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Houston Texas Estate Planning Blog

Know the details about power of attorney

When Texas residents consider estate administration, they may think this job will begin once their loved one passes away. However, sometimes this job begins during someone's lifetime when a person serves as the power of attorney.

A power of attorney has a wide range of responsibilities. According to the National Caregivers Library, a power of attorney might make choices about the kind of healthcare a person receives, as well as day-to-day financial decisions. This person may also decide when an elderly person needs a guardian. Someone usually serves in this position once an individual is no longer able to make these kinds of decisions unaided. This means that someone may be the power of attorney for an elderly parent. 

What can you do to prepare for a loved one's death?

When you are informed of the declining health of one of your family members in Texas, whether from a progressing condition or an unexpected accident, preparing for his or her death can be incredibly challenging. While coping with someone's death is never an easy feat, there are things that you can do to hopefully ease the emotional turmoil you experience.

One of the best things you can do is to work together with other close family members to try and help organize your loved one's finances and affairs to make the process of his or her passing smoother and less stressful. This decision may help to prevent undue anxiety from distracting you from being able to heal and focus on your emotional recovery. 

Despite the heaviness of the topic, estate planning is important

When people in Texas have a good job, are surrounded by people they care about and are not immediately lacking anything they desire to have, the last thought to cross their mind may be estate planning. However, studies have demonstrated proof that people who plan their estate early on, seek the input of their loved ones and guarantee that their final wishes are legally preserved, often have a much more successful outcome following their death in terms of being able to control where their assets are distributed. 

In a culture that forces the privacy of a person's finances, it may seem both unconventional and brash for a person to bring up the topic, especially if they are encouraging someone else to plan their estate. Many adult children are hesitant to open a discussion with their aging parents about what their plans are for their assets because they are fearful that their concerns will be misconstrued and come across wrong. 

Coordinating an estate plan to prevent inheritance disputes

When people begin the process of planning their estate in Texas, they may be facing uncertainty and hesitation when it comes time to designating beneficiaries and heirs. They may have anxiety about choosing the right people and hoping that they do not offend anyone in making decisions regarding how they would like their assets to be split. This concern is valid considering how often surviving family members quibble over what should be done with a deceased person's remaining assets. 

According to Forbes, many parents consider equally splitting their assets between all of their children. However, in some cases, this decision may not be the most appropriate. For example, if one of their children is disabled or requires significant medical treatment, they may consider allotting a fair amount to each of their children, but this amount may not necessarily be equal regarding worth. 

What can you do if you do not trust an estate executor?

According to MoneySense, the executor of a Texas estate has a duty to protect the estate, probate the will and pay both creditors and beneficiaries. An executor also has certain fiduciary duties, which you can learn more about below. If an estate administrator breaches any one of his or her duties, he or she may be subject to serious legal and financial ramifications. However, because a breach of duty affects the outcome of estate administration, it is important to identify an untrustworthy executor and take action to prevent him or her from abusing his or her powers.

First and foremost, it is important that you understand your rights as the beneficiary of an estate. Executors' duties are fairly clear cut and fall into either a "do" or "do not" category. For instance, an executor must put the beneficiaries' interests first. He or she must protect an estate's assets, keep estate assets separate from his or her own assets, follow will instructions exactly and remain impartial throughout the administration process. He or she must also keep thorough and accurate financial records.  

Do you know what to do after a loved one dies?

The hours following a loved one’s death can be the hardest emotionally and logistically. Especially if your loved one dies outside of a hospital setting, it can be confusing to know what step to take next.

It may seem morbid, but it is important to make an immediate action plan after someone’s death in order to feel that the situation is under control. The process can be as peaceful for everyone involved.

What is a living trust?

There are many different options you can take in Texas to plan what will happen with your assets when you die. Your estate planning efforts may include something called a living trust, which Forbes explains is just any trust you create when you are alive. This is the opposite of the type of trust created when you have a will. Upon your death, a will sends your assets into a trust that your executor then handles.

If you create a living trust, you have a little more control. You can use the trust to avoid probate issues after our death. It also enables you to ensure that the right beneficiaries get the right assets. Furthermore, it allows you to say how to distribute the assets held in the trust. This is helpful if you have minor children or you want to disburse the funds from a trust over time to a beneficiary. The bottom line is you maintain control even if you are dead.

Why you should try to avoid probate

A will is often the cornerstone of any comprehensive estate plan, but does that necessarily mean it is the best estate planning tool? Our Texas estate planning attorneys appreciate wills for what they can do, but we also recognize the many things they cannot do. One such thing is avoid probate. At Doehring and Doehring, we help clients craft estate plans that reflect their overall estate planning goals, as well as how they hope to help their loved ones.

Part three of a seven-part series shared by Forbes titled details why you should avoid probate if at all possible. One reason is the cost and delay of probate. Though some states have incorporated less costly and more efficient probate procedures, in most, the costly and time-consuming process of yore remain.

What if your die without having prepared a will?

The need to prepare a will is one that is stressed time and time again by estate planning experts in Houston. Yet despite this advice, some estimates put the percentage of American adults without a will as high as 60 percent. You might think that if do not specify how you want your assets distributed, your heirs can make that decision once you are gone (allowing you to avoid hurting anyone's feelings with your decisions). The truth is, however, that if you die intestate (without a will), it is the state that decides who benefits from your estate. 

The topic of intestacy has been introduced on this blog before; this post will delve further into the details of who gets what if you do not specify it in a will. According to Section 201.002 of Texas' Estates Code, your surviving spouse inherits your entire personal estate. If, however, you also leave behind children or grandchildren, then your spouse will receive one-third of your personal estate while the remaining two-thirds is divided equally amongst your surviving issue. As for whatever land you may own, your surviving spouse retains a life estate of one-third its value, with the remaining going to your children or grandchildren (your spouse would receive a life estate of half the land's value if you have no other heirs, and would inherit the other half due to the state's rules of descent and distribution). 

Defining undue influence in Texas probate law

In the most basic sense of the law, and according to Cornell Law School's Legal Information Institute, "undue influence" occurs when one party of a contract puts the free will of another party into question and therefore, leads to the courts declaring the contract unenforceable and voidable by the victim. To prove undue influence, the victim party has the burden of proof to show that he or she has a weakness which makes him or her more likely to be affected by persuasion. Moreover, the victim party must also prove that the influencer has a special relationship with the victim that makes the victim more susceptible to persuasion.

According to the Dallas Bar's "Basics of a Will Contest and How To Avoid One," undue influence in regards to the creation of a will is one that undermines or overpowers the mind of the decedent at the time he or she signed the probate documents. Without this influence, the decedent would not have signed the document in question. 

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Doehring & Doehring Attorneys at Law
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Houston, TX 77077

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