Three Important Documents to Include in Your Estate Plan

For most of us, creating an estate plan is something that usually gets put off for another time. Yes, estate planning and the circumstances surrounding it are a difficult topic, but necessary. Here, we’ll provide you with some of the most important aspects of estate planning, so you have a better understanding as to why you need to start your estate plan now:

To Start: A Power-of-Attorney

The first document you should have as part of your estate plan is a Power-of-Attorney. This is a legal document that grants another individual the ability to make certain medical or financial decisions on your behalf. Decisions include liquidating assets, managing your insurance and, in the case of a medical power-of-attorney, ensuring you have the medical care you desire.

Next Up: A Living Will

The next thing on your list should be a living will. This is a document that specifically outlines your medical wishes, should you become incapacitated and unable to make those decisions on your own. Decisions include:

  • Certain life-prolonging treatments, including surgery, medication and blood transfusions.
  • Palliative care or pain relief options.
  • Life support.
  • Administration of water and food (tube feeding).
  • DNR (Do-not-resuscitate) orders.

Number Three: Your Will

Writing a will is a crucial part of estate planning. This document serves two purposes: First, it outlines who receives your assets and property after you’ve passed away. Second, it designates who will be the guardian of any minor children you have. Without a will, a court makes those decisions for you.

For more information on estate planning, contact us.

Your Estate Litigation Problems Can Be Resolved: You Are Not Alone

When clients are going through estate problems, sometimes all they want is for someone to listen to them and understand their problems. Before a solution can be brought forward, the problem needs to be understood first.

People who feel they have been wronged in a situation did not choose to go through this tough time. They are already grieving, so why would they intentionally cause friction and disputes within the family? Unfortunately, these type of situations will arise. Sometimes families cannot avoid

Sometimes families cannot avoid estate litigation. When estate litigation does happen, decisions need to be made carefully and everyone needs to understand the best way to get through the litigation.

When you add an experienced attorney to your team, you will have someone on your side who has seen and heard the same problems you are having. Sometimes children are left out of a will because one parent remarried, and the surviving parent chose not to include the children in the will. Sometimes one child can take advantage of a parent and obtain access to all of the parent’s possessions, and even sells everything.

You may think your problems are too difficult to understand and that no one can give you the help you need. This is not true. When you find the right lawyer to help you in your time of need, you will not have to stress over your problems. You will not have to worry about how this will impact your family because the issues can be resolved.

If you find yourself staring at a difficult estate litigation situation and you need help, do not hesitate to contact us today.

Don’t Let the Probate Court Make Decisions on Your Behalf – Have a Will Drawn Up

When music legend Prince passed away, the news reported a number of times about the legendary icon’s estate and who would inherit the millions of dollars in assets. To make matters worse, Prince died intestate, meaning he did not have a will (at least one that anyone knew about). When someone dies intestate, the Probate court essentially makes the decisions regarding who gets what, and those individuals are almost always direct family members, whether they were a part of the decedent’s life or not.

Why a Will is Important

A will is an important legal document, not just for someone who has millions of dollars in assets, but for anyone, regardless of the value of the estate you’ll leave behind. A will directs who inherits your assets and it also establishes who will care for any minor children you have. Also, if you establish a trust fund for those children, you will indicate who you wish to serve as trustee of that fund.

A Will is Necessary at Any Age

As we mentioned in the above paragraph, a will can name guardians you wish to care for your minor children in the event of your death. It’s important to have a will drawn up as early in life as you can, and an estate attorney can word the document to name guardians of any future born children, to cover yourself in the event you start a family before you have time to update your will.

Having a will drawn up is not a time-consuming process and, unless you have a very complex estate, is not very expensive. The time and cost that you do wind up spending are worth it, knowing that when you pass away, your wishes are granted because you had a will. Make an appointment  with our office to learn more about wills and to start the process of writing yours.

Be Careful When Creating These Two Types of Wills

When preparing a will, it may seem like you simply write down how you want to split your assets when you die, and you are done. Wills, though, are not quite that simple. There are many different types of wills, and it is important to make sure your will is created correctly, or your wishes may not be carried out when you die. Here are examples of will, which, if created incorrectly, may not be handled the way you wish.

Simple Will

This will option is great for those who do not have a lot of property or assets to distribute. It includes information about who will handle the person’s assets upon the person’s death as well as how assets are to be distributed. If applicable, it also tells who will care for any minor children and the children’s trust. The will must be signed and dated in the presence of at least two witnesses who are both over 14 years old. While there are online forms for simple wills, they may not comply with Texas law and may not be valid. Therefore, it is important to consult a reputable attorney to ensure your simple will is filled out correctly.

Holographic or Handwritten Will

While a holographic or handwritten will is legal in Texas, there are specific requirements. In general, it must be written entirely by the testator, the person whose will it is, and it must be signed and dated. When written entirely in the testator’s handwriting, the will does not need to be witnessed by anyone else. If there are two witnesses present when the testator creates the will, it is not required that the will is fully in the testator’s handwriting, but it must be signed by the testator as well as both witnesses. All three must sign the will in the presence of the other two. Because of issues associated with a handwritten will, including verifying the handwriting and interpreting vague wording, it is generally best to allow a qualified attorney to help you draft your will.

Of course, there are many more complex times of wills, including wills that divide large estates and living wills, which deal with your desires if you are placed on life-support. If you need help creating a will, contact us.

An Experienced Probate Attorney Explains the Role of Executor

Your brother has asked you to be the executor of his estate, and you have no idea how to respond to that question. It’s an important decision to make, and before you do so, you should have a good understanding of the duties involved. Keep in mind that no two estates are alike, so your role may be more involved than the general duties listed here.

Executor Duties

Generally, the basic duties you’ll be asked to do are:

  • Make a list of the beneficiaries.
  • Manage the finances of the estate, including paying all debts of the descendant.
  • File tax returns, if applicable.
  • Keep records and provide the court an accounting at the end of the estate liquidation.
  • Distribute the assets to the estate beneficiaries.

Fiduciary Relationship

Because you have a fiduciary relationship with the estate, you must act with reasonable care, make good faith decisions and maintain confidentiality. You must pay all outstanding bills and collect all assets that are to be probated. At all times, you should follow the instructions indicated in the last will and testament.

If you fail to perform these duties you can face causation and punitive damages. It is important to note that even though you accept the role now, you can always ask the probate court to relieve you of your duties if you find the job too overwhelming, or you otherwise cannot serve as executor.

For more questions on the executor role, drafting a will or other estate matters, contact us for a consultation.

Retain an Estate Litigation Attorney When Seeking to Remove an Executor

If you have an interest in a deceased family member’s estate and you are finding issues with the executor of the estate, you have the right to challenge the executor of the will. This must be done by initiating a court proceeding. Here, our attorneys experienced in estate litigation explain some of the circumstances to warrant such a challenge.

Proving Unsuitability

In order to be successful in removing the executor from the estate, you must prove unsuitability. You need to prove that a conflict of interest exists, or that the named executor is somehow legally ineligible to serve as the executor of the estate.

In order to be legally ineligible, the executor must be involved in another complex litigation or be mentally incompetent for the role of executor. Other reasons for removal include the executor stealing from the estate, wasting way the assets or refusing to follow the estate accounting rules.

The Court Proceeding

During the court hearing that will determine if the removal is warranted, your attorney and the executor’s attorney present their case as to why the removal should or should not happen. An estate audit may be necessary to help establish the executor’s legal ineligibility.

The court won’t remove an executor for frivolous reasons. Even if the executor and the interested party don’t get along, if the executor is argumentative and rude, if he withholds certain information or takes a long time to settle the estate, those actions allow are not enough to warrant the executor’s removal.

If you’re looking to initiate an executor’s removal or have other estate litigation issues, contact us for a consultation.

Estate Planning: Have You Been Overlooking Anything?

As you are planning your estate, you have probably come across various challenges and frustrations. You are constantly asking yourself the same questions over and over. Which loved one gets what? Should I establish a living trust? These are certainly good questions to ask, but sometimes other things are not thought about. It is important to avoid overlooking certain aspects of estate planning.

 Your Beneficiaries

Do you know you can transfer some of your assets, regardless of the will? You can do this by making sure you have named your beneficiaries. What kind of assets can you transfer to the beneficiary in a direct manner?

  • a life insurance policy
  • a retirement fund/account
  • a car, truck, etc.

In order to make this happen, you will need to submit a form to the appropriate business. If you are designating financial benefits, you should submit a form to the appropriate financial institution. Sometimes your situation changes and you need to make adjustments to your documents. This is why it is important to make sure all of your information is current, especially concerning your beneficiaries.

Your Documents/Files

The person who has been left in charge of your estate should be able to easily access any necessary information. You will need to leave clear instruction on where to find all of your documents, your account numbers, etc. If you do not leave instructions, the executor of your estate may have a difficult time finding all the information that is necessary to execute your estate plan.

Will You Have Cash Available?

You will need to have some cash available because there will be certain expenses that will need to be paid for. What kind of expenses?

  • lawyer fees
  • court fees
  • any debts that you have left behind

When you are planning your estate, you should make the right calculations to ensure you will have enough cash so all expenses can be covered until your estate has been settled.

If you are planning your estate and believe you are overlooking some important aspects, you should reach out to a lawyer for a consultation. Contact us today.