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Houston Texas Estate Planning Blog

Protecting the family pet during estate planning

Counting the number of pets just here in the Houston area would more than likely take a significant amount of time. There are probably tens of thousands of pets living in the area, if not more. Pet owners tend to love them as part of the family, but some may forget to account for their care when estate planning.

Every time a Houston pet owner leaves the home, his or her pets are on their own. What happens to them if an accident occurs that prevents the owner from returning that day? An accident could require hospitalization, and depending on the severity of the individual's injuries, it could be for some time. If the worst happens and the pet owner dies, someone needs to know that there are animals in the home that need care.

Is a trust the right planning tool to give you more control?

When getting your final affairs in order, you may already have ideas of how you want your remaining assets distributed. You may have made lists of assets and designated people you want to receive them, but you may also have a few concerns about the best way to go about leaving those assets to your intended beneficiaries.

Certainly, you can indicate in your will how you want your assets divided, but you may find that a will does not give you as much control over the use of your assets as you might like. Additionally, if you have minor loved ones you want to leave assets to, you may want to keep in mind that they cannot directly inherit those assets.

Estate administration involves more than reading the will

When a loved one dies, a number of actions need to be taken. During estate administration, the executor or personal representative must handle numerous tasks outlined in Texas law. In many cases, a surviving spouse will more than likely need to work with an estate administrator in order to take care of several issues that may not be quite so obvious.

For instance, a surviving spouse who is the beneficiary of a retirement account will need to determine how to obtain the funds without incurring significant tax liability. Certain distributions may be required that would not have caused a taxable event for the deceased spouse, but could for the surviving one. Health insurance could also be an issue if the employer of the spouse who passed away covered the spouse.

Including funeral arrangements in estate planning

No one knows how many Houston residents have specific ideas regarding their funerals. The number could surprise many people since death is not often an ordinary topic of conversation. Even so, it is something that people may want to address during the estate planning process.

Making the decision to include funeral arrangements in an estate plan is not just about having the ceremony an individual envisions, but also keeping surviving family members from having to make these decisions during an already difficult time. The instructions should be in their own document since not too many families pull out the estate plan of a recently deceased loved one right after death. Ordinarily, this does not happen until after the funeral, so if the instructions are part of another document, they could go unnoticed until it is too late.

Local lawyer's estate case remains open after 10 years

The estate administration process is just that: a process. Many in Houston might view it as a singular event, with one's will being read and their assets dispersed. Yet estate cases are rarely that simple. Oftentimes, they can continue on for months or even years. Sometimes that is due to disputes regarding the disbursement of the estate, yet in many instances, cases are prolonged simply because of the nature of the assets and properties they contain. 

Then there may be times when both cases are true. That is what is happening with the estate of a renowned Houston attorney who died in a car accident in 2009. From an outsider's perspective, his estate case may appear to be fairly simple: he had no children, and all of his assets were left to the charitable foundation he established in the 1980s. Yet at the time of his death, there were cases involving him, his law firm and his other business matters; in the last 10 years, most of those claims have been resolved. His law firm, which no longer practices, remains open to accept settlement payments. 

Why you need an estate plan

Texas law provides a sort of default estate plan via the intestacy rules. However, these regulations are probably not going to do many of the things that a complete estate plan could for your loved ones. Therefore, while an estate plan is not required by law, it is often necessary if you have specific goals for the distribution of your assets.

Apart from directing your wealth where you want after you are no longer able to make decisions, estate plans have other related benefits and functions. At Doehring & Doehring Attorneys at Law, we realize that our clients are often making personal decisions as well as legal or financial ones when they craft their goals for the future. Through our practice, here is how we strive to maximize all of the benefits of estate plans.

What types of guardianships can be included in a will?

Drafting a last will and testament may not be a top priority. Yet, estate planning is important for people at any age, especially if you have young children or are the caregiver of an adult. It is important to know who will take care of your loved ones should something unexpected happen, rendering you unable to make critical decisions regarding their care. Appointing a guardian in your last will and testament may be one of the  most critical decisions you make, and it is essential that you understand what types of guardianships are available. 

In addition to appointing a guardian to care for minor children, you can declare someone as guardian of an incapcitated adult or elder citizen. If you are unable to maintain care of that person, the guardian will be given legal rights to make decisions on their behalf. Full guardianship gives full responsibility and decision-making rights over a person’s financial, medical and legal affairs. 

Talking to your parent about estate planning

Many conversations in life can be difficult to have, especially between parents and their children. Some parents may need to talk to their children about difficult topics that they would rather avoid, and even the opposite situation could be true in which children need to bring up tough topics to their parents. In the latter case, even adult children can have a hard time broaching certain subjects.

For instance, as your parent ages, you may feel the need to bring up whether he or she has created an estate plan. If your parent has not mentioned such a plan to you, it is possible that there is no plan. It is unlikely that your parent wants to leave his or her affairs in disarray for you to handle, but you may still hesitate to bring up the conversation.

Factors to keep in mind when drafting a will

When people think of tasks that need to be completed, creating a last will and testament may not come to mind. It is difficult to think of a time where we will not be here with friends and loved ones. It may also be a far reach to consider what will happen to the property and assets one has accumulated during a lifetime after they pass. Whether one has just reached retirement age or is just starting a family, it is important to consider creating a will. This document records what will happen to the estate if an unexpected accident should occur. 

There are many critical details to include in the last will and testament to ensure everything runs smoothly once one passes away. The executor of the estate and will is one who will be in charge of taking the estate through the probate process and ensure everything is handled according to the wishes stated in the will. If an executor is not named in the last will and testament, one will be appointed by the state. If possible, one should choose a responsible executor that they trust to oversee the finalization of the will. 

Your estate plan in a blended family

If you are preparing to get remarried after having previously been divorced or widowed, you are likely faced with many decisions not just about your wedding but about how you and your new spouse plan to merge your lives. Texas residents who get married for the second or subsequent times are generally more established in their personal and professional lives. This can warrant unique needs when getting remarried.

Estate planning is one activity that takes on a new level of importance for remarried couples, especially if one or both partners has children from a prior marriage or relationship. As explained by CNBC, dying without a plan in place leaves the door open for your children to end up without anything you had originally planned for them to receive. Unless you have a prenuptial agreement that states otherwise, your surviving spouse may end up inheriting most things with no legal requirement that they share anything with your children.

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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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