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Houston Probate & Estate Administration Law Blog

Retirement and estate planning: It’s time for a review

You look forward to the day when you can finally retire. You've earned it, and now it's your time to live it up.

At this point in your life, many things are changing. Your financial circumstances will be different than ever before. Just the same, you may be in the latter stages of your life.

Not all assets are subject to probate

As an heir or beneficiary, it's important that you have a clear understanding of what to expect during the probate process. This goes a long way in putting your mind at ease, while also helping you make informed decisions.

If the deceased individual had a will, not a trust, all of their assets will go through probate. However, there are some exceptions to this rule.

Should you consider do-it-yourself (DIY) estate planning?

We live in a DIY world, so it's only natural to consider the pros and cons of tackling estate planning without professional help.

While this option is available to you, there are several reasons why you should think twice before going down this path:

  • You don't know what you want or need: There are tools that can help you create estate planning documents, but that doesn't mean you know which ones you need.
  • You don't know the law: There are both state and federal estate planning laws. If you don't understand these, you could make a decision that costs you time and money. It could also make life more difficult for your loved ones upon your death.
  • There's no one to answer your questions: You think you know what you want to accomplish, but then you find yourself in the middle of the process and facing a variety of questions. At this point, you begin to search online for answers. And while you may find some information, you never know if it's accurate and/or pertains to your specific situation.

What traits should you consider in a power of attorney agent?

Putting someone in charge of your personal affairs in the event that you cannot act for yourself is an important but difficult task. Anyone could suffer a serious illness or injury that results in incapacitation, and knowing that a trustworthy and responsible person is in the position to make decisions for you could bring a great deal of peace of mind.

Of course, you may not immediately know who should take on such an important role or who would even want to. It is vital that your chosen candidate is willing to act as your power of attorney agent because it could involve making some immensely difficult decisions at times, depending on the circumstances.

Questions that’ll challenge you when creating an estate plan

When creating an estate plan, you hope that everything goes as planned, but you know that you're likely to face challenges.

Fortunately, there's nothing you can't overcome with the right approach and some guidance.

Avoid estate litigation by picking the right will executor

Executors have many responsibilities. Some of them include selling your property, filing lawsuits on your behalf, paying creditors, distributing assets and reviewing medical records. Not everyone is an ideal candidate to be the executor of an estate. The person has to be trustworthy, take their role seriously and also be able to act on your behalf in a legal capacity once you're gone.

You may want to consider hiring an attorney, bank, trust company or accountant to serve as your executor if you don't personally know someone responsible enough to take on this role. You should keep in mind that these type companies or individuals charge fees for their services, which means they're not right for every estate.

Here’s why people make estate planning mistakes

When it comes to your estate plan, you never want to find that you made a mistake. The only good part of pinpointing a mistake is that it puts you in a position to fix it before it causes harm in the future.

People make estate planning mistakes for a variety of reasons, including the following:

  • Fear: For example, if you're scared to create an estate plan because you don't want to face the future, it could cause you to make the mistake of skipping your estate plans entirely.
  • Misinformed: You think you understand the ins and outs of estate planning, which points you toward tackling the process on your own. However, if you don't truly know what you're doing, you could make a mistake.
  • Lack of guidance: This goes along with misinformation. You need professional guidance during the estate planning process, as it'll keep you on track and give you confidence that you're making the right decisions.

Life circumstances may call for you to modify your estate plan

As you age, your life changes in many ways. Sometimes, you're excited about the direction you're heading. Other times, you're disappointed in something that happened and searching for ways to make it right.

Regardless of the life circumstances you're dealing with, it's important to consider the overall effect on your life. And that includes your estate plan.

What are a fiduciary's responsibilities?

There are many types of professionals that are considered to be fiduciaries, including attorneys, real estate agents or brokers, accountants, business advisers, bankers and financial advisers. Then there are others such as trustees and executors that don't necessarily have to be trained professionals like the others described above. They can be asked to assume fiduciary duties for another person. There are lots of responsibilities associated with acting as a fiduciary for someone else.

Fiduciaries have a legal obligation to be both trustworthy and honest in representing someone. Any number of individuals described above can be brought in to serve as fiduciaries either before or after a person's death. The person acting as a fiduciary must act in the best interest of the individual they're representing.

What you could ask when making health care choices for someone

When your loved one asked you to serve as his or her health care proxy, you may have felt trusted and hoped you would never have to fulfill the role. Then recently, you got the news you hoped you would never hear -- your loved one can no longer make decisions for him- or herself due to an incapacitating illness or injury.

People are looking to you to make difficult decisions for another person that could have a significant impact on his or her life. You may need to decide what kind of end-of-life health care measures your loved one receives in the last weeks, days or hours of his or her life.