The executor of an estate is responsible for filing the will in the probate court, notifying beneficiaries, locating and managing assets, and consulting an estate planning attorney in The Woodlands. Being named as the executor of an estate is often seen as an honor because executors must be both trustworthy and honest. Yet, many people agree to the job before they truly understand what it involves. Consider talking to an estate planning attorney before making your decision. If you were named in a will as the executor of an estate without your knowledge, then you should know that you do have the right to decline the role.
Consult an attorney to ensure that you meet the legal requirements to serve as an executor. Each state has its own laws, but in general, adults who do not have a felony conviction on their records are eligible to serve. Additional restrictions may also apply to out-of-state executors who wish to probate a will in Texas.
Serving as an executor can take considerable time and energy, depending on how complex the estate matters are. Executors must be detail-oriented, honest, patient, and well-organized. It’s helpful if executors generally work well with other people and have a basic knowledge of finances. Before you agree to be an executor, consider whether you’re willing and able to carry out the following tasks:
- File the will
- Notify beneficiaries
- Manage assets during probate
- Terminate outstanding contracts
- Notify government agencies and banks of the death
- Establish an estate bank account
- Pay continuing expenses and taxes
- Notify creditors and pay debts
- Distribute the property
- Close the estate
Even if you’re confident that you can carry out the many responsibilities of being an executor, there may be personal issues that get in the way. For example, you might live far away from the probate court or perhaps far from the primary asset which needs care and oversight. Perhaps you might not have enough time to spare to do the job properly. In cases of co-executors, you might have difficulties working with a co-executor. Or you might have reservations about dealing with particular beneficiaries who might disagree with the will or with your handling of estate matters. On the other hand, if you are the sole beneficiary and you’ve also been named as the executor, then serving in this capacity should be fairly straightforward—especially with the assistance of an estate planning attorney.
After visiting a will attorney in The Woodlands, you might consider discussing your estate plan with your family members or other beneficiaries. You do not have an obligation to divulge the details of your will, but there are many good reasons to consider doing so. For example, letting your beneficiaries know what they can expect to inherit may reduce the risk of a contested will .
Promoting Family Harmony
When one or more family members decide to challenge a will, financial gain is not the only issue at stake. A will contest can instigate hostilities among family members that can last for years and may even lead to permanent estrangements. It is not likely that this is the sort of legacy you wish to leave behind. Of course, deciding not to speak with your heirs about your will while you are still alive will not automatically result in family conflict. However, many individuals wish to avoid the possibility altogether by simply having a frank discussion with their heirs.
Explaining Your Decisions
Discussing your will with your heirs can grant peace of mind to everyone involved. You’ll have the opportunity to explain why you decided to leave the house to one sibling and the collection of heirloom jewelry to another. Decisions which may seem obvious to you might not necessarily be easily understood by your heirs. For example, it may make sense to you to leave the vacation home to the heir who used it the most and to compensate for this by leaving a larger sum of money to another heir. But since your heirs might not easily discern your reasoning after you’re gone, it may be wise to give them an explanation now.
Adjusting the Inheritances
Because estate planning is a sensitive issue and many individuals hesitate to disclose the details of their wills to their heirs because they fear being pressured to change their decisions. The provisions that compose your will are entirely yours to make; no one should pressure you to change your mind. Yet, it isn’t unreasonable to listen to the responses of your heirs and consider making adjustments should they make sense to you. For example, you might have your heart set on leaving your amber jewelry to your daughter, but perhaps she doesn’t wear jewelry and would rather you left it to someone who would appreciate it more.
When an executor probates a will in Houston, part of the probate process involves the authentication of the will. In many cases, the will is authenticated without a problem. Occasionally, a party in interest will challenge a will. The act of contesting a will means that one or more individuals have reason to believe that the will is invalid. Where such contested probate litigation is successful, the result may be a change in the distribution of the decedent’s estate.
Many people choose to create numerous wills throughout their lifetime to reflect their changing life circumstances. In most cases, the most recently drafted will is considered to be the Decedent’s true last will and testament. If the most recent will fails to comport with the requirements for a valid will, then the executor may have to revert to the second most recent will. A will may fail to be authenticated, or admitted to probate, because it was not created in a legally acceptable form; it was not witnessed properly; or the decedent did not have the mental capacity to understand the provisions of the will at the time of its creation.
The executor of a will has many responsibilities. When it’s time to choose your executor , consider speaking with a probate lawyer in The Woodlands for guidance. Your probate lawyer may recommend choosing a professional executor if the estate is large, or if you’re concerned that your loved ones may not be suitable for this role. If you would prefer to select a known executor of your will, please watch this video for some helpful tips.
This probate professional recommends making a list of people whom you trust to carry out your final wishes and manage your legacy. Then, narrow down your choices by considering which individuals are best able to manage official paperwork and pay attention to details. Before designating your executor, ask that individual if he or she is willing to carry out these important duties.
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’s often thought that following a death, an individual’s will is always executed according to his or her wishes. But in fact, some heirs in The Woodlands may challenge the will. A contested will can result in potentially irreversible damage to family relationships and if the will is found to be invalid, the decedent’s wishes may not be respected. To prevent a contentious will contest , you should seek the counsel of an experienced estate planning attorney.
Hire an Attorney
One reason why a survivor of the decedent may challenge a will is because it was improperly drafted, or, perhaps, no one properly witnessed the decedent as he or she signed the will. By hiring an attorney to create your will for you, you can significantly reduce the risk that it will be declared invalid. Texas law recognizes two basic types of wills. Holographic wills are entirely handwritten by the individual. Holographic wills do not need to be signed by witnesses, although two witnesses will be required to prove the individual’s handwriting after the death. More commonly, residents of Texas create attested wills, which are typed written. You can make your attested will valid by signing it in the presence of at least two witnesses who are over the age of 14 and who have no interest in the estate.
Including a No Contest Clause
Although it can help, a “no contest” clause is not a foolproof way to prevent a will contest. You can instruct your attorney to include this clause in your will. This clause provides for the disinheritance of anyone who unsuccessfully challenges your will. Unfortunately, Texas courts are reluctant to enforce such clauses in certain instances where a will contest is filed in good faith.
Explain Your Choices
Wills may be contested when one or more beneficiaries become disgruntled with their share (or non-share) of the estate. In short, a will contest is often a way of attempting to obtain more of the money from the estate, or to obtain a particular prized family heirloom. If you feel that your decisions may be deemed controversial among your survivors, then you may decide to explain these choices within the text of the will or even by video at the time of the will signing. A less aggressive option might be to choose to discuss the matter directly with your beneficiaries so that they will understand your choices after your death.
A living will is an important document that not only protects your estate but also ensures that your wishes are honored in the case of a medical emergency. To make sure that your living will is executed properly, it is necessary to get the assistance of a will attorney in The Woodlands .
Watch this video to learn about the medical directives that can be included in a living will. These directives include your wishes for life support and resuscitation should you enter a vegetative state or suffer a severe injury. Because of the complexity of these issues and the need to be very specific about potential scenarios, having an experienced lawyer is crucial to protect your living will from challenges.
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.
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