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Houston Probate & Estate Administration Law Blog

Important things to consider when choosing a beneficiary

You're faced with a variety of challenging and important decisions when creating an estate plan. Among them is deciding who to name as your beneficiary.

Even if it sounds simple and straightforward, the more you think about it the more you'll realize that you have multiple options to consider.

How to discuss estate planning with your adult children

You're perfectly within your rights to keep all your estate planning matters to yourself. You don't have to share your estate plan with anyone, even those who are closest to you. However, there may come a point when you realize the benefits of discussing estate planning with your adult children.

Here are some of the tips you can follow to ease the tension that's often associated with this conversation:

  • Decide on what you want to share: Maybe you want to lay out your entire estate plan for them to see. Or maybe you simply want to tell them that you have a plan in place, so they don't have to worry about it. Regardless of the approach you take, make sure you have a clear idea of what you want to share.
  • Be honest: Even if you have concerns about your children disagreeing with your estate planning decisions, it's best to remain open and honest throughout the conversation. Hiding something now can result in trouble down the road.
  • Stay positive: It's never easy to discuss estate planning, as it forces you to think about a time when you're gone. However, if you become upset, your children are likely to follow suit. And when that happens, the conversation won't be nearly as productive.

The role of an executor of a will

It doesn't matter if you're creating a will and naming an executor or someone has asked you to serve in this capacity, it's critical to understand everything the role entails.

In general terms, the executor is responsible for managing a person's estate and distributing property based on the terms and conditions of their will. This can result in a variety of duties, including but not limited to:

  • Locating assets and maintaining them until they're ready for distribution
  • Determining if probate is necessary, and if so, seeing the process through
  • Contacting all individuals named in the will and keeping them current on the process
  • Obtaining any final payments, such as Social Security benefits, that are due to them
  • Paying final income taxes and any debts
  • Ensuring that all property is distributed to the appropriate heirs as outlined in the will

How long will probate last?

The death of a loved one often brings with it many questions. If your loved one left a well-prepared estate, you may have fewer questions than many. However, someone who died intestate, meaning without a will, may leave behind confusion and disagreements.

If you are waiting to receive your share of an inheritance, you may be wondering why it is taking so long. Understanding the probate process is an important step to answering that question.

Anyone can make one of these common estate planning mistakes

You create an estate plan with the idea that it will be 100 percent perfect. And while this may be your intention, there is no guarantee of it happening. It's easy to make mistakes along the way, especially if you don't seek the appropriate assistance.

These are some of the most common estate planning mistakes to protect against:

  • Forgetting to plan for incapacity: You know where your assets are going upon your death, but you don't know who will step in and manage your affairs should incapacity happen.
  • Neglecting to name a guardian for your children: If you and your spouse pass on and leave minor children behind, the guardian you name will be responsible for raising them.
  • Not creating an estate plan: You're not required by law to do so, so you assume it's okay to forgo the process. This can result in a variety of complications upon your death, including your assets ending up in the wrong hands.
  • Not modifying your estate plan: You don't create an estate plan once and assume it'll serve you well for the rest of your life. You may need to modify it every now and again, such as if your executor or beneficiary passes on before you.

A living trust can address many estate planning concerns

The estate planning process is complicated, as you're sure to have a variety of concerns weighing you down. Fortunately, with so many tools at your disposal, you should be able to find one that suits your situation.

For example, a living trust is designed to hold assets during your lifetime, while passing on to your designated beneficiaries upon your death.

How estates are valued

When someone passes away, for legal purposes, all their property is considered to be their estate. The estate is made up of assets such as: homes and other real property; checking and saving accounts; stocks and other investments; retirement accounts; vehicles; collectables and many other types of assets.

Debts are part of the estate as well. The estate may include mortgages, car loans, credit card debt, medical bills and other debts. All of these assets and debts must be dealt with through estate administration after a person dies.

Are you putting off making your estate plan?

While dreaming about the possibilities the future holds is an enjoyable pastime, there are not many people who enjoy thinking about the end of their lives. This may include considering such possibilities as a lengthy illness, the loss of your mental faculties and leaving your loved ones behind. Because it is difficult to dwell on such things, it is understandable that most people would put off their estate planning.

Nevertheless, for the good of your loved ones, there comes a time when you must rise above your own misgivings and think about creating a comprehensive estate plan that covers as many contingencies as possible, both for the last events in your life as well as what occurs after your passing.

The importance of funding a living trust

There are different ways that people in Texas can leave their property to their loved ones after they pass away. One is by simply allowing their property to pass according to the intestate laws. However, people can also dictate where their property goes by drafting a will or a trust. Both allow people to specifically state who receives their property, but trusts have the added benefits of keeping people's estates from going through probate.

Living trusts allow people to change title to their property so it is technically owned by the trust and not the person.

Successor trustee could be liable for previous breach of trust

People in Texas need to plan for where their property will go after they pass away. One very effective way of doing that is to create a trust and transfer their property to the trust. As part of the trust they will need to appoint a trustee. This individual will be responsible for managing the property and eventually distributing the property to the beneficiaries of the trust.

The trustee has a very important job and it is important that people choose individuals they trust to carry it out properly.