Rania Combs Law, PLLC Blog

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Divorce ends a marriage, but not the relationship between a parent and a child. Most divorced parents intend to be an active part of their children’s lives, supporting them both emotionally and financially if they are able. And despite remarrying and having additional children, most parents still want children from a previous relationship to be beneficiaries of their estates. That’s why the story of a girl I’ll call “Rose” is so heartbreaking. Her father “Jack” divorced her mother, remarried and had two more children with his new wife. But Jack continued to have a good relationship with Rose, and was…
I received a phone call recently from a prospective client inquiring about my services. She had purchased a self-help book on estate planning and had her needs figured out. “We have beneficiary designations on our retirement plans and we’ve executed transfer-on-death deeds for our real estate,” she said. “All we need now is a simple Will.” So I asked the caller to tell me a little bit about herself and her family. She told me that she and her husband had two children, one who just turned eighteen and another who was still a minor. They owned three homes: they…
The Rule Against Perpetuities is the bane of every first-year law student’s existence. It provides: no interest is good unless it must vest, if at all, no later than 21 years after some life in being at the creation of the interest. The rule is concise but complicated. For example, if Jason devises property to John for life, then to John’s children for their lives, and then to Jane, the devise to Jane is valid because she is a life in being when the interest is created. However, if instead, Jason devises property to John for life, then to John’s…
I get panicked calls virtually every week from Texans whose spouses have died without a Will. The stories are usually quite similar. The spouses lived together in a home they purchased together during their marriage. Or perhaps one spouse owned the home before marriage. After the spouse’s death, children from the deceased spouse’s prior marriage claim ownership rights in the couple’s home. This comes as a shock to the surviving spouses who assumed they would automatically inherit their deceased spouse’s property. They ask: Do my stepchildren really own part of my home? Can I sell my home without my stepchildren’s…
Every adult residing in Texas should have a Texas durable power of attorney. What is a Durable Power of Attorney? A durable power of attorney is a document that will allow you to appoint someone you trust to engage in specified business, financial and legal transactions on your behalf. It is called “durable” because it does not terminate if you become incapacitated. If you become incapacitated and do not have a durable power of attorney, a guardianship may be necessary to allow someone to manage your financial affairs. When Does it go Into Effect? Powers of attorney can become effective…
Occasionally, people die without a Will but have very little in terms of probate assets. They may have owned a modest home, and had a small checking and savings account, but nothing more. In such situations, probate seems like overkill. Their loved ones often ask: “Is there an easier way?” What is Considered a Small Estate in Texas? In Texas, heirs can take advantage of a Small Estate Affidavit procedure in certain limited situations. Heirs can file a Small Estate Affidavit if: The deceased person died without a Will; At least 30 days have passed since the date of death; No…
If you’re like most parents, your beneficiary designation on your life insurance probably lists your minor children as the secondary beneficiaries of your life insurance policy, behind your spouse in the following way: Primary Beneficiary: Spouse Secondary Beneficiary: My Children This is a mistake. What Happens When a Beneficiary is a Minor? In Texas, children under the age of 18 lack the legal capacity to own more than a nominal amount of assets. So, for example, if you and your spouse have named your minor children as the secondary beneficiaries of your insurance policy and you both die together, the…
My youngest son is 16 years old now. Last summer, as Covid forced lockdowns, he and half a dozen of his friends planned a beach trip to celebrate the end of the pandemic. A friend’s parents volunteered to chaperone and rented a house for June of 2021. The promise of a week together at the beach kept them optimistic for an entire year.  I’m delighted that he’s going to get away with his friends. But as a mom and lawyer, I worry. My son recently broke his ankle while at a friend’s house. Had he been out of town with…
As parents, we all do our best to instill our good values in our children. But sometimes, despite all our guidance, our children make poor personal and financial decisions. Their poor judgment may be due to a lack of maturity that is temporary. Or it may be due to a long-term problem stemming from alcohol and drug abuse or another addiction. Whatever the reason, you know that they will squander any hard-earned money you leave to them when you die within a short amount of time. But does this mean that you should disinherit your spendthrift child? Not at all.…
If you own guns, you may be wondering whether you should transfer them to your Revocable Trust. There are a couple of reasons why that is generally a bad idea. Reasons to Avoid Putting Guns in a Revocable Trust First, the government regulates certain types of guns, known as “NFA firearms.” NFA firearms include machine guns, suppressors and silencers, short barrel rifles and shotguns, and destructive devices. Second, certain beneficiaries of your Trust may be “prohibited persons” for purposes of gun ownership. Under Federal law, a prohibited person includes, but is not limited to, someone who: has been indicted for,…