What is “Estate Planning” and why is it important?


An Estate Plan is simply a plan to protect you, your assets and your family in the case of unexpected events. Estate plans can be very simple or very complex. A complete estate plan should include documents about both your medical and financial wishes.  Every person who has attained age 18 needs to have a will, a durable power of attorney, a medical power of attorney, a health information release, and a directive to physicians (aka living will).

An estate plan can keep potential heirs from arguing and allow you to present your desires clearly.  A common misconception is that an estate plan isn’t important if you’re not wealthy. Often an estate plan is often more important for those without extreme wealth.

How long does it take to create an Estate Plan?


Our initial meeting with our clients usually lasts just over one hour. After that, we usually have enough information to get started on the plan. Our clients usually come back in 1 to 2 weeks to sign the final documents.  From start to finish, we are usually able to have a fully executed estate plan in your hands within 2 ½ weeks. In emergency situations, we can get the plan done as quickly as one day. Creating an estate plan should not be an overwhelming experience. Our goal is to make the process painless and smooth.

I changed my will; does that affect my life insurance beneficiaries?


Life Insurance is typically a Non-Probate asset meaning your will usually does not control the proceeds of a life insurance policy. The beneficiary designation controls what happens to the proceeds. However, if you have a policy that does not have a beneficiary designation or has the Estate named as the beneficiary, then you will controls. In other cases, we name the Trustee of the Will as the beneficiary so that the assets can pass into a testamentary trust.

What is included in an “estate”?


The word “estate” means everything you own at the time of your death. This includes your real property, car(s), stocks, and collectibles. Your estate can also include bank accounts, life insurance, and retirement plans. Estate Planning is for everyone, not just wealthy people. It is often more important for those without much wealth to have an estate plan in place.

Do I need a will?


Yes. A Last Will and Testament lays out your wishes for what happens when you die.  It can direct what happens to your children, your home, and other assets. Having a will is a good idea for everyone over the age of 18.  Often younger adults feel that because they “don’t have anything” they don’t need a will. In truth, many probate battles occur due to young people who pass away without a plan in place.

What is an Executor?


An executor or executrix is the person named in a will that be in charge of carrying out the duties given by the will. This includes taking a will through the probate process, inventorying assets, paying debts, and distributing assets to the beneficiaries.  Naming a person in the will does not automatically place them in charge. Their appointment must still be approved by the court.

I have a will that was created in another state. Will it work in Texas?


The answer here is probably yes. However, we would need to take a look at the will to make sure that it meets all the requirements of a valid will. As long as it would be valid in the state it was drafted, it will also be valid in Texas.

I was told I should have a trust, do I need one?


There are several types of Trusts. Nearly every plan we put together has some type of trust involved. At its most basic level, a trust is simply a relationship between a Trustee and a Beneficiary. The Trustee is the person in charge of managing the assets held in Trust and the Beneficiary is the person who should benefit from the assets held in Trust. Trusts are a great tool for protecting assets from creditors and predators.  Some trusts offer more protection than others. The most common trust form is the Testamentary Trust, which is created by your will. Its purpose is to offer protection to you beneficiaries so they don’t lose the assets to creditors and predators. Every person should consider having a trust as part of their overall estate plan.

Once I create a will, how hard is it to change it?


Creating or modifying a will is not a difficult process. However, keep in mind that every change to a will must be completed in the same manner as it was originally created. This means that it should be typed, signed, witnessed by at least two persons and notarized.

How much does a will cost?


Every person and situation is unique and needs to have a plan specifically tailored to their unique needs. Therefore, it is difficult to quote a price without first getting to know your specific situation. To help with this, we offer a free consultation. By the end of that first consultation, we should know exactly what the charge will be and quote you a flat fee. At that point, there is no obligation to move forward.

How often should my will be updated?


A person should review their estate plan regularly. We recommend reviewing your will at least once per year. This doesn’t mean it has to be changed that often, but you want to make sure the people you have named to hold certain jobs still have the ability to do so. As a general rule of thumb, you should review your will after major life changes, such as getting married, having a baby, divorce, inheritance, or an out of state move.

Who will take care of my kids if I die?


You can decide this by creating a will and designating a Guardian for your children in the will. If you don’t designate this in a will, it will be left up to the courts to determine the best person for caring for your children.

What is an Administrator?


An Administrator is the person placed in charge of an estate by the Probate court when it is determined that no Last Will and Testament was in place. The duties of an Administrator are very similar to those of Executor. They gather the assets, create an inventory, pay debts, and distribute the assets to the heirs. There are two types of Administrators: Independent and Dependent. Independent Administrators have more leeway and are able to act on selling and distributing assets without first obtaining court approval. Dependent Administrators are required to ask the court for permission before taking any substantial actions.

What do I do when someone passes away?


When a loved one passes away, the first step is to focus on grieving and being with family members. When you are ready to deal with the financial and legal aspects of someone’s death, there are several important steps. First, make sure that all property of the deceased person is secure. Next, determine if the person had a will. The Last Will and Testament will lay out the steps for moving forward including who will be in charge of moving forward. Once you have located a will and other documents, such as life insurance policies and real estate deeds, you should make an appointment with a Probate Attorney.

What is probate?


Probate is the name of the process used by the court to distribute a person’s property after they pass away. There are several different types of probate depending on the situation. If the person had a will, the will should be presented to the court for Probate. In cases where there is no will, a process called Determination of Heirship may be completed to determine who the rightful heirs are. Other processes included Independent and Dependent Administration, Affidavits of Heirship, and Small Estate Affidavit.