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Harker Heights Legal Issues Blog

Estate plans are rarely set in stone

A will that is created in Texas may or may not be valid in another state. It is also possible that a will created today won't meet a person's needs in a year or a decade from now. Therefore, it is important that a person takes time to review an estate plan after it has been created. An estate review includes spending time looking at beneficiary designations on 401(k) plans and similar documents.

The person who is listed on the designation form is the person who gets the asset. This is true even if someone else is named in a will or trust. Individuals may also need to update an estate plan if they have a child or grandchild to provide for. As life events occur, a person may need to be taken out of a will or trust. For example, a former spouse may not be the appropriate party to receive cash or a home.

3 possible defenses against drug possession

Most people who have been accused of drug possession will have a better idea of what happened -- or what went wrong -- leading up to their arrest and charges. In many cases, people accused of drug possession are innocent of the crimes.

Perhaps you were in the wrong place at the wrong time; the police made a mistake; the drugs didn't belong to you or some other reason led to your inappropriate arrest and criminal charges. Whatever your circumstances happen to be, it's time to get serious about your defense.

First Step Act could introduce criminal justice reforms

The First Step Act is of particular interest to people dealing with criminal sentencing in Texas, especially if they are in the federal court system. The bill has been backed by an unusual coalition of supporters ranging from President Donald Trump to longtime advocates of criminal justice reform. Widely understood as a compromise bill, the legislation has been criticized both for being soft on crime and for avoiding serious reforms that could change the inequalities built into the system. However, it is important for people to understand what changes may take place if the bill becomes law.

The bill could make a significant change for almost 2,600 federal prisoners who were convicted of crack cocaine offenses before 2010. In that year, Congress passed the Fair Sentencing Act to equalize sentencing for defendants convicted of powder cocaine or crack offenses. Before that time, crack offenses were much more harshly penalized, resulting in sharply disproportionate effects in African American communities. While sentencing changed for people moving forward, those convicted before the law was passed were not affected. The First Step Act would enable these people to petition a judge for release.

Asset protection and irrevocable trusts

People in Texas who are planning for the future may be looking for ways to best pass on their wealth to future generations while simultaneously shielding themselves from taxes over the years. Irrevocable trusts can be an important tool that help people to achieve their goals for their assets. When people transfer property to this kind of trust, it is removed from the estate of the trust creator. It also means that the creator has to relinquish control over the assets, an option that could help to protect beneficiaries from creditors or other parties.

Once an irrevocable trust is created, it is permanent; the trust itself becomes the owner of the assets after it is funded. The trustee then has the responsibility of managing the trust for the benefit of its beneficiaries. While creating an irrevocable trust may protect funds from being accessed during the grantor's divorce or by his or her creditors, some may wonder if it could be vulnerable to those seeking assets from the beneficiary.

The many ways to prevent negligent driving

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there are roughly 100,000 annual reported crashes that involve tired drivers. Furthermore, the National Safety Council says that 13 percent of all deadly truck accidents are caused by fatigue. Distracted driving also causes an increased risk of being involved in a serious accident. However, there are steps that can be taken to help drivers in Texas and elsewhere stay safe on the road.

For instance, technology can be used to analyze a driver's hours of service record. Based on the results of the analysis, it can be determined if an individual is at risk of causing a negative event because of fatigue. In addition to driving overnight hours, drivers can be at risk for fatigue when their shifts change. This is because their eating and sleeping schedules are also altered.

How to receive compensation as a disabled veteran

Veterans living in Texas or anywhere else in the United States may be entitled to disability benefits. This may be true if an individual incurs a disease or injury while serving in the military. Benefits may also be available to those who aggravated a medical condition by serving or developed health problems later in life that are related to their time in the armed forces. These benefits are tax-free to those who are eligible to receive them.

There are multiple types of benefits available, including Special Monthly Compensation (SMC). Individuals often receive this type of compensation after sustaining a serious injury, such as the loss of a limb. In some cases, this benefit is paid to the spouse or parent of a veteran who is injured in combat. It is designed to help injured members of the military pay for in-home help or other direct aid provided by another person.

Do you know the early warning signs of Alzheimer's disease?

Caring for aging loved ones -- such as your parents -- is a difficult but rewarding task. You can help them fulfill certain obligations that they cannot handle anymore, such as major house repairs and deep cleaning. You can repay some of the kindness you experienced when they helped you grow up and become an adult.

However, you likely have a limit to what you are capable of doing for your loved one. You may have a full-time job, as well as children of your own that require care. Depending on your age, you may have limits to your own physical abilities and mobility.

Marijuana possession charges on the rise, FBI report says

As is the case in most states, marijuana is not legal in Texas. However, its legalization is a growing trend. Advocates for marijuana legalization are pointing to this trend in the wake of an FBI report released on Sept. 24 that indicates that more people were taken into custody for marijuana-related drug charges between 2016 and 2017.

In 2017, people were detained a total of 659,700 times for marijuana-related offenses. In 2016, that number was 653,249. Furthermore, the data showed that people taken into custody for marijuana sales and distribution was actually down. The increase was due to more people being detained for marijuana possession. In 2016, that number was 587,516 while it rose to 599,282 in 2017. For sales and distribution, the numbers dropped from 65,734 to 60,418.

Why it's never too soon to explore estate planning options

It's not unusual for younger, single, or unmarried individuals in Texas to not fully understand the importance of being proactive with estate planning. In fact, more than 75 percent of millennials say they do not have a will, according to results from one survey on the subject. Some people find the topic too unpleasant to think about while others fail to see the importance of planning ahead.

Regardless of the reasons why a person may avoid estate planning, not taking this step can complicate matters for loved ones left behind. Without a will, the state determines how funds and property will be distributed (unless certain accounts designate a beneficiary or are held jointly). The basic estate planning document is a will, which spells out who gets what and names an executor to oversee this process.

Distracted driving a major threat to highway safety

Distracted driving can be a major threat to others on Texas roadways, including other drivers, pedestrians, passengers and cyclists. Every year, thousands of people lose their lives in traffic accidents caused by distracted driving. In 2015 alone, 3,477 people lost their lives and 391,000 more were injured across the country due to people driving while distracted. In Canada, Allstate estimates that 80 percent of collisions involve some form of distraction. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, distracted driving is any activity that diverts a driver's attention from the road ahead.

Perhaps the best-known contributor to car accidents caused by distracted driving is the rise of the smartphone. The sounds and notifications of a phone can encourage a driver to divert his or her eyes and mind from the road. Experts advise keeping mobile phones and tablets out of a driver's reach while behind the wheel. Even sending a simple text message could divert a driver's attention for around five seconds, enough time to drive the length of a football field. Removing physical access to the devices can help to quell the temptation to browse the internet or send a text while stuck at a red light.

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