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Harker Heights Legal Issues Blog

Researchers study the prevalence of wrongful convictions

Unfortunately, it is possible for a Texas court to convict an innocent person. When new DNA evidence is introduced and clears a convicted offender, however, the news is rarely publicized.

Only 3 to 5 percent of cases involving murder or rape result in a wrongful conviction being completely overturned. In cases like robbery and theft, there is no estimated range of cases for wrongful convictions overturned by DNA evidence. However, researchers from Pennsylvania have sought to lay the groundwork for research that could change this.

Criss & Rousseau Law Firm Attorney presents at state conference


Attorney Richard "Rick" Rousseau recently presented at the State Bar Spring Continuing Legal Education (CLE) for the Military and Veterans Law Section. The presentation was catered for those who specialize in Military and Veterans Law issues. It delved into many issues, ranging from survivor benefits and family law cases to PTSD and appealing a VA benefit denial.

Attorneys throughout Texas attended the presentation to learn from the retired colonel and Department of Veterans Affairs certified attorney's expertise.

Below is a very brief sample of what they may have learned.

After 2 years, Prince's heirs have not recovered from his estate

This month marks the two-year anniversary of Prince's death. Despite the amount of time that has passed, his heirs have yet to receive a penny of his estate due to his lack of an estate plan. This reality plays out with estates large and small in Texas probate courts every day.

Prince's estate, unofficially estimated at around $200 million, has been tied up in knots during probate due in part to the music legend not having so much as a last will and testament. Without a plan in place, the executor of the estate has been unable to even reach an agreement with the IRS on how much the estate is worth.

Is it time to protect an aging loved one with a guardianship?

Aging is an unforgiving process. Even the healthiest person will eventually experience a decline in his or her physical ability. In many cases, mental faculties also begin to decline in advanced age. Medical conditions, like Alzheimer's disease, can speed up and worsen the degeneration of aging. Some people may no longer be able to stay safe while providing care for themselves or living alone. They may not be able to dress, cook, bathe or keep themselves safe alone.

Family members eventually need to step in to provide care for those who are ailing. Dementia, memory loss and similar issues can leave someone unable to care for themselves and unable to recognize those limitations. If your loved one requires constant help and protection, it may be time to seek guardianship over your loved one.

Creating the best estate plan

One of the most considerate things Texas residents can do for their loved ones is to make sure that their estate plan is in order. Creating an estate plan checklist can help with ensuring all of the necessary documents are in place.

Every estate plan should include a will, which allows individuals to dictate how their assets should be allocated when they have passed. The document is also used to specify who should serve as executor for the estate. The executor will have the legal duty of paying off any taxes and debts owed by the estate and then distributing the remaining assets to the designated beneficiaries.

Charitable gifts and estate planning after tax reform

Many changes affected federal estate taxes with the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act at the end of 2017. Some people have wondered if fewer individuals in Texas and across the country may choose to include philanthropy as part of the estate planning process as a result. The fact that charitable gifts made in a will are exempt from inheritance and federal estate taxes has helped to spur significant giving from donors over the years. However, including philanthropic giving as part of one's estate can also provide powerful intangible rewards reflecting social priorities.

Up until the end of 2017, each person had a federal estate tax exemption of $5.49 million before beneficiaries would be burdened with taxes. While this already left most Americans far outside the reach of estate taxation, the exemption has now grown to $11.18 million per person as of 2018. For over 99.8 percent of people across the country, this means that their heirs will pay no federal estate taxes. Approximately 65 percent of people across the country live in states like Texas with no state inheritance tax.

The importance of organizing an estate

Texas residents who are creating an estate plan should make sure their affairs organized. There is a physical and a financial component to this.

Often, family members are left to sort through an enormous number of belongings after losing a loved one. There might be valuables among these belongings, so they may feel obligated to go through everything carefully while they are still grieving. People can begin streamlining their possessions over a long period of time so the family is not burdened by this task.

Three reasons to create a special needs trust for your child

Many people believe that a will is the best way to provide for their loved ones once they’re gone. While a will offers many important benefits in establishing an asset management plan after death, there are some circumstances under which a trust is a better option for your loved ones.

If you have a loved one with special needs, setting up a special needs trust can offer huge advantages over setting up direct inheritance. This type of trust is specifically designed with the needs of a special needs beneficiary in mind. Below are three core benefits of an SNT.

3 reasons to make an estate plan

It seems like a good portion of our lives are spent planning for the future. In high school, you planned for college. In college, you planned for your career. At some point, you probably started planning to have a family, then for retirement. In the midst of all this planning, it is important to not forget to plan for what happens to your estate when you die.

There are wide variety of reasons for estate planning. Here are three examples:

Understanding military disability and post traumatic stress

Most people who sign up to serve in the armed services understand that there is some risk involved. Any time someone works in an active conflict zone, there's risk for loss of limb or life. Even those who make it home whole in body may struggle with serious mental health issues following their discharge.

Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a serious mental health condition that affects a broad range of military personnel. From those who serve in conflict zones to those who provide medical support, the demands of the job can cause symptoms and issues that can persist for life. In many cases, PTSD will have a long-term or permanent impact on someone's ability to retain a civilian job in the future.

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