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Harker Heights Legal Issues Blog

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.

Estate planning is a must for parents

The estate planning process is important for Texas parents as it can provide a way to ensure that their children are cared for. There are a number of issues that parents can address in an estate plan. For example, one can name a preferred guardian for their children in case they pass away. In order for this to go into effect, however, a court will need to approve this long-term plan.

In addition, parents can use trusts to structure the process of transferring wealth to their children. By setting up trusts for minor children, they can name a trusted person to make decisions about how the funds will be used to provide for the children's needs. Documents like powers of attorney and health care advance directives can also help make sure that financial and medical decisions will be made in case of incapacity.

Serious risks of oil refineries

The economy in Galveston is largely split between being dependent upon the refineries and the tourists. Even though most people think of this area for the beaches, the men and women who depend on the oil industry for employment don't always see it as a relaxing destination.

There are many different risks that refinery workers face on a daily basis. Companies work hard to ensure that the employees remain safe but accidents and injuries still occur. Improvements in safety procedures and guidelines are helping to improve worker safety, but there is still a chance of injury in this sector.

Police lineup reform in Texas

The methods used by police departments in Texas during eyewitness lineups were changed when the state's Code of Criminal Procedure was amended in 2015. Texas is one of 25 states to change the way lineups are conducted in the wake of research revealing that eyewitness misidentifications were often primary pieces of evidence when criminal suspects are wrongfully convicted. In one such study, the Innocence Project discovered that eyewitness misidentifications were a key factor in 71 percent of 350 wrongful convictions overturned by post-conviction DNA evidence.

Under the revised Code of Criminal Procedure, police departments in Texas must conduct what are known as double-blind eyewitness lineups. This means that neither the witness nor the independent administrator assisting them knows who the suspect is or whether or not there even is a suspect. The independent administrator must also not be an officer assigned to the ongoing investigation.

CVSA schedules Brake Safety Week for truckers

The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance will be conducting roadside inspections throughout Texas and the rest of the U.S. during Brake Safety Week. This yearly event has been scheduled for Sept. 16-22 and will cover all commercial motor vehicles, including big rigs, buses and work vans. Drivers will want to ensure that their brake systems are properly installed and routinely maintained; that way, they keep themselves and others safe.

It's especially important for large trucks to be free of brake problems. Over 32 percent of large trucks with pre-collision violations had braking issues, according to the Large Truck Crash Causation Study. This study, conducted by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, also found that trucks were 50 percent more likely to have brake violations after a brake-critical crash than after a crash where braking capacity was secondary.

Interest rates can influence estate planning choices

For many in Texas, trusts have an important role to play as part of an overall estate plan that can best represent the interests and desires of the person who created the trust. Not only do trusts allow for precision and ease in passing assets to beneficiaries after a person has passed away, but they can also provide greater financial and tax benefits than other options. However, as interest rates change, the decisions people make about trusts can also change.

Some people may opt for a grantor retained annuity trust, known as a GRAT, or a charitable lead annuity trust, which is referred to as a CLAT. Both of these trusts function in similar ways. In each case, an annuity is paid out each year from the value of the trust created for a fixed period of time. In the case of a GRAT, the annuity is paid to the creator of the trust as a source of income; in the case of a CLAT, the annuity is paid to a charity, enabling the grantor to receive tax deductions for charitable donations.

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