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Houston Texas Estate Planning Blog

Understanding the different parties in your estate plan

Planning your estate in Texas may appear incredibly confusing when you hear the words "trustee," "executor," and "heir," flying at you. In reality, each of these parties will play an important role in seeing that your assets and possessions end up exactly as you desire. At Doehring & Doehring, Attorneys at Law, we have helped many families to decide how to proceed with estate planning, as well as help them put together a customized plan that meets their needs. 

While you are the main visionary in terms of designating where you want to see all of your assets end up, there will be a lot of other people who help you execute your will the way that you have envisioned. According to Fidelity, one of the designations you will need to make is to name a guardian who will be responsible for assuming the care of your children and any other dependents who are underage in the event that you pass away. 

Examining no-contest clauses

People in Houston are encouraged to thoroughly plan out the administration of their estates in order to avoid contention and discord from arising amongst their beneficiaries once they are gone. No one wants their passing to push their family members and friends apart; rather, they want to such parties to come closer together following their departure. Yet no amount of planning is guaranteed to satisfy all those who might be party to one's estate. One might think, then, that the only way to avoid contention over their estate is to eliminate the potential for it altogether. 

Per data shared by the Texas Judicial Branch, the state's probate courts heard over 15,100 cases unrelated to standard administrations in the 2014 fiscal year alone. That accounted for over one-third of their entire volume of cases. Among those had to include a good number of disputes and contests. One who does not want to see their estate case end up in such a situation may consider including a no-contest clause in their will. Such a clause would effectively disinherit a beneficiary if they decide to challenge the provisions of a will. Such clauses are typically meant to serve as deterrents to potential legal action amongst those that one might worry about seeking such action over their stake in an estate. 

What are Texas intestacy laws?

Some people may think that because they don't have many assets, they may as well forgo the process of writing a will. However, if you have any assets that are not covered in a will, it becomes the job of the Texas probate court to distribute those according to the intestate succession laws. These override any wishes you have unless you have an official estate plan.

Say, for example, that your most significant asset is a vehicle that you purchased shortly after you married for the second time, and you would like your son from your first marriage to have it. According to the Texas statutes, your spouse shares any of the assets you purchased or earned during your marriage because of the state's community property law. However, your spouse would not become the sole owner of the vehicle upon your death. Instead, he or she would receive one-half of the estate, and your son would receive the other half. The probate administrator may have to sell the vehicle in order to divide the asset equally.

Informing your estate lawyer about health issues

Even though a large portion of Texas citizens do not commit to estate planning, many residents are heavily encouraged to do so that their property can end up in the right hands after unpredictable circumstances. Part of why most Texans refuse to begin estate planning is because they do not want to think about their death and instead desire to focus on the present and near-future.

An estate lawyer’s job is not to make you uncomfortable, but to make sure you are ready. They will ask you several questions to help you prepare for multiple scenarios, but one that might make you wince is if they ask you about any potential health issues you could get or if you have family history of a certain disease. While it may not seem relevant at the moment, it can be crucial information for an estate planner to know to properly prepare your asset division.

The fiduciary role of a personal representative

Being named the personal representative of a Texas estate comes with many responsibilities. While anyone can make a mistake, serious errors in judgment that negatively affect the assets of the estate could lead to a lawsuit. In fact, a personal representative may be held personally liable for the damages the error caused. 

With this in mind, it becomes extremely important to understand exactly what the fiduciary relationship between the representative and the beneficiaries is and what the role entails before accepting the responsibility.

Understanding your role as an estate administor

Recently, one of your family members has asked if you would be interested and willing to be an estate administer. At first thought, you feel like this would be an invaluable opportunity to support someone you love, but you also want to make sure you are making a good and well-informed decision. At Doehring & Doehring Attorneys at Law, we have helped many families in Texas to learn about the legalities of creating, implementing and executing a well-thought estate plan. 

In simple terms, being an estate administor means you are the person who is primarily responsible for overseeing the execution of your family member's estate. You will be in charge of making sure bank accounts are closed, lines of credit are paid, assets are distributed properly and property is liquidated according to that person's wishes. In determining whether or not you are willing to play a role in the execution of your family member's estate, AARP suggests some important things for you to consider:

  • Temperament - Are you the kind of person that gets along well with other family members? Do you work well under pressure? Are you a confident decision-maker?
  • Financial security - Do you have the funds to travel if needed? Do you have a job that would accommodate your needs if you need to take time off to assist with estate responsibilities?
  • Timing - Do you have the time to oversee the execution? 
  • Legal terms - Are you familiar with the legalities of being an administor? Do you understand the terms of your responsibilities?

What is an irrevocable life insurance trust?

If you are a Texan unfamiliar with estate planning, you may not be familiar with the term "irrevocable life insurance trust." According to FindLaw, an irrevocable life insurance trust is a life insurance policy managed by a designated trustee who distributes benefits to your heirs after your death according to the terms that you specify when creating the trust. Once you have successfully created an irrevocable trust, you can no longer change it, nor can your trustee or anyone else.

Due to the unchangeable nature of an irrevocable life insurance trust, you must take care with its creation. However, it has advantages over a traditional life insurance policy under certain circumstances, particularly if your beneficiaries also receive government aid or if your estate may be subject to a death tax, also known as an estate tax liability.

What is probate?

Talk about probate is very common when discussing wills or after someone passes away in Texas. This process is not as understood as it should be, though. You may not truly understand what it means, which could lead to confusion down the road. Understanding this term can help you to better plan your own estate and handles the estates when loved ones die.

The Texas Young Lawyers Association explains that probate is the process of proving a will is valid. The court looks over the will and any other information provided to make a ruling. Once the will is deemed valid and legal, the wishes contained within the document can be carried out. If the will is found not valid, the estate then transfers to heirs as directed by state law without consideration to what was in the will.

How to choose a guardian for your child

Most parents agree that their most valuable asset is their child. However, only 36 percent of parents with children under 18 years old have estate planning documents, such as a will or trust. Estate planning is a significant aspect of managing assets and protecting your children.

Parents can start small by choosing a guardian for your children in case of a tragedy. Selecting the right guardian may seem daunting, but there are three techniques parents should consider easing the process.

Innovative application designed to protect seniors from fraud

As people near retirement age, they often face the excitement and anticipation of having more time to pursue their passions, travel and spend time with family members. However, as people age, they also face the very real risk of being taken advantage of in some way. More often, there are stories on the news of seniors in Texas who have been cheated or lied to because of someone's fraudulent behavior.

Recently an innovative technology was debuted to the public with the goal to protect the elderly from fraudulent behavior they may be unware of. The technology was created to alert at-risk seniors of potential hazards that could affect their legal protection. Some examples include notifications related to financial security, housing, health care and elder abuse. Users have the option to select between two versions of the program with one providing a bit more detail than the standard option. 

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Doehring & Doehring Attorneys at Law
2000 S. Dairy Ashford Street, Suite 298
Houston, TX 77077

Phone: 866-456-2361
Fax: 281-497-8630
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