May 2015 Archives

Susan Criss has been selected as one of the Best Attorneys in Galveston County by Galveston County Daily News Reader Choice Awards!

Susan Criss has been selected as one of the Top Five Attorneys in Galveston County by the Galveston County Daily News Readers Choice Awards! Please vote to make sure that Susan is #1.

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Understanding the Different Types of Powers of Attorney

A Power of Attorney (POA) is a written instrument that allows you (the "principal") to authorize your agent (also known as your "attorney-in-fact") to conduct certain business on your behalf. It is one of the strongest legal documents that you can give to another person during your lifetime. There are two types of POA: "general" and "special" (or limited). A general POA gives your agent very broad powers to act on your behalf; and a special POA limits your agent's authority to act only on certain matters. Every act performed by your agent within the authority of the POA is legally binding upon you. Since a POA is such a powerful document, give it only to a trustworthy person, and only when necessary. The Criss & Rousseau Law Firm can advise you and prePOA-pic2-232x300.jpgpare the appropriate type of POA needed for your situation.

Frequent-flier miles: Transferable on Death?

What happens to an individual's frequent-flier miles upon death? Some frequent-flier program policies indicate that accumulated miles cannot be transferred under any circumstances while other programs specifically allow the transfer of points on death. Some airlines may grant individual exceptions on a case-by-case basis to allow the transfer of frequent-flier miles. As part of estate planning, it is possible to include provisions in your will regarding who will get frequent-flier miles (and hotel points) when the account owner dies. However, it is crucial to understand the program policies before assuming they will automatically transfer on death.

Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act of 2014

In late 2014, Congress passed and the President signed into law the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act of 2014, which paves the way for millions of disabled Americans to have tax-able.jpgfree accounts to help them save for their disability expenses. The key provisions of ABLE allows individuals with disabilities, and those who provide support to them, to open savings accounts for disability-related expenses without risking Medicaid coverage and other federal benefits, as long as the balance in such accounts does not exceed $100,000, and without risking eligibility for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. Despite the passage of the new law, many people do not understand the basic provisions of ABLE, such as:

How Business Owners Can Avoid Probate Issues

keyboard-648447_640-300x190.jpgWithout proper planning, probate problems can torment family members or surviving business partners. Quite often, the problem stems from an inadequate estate plan of a business owner. There are estate planning strategies that help prevent unwanted probate and business entanglements after disability or death. These include using trusts, creative titling of real estate, beneficiary designations of personal property and insurance, coordination of wills, executors and powers of attorney, and a predetermined business continuation plan.

What happens to debts upon death?

600831-credit-card-traps-300x169.jpgWhile assisting clients with both estate planning and probate, the question is regularly asked, "What happens to debts or credit card accounts upon the death of the primary owner of the account?" When an individual dies, the creditors of the deceased are required to be notified, including credit reporting agencies. The person that is generally responsible to accomplish this task is the personal representative, administrator, or executor of the estate. The administrator should send copies of the death certificate to the creditors and the three main credit-reporting agencies. If the credit account was a "joint account" or had a co-signer, the responsibility for payment shifts to the surviving owner. In some situations, credit accounts that were owned solely by the deceased may not shift liability to others. However, there are exceptions to this general rule for states like Texas that are community property states. A surviving spouse might be considered liable for the debts of deceased even if they were not aware of account. While it is important to talk with your attorney regarding your assets when updating your estate plan, it is just as important to consider the impact of debts on the survivors as well.

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