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Houston Probate & Estate Administration Law Blog

Required notice to beneficiaries of a will

When people in Texas pass away their property will be distributed to their family members as is determined by a statute. However, sometimes people do not want all their property to go in equal shares to their children, their siblings or others as determined by the statute. People can control where their property goes though. This can be accomplished by drafting a will. In the will people can give their property in different shares to different people depending on the relationships they had with various people throughout their lives.

The people who receive the property are referred to as beneficiaries. However, many beneficiaries have not seen the will and do not know what property or amount of the estate they may receive. That is why wills also name personal representatives. These individuals are responsible for reviewing the will, gathering the deceased's assets, and then distributing them to the proper beneficiaries. One of the first jobs of the personal representative is to notify the beneficiaries.

Evidence needed to contest a will

There are many things that people in Texas try to plan for in life. In many situations, having a plan makes things go smoother. One situation when making a plan is wise is when determining where a person's possessions will go when they pass away. This is important to plan for and many people fail to do so.

People can control where their possessions go after they die through a will. However, the best laid plans sometimes go awry. This is true for wills as well. A person's loved ones may have never seen their will until after their death, and distributions in the will may be much different than what the loved ones expected. In those situations, the loved ones may feel that the will presented to the probate court is not the true will or that the will should be invalidated for another reason.

Did you include intangible assets in your estate plan?

Thinking about the future can be a difficult thing to do. After all, how can you know what types of protections you may need in the future? It's not easy to think about what will happen to your stuff after you pass away or what types of medical care you may want down the road, but it's worthwhile to do so.

Even if you are not wealthy or you think you may be too young to benefit from an estate plan, there is always a reason to plan ahead. This will give you peace of mind for the future and knowledge that you will get the final say over what happens to your money and assets. When you start out on this process, you would be wise not to overlook the need to consider intangible assets in your estate plan as well.

Personal representatives may need to operate an estate's business

It is inevitable that everyone in Texas will pass away. It is one of the unfortunate facts of life and one of life's only guarantees. When people do pass away they cannot bring anything with them and all the possessions and assets that they accumulated over their life will stay here. The question is who will receive the possessions when they are gone. However, people can control who receives their assets after they have passed through a Will. In their will they can specifically state who will receive their possessions as well as how much a particular person will receive.

Another part of the will directs who will be responsible for ensuring that the people named in the will receive the correct property and assets from the estate. This person is called the personal representative and is responsible for administration of the estate. These people have to gather the assets and potentially value them. They will also have to figure out all of the debts owed by the deceased and pay those debts if possible, which could include having to liquidate certain property. Then finally they need to distribute the remaining property to the proper people.

Review of advance medical directives in Texas

A previous post on this blog talked about how some Texas residents may choose to execute what is often referred to as a health care proxy but may also be referred to as a medical power of attorney. To review, the health care proxy is a document a Houston resident can give their loved one or another trusted individual which gives them the power to make medical decisions, even if those decisions are a matter of life or death.

The health care proxy only comes into play when the drafter becomes incapacitated, that is, unable to give valid consent to medical treatment or to make important medical decisions. At that point, doctors will look to the person named in the document for final decisions about the patient's medical care.

Who are my heirs if I die without a will?

This blog has frequently reminded Houston residents about the importance of creating an estate plan. This is certainly true if a Texan wants a say in how their wealth will be distributed.

When a person dies without a valid will, or if they have a will but it fails to dispose of all of their property, then the intestacy laws of Texas determine who the heirs are. Under these laws, as is the case in most states, a person's surviving spouse gets special treatment.

Review of the prudent investor rule

This blog has previously discussed a trustee's duty to the beneficiaries of a trust. Among other things, a trustee must refrain from self-dealing or conflicts of interest, must manage the trust according to the legal requirements and must act in the best interests of the trust.

In general, a trustee subject to Texas law can fulfill these obligations by being careful and remembering that the needs of the trust must come first. However, trustees are required by law to have some knowledge and skill regarding investments. Like other states, Texas requires trustees to follow the prudent investor rule.

Just welcomed a child? Consider your estate plan

Congratulations on your new child! As a new parent, you may still be trying to find your footing on how to balance all of the needs of your baby, your spouse and yourself. Though starting a family can be one of the most joyous times in your life, it can also bring about stress for various reasons.

You may begin to think about a number of scenarios that you may not have considered before your child was born. What will you do if he or she gets sick? How can you protect your child? Will your child know you love him or her? What will happen if you and the other parent suddenly pass away?

Tragic death of parents leaves an estate in turmoil

A few months ago, the lives of a wealthy businessman and his wife of almost 60 years ended tragically when the man killed both his wife and himself. Now, probate litigation is threatening to prolong these tragic circumstances for months or even years.

One of the issues in the case is a so-called "slayer's statute," a law which is meant to address murder-suicide situations like the one at play in this case. Because of the slayer's statute, the businessman is presumed to have died first, meaning his fortune passed to his wife, the victim. His wife's will, therefore, controls how the estate gets passed to the couple's five children.

The fiduciary responsibility of an attorney, in fact

Many Houston residents may have executed a document called a power of attorney as part of their estate planning. This document appoints a person, or group of people, as attorney in fact for a Houston resident's estate.

The powers of an attorney in fact are very broad. For example, an attorney in fact has authority to manage, or dispose of, even the real estate or other valuable property of the person who gave her power of attorney. Likewise, the attorney in fact can sue and be sued on the person's behalf and can even step in to operate the person's business.