Probate

Probate Homestead – The Right of Occupancy

Home. Your home is where your family resides. If it happens that your home is one on a piece of land that you or your spouse owns, then your home is considered your homestead. There is a lot of Texas law about homesteads. The Texas Constitution, the Texas Property Code, and hundreds of cases define homestead rights. That brings us to the subject of probate homesteads. For purposes of estate planning, you...

Doctrine of Exoneration – Legal Definition & What You Need To Know

Sometimes the law changes and an existing document, such as a will, is caught right in the middle. Consider the saga of the common-law Doctrine of Exoneration. What Is A Doctrine of Exoneration? The Doctrine of Exoneration addresses who is responsible for paying the debt attached to an inherited asset if the will is otherwise silent. Suppose John Smith, a single man, owns a house with a mortgage. John wants his...

What Is An Independent Administration in Texas?

(This is the second in a series regarding probate procedures in Texas) In California, probate of a will for a simple $1 million estate takes 2 years and costs $23,000 in attorneys’ fees.  In Florida, the probate of the same estate takes at least 9 months and costs $30,000. Then there is Texas, where the same probate takes less than 6 months and costs under $5,000. Can we get an Amen? Texas can...

Pulling off a Muniment of Title in Texas

(This is the first in a series regarding probate procedures in Texas) Going through probate is never convenient. For many families it is the first time that they hire an attorney. Add to that the timing, which often comes amid grieving the dearly departed, and the archaic court procedures, and it is no wonder that probate falls somewhere below limb amputation on the pleasure scale. The most common probate procedures are...

Estate Planning Around an Addict

Dealing with an addict in the family is, to put it mildly, challenging. The impact on a family can range from mere nuisance to major disruption. It is no wonder that the reaction of many is to cut the addict out of their estate plan. There is a better way. Create a written revocable living trust naming the troubled relative as the beneficiary. This is by no means a cookie-cutter document. Think...

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...
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