individuals, planning for incapacity or death can bring unique challenges. At Lisa Galvan Law, we can help give you the advice and planning services that are needed to ensure that your estate passes to your intended beneficiaries, per your wishes. 

 


Saturday, June 27, 2015

Estate Planning For Same-Sex Couples After Obergefell v. Hodges

Same sex marriage is now a constitutional right in Texas and throughout the country. So says the United States Supreme Court in its ruling of Obergefell v. Hodges. The Court held 5-4 that same-sex married couples are entitled to equal protection under the laws, and that their marriages must be recognized nationwide.  

What does this mean for same-sex couples here in San Antonio and throughout the state? For starters, it means that estate planning will be a whole lot easier once they obtain a legal marriage license.

Here are just a few ways that equal protections will impact married same-sex couples:

Same-Sex Partners Will No Longer Be Left Out of Intestate Succession

If you die without having made a will, the state distributes your property according to intestate succession laws. This is never a good outcome, but it is even worse for same-sex couples who, until now, were not legally recognized as married in Texas. Intestate succession laws distribute property among legal family members, including spouses, children, and other relatives. Because same-sex couples could not wed in Texas, intestate succession would leave them with no right to inherit their partner’s property.

That changes with the Supreme Court’s recent ruling. Married same-sex couples in Texas now have equal rights to all married couples in intestate succession laws.

State Laws Banning Same-Sex Marriage Are Effectively Invalidated

Same-sex couples will now enjoy all state tax benefits and other spousal benefits that other couples enjoy, including: 

  • Adoption or child custody proceedings, even in states that previously did not recognize two persons of the same gender as a child's parents; 
  • Divorce proceedings, if necessary, now that states must recognize the validity of the marriage wherever solemnized; 
  • Spousal priority in matters concerning an incapacitated spouse's care, or recognition in the event guardianship or conservatorship proceedings are necessary; 
  • Spousal survivorship rights under state pension or other retirement benefits, even in estates that previously did not recognize same-sex marriage; 
  • Spousal identity or priority in the vent will or trust proceedings are contested after death; 
  • The ability to file taxes jointly as a married couple; 
  • Spousal privilege in criminal proceedings where a spouse is a defendant; 
  • Any other spousal contract right where the contract is construed under Texas law. 

Couples Should Absolutely Still Proactively Plan

Just because Texas recognizes same-sex marriage doesn't mean couples should not take control of their will and trust planning, and clearly set for their wishes in enforceable legal documents. All of the good reasons to plan apply just as much to same-sex married couples as opposite-sex married couples:

  • Proactively expressing their wishes concerning their medical care during periods of incapacity (through powers of attorney); 
  • Structuring the distribution of their property - ideally in protective trusts - for the benefit of their surviving spouse and children after their death; 
  • Establishing trusts to preserve privacy, and to avoid the delay and expense of guardianship or probate proceedings during incapacity and after death; 
  • Providing for family members other than a spouse or child through their estate plans. 

While same-sex married couples are now entitled to equal protection under the laws of every state, the efficacy of those laws in ensuring dignity in disability and death, and orderly and structured distribution of property after death is very limited for all couples. Families should always take control of their planning and leave as little to state law interpretation as possible. Lisa Galvan Law provides a lifetime of estate planning services to couples in San Antonio and throughout Texas. Whether you are recently married or simply want to update your existing documents, call today at 210-820-2667 to set up a meeting with an experienced San Antonio estate planning lawyer.


Friday, June 19, 2015

Using Estate Planning to Protect Your Home

With the economic recession behind us, housing prices are at their highest level ever in San Antonio. The average home in the city is now valued at $202,500, marking the first time it has ever moved beyond $200,000.

With higher home values can come greater concern over the smooth transfer of this valuable asset. If you are concerned about how your home will be managed upon your own death or incapacity, now is a good time to create a comprehensive estate plan.

Read on to learn more about how estate planning can protect your most valuable asset.

Why Do Homeowners Need an Estate Plan?

If you are like most middle class families, your home is your most valuable asset. By creating a plan, you are eliminating the potential for conflict and uncertainties surrounding its ownership after you are gone. Homes without proper estate plans can be tied up in probate for years, during which time property taxes can pile up and structural elements can fall into disrepair. Having a plan makes the sale or transfer of your home much more efficient, protecting your most valued asset and ensuring that your descendants obtain maximum value from it.

What are the Available Options?

Homeowners have a number of options to prevent a home from going into probate. These include:

  • Joint tenancy: Some homeowners will enter into joint tenancy arrangements with family members as an estate planning measure. This avoids probate by simply giving a portion of a home to family members or loved ones during your lifetime. It has many drawbacks, however. Gifts of over $14,000 may require you to pay gift taxes. Additionally, offering an ownership stake in your home to another individual leaves you vulnerable to the risk of bankruptcies and divorce proceedings.

  • Living trust: For most families, creating a living trust is preferable to joint tenancy arrangements. Using this estate planning tool, you transfer your home title to a living trust that you control during your lifetime, as long as you have the mental capacity to do so. You also create a plan to transfer the trust to your descendants in the event of death or incapacity, giving you the ability to control how this asset is managed and distributed.

While these are two of the primary estate planning tools at your disposal, it is important to speak to an attorney about the best path forward in your case.

How Can You Pick the Right Strategy?

The details of your estate plan will be heavily dependent upon your individual circumstances. The size of your family, whether or not you have a living spouse, and any loved ones you would also like to include can all factor in. It can all get complicated quickly, but you don’t have to do it alone. A qualified estate planning lawyer can analyze your situation and guide you to the best solutions to protect your home and other important assets.

Lisa Galvan Law is trusted by families throughout San Antonio to provide a lifetime of estate planning services. To schedule a consultation with an experienced estate planning attorney, contact us online or call 210-820-2667.


Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Managing Conflict with an Aging Parent

The ongoing dispute between New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson and his estranged heirs is a classic story of estate planning gone wrong as a parent ages.

Benson, the owner of a business empire that spans two major sports franchises and a host of assets, is in the midst of a civil lawsuit with his daughter and her children, who claim that he was manipulated by his third wife in his choice to remove them from any ownership stake in his business.

Is there anything we can learn from this case? Though you likely don’t have the same financial concerns of Benson and his family, even middle class families can suffer ugly disputes as a parent ages. As an estate planning attorney in San Antonio, I see conflicts like this play out all too frequently. They may not make the news, but they are just as serious to the people involved.

Drawing upon our own experience, I have put together some steps you can take to avoid legal disputes and the collapse of family relationships as a loved one reaches old age.

Document Everything

If you are concerned about the future as you age, make sure to put all of your wishes in writing. It is not enough to scribble your thoughts down on a piece of paper (though that itself is better than nothing). Instead, it helps to take the time to sit down with an estate planning attorney to discuss your concerns and how you might better plan to avoid any confusion about your wishes should you suffer mental or physical incapacity in old age. Though I can’t speak to Benson in his case, this may have helped his family to avoid its current dispute.

Communicate

While getting all of your estate planning documents in order is important, it is not a substitute for good, old fashioned, face-to-face communication. Whether you’re making a change to who inherits what or putting a living will in place, you need to make sure that your loved ones are informed. Often, the thing that causes most conflict among families with aging parents is the element of surprise. When family members learn things they do not like when a parent cannot communicate why that decision was made, it can be a recipe for legal disputes and familial conflicts. It is better to air out any changes now while everyone can effectively communicate.

Do Your Research

There are many tools available to effectively plan for incapacity. Establishing a durable power of attorney will give you peace of mind that the person you trust most will be there to handle your affairs. Other tools, such as living wills, living trusts, and HIPAA authorizations can add further certainty that your wishes will be carried out. Your attorney can help you draft documents that are tailored exactly to your needs.

At Lisa Galvan Law, I help families avoid potential conflict through estate planning documents customized to their unique needs. Give me a call at 210-820-2667 or contact me online.


Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Planning for Your Children

For many young couples, having a child can be the first sign that it is time to form an estate plan. Should something happen to you, you want peace of mind that your children will have all of the love, devotion, and stability they currently enjoy under your roof.

Fortunately, there are a host of tools available to help young parents protect the wellbeing of their children in the event of the unexpected. We’ve taken some time to survey a few of the best options here.

Guardianships

Many parents make the mistake of assuming that legal guardianship will be automatically passed to the appropriate family members upon their passing. On the contrary, courts often have difficulty establishing the best possible guardians for children when the parents have not made their wishes known ahead of time. In some cases, courts may place children in Child Protective Services while they attempt to find a suitable home.

To prevent this possibility, it is essential to make your wishes for your children abundantly clear by establishing legal guardians ahead of time. In doing so, you will want to think about the potential guardian’s ability to care for your children into adulthood. Many couples choose their own parents, and they can be a great option, but you will want to consider the likelihood of parents maintaining good health through your child’s teenage years. Once you have come to a decision, sit down with the potential guardians to see if they would be willing to take on such an important responsibility.

Trusts

Trusts allow you to dictate in detail how your assets will be distributed to your children upon your passing. You can make these as broad or as specific as you like. If you would like to designate a specific sum of money toward your child’s college education, for example, you can do so with a trust. Other options include designating different ages to distribute different sums of money.

Life Insurance

Life insurance provides important peace of mind that your children will be taken care of financially upon your passing. This is an especially good option for young parents; being young and healthy greatly reduces the cost of a typical life insurance policy. Be sure to add a good life insurance policy to your estate plan portfolio.

Living Wills

Living wills make your wishes known to your descendants should you lose the capacity to make decisions for yourself. While this benefits you directly, it also benefits your children. Knowing exactly what medical treatment and financial decisions you would have wanted can greatly reduce the stress and anguish of your children and family members during an already difficult time.

Call an Experienced San Antonio Estate Planning Attorney

If you would like to learn more about estate planning options for children, contact Lisa Galvan Law. We help parents throughout San Antonio and the surrounding area build custom estate plans that protect their most precious loved ones. Call us today at 210-820-2667.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Three Ways to Plan for the Survival of Your Business

If you own a small business, it can be tough to think about the all-important “exit plan.” There are a host of questions:

  • Who will run the business when you are no longer around to make day-to-day decisions?

  • How will shares be distributed?

  • What are the tax consequences of all of this?

It can feel easier to put it off for another day.

At Lisa Galvan Law, we understand the importance of business succession planning to family harmony and the long-term health of a business, so we strive to make it as easy as possible for our clients in the San Antonio area. Here are three tools you can begin using right away to ensure that your business passes soundly to the next generation.

Preserving “Institutional Memory”

If you are like most small business owners, the “special sauce” that makes your business work is your own actions. As a result, the things that make the business what it is often rest with you, the proprietor. To ensure the continuity of your business, you need to find a way to pass on your knowledge--or your “institutional memory”--to the next generation of leaders. In your business succession plan, you can include advisors or other provisions to ensure that your hard-won knowledge is passed on to and utilized by the next management team.

Family Limited Partnerships

For those who want to keep business ownership within the family, family limited partnerships can be an attractive option. This option is a essentially a limited partnership, with your family members as the primary stakeholders. You retain control of your business while handing over ownership shares to your family. This minimizes the potential for conflict among family members later. Additionally, family limited partnerships can come with a host of tax benefits, though the IRS is vigilant about abuses. Talk to your attorney about setting up an FLP that works for your business.

Transferring Ownership to Partners

Oftentimes, business owners wish to reward vital employees by offering first rights to an ownership stake at a later date or by offering increased ownership shares to existing partners. To do so fairly and with minimal conflict, creating a plan for the valuation and distribution of these shares is vital. Working with your estate planning attorney, you can create a structure for ownership transfers that protect your stake while creating a workable plan for its successful transfer.

Talk to an Experienced Attorney

You have put everything into building your business. Let an experienced attorney help you ensure that it survives and thrives beyond your years. At Lisa Galvan Law, we provide a lifetime of business succession and estate planning services to families and small business owners throughout the San Antonio area. We can sit down with you, discuss where your business is and where you would like it to go, and build a plan that helps take it there. Contact us today to schedule a meeting with a San Antonio estate planning lawyer.


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Resolving Senior Guardianship Among Family and Loved Ones

A recent piece in the Daily Tribune of Mt. Pleasant, Texas, tells an unsettling story of a family embroiled in a years-long conflict over the guardianship of a senior citizen incapacitated by a stroke.

Conflicts over the affairs of the senior, a local doctor, continued even after his death, with funeral and visitation delayed, perhaps indefinitely. Everything from power of attorney to decisions over the handling of the remains were up for discussion.

It is cases like these that highlight the need for families and loved ones to make guardianship arrangements early on for loved ones who are unable to make decisions on care and financial matters. Read on for tips on resolving guardianship issues with minimal conflict and emotional anguish:

Determine if Your Loved One Requires Guardianship

The question of whether a senior citizen requires guardianship or power of attorney is not as straightforward as it may seem. With dementia impacting more than five million Americans, families everywhere are grappling with questions of how to manage the affairs of a parent or loved one who is no longer able to think clearly or perform basic tasks. In these times, it is important to take a close look at laws pertaining to the guardianship of incapacitated individuals. In Texas, the legal definition of an incapacitated person is an adult who is unable to care for his or her health or attend to his or her financial affairs. In these cases, some form of guardianship is needed.

Locate any Power of Attorney or Advanced Directive Documents

Oftentimes, individuals will designate power of attorney or draft advanced directive documents that specify responsibilities over finances and medical affairs in the event of incapacity. Usually, the individual will notify family members and loved ones that these documents are in place. Still, it is a good idea to seek an attorney to help you locate any documents that may establish your loved one’s wishes.

Find Mutual Agreement if Possible

While courts will designate a guardian, this process is much faster and less trying for all involved parties if there is agreement ahead of time. Finding prior agreement on the management of finances and medical care of your loved one will help the court establish legal guardianship and responsibilities in an efficient manner. If conflict is inevitable, an attorney can help you protect your loved one and your ability to care for him or her in proceedings involving guardianship.

Find a Skilled Attorney

Establishing guardianship is not a simple process. Unfortunately, many senior citizens can live for years without proper medical and financial care due to disagreements and confusion about their legal status. By finding an attorney experienced in elder law, you can navigate this process with confidence, free from the severe stress and anguish that afflicts all too many families during an already difficult time.

At Lisa Galvan Law, we help families throughout the San Antonio area protect their loved ones through legal guardianship. Contact us today to speak with an experienced attorney about your case.


Friday, May 15, 2015

When is it Time to Update Your Estate Plan?

Too often, we view estate plans as time capsules; documents that, once established, can be locked away for safe keeping, never to be opened again until needed. Merely having an estate plan does not mean your work planning for the future is done, however. As life circumstances change, so should the documents that spell out your final wishes to your descendants.

At Lisa Galvan Law, we offer a lifetime of estate planning support to people and families throughout the San Antonio area. Here are some instances when updating your estate plan is likely a good idea:

Divorce or New Marriage

Because spouses are often primary beneficiaries, a change in your marital status requires significant changes to your estate plan. If you have recently divorced, you will want to ensure that your ex-spouse is removed as a beneficiary. New marriages, on the other hand, give you a wide range of estate planning options that are not available to single individuals. In addition, you will want to be sure that you are updating the beneficiaries of all life insurance plans and retirement accounts.

Beneficiaries Reaching Adulthood

Estate plans created when your children are young may need some updating when they reach adulthood. Life circumstances often change rapidly for people in young adulthood, so you may want to allocate different responsibilities and assets to your adult children. You may want to create different plans for children who have moved away versus those who has stayed nearby. Other estate plan options, such as trusts, may be more appropriate for children at different stages of their lives.

New State and Federal Laws

Laws surrounding inheritance and estate planning are constantly changing. Working with a lawyer, you can stay up to date on new laws or potential changes that could impact your estate planning documents and accounts. If you have recently moved to Texas, you may want to check to see that the laws applying in your previous state also apply here.

Major Life Changes

Sometimes, life throws a curveball that you had not expected. If you have had a significant life change, such as a new job, relocation, inheritance, or the opening of a business, you will need to update your estate plan to better align with your circumstances. A new small business, in particular, will require a business exit plan and a plan to manage the business should you die or become disabled.

The Passage of Time

All plans need to change with the times to stay effective. Changes in tax law, new beneficiaries, beneficiaries who have passed away, and a range of other factors can all significantly impact your estate plan. If it has been a few years since you last updated your estate plan, it is likely time to visit your attorney to get things up to speed.

If you are seeking to update your estate plan, contact Lisa Galvan Law. We help individuals and families throughout San Antonio create and continually update estate plans for a lifetime of changes.


Monday, May 11, 2015

The Estate Tax: What it is and How to Shield Your Assets

The U.S. House of Representatives voted last month to repeal the estate tax, known to many detractors as the “death tax.” While the bill is unlikely to move through the Senate and even less likely to garner a presidential signature, it highlights important questions many people have as they build an estate plan: What is this estate tax and what is the best way to protect your assets from it?

At Lisa Galvan Law, we have years of experience helping families throughout the San Antonio area with estate tax planning. Read on to learn more about how this important tax planning issue might impact you.

What is the Estate Tax?

Enacted in 1916, the estate tax is a tax on the transfer of the assets of a deceased person. Transfers subject to the tax include property transferred through a will, life insurance payments, and payments made through a trust. It has applied to different levels of wealth over time, and in keeping with inflation, those levels have increased over the years. The tax is something of a political football and has been repealed, altered, and reinstated several times since its inception. While some states impose an estate tax above and beyond the federal tax, Texas has no independent estate tax of its own.

Who Pays it?

Despite the controversy surrounding the estate tax, very few Americans actually end up paying it. To offer some perspective, out of the 2.6 million deaths expected this year in the United States, the Joint Committee on Taxation estimates that only 5,400 estates will pay the tax. The reason for this is the high exemption level of the tax. As of 2013, the wealth of a single person valued at up to $5.43 million is exempt from the estate tax. For married couples, the exemption is up to $10.9 million. Taxable wealth above and beyond these levels is taxed at a rate of 40%. The Internal Revenue Service has additional useful information about the estate tax on its website.

Protecting Your Estate

If you have concerns about the estate tax, it is important to discuss them with a qualified estate planning attorney. You and your attorney will want to make sure that you are taking full advantage of all available exemptions. For high net worth individuals, this is especially important, as you may still have taxable assets even after all exemptions are accounted for. In these cases, you will need an attorney experienced with advanced estate planning, including strategic gift plans, grantor retained annuity trusts, and life insurance trusts.

When it comes to the future of your family, it is important to have quality advice when you need it. At Lisa Galvan law, we provide a full range of estate planning services to families throughout the San Antonio area, from business succession planning to advanced estate planning for high net-worth individuals. Contact us to talk about planning your estate with an experienced lawyer.


Friday, October 24, 2014

Welcome to Our New Blog

Welcome to our San Antonio Law Blog. New articles will be coming soon.


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Lisa Galvan Law, PLLC is located in San Antonio, Texas and serves the following surrounding counties: Bexar County, Medina County, Comal County, Wilson County, Atacosa County, and Kendall County.



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| Phone: (210) 820-2667

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