Month: May 2017

Do I really need an attorney to create a Will in Texas?

We get this question a lot: “Do I really need an attorney to create a will in Texas?” Everyone has seen the online companies that allow you to create a will for $99. Some office supply stores sell the forms so you can do it yourself for even less. So with all these cheap alternatives do you really need an attorney?

Perhaps you have guessed my answer. It is “Yes!” of course. But, here is the “why” behind that answer that you might not be expecting…

There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all will or trust.

Every person’s situation is different. You may be from a traditional family or you could be a part of a blended family – these situations might take different estate planning strategies. The DIY will and trust companies do not adapt to the nuances that make your family unique.

There is no personalized service.

A qualified estate planning attorney will meet with you and go over all the goals that you set for your family. An attorney will help you make very important decisions such as who you will name as executor. An attorney will bring up issues and ask questions that may cause you to choose other people than you originally thought.

No one to turn to when the will or trust is executed.

After you pass away, your executor will take over. The position of executor comes with many responsibilities and there are often questions that arise. Who will he or she turn to when they have questions? They are not likely to get the right answer from the information on a website.

When it comes to creating a will or trust, you really do get what you paid for. Actually, if done incorrectly, that will or trust may not hold up during probate, in which case it is not even worth what you paid – and it could cause pain and suffering for your loved ones. We would love to chat with you about creating an estate plan for your family. We even offer a planning session so that you can make the decision with absolutely no obligation. Call our office at (218) 281-0880 and schedule one today.

Harris County Probate Lawyer: Issues to Consider with an Out-of-State Probate

It has become more and more common now to see clients come in with probate cases that need to be dealt with in multiple states. Many seniors today are “snow birds,” meaning they spend their winters in states with warmer climates while keeping their actual residency in the state they have spent most of their lives in.

These seniors often own property in the state where they spend their winters, whether it is real property like a vacation home or timeshare, or even tangible property like a car, boat, or financial account. When the senior passes away, a situation is created where an out of state or ancillary probate proceeding must take place to administer the out-of-state property. Whatever the case may be, clients dealing with an out of state probate often need help since they are dealing with two or more sets of probate rules and regulations, all of which differ from state to state.

Texas probate lawyers find that one of the biggest issues involving an out-of-state probate proceeding is cost. Typically, you will need to pay probate court fees for each property held under a different probate court jurisdiction. In addition, you may be faced with extra accounting and legal fees. If possible, you should try to find an attorney who is licensed both in the home state of the deceased and the state where the ancillary probate is taking place.  While the fees may still be higher than usual because the probate is out-of-state, it will still most likely be cheaper than hiring multiple attorneys to handle one estate.

Another serious issue can arise if the decedent did not leave behind a Last Will and Testament. When this happens, the probate court will often order distributions of the estate based on the laws of intestacy. The problem with out-of-state probates is that every state has different laws of intestacy, meaning the heirs in one state may not be the same as the heirs in another. This is a very tricky situation and one where Texas probate attorneys urge their clients to proceed with caution as it may cause additional stress for already grieving family members.

Are there ways to avoid an out-of-state probate proceeding? Yes, but it all depends on the state where the additional property is held since, as noted before, every state has different laws concerning probate. Some of the techniques Harris County probate lawyers use to get around an out of state probate include placing the property into a revocable living trust, owning the property jointly with someone else, or drafting a type of deed where the property is transferred upon death. However, probate lawyers caution that this type of planning must be done BEFORE death, and attorneys must be consulted to make sure these techniques will actually work in the state where the property is held.

If you are need help with an out-of-state probate or would like to plan to avoid out-of-state probate proceedings, please contact our Houston law firm at (281) 218-0880 to set up a consultation.

Houston Special Needs Lawyer: Basics of a Special Needs Trust

For families that have loved ones with a disability, ensuring the care for their loved one once the caretakers are gone is of the utmost priority. The loss of specialized care and Medicaid or SSI benefits is a very real danger if proper special needs planning is not put in place, which is why Houston special needs lawyers often share the benefits of special needs planning involving Special Needs Trusts.

What is a Special Needs Trust?

Since even a small amount of cash assets can disqualify individuals with a disability from the care and assistance they need, it is important to not let these assets pass directly to them upon your passing. A Special Needs Trusts is the best way to ensure your loved one with disabilities keeps their care and assistance while also benefiting from the legacy you leave behind. Houston special needs lawyers design these Trusts in such a way that the assets in it do not belong to your child; instead, they are owned by the Trust and managed by a Trustee of your choosing who will direct the assets to be used for the benefit of your loved one with a disability. Medicaid and SSI will ignore the assets in the Special Needs Trust as they are not directly owned by your special needs loved one.

How may the assets in a Special Needs Trust be spent?

Assets in a Special Needs Trust can be spent in a number of ways which benefit the individual with a disability. These include education, recreation, vacations, home improvement, and certain out-of-pocket medical expenses. These expenses are considered “non-countable” by Medicaid and SSI since they do not count as the special needs individual’s personal assets. Houston special needs attorneys caution that assets in a Special Needs Trust may not be given directly to the individuals with disabilities, as this will oftentimes disqualify them from receiving state assistance.

What if I do not have a Trustee or I am not leaving behind a large sum of money?

In cases where a suitable Trustee cannot be chosen or a small or moderate sum of money is being left behind, Houston special needs lawyers often direct their clients towards Pooled Trusts. Pooled Trusts are typically run by non-profits. The non-profit will assign a Trustee who is responsible for managing the assets on behalf of the individual with special needs and the benefit of such an arrangement is that the Trustee and the non-profit are both heavily involved in the special needs community and understand the care and compassion needed to look after your loved one. While there are fees and different types of services attached to Pooled Trusts, they are often a good alternative to an individual Special Needs Trust in certain situations.

If you have any questions about how a Special Needs Trust can benefit you and your loved ones, please contact us at (281) 218-0880 to schedule a consultation.