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Houston Probate & Estate Administration Law Blog

Heirs battle over estate of businessman who died intestate

In Texas, the death of a loved one is a traumatic time. This is compounded when the loved one had substantial assets and failed to take the necessary estate planning steps. Heirs and beneficiaries should think about how to deal with such a case, especially when there are blended families, divorces and children from different marriages.

The estate of a wealthy real estate investor who died in January 2017 is in dispute. The investor had five children, two ex-wives, and owed money to numerous entities, including the Internal Revenue Service. The man died intestate at the age of 83. His estate was valued at close to $300 million before he died. It consists of real estate in several states and other properties. An independent administrator was named to oversee his estate after he died.

How a dynasty trust can help preserve a Texan's assets

Texas families who have accrued significant wealth will want to take steps to ensure that their heirs retain as much of it as possible. The depletion of an estate is one of the biggest concerns that these families will have, so strategies to preserve assets, such as a dynasty trust are a wise consideration. Understanding how they work and other important facts about these devices is the first step toward deciding if it fits into an individual's estate planning strategy.

Because of the overhaul of the tax code, those with significant wealth are seeking strategies to retain as much of that wealth as they can. The benefits of a dynasty trust are linked to this new tax template. A dynasty trust does not expire. It contrasts from other trusts where the trustee holds the assets to benefit others.

A pet trust can be there when you are not

As much as you love your car, your house or your boat, you can't leave an inheritance for them in your will. They are property, and as such, they are ineligible by law to receive an inheritance. You may be surprised to learn that your pets are also property in the eyes of the law. No matter how much a part of your family they may seem, when you die, the law views them in the same category as your car, your house and your boat.

However, there are ways you can provide for your pets through your estate plan. While you can't name your dog or cat as a beneficiary of your estate, you can create an efficient plan that will afford care and protection for your beloved companions.

Legal help to preserve assets by transferring real estate titles

The goal for a Texan who is creating an estate plan is to ensure that the assets go to the heirs that he or she wants to get them and to maintain as much of its value as possible. This can be confusing to some, especially those who might have real estate but not a significant amount of it to know all the methods to maintain maximum benefit after asset distribution.

Understanding how to clear a title from real property is one of the fundamental aspects of transferring it. There are certain steps that must be taken to do this correctly. To clear a title from real property, the decedent's name must be removed from the deed and transferred to the new owner. There are strategies to do this rapidly and in an efficient manner. It depends on the circumstances as to how this should be done.

What can spur a judge to modify or reform Texas wills?

A Texan who crafts a will does so to ensure that the assets and anything else he or she owns will go to the designated heirs. Regardless of the intent and the comprehensive nature of the document, legal issues can often arise with wills and other estate planning devices. In some cases, this will necessitate judicial intervention. Understanding when the law dictates that there can be judicial modification or reformation of a will is important when the legal issues are such that it must be done to make certain the document achieves its desired ends. As always, legal assistance with handling estate complexities is a must.

A will can be modified or reformed if a personal representative files a petition for it so the following can take place: the court can order the modification or reformation; acts that were prohibited or were not authorized in the terms of the will; or the personal representative can be prevented from performing acts that the will prohibits.

Legal dispute and allegations continue from late actor's trust

Texans and people across the nation are well-advised to have a comprehensive estate plan. This is necessary to avoid a legal dispute between heirs and to ensure that the assets go where the testator wants. The pitfalls of a perceived failure to do this can be found in cases where a wealthy and famous person dies and had a blended family. Those who believe they should inherit certain items in the estate or be in control of a trust will frequently end up embroiled in a dispute that can take time and significant resources to settle. Such is the case with the late actor Alan Thicke.

Thicke's widow alleges that his sons from prior marriages are behaving in a reckless manner with his trust and have not given her what she says she is supposed to receive in the inheritance. The sons are the estate's co-trustees. It has been reported that the sons did not give their approval to the monument his widow selected at his final resting place and did not reimburse her for its cost. According to her, one son - the singer Robin Thicke - received $105,000 for a party in honor of his father.

When a will just isn't enough, think trust

You know that you should at least have a will, just to prepare for what will come eventually. A will is a good place to start with any estate plan, but sometimes it just isn't enough. This is where trusts enter the picture. A trust may give you all the protections you desire, but what kind do you need?

There are several types of trusts out there and available to Texas residents. Two of the most commonly utilized are revocable and irrevocable trusts. What is the difference between the two?

Estate planning documents must be updated as time passes

Texas residents who create an estate plan should remember that the document is not something that should stand on its own, never to be changed. The goal in an estate plan is to prepare for the future. However, circumstances in the present can fluctuate. Updating and ensuring that all the bases are covered is a foundational aspect of drafting estate planning documents. A comprehensive document might seem intimidating with everything that should go into it, but having a list of what needs to be shored up can be beneficial.

There are four basic documents that are of paramount importance. They are: a power of attorney for finances; a power of attorney for health care; an advance health care directive; and a will. A trust, if used, must have the correct title. Beneficiaries should be named for all assets. Having a health care surrogate who can make decisions in the testator's stead can help avoid confusion, regardless of what happens. There is often a lack of awareness of why estate plan documents should be updated. A survey centered around estate planning documents found that one in six is not up to date. There could be many reasons for this, including not believing it to be as urgent as it really is. Having deadlines as to when tasks must be completed will give incentive to getting it done.

Family disputes over will settled before going to Texas court

In Texas, one of the main reasons that family disputes occur over a loved one's estate plan is if there was illness and changes were made to the document during the latter stages of the person's life. Since it is so imperative to have an estate plan - even a basic one - those who are considering whether they need one or not should pay attention to situations in which people end up pursuing litigation over an estate because of various issues. Even when these situations are settled without going too far, it is still important to think about all aspects of estate planning with help from an experienced law firm.

For instance, a recent report detailed how a will dispute that was ongoing between a decedent's sister and her daughter was heading for court in June, but it was settled before a court case was necessary. The sister, 79, and her daughter from whom she is estranged, 60, had a dispute over a will left by the testator. The man did not have a will until May of 2016. Prior to the creation of that document, his sister was set to get his assets. The sister, however, was not mentioned in the will. He died three months after creating the document while being cared for by his niece.

Estate planning to incorporate new assets like crypto is critical

Estate planning in Texas has grown far more complicated than it once was. With the number of different financial vehicles available in which people are willing to invest, online banking and the secret nature of much of these new investments, navigating an estate plan can be difficult for the testator when crafting the estate plan and for the loved ones after the testator has passed. One issue that is growing more concerning is "cryptocurrency," alternatively referred to as "crypto." When investing in crypto, it is imperative to understand how to ensure these assets do not simply disappear after the person has died.

Those who are investing in crypto should document their holdings, where it was bought and how access can be achieved. This can be complicated, as the allure of crypto is often its flexibility and how secretive it is. The only way for others to know about a person's investment in these types of assets is if they are informed. For many, being cautious and private is of paramount importance. But, this can be a problem if the person dies without anyone knowing about these assets. When items are left out of an estate plan, it will usually be found out once the documents are discovered and examined. Crypto is different and people who invest in it or stand to inherit it should be aware.