Law Office of Sharon C. Stodghill

Call Us Today


Houston Probate & Estate Administration Law Blog

A valid will in one state might be invalid in another

When creating a will, many people do not realize what might be valid in one state might not be valid in another. Understanding the different types of wills one can create gives individuals different options for distributing their wealth and assets while also ensuring one's will is enforceable wherever they live.

One must be at least 18-years-old to execute a valid will and be of sound mind. Additionally, there must be two credible witnesses to attest the will and three if it is an oral will. Texas allows nuncupative wills, also known as oral wills, if it was created during a person's last sickness at their residence or where he or she has resided for the last 10 days or more before the date of last sickness, if the person is away from their home. This type of a will is spoken out loud. It is important to know that not all states recognize this type of a will.

Creating a trust is advantageous for trustors and beneficiaries

As mentioned previously in this blog, there are many estate-planning options available to those who wish to ensure their legacy is preserved after they are no longer alive. However, the process may seem overwhelming initially for those beginning it, as they struggle to figure out which arrangements will work out for them. One option is to create a trust.

Many Houston residents may think that only the wealthy should create trusts, but this is not the case. Anyone with a reasonable amount of financial assets would benefit from establishing a trust. One of the biggest advantages of a trust is that it can be one way to avoid family disputes. The distribution of assets between family members can be a tumultuous process, but the trust introduces a third neutral party to take over the process and thus reduce the stress involved in the process.

Are you hesitating creating a special needs trust for your child?

The first few years after learning of your child's special needs were probably ones of frustration and adjustment. Whether your child's disability occurred after an accident or at birth, you dedicated your life to his or her care, educating yourself about your child's unique situation, and making any sacrifices necessary for his or her well-being.

However, if you have not made an estate plan that includes provisions for your child, you are missing out on an opportunity to extend your care and protection beyond the boundaries of your life. With each year that passes without an estate plan, your child is at greater risk of being unprepared if something should happen to you.

What happens in probate?

Probate has many misconceptions. While many Texas residents may think that probate litigation only takes place if someone has died without a will, this is not the case-probate actually involves the authentication of a will, if it was made, locating and valuing assets, paying the descendant's final bills and taxes and distributing one's assets. If the descendent did not leave a will, his or her bills still need to be paid and the estate distributed, which will take place during probate.

The person who is in possession of the last will and testament should file it with the court as soon as reasonably possible. The application to begin probate usually is filed at the same time and depending on the laws of the state, the death certificate may also need to be filed.

An estate plan lets people choose their own heirs

When we leave this earth, we leave things behind. Even if a Texas resident does not have children, they still have assets that need to be distributed among beneficiaries and if directions are not provided, the state will make the decision for the decedent. This means that emotionally close relatives may be neglected in favor of biologically close relatives and beloved pets may end up in shelters. To avoid this, engaging in estate planning, regardless of one's life situation, is essential.

Even though one can outline their wishes in a will, relatives become aware of the proceedings in the probate process. and they can intercede in it, to find out more about the decedent's assets. Private individuals who wish to pass on their inheritance in a private and protected way can create a trust and ensure it goes to who they want, not to someone who would be the closest biological relative. In addition to this, it might also be possible to create a formal pet trust; one that would provide for the pet after the decedent is unable to do themselves.

We handle probate matters from the start to the end

As mentioned previously on this blog, creating a comprehensive estate plan that covers both one's end-of-life decisions and steps to be taken after one's demise is an important step for Houston residents to take this year. Powers of attorneys are used to make essential financial and healthcare decisions if one is unable to do so. Additionally, one can avoid a situation where a conservator has to be legally appointed if they have a power of attorney in place. Similarly, having a will in place avoids the probate process.

When Houston residents lose someone they love, it puts grieving family members and loved in a tough spot. Not only are they trying to plan a funeral or move on with their lives, they also have to figure out what the deceased's last wishes were with regards to their inheritance, the family house and even the fine china. If these directions were left in a will, it eases the decedent's passing for everyone. If not, a lengthy and bitter legal battle may ensue where family members argue with one another over what their loved one would have wanted.

What is a conservatorship?

Thinking about one's demise is difficult, and contemplating what would happen if one becomes incapacitated is even more troubling. However, having a plan in place for what should take place in case one is unable to make important financial and medical decisions for oneself is an important step Houston residents should take, as it can avoid a situation where the court has to appoint a conservator. A conservator is only appointed if there are no durable powers of attorney for finances and medical decisions.

The court appoints an individual to manage the incapacitated person's affairs, both personal and financial. This could include managing living arrangements, overseeing finances and creating and monitoring the ward's physical care. The responsibilities could be divided between two persons, with one overseeing medical decisions and one financial, or they could be given to the same person.

The many benefits of early succession planning

You may have fond memories of your early days after starting your Texas business. Perhaps you were naïve and green, making many mistakes and teetering on the edge of disaster more than once. On the other hand, you may have had a solid plan in place that helped your realize profits from the start. Maybe you inherited your business from your parents or grandparents.

No matter how grand or humble your beginnings, you are now realizing you will not be at the helm of the company forever. You may resist the thought of stepping down, or you may have big plans for your golden years. Even if you are decades from retiring, it is not too early to begin preparing for the day when you will hand your business on to the next generation.

What should I expect if I am challenging a will?

Right after a Houston resident has lost a loved one, they inevitably go through a period of mourning in which they remember the good times they shared with the deceased. The last thing they need to find out at that time is that they have either been left out of a will or that the decedent died without a will. If someone finds out they have been left out of a will, what should they do?

It is important to remember that, though this is unfortunate, it is quite common. Individuals forget to update their wills as important life changes take place, which means heirs and beneficiaries are not changed after someone dies, has a child or gets divorced. As a result, legal disputes ensue with left out individuals challenging a will.

Are you establishing your power of attorney carefully?

There are a number of steps Texas residents can take to ensure their assets are distributed according to their wishes after they pass away. However, it is also important to take steps to ensure one's legacy is protected while they are alive but unable to make important financial decisions on their own, such as when their cognitive function declines due to a medical illness like Alzheimer's or due to a sudden accident.

This is why some people find that their power of attorney is an even more important document than one's will. This document outlines who will manage one's affairs after they are unable to do so. This includes performing simple day-to-day decisions such as paying bills and managing investments. The power of attorney provision is similar to one existing in a living will, which names a successor trustee to manage the estate when one is unable to.