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The basics of estate planning

Most people realize that they need to plan for the end of their life, but sometimes it can be difficult to start. Thinking about death isn't particularly pleasant, so it can be very easy to think of estate planning as something to do later in life, when one is older and has accumulated more assets. But avoiding estate planning can have disastrous consequences. For those here in Texas with questions, here are some estate planning basics.

Most estate plans include several different legal documents. Which ones they are depend on each person's financial situation and personal needs. The plan covers what to do with a person's assets when he or she dies, or even while living. It can even outline what a person wants in terms of end-of-life care, in both health and financial aspects.

Real estate: Will cited landlords lose right to rent?

When people rent an apartment or home, they trust that their landlord, as well as any separate owner of the property, is providing a safe environment. Unfortunately, that isn't always the case in Texas. Many renters in one major city complain that though landlords cited for multiple safety violations are supposed to lose the right to rent property, that isn't happening. These kinds of real estate disputes have the potential to cause harm if tenants are unknowingly exposed to hazards.

In the city of Austin, an initiative called the Repeat Offender program was created about eight years ago after a balcony collapsed in an apartment complex. The intention of the program was to pinpoint certain properties or landlords that may have multiple safety violations. Those added to the list have to pay a fee and are subject to having their property inspected for two years. The problem is, according to advocates, the landlords don't always pay promptly, and it can take time for the city to take action.

How will my life change after divorce?

Many people automatically assume that going through a divorce will be one of the worst periods of their life, and that the aftermath will leave them feeling empty, lonely or like a failure. While the divorce process can be challenging, it can be a very positive experience and can help both divorcing spouses to grow as individuals, heal from their pasts, and go on to live happy and fulfilled lives.

If you are considering divorce and you are worried about what the future holds, try and stay open to the positive things that may be in store for you. The following are some of the ways that divorce can positively impact you.

How divorce can complicate estate planning

Divorce is a common part of modern life, as it can happen to anyone. It can affect multiple parts of a person's current life as well as his or her future. Though many people assume that younger married couples account for most divorces, studies show that may not be the case, as rates of divorce among older adults are rising in a phenomena commonly called "gray divorce." Gray divorce can be particularly complex as both parties attempt to determine how they will handle estate planning going forward. A recent survey among divorce and financial professionals may be of interest to Texas residents concerned about the effects of gray divorce on an estate plan.

The survey interviewed professionals, such as accountants and attorneys, who work with people regarding matters of divorce and finances. The responses showed that gray divorce, defined as couples over the age of 50, seems to correlate with increased family conflict. Many respondents also said that it made handling estate plans more difficult.

Divorce rates spike at different points of the year

When two people in Texas decide they no longer want to be married, it is often after careful consideration. Some divorce experts claim that January is a popular time for people to file for divorce, as people often take stock of their life at the beginning of the year. However, other studies show that this may not be case

One recent study showed that only about 8% of divorces in 2019 in one state were filed in January. The same report found that March actually had the highest percentage of divorces. Experts say that while many people may begin the divorce process in January, the filing may take more time than that, which means that may happen later in the year. April and October also had higher percentages of divorce fillings in the same study.

Family's insurance claim denied over serious damage from squirrel

Families and individuals here in Texas have insurance policies for many things in their lives, including their cars, businesses and their homes. Though they hope they never have to use insurance, it is comforting to know that it is available in the case of an emergency. However, there are times when an insurance claim is denied, which can be a source of financial strain and stress for policyholders. One out-of-state family may be going through just such a situation after they returned home from their holiday vacation to discover that their home was significantly damaged by a squirrel.

The family says that their home security alarm went off while they were out of town for the winter holidays. When a friend went to investigate, there was no sign of burglary, so the family chalked it up to some kind of malfunction. However, when they arrived home, they found that a squirrel had caused significant damage to the house. It nested in their couch, left droppings all over the place and even left the faucet on. There was also damage to wood all around the home that looked as though it would be expensive to repair. 

Divorce can be good for finances

As the end of the year approaches, many people in Texas and around the country will be looking toward their future and making changes. Some people may decide to file for divorce after the holidays are officially over. Many law firms report that they see an increase of people filing for divorce in the month of January, with some saying filings can rise as much as 30%. Though many people typically associate divorce with a decrease in income, especially for women, researchers say that isn't always the case.

According to an expert at the U.S. Census Bureau, when states have laws that make divorce easier to access, that can help both people in the long run, but particularly women. Having the ability to file for a "no fault divorce" increases the likelihood that both spouses will work outside the home on a full-time basis. Having a solid career can help women take care of themselves.

Protect the assets you want to leave for your kids after divorce

Ending your marriage through divorce can impact many other parts of your life, including your finances and your relationship with your children. Your estate plan exists at that the awkward intersection of your financial future, your personal relationships and your legal obligations to others.

Married couples often create joint estate plants or last wills, which might mean you have to consider estate planning after you file for divorce anyway. Parents with minor children often need to adjust their last will to reflect their new marital status and the impact it will have on the succession of guardianship for their children in the event of their death. Leaving a legacy behind for your children is another important consideration after your divorce.

Insurance claims: Man fights to have his roof fixed

Having insurance is one of life's necessities, whether the policy covers a person's home, car or medical expenses. People trust that if they make their regular payments that when they need to make a claim it will be paid. Unfortunately, many legitimate insurance claims are denied by insurance companies. Texas families sometimes find out the hard way that their insurance company is in the business of making money and not helping people. This is what one man from out of state alleges after his insurance provider twice refused his claim to cover the cost of repairing his home's roof.

The man says that last year, his roof sustained damage due to a hail storm. He claims that a representative for his insurance came to inspect the damage and claimed that there wasn't any. The man asked a roofing contractor for another opinion who told him that his roof was indeed damaged. The man then paid an engineer to do another inspection, at the encouragement of his insurance company. That engineer confirmed the damage once again.

What new real estate investors need to know

Many people in Texas are curious about real estate as an investment strategy. On the surface, it seems like a sure-fire way to increase one's income and net worth. However, it is not the sort of financial decision that should be made lightly, as it is not right for every person. Experts say there are several questions that a person should consider before making the decision to invest in real estate.

Initially, does the individual want to be an active or passive investor. The first requires a great deal of time and experience, but may be the right choice for someone who enjoys that type of hard work. Others may want to leave those choices to someone else and invest passively. One way to answer that question is to determine what it is about a particular property that makes it an appealing investment. It may be a good idea to determine what would make the transaction a successful investment and what specifically is wanted out of the property.

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