Articles Posted in Estate Planning

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EstatePlanningPic-300x223When people think of “contesting a will” they typically imagine an rich family member (probably in a wheel chair) who has recently passed away and a greedy family member who just wants to make a quick buck. Why? Because that is how it is always portrayed in movies. In most cases, that is not the reason for contesting the Will of the deceased.

In Rockwall and Kaufman county, quite often we see Wills that were done 30-40 years ago and they my not meet all of the standard requirements of Wills done today. That does not necessarily mean that these Wills are not able to be probated, but if the testator is still alive, it is best to update the Will as there may have been changes to the needs of the estate or a means to update the Will to comply with modern requirements that will help avoid a Will contest.

Sometimes there are very good reasons for contesting the validity of a Will. In Texas, there are five major categories of reasons to contest a Will and if any one of them is present, then the Will should be set aside and not sent forward to be probated.

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EstatePlanningPic-300x223In Rockwall and Kaufman counties, it is quite normal for families to be blended: one or both spouses had children from previous marriages prior to entering into the current marriage. So, when I talk to potential clients about obtaining a Will, one of the inevitable questions is always “what happens if I die without a Will?” So, lets talk about that for a minute. Recently, I had a couple with a blended family in my office who had substantial assets that they wanted to have distributed upon their death. They had done some research and were aware enough to know that Texas does have a set of laws known as the “laws of descent and distribution” in the State of Texas, but they wanted to know how it would affect their estate if they just used the default rules instead controlling the process through having a comprehensive estate plan. I’ll answer this just like I did with them:

What Happens If I Die Without a Will?

Chapter 201 of the Texas Estates Code addresses this issue and, based on whether you are married, divorced, blended family, adopted children, died without children, and so on and so forth, this chapter deals with any of these such issues.

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GuestandGrayLogoSmall Estate Affidavits are a common question that we receive from clients and potential clients in the Estate Planning section here in the Rockwall and Kaufman County areas. Many people do not have a large estate other than the value of their home. This type of estate is the exact reason that the Texas Legislature enacted chapter 205 of the Estate’s Code. It was done mainly to prevent fraud on the decedent’s estate and provide for a more efficient and less costly means of administering estates that do not have a large amount of assets.

For the most part, the statute achieves its stated purpose and helps many families across the state quickly and effectively take care of the entire estate of their loved one while avoiding the potential horrors of the probate process in Texas. However, there are narrow requirements in Texas to qualify for a Small Estate Affidavit in Texas. This can create complications in certain instances such as where, although the size of the Estate would qualify it for the Small Estate Affidavit process, they do not qualify because the decedent owned real estate that is not considered “exempt” property, such as a homestead. For instance, if the decedent owned an empty plot of land, they would not qualify for the Small Estate Affidavit process because an empty lot will not qualify for “exempt” property because the decedent was not using it as their “homestead”. There are other situations, but that is the most common.

As noted above, there are narrow requirements for an Estate to qualify for the Small Estate Affidavit process in Texas and those requirements are as follows:

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EstatePlanningPic-300x223Guest and Gray, P.C. is a full-service law firm that offers our clients in Rockwall and Kaufman counties a wide variety legal services. One of those services is estate planning services. When speaking to clients and potential clients, the biggest misconception that we find is when speaking about the full scope of what an estate plan actually. Most people assume that a Last Will and Testament is the estate plan. Boom. Done. However, the Last Will and Testament is simply a piece of an estate plan.

A basic estate plan typically includes 5 separate documents: the Last Will and Testament, Durable General Power of Attorney, Medical Power of Attorney, Physician’s Directive (often referred to as the “living Will”), and a HIPAA release. Now, not everybody will need the full basic estate plan, however, in all likelihood, you will need at least a combination of the above. Why? because it helps to provide you with certainty as to what will happen to your belongings or affairs should you pass away or become incapacitated.

In estates with large assets you may also want to set up a trust. There are several reasons for wanting to do this, some of which are tax reasons (and to obtain those reasons, contact your CPA), and others where you want to avoid the potential issues that arise in probate. If you transfer your assets during your lifetime into a trust, then the need for probating an estate becomes virtually nil and the trust just keeps on trucking along after you pass away. Good right? Can be. In counties like Rockwall and Kaufman, where you have an influx of high income individuals (Rockwall county is the wealthiest county in Texas according to 2016 Census reports and Kaufman county is exploding with development and new mid-to-high-end home starts). This creates a lot of reasons why you may want to think about adding a trust to your estate plan.