Probate

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...

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...

Guardianship: Abuse or Protection? Buzz Aldrin’s Dilemma

The rich and famous are not immune from guardianship, and neither are you. Take, for example, Buzz Aldrin. His guardianship case was in the news in 2018 not only because of his fame but also because of the unusual counteraction that he took:  he sued back. The contretemps started in a Florida court when two of Aldrin’s three children and his business manager filed a guardianship action against Aldrin.  Aldrin, age 88, responded...

Time Marches On | Probate Starts Immediately After Death

  Seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years. The moment of death marks the end of time for the decedent, and the beginning of time for his or her probate estate.  After death, sometimes things have to happen pretty quickly to preserve the estate or evidence. Here are just a few of the actions that can take place. At any time after death, the court can order an examination of documents in the...

Ruling Tosses Common Probate Procedure

And then there were two. For years, Texas has had 3 basic types of probate for a decedent’s estate: independent administration, dependent administration, and muniment of title. The two administrations involve appointment of person or entity to serve as executor/administrator and then various required procedures. In contrast, a muniment of title requires only one hearing where the Will is admitted to probate, and no administration is opened.    A muniment of...

If You Ain’t Dead……

In case you were wondering – Texas doesn’t allow an antemortem probate.  That is a probate of a person’s will while that person is still living. There is a statute that specifically prohibits it – Estates Code 256.002 – which provides “ The probate of a will of a living person is void.”   There is a companion statute – Estates Code 301.001 – which provides “The administration of an estate...

The 4 Most Common Mistakes by an Executor for a Probate Estate

Serving as an executor for a probate estate can be tough. An executor has a duty to gather estate assets, settle estate debts, file the required tax returns, and distribute the remaining property to the beneficiaries per the Will.  Often that means wading through a lot of paperwork, dealing with family drama, and not receiving many kudos in return.   To add insult to injury, the executor is a fiduciary and...