Probate

Types of Probate in Texas

In the public mind, the term “probate” is often associated with expense, delay, suffering and, sometimes, prolonged legal disputes. While there are many probate myths and misconceptions, it is basically a court-supervised method of handling the property of a deceased individual. During probate, the court will appoint someone to be in charge of the deceased person’s financial affairs, property, assets, and debts. Outstanding debts are addressed, and the remaining...

Keeping Track of Your Estate Planning Documents

You did the right thing: you went to an estate planning lawyer and had documents prepared. What you do now? Perhaps it is easier to describe what you should not do. What You Shouldn't Do With Your Estate Planning Documents You should NOT lose them. You should NOT put them in a place where they cannot be easily found. You should NOT interlineate changes, mark through names or addresses, or spill coffee...

Beware the MERP – Texas offers Huge Loophole to Recovery Program

MERP is the Texas Medicaid Estate Recovery Program. Its sole purpose is to seize money from the estates of deceased Medicaid recipients and then plop the recovered funds back into the state’s coffers. The government, acting through a contractor called Health Management Systems, Inc. (HMS), does this by filing a claim in probate.       Why is this a prudent financial maneuver by the government? Because although Medicaid is a needs-based program,...

It is Twenty Years Later – Do You Know Where Your Lawyer Is?

Talk about an aging profession. More than 35% of the licensed attorneys in the State of Texas are over the age of 55. Ouch. Just like other professionals, lawyers can retire, move, get hit by lightning, or die. If that happens to your lawyer, then it can leave you, the client, in a mess. You need to protect yourself from the unintentional fallout. Before we get to the steps you should take, consider...

Top 6 Legal Documents You Should Have In Place

A lot of people have some extra time on their hands these days. Being stuck in the house means there’s no excuse not to finally get around to some of those projects that you knew you needed to do, but just never could make yourself address.  If you’ve already done all the gardening, cleaning, and closet sorting in your house, maybe now you can take some time to get...

Probate and Its Process Explained

What does it mean to probate a will? Probate is the legal process of making sure the property and assets of a decedent (deceased person) are managed and distributed correctly. Probating a will essentially means proving that the will really was the decedent’s last will and testament and following the directions it outlines for settling the estate—distributing the estate’s assets and paying off the estate’s debts. While it is...

To Probate vs. To Not Probate – Should You Avoid It?

One of the more difficult decisions that must be made after the death of a loved one is whether or not to probate the will.   For our purposes, assume the will was properly drawn under the Texas law.   The person who made the will is known as a testator (male) or testatrix (female).  The person named as the administrator in the will is an independent executor (male) or independent...

6 Common Misconceptions About Wills and Probate

In my 40 plus years of practice the same misunderstandings keep coming up concerning wills. This article is to help clear up some common issues about how and when wills work. How Wills Work and When They Go Into Effect Wills don’t go into effect until the will has been admitted to probate. No other common legal document must be approved by a court to go into effect, but wills are...

Do I need a Revocable Living Trust?

Trusts In Different States Many people get invited to well-intended financial seminars in which the presenters push trusts for everyone.  Or they move from states in which they had a trust, and they think they need to replicate that estate plan in Texas.  But in Texas, we don’t all need trusts like in other states.  In many other states (like California), the probate system is more onerous than ours –...

Why You Should Not Write-off Your Elders

The Statistics Speak For Themselves Before you buy into that stereotype that all older Americans are demented, helpless and lonely, check out these statistics. Ninety-seven percent of Americans  over 65 are NOT in nursing homes.  Here’s an even more interesting statistic - ninety-one percent of Americans aged 85 and older are not in nursing homes. Ninety percent of Americans aged 65 and older DO NOT have Alzheimer’s dementia.  Ninety percent, folks.  According...

Special Needs Trusts – Planning for Disabled Folks

Many families are blessed with a child (or adult) who happens to have a disability. There is obviously some concern regarding that loved one’s care and standard of living once a parent or other caregiver is no longer able to provide for them. SSI and Medicaid Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid can help, but they are limited and require the disabled person to have very depressed levels of assets and...

New Ways to Avoid Probate

Wills have been at the center of estate planning for many years. However, wills don’t take legal effect until the person who made the will dies and the Will is admitted to probate. In short, wills don’t have legal effect until you go to court. Frequently, clients will want to avoid having to go to court, whether for reasons of expense, privacy, or just discomfort with being in court. The standard...
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