A will attorney in The Woodlands can explain the factors which you should consider when creating your will. These include selecting an executor of the will and designating a guardian for your minor children. By working with a will attorney, you can rest assured that this important legal document will be drafted in a way that clearly specifies your preferences and reduces the possibility of a will contest.
Select a Will Executor
The executor of a will is the person who is responsible for managing the estate, satisfying liabilities, and distributing assets. It is most common to select a spouse as the executor, but this is not mandatory. The responsibilities of an executor can be arduous. An executor who is grieving your passing may find it difficult to pay close attention to the tasks at hand. With this in mind, some people choose a more distant relative or even a professional executor to perform such duties. You can discuss your options with your attorney should you desire further guidance on this matter.
Choosing a Guardian
If you currently have minor children, it’s essential to designate a guardian for them in the event that you and the other parent die before they turn 18. Without such a designation, a court will determine custody of the children. Choosing a guardian can be a sensitive issue. When assessing a person’s fitness as a guardian, consider that person’s overall health, current relationship with your children, parenting style, religious beliefs, and his or her financial resources. It may be wise to also consider that individual’s residency, particularly the school district in which he or she resides. The guardian’s residence might well be your children’s residence should you not be there.
Consider Charitable Giving
Many individuals choose to give back to their communities or to favorite causes by providing for charities in their wills. You may choose to designate a percentage of your estate for charitable giving. Another option is to fund a charitable giving vehicle such as a private foundation.
Updating Your Will
Creating a will is an important first step to take for your beneficiaries, but it’s also often necessary to update wills from time to time. The birth of a child or grandchild, a death in the family, the divorce of an adult child, and the estrangement of family members are all reasons to visit your will attorney to draft a new will.
It’s always preferable for individuals to work with an estate planning attorney, rather than risk dying without a will. Even when a person is in good health, and not of advanced age, there is simply no way to predict what the future may hold. The unfortunate truth is that many people die intestate, or without a will. When this happens, the surviving spouse and children must sort through the matters involving the estate with the help of a probate lawyer in The Woodlands . The lawyer can advise the living heirs about the intricacies of probate law and the alternatives to probate.
Submitting Affidavits of Heirship
Some estate cases are relatively straightforward and may be settled by submitting an Affidavit of Heirship. This transfers certain property, such as a home, into the ownership of the heirs, without going through the judicial probate process. This approach may only be used when the property is not being used as collateral in a secured debt. The Affidavit of Heirship must be witnessed by two individuals who are not involved with the estate, but are familiar with the decedent. The witnesses must know the family members and heirs, the date of death, and the existence of outstanding debts.
Going Through Probate
Where it is not possible to use an Affidavit of Heirship, a probate lawyer can guide the surviving family members through the formal probate process. Since, in such cases, there is no designated executor, the court may choose an executor. If all heirs agree on an executor, then usually the Court will confirm that person as executor. Executors are usually the surviving spouse, adult children, or other closely-related family members. Potential executors should become fully informed of their responsibilities before accepting this job. Once an executor is appointed, he or she must identify all relevant liabilities of the decedent and other claims against the estate. The probate lawyer can assist the executor with the process of satisfying those claims and creating a complete inventory of the assets in the estate. Next, the heirs will be identified in accordance with the state’s rules of intestate succession. For example, in Texas, if a decedent leaves behind a spouse, with no children, parents, or siblings, then the spouse inherits the entire estate. The probate lawyer can ensure that the heirs are properly identified and the estate is legally distributed.
It isn’t always easy to make the decision to challenge a will . If you believe that a deceased relative’s will is invalid, then you should contact a probate attorney near Houston right away. Your probate attorney will determine if there are sufficient grounds to contest a will. One possible situation is when the decedent may have been coerced or deceived when the will was drafted. Or, perhaps you have reason to believe that the will was completely fabricated in its creation, or otherwise altered after it was completed.
Wills are often drafted when the testator is in his or her senior years or after there has been a diagnosis of a terminal illness. If this is the case, then perhaps your will attorney can contest the document on the grounds that the testator was not mentally competent at the time that the will was drafted. Another possibility is that the will was not created under legally binding circumstances. For example, the document may not have been properly signed, witnessed, or notarized.
Trusts are estate planning tools that are used to transfer property to someone to manage it on behalf of the property owner for a beneficiary. Trusts can be helpful in keeping all or part of an estate out of probate, saving beneficiaries a great deal of time and money. As with all parts of estate planning, it is crucial to work with a will lawyer in Houston when setting up a trust to make sure it is properly executed.
When a trust is established, the beneficiaries and the trustee who will manage it must be identified. The trustee is obligated to manage the trust solely for the benefit of the beneficiaries. Failing to do so means that the trustee could be removed. Trusts can be used in conjunction with a will or instead of one, depending on your individual estate planning needs. Your will lawyer will consider many different factors, including the size of your estate and your designated beneficiaries, to help you decide how trusts can factor into your overall estate plan.
If you are concerned that a loved one’s will does not accurately reflect his or her final wishes, you can choose to challenge the will in court. The first step is to contact an attorney who can walk you through how to contest a will in Houston and help you determine if you have legal grounds for your challenge. There are several different reasons you can opt to contest a will, from concerns about your loved one’s mental state to worries about forgeries. Here is a look at some of the most common reasons why people decide to contest a will.
Lack of Testamentary Capacity
Testamentary capacity refers to the legal and mental ability to create or change a will. If a person does not have a testamentary capacity, then the will in question is not valid. If you are concerned that your loved one did not have testamentary capacity, you must show that he or she did not understand the value of the property in question, who the beneficiaries are, and what having a will actually means. There are many reasons why someone may not have testamentary capacity when a will is made, including mental illness and dementia. People who make wills while under the influence of drugs and alcohol also lack testamentary capacity in the eyes of the courts.
Any time a vulnerable person is under undue pressure to make certain provisions in or changes to a will, he or she is said to be under undue influence, and the will may not be valid. Typically, this involves someone manipulating a vulnerable person to receive a larger portion of the estate. The influence or pressure can come in the form of physical or emotional abuse or coercion.
The latest version of a will is always the one that is considered to be binding. If your loved one made changes to his or her will, but the executor is trying to enforce an older version, you can file a challenge to ensure that the newest one is being honored.
Many people hesitate to discuss estate planning because the subject is inevitably tied to death. Although estate planning may be an uncomfortable topic of discussion, it is quite often a necessary one. You may prefer to wait to discuss these matters with your family until after you have met with a lawyer and drafted your will. If you feel that a discussion about estate planning will turn into a contentious argument among family members, you could even request that your lawyer be present to serve as a neutral third party and answer legal questions.
Determine Your Priorities
Before you meet with the will attorney, write a list of your priorities. Remember that the assets you leave behind should ideally serve to accomplish your goals, rather than to reward deserving loved ones. For example, you might prioritize the care of an ill or disabled family member, the support of a favorite charity, or the education of grandchildren. Determining your priorities will help you when drafting the will and when discussing it with your family members.
Decide How Much Information You Wish to Disclose
Ahead of the discussion, determine how much information you’re comfortable sharing with your family. Some people prefer to say very little, informing their heirs only that they’ve drafted a will and that they believe that the will allows for a fair and equal distribution of wealth. Other individuals feel that providing detailed information about which heir will receive which asset will prevent future arguments.
Explaining Unequal Distributions
If your will is going to distribute more assets to one heir than to another, you may wish to explain your reasoning. For example, you may have two children, one of whom is a geologist with a lucrative salary and the other is a childcare worker with only a modest wage. You may prefer to leave more than half of your wealth to the latter child. If so, you could explain to your children that this does not reflect favoritism, but rather addresses a real financial need.
Consider Disclosing Information After Your Passing
If you feel uncomfortable explaining the terms of your will to your family, you could write separate letters to your heirs or one letter addressed to all of them. Yes, even the videotaped lecture is not uncommon. These procedures allow you to explain your reasoning in a manner which is separate from the will. Keep sealed letters of explanation with the will.
If you wish to make financial arrangements for your children, grandchildren, or other heirs, it’s a good idea to speak with a lawyer about estate planning , including the possibility of establishing a trust. An attorney in Conroe, TX, can help you explore the various aspects of a trust and how to structure your trust to accomplish your goals. For example, you could use the trust to leave a certain amount of money to your child, which could be distributed in set amounts at certain intervals. This arrangement prevents your child from spending his or her inheritance all at once. Or, you can place conditions on your child’s inheritance. For example, you can have your lawyer set up the trust to distribute small amounts of money over time and to only allow your child to receive the rest after he or she graduates from college.
Another reason why you might ask your attorney to establish a trust is for tax advantages. Life insurance policies provide tax-free benefits to your beneficiaries. However, the death benefit amount may be added back into the estate, which may make it [the estate] subject to federal estate taxes. Establishing an irrevocable life insurance trust protects the full death benefit for your beneficiaries.
If you haven’t yet drafted a will, it’s time to schedule an appointment at a law firm that emphasizes estate planning in The Woodlands. Having a will is important for nearly every adult, especially parents who have minor children. An estate planning attorney can draft your will in a way that reduces the possibility of disputes. This can go far in promoting family harmony after your death. Even if you have already made your last will and testament, it’s a good idea to visit your lawyer periodically to update your will as your circumstances change.
Even if the distribution of your property after your death is not a matter of concern for you, you definitely need a will if you have minor children. If you die intestate (which means without a will) then a judge will determine guardianship for your children. This may not necessarily lead to an arrangement that you would have chosen yourself. Having your lawyer create a will for you is the only way to designate your children’s guardians in a manner pleasing to you.
It’s common for parents to name their children as beneficiaries for certain assets. However, if you die while your children are still minors, an adult must manage the property. You can use your will to designate a property manager and you can leave specific instructions with regard to how you want the property to be managed.
Sometimes, an individual’s beloved pets end up in an animal shelter after his or her death. You can prevent this from happening to your pets by using your will to designate a caretaker for your furry or feathery friends. You might also consider leaving money to the caretaker for the care of your pets. Many shelters and animal adoption centers offer plans which allow you to create very unique and satisfying arrangements for your pets should you pass.
People often consider it very important to ensure that specific assets are distributed to certain people after their passing. You can use your will to designate beneficiaries for certain financial accounts, vehicles, and similar assets. If you have family heirlooms, designating beneficiaries for them can be helpful for preventing family disputes after your passing.
A number of people take a do-it-yourself approach to creating a will and assume they don’t need to consult with a will lawyer in The Woodlands . However, each state has very specific requirements for drafting a will, which must be followed in order for the will to be legally valid. If you do not know what these requirements are, how do you know that you’ve complied with them? Meeting with a will lawyer can help someone ensure transfer of assets, guardianship of children, and other estate decisions are handled properly.
Meet state requirements
Perhaps the biggest reason to hire a professional when drafting a will is to make sure that your will meets Texas’s unique will-drafting requirements. Some lawyers even offer free consultations for the purpose of discussing wills and trusts. If you don’t meet your state’s requirements in drafting a will, then you may lose the opportunity to make decisions regarding the division of your estate and guardianship of your children. Without a proper will upon death, state statutes will dictate the division of your assets between your spouse and children. On the other hand, a will attorney can help you ensure certain assets are given to specific loved ones. Additionally, consulting with an attorney allows you to make an educated choice in determining who will be responsible for your children after your death.
Lessen family disputes
Self-created wills can be easy to change and update. Unfortunately, this means that overzealous relatives can take advantage of an elderly family member and convince him or her to alter the will in a particular favor. A will lawyer makes sure that clients have the capacity to write and change their wills, which reduces the likelihood of bitter family disputes and lengthy court battles.
Reduce expensive court costs
Drafting a will on your own and failing to do so properly opens your family up to painful legal battles after your death. This means that while do-it-yourself will drafting may be cheaper initially, it also could end up costing your family thousands in subsequent court fees and legal battles. Ensuring your will is drafted properly can also help ensure your family won’t be fighting over property or guardianship issues after you die.
Even if you are in good health, from time to time it’s a good idea to consult with a will attorney in The Woodlands about updating your will. Creating a will is one of the most important decisions you can make for your family, as it reduces the likelihood of disputes after you pass, as well as smoothes the transition for your loved ones. Consequently, you should have a skilled will attorney draft this important document to ensure the terms of your will are properly carried out.
In addition to the need to choose a will attorney, the will itself also need to choose an executor who ensures that its provisions are properly carried out. The executor should be a responsible person whom you can trust. As circumstances often change, accept that you may need to alter the terms of your will down the road. An experienced will lawyer can make sure your present will still reflects your wishes upon passing. Your lawyer can also make sure you avoid any misunderstandings by using proper language in your will. You believe that your do-it-yourself will is clear and concise? Remember this: You will not be there to explain it to the judge. Leaving ambiguous terms in the document could lead to disputes among your heirs or even a failure for the will to be accepted into probate. Will lawyers draft using clear language to ensure life is easier for your beneficiaries.
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