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Learn from Aretha Franklin: Get a Will

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While the Queen of Soul is known for her timeless songs, she also struggled with one of the common things many people forget to do before they die – have a will. Aretha Franklin wasn’t alone. Prince also didn’t have a will when he died.

No one wants to think of death, but not having a will means your assets from property, cars, and bank accounts can get locked up in the courts for many years if there are multiple people claiming rights to it. According to an AARP survey, 2 out of 5 Americans over the age of 45 don’t have a will.

This AARP story says there are 10 Things You Should Know About Writing a Will:

What is a will?

A will is simply a legal document in which you, declare who will manage your estate after you die. Your estate can consist of big, expensive things such as a vacation home but also small items that might hold sentimental value such as photographs. The person named in the will to manage your estate is called the executor because he or she executes your stated wishes.

A will can also serve to declare who you wish to become the guardian for any minor children or dependents, and who you want to receive specific items that you own.

What happens if I die without a will?

If you die without a valid will, your estate will be settled based on the laws of your state that outline who inherits what. Probate is the legal process of transferring the property of a deceased person to the rightful heirs.

Do I need an attorney to prepare my will?

No, you aren’t required to hire a lawyer to prepare your will, though an experienced lawyer can provide useful advice on estate-planning strategies such as living trusts. But as long as your will meets the legal requirements of your state, it’s valid whether a lawyer drafted it or you wrote it yourself on the back of a napkin.

Do-it-yourself will kits are widely available. Conduct an Internet search for “online wills” or “estate planning software” to find options.

Should my spouse and I have a joint will or separate wills?

Odds are you and your spouse won’t die at the same time, and there’s probably property that’s not jointly held. That’s why separate wills make better sense.

Who should act as a witness to a will?

Any person can act as a witness to your will, but you should select someone who isn’t a beneficiary. Otherwise there’s the potential for a conflict of interest. Some states require two or more witnesses. If a lawyer drafts your will, he or she shouldn’t serve as a witness.

Not all states require a will to be notarized, but some do. You may also want to have your witnesses sign what’s called a self-proving affidavit in the presence of a notary. This affidavit can speed up the probate process because your witnesses likely won’t be called into court by a judge to validate their signatures and the authenticity of the will.

Who should I name as my executor?

You can name your spouse, an adult child, or another trusted friend or relative as your executor. If your affairs are complicated, it might make more sense to name an attorney or someone with legal and financial expertise. You can also name joint executors, such as your spouse or partner and your attorney.

One of the most important things your will can do is empower your executor to pay your bills and deal with debt collectors. Make sure the wording of your will allows for this, and also gives your executor leeway to take care of any related issues that aren’t specifically outlined in your will.

How do I leave specific items to specific heirs?

If you wish to leave certain personal property to certain heirs, indicate as much in your will. In addition, you can create a separate document called a letter of instruction that you should keep with your will.

A letter of instruction, which isn’t legally binding in some states, can be written more informally than a will and can go into detail about which items go to whom. You can also include specifics about items that will help your executor settle your estate including account numbers, passwords and even burial instructions.

Where should I keep my will?

If you put the will in a bank safe deposit box that only you can get into, your family might need to seek a court order to gain access. A waterproof and fireproof safe in your house is a good alternative.

Your attorney or someone you trust should keep signed copies in case the original is destroyed. Signed copies can be used to establish your intentions. However, the absence of an original will can complicate matters, and without it there’s no guarantee that your estate will be settled as you’d hoped.

How often does a will need to be updated?

It’s possible that your will may never need to be updated — or you may choose to update it regularly. The decision is yours. Remember, the only version of your will that matters is the most current valid one in existence at the time of your death.

Who has the right to contest my will?

Contesting a will refers to challenging the legal validity of all or part of the document. A beneficiary who feels slighted by the terms of a will might choose to contest it. Depending on which state you live in, so too might a spouse, ex-spouse or child who believes your stated wishes go against local probate laws.

A will can be contested for any number of other reasons: it wasn’t properly witnessed; you weren’t competent when you signed it; or it’s the result of coercion or fraud. It’s usually up to a probate judge to settle the dispute. The key to successfully contesting a will is finding legitimate legal fault with it. A clearly drafted and validly executed will is the best defense.

To read the full story, go to the link.

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Alamo City Music Hall on East Side Closes

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A local East Side favorite is closing after nearly a decade of hosting live music to make way for a new technology and research center.

Sylvia Fernandez, owner of Alamo City Music Hall at E. Houston and N. Cherry streets, posted on the venue’s Facebook page that:

“It is with a heavy heart and profound sadness that I must say goodbye to Alamo City Music Hall. Pete (her late husband) and I opened this venue in March of 2010 wanting to bring the live music scene to a new level. Through hard work, dedication and help from all of the fans, promoters and long time staff who have all been with us since the inception, we were able to make Backstage Live /Alamo City Music Hall known as THE live music venue in San Antonio,”

Texas Research and Technology Foundation purchased the Merchant’s Ice complex, a former industrial site, about two years ago, and soon became the landlord for the music venue. The city of San Antonio recently approved an incentive package for the foundation to begin a massive redevelopment of the Merchant’s Ice complex to include business startups, a research component, a hotel, and more.

“All of us at Alamo City Music Hall can’t thank the community enough for your support over the years and to the bands and promoters, we are eternally grateful you chose our venue.,” Fernandez said. We will carry the memories with us forever. I will have updated information regarding a new venture for concerts in the near future.

To read more about the redevelopment, go here.

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Ready to Build or Buy a House?

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By Lisa Harrison Rivas

So, you have a pre-approval letter from your lender and you’re ready to go house hunting.

Now, you must decide if you want to buy an existing home or have a house built.  If you choose to build, will it be a tract home from one of the well-known builders or will you choose a custom home?

A custom home is built to the specifications of the buyer, while tract homes feature similar styles and floor plans. Tract homes are what you see in most subdivisions.

As a Realtor, I can help guide you through the process for buying any of these types of homes.

But if you are considering a custom home, you’ll need land and design plans. Your lender can provide information about home construction loans.

The San Antonio area has numerous custom home builders including Abraham Solis, chief of operations for Future Tech Custom Homes. Solis says his firm can offer construction loans at 4 percent interest and provide help with design plans.

“We have three designers that you can work with each with different price ranges from low to high,” he said. Future Tech Custom Homes start at $250,000.

Solis now runs the business that began with his father’s framing business 30 years ago. He and I recently talked about some basics of custom home building.

Q: What surprises people most about the process?

A: I think for us it was the timing. People were surprised at how fast we were.  And surprised with how we work with them and how everybody treated them.

Q: How long does it take?

A: For a big home, a million-dollar home, it generally takes about eight months.

Q: How does the process work?

A: I have a little system before we even start. When we get the initial commitment contract signed, they put down a deposit and from there, I give them a checklist. They have to go and get all the materials for the flooring, everything, you name it. So, before we even begin anything, they already start doing that checklist. So right before I break ground, on day one, I’m already ordering floors, countertops things like that.

Q: Do you help clients order the materials?

A: We have vendors that we have been working with, so we can send them to our vendors. If they have vendors, that’s fine too.

Q: Where do you build?

A: We mainly build in the north area. We’ll go as far as Austin.

Q: How would you describe Future Tech Custom Homes’ style?

A: It’s Hill Country meets modern contemporary. You still have your metal roofs, the colors outside are the light beiges and on the inside, it has a Spanish feel.

Q:  Why is Tech part of the name?

A: The smart homes. There’s a crew that we work with, they fully automated one of our homes. Apple watches can be used to turn on lights and appliances.  People really like that.

Q:  How much would that technology cost?

A: A good setup would cost about $10,000 or $15,000 for a fully-automated home.

Q: Do most people want one or two stories?

A: One story. People just don’t like to go up the stairs. Another thing that I also heard is that they like to do away with dining rooms as well. They want a nook, that’s it.  An open floor plan and a little nook on the side.

Q: Any unusual requests?

A: One couple had a foyer with a dome ceiling and the woman wanted gold flakes up there. They ended up going with this copper type paint.  It shined, it looked beautiful.

Q: Why would someone have a custom home built?

A:  I’ll say it the way my dad would say it. In a custom home, you get what you want. Everything is pretty much beefed up on a custom home. You’ll get your bang for your buck.


Lisa Harrison Rivas is a Realtor with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, Don Johnson Realtors. 
If you are planning to buy or sell, feel free to contact her at 210-380-9006 or lhrivas@realsa.com

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IKEA Opens in San Antonio Feb. 13

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IKEA opens in Live Oak on Feb. 13 at 9 am, but customers can start lining up at 5 am.

Visitors will be greeted with family-friendly events, special offers and a chance to win thousands of dollars in gift cards—including three gift cards valued at $500, $1,500 and $2,000.

Throughout the entire day, visitors who join the IKEA FAMILY loyalty program or scan their IKEA FAMILY card in-store at an IKEA FAMILY kiosk, will also be automatically entered for a chance to win one of 20 $250 IKEA gift cards. Two winners will be randomly drawn and announced every hour from 10:30 a.m.-7:30 p.m. on opening day.

“We are thrilled to be opening our 49th store in the U.S. and fifth store in the state of Texas,” said Diedre Goodchild, store manager. “We have received such a warm welcome from the San Antonio-area and want to return the favor by welcoming our shoppers with food, fun and iconic IKEA products.”

Entertainment for customers waiting in line will start at 6 a.m., followed by the grand opening ceremony at 8:15 a.m. Doors will officially open at 9 a.m. Customers can learn more about the grand opening plans and promotions at IKEA-USA.com/LiveOak or by joining the free IKEA FAMILY loyalty program.

Since its 1943 founding in Sweden, IKEA has offered home furnishings of good design and function at affordable prices. During the past year, 160,000 co-workers welcomed 838 million visits to IKEA stores and more than 2.35 billion visits to IKEA.com.

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