Tag: Probate

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.

Harris County Probate vs. Non-Probate Property – Know the Difference

Many people think that as long as your will clearly defines how you would like to transfer your property at your death, it will be an easier, straight forward process. However, this is not always the case.  Especially when it comes to probate in Harris County. There are many different rules that can impact how assets are transferred in a way that maybe you had not intended.

Probate is the legal process of overseeing the transfer of property of an individual that passes away without a living trust.  During the creation of your will, you will name an executor to oversee the process of carrying out your final wishes and the transfer of your assets that are in your name.

But, does everything you own have to go through this probate process—which is public, easy to contest and can take a long time?  It depends.  Property can become non-probate property depending on whose name is listed as the owner. Property will be considered non-probate property if:

  • There is a joint owner with right of survivorship
  • A beneficiary is already designated on a life insurance or a retirement account
  • Property is owned by a trust with named beneficiaries

In these cases, joint owners and beneficiaries displace the request of the will. At the time of death the property will pass automatically to the joint owner or beneficiary without the approval of the probate court.

The bottom line is that your will is not necessarily the final authority on where your property and assets will go at the time of your death. Knowing the difference between which assets are subject to probate and which are not can save your family a lot of heart ache. If you want to be certain that your family gets the money and property that you want to leave to them, call our office at (281) 218-0880 to schedule a consultation.

Ready…Set…Start your Estate Planning!

Estate plans have several components to help beneficiaries carry out the requests of the benefactor. You want to start tackling those components while you’re still healthy and of sound mind. In fact, a recent gobankingrates.com article, “Your Estate Planning Checklist: How to Create a Financially Sound Estate Plan,” sets out an estate planning checklist to help you start a solid estate plan. 8-16-2016

  1. Sign a Power of Attorney. This lets you name a person you trust to make financial and legal decisions for you if you can’t for yourself. Without this, your loved ones will need to go to court to have someone appointed to manage your finances.
  2. Appoint a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care. This document allows you to designate an individual to make medical decisions and to carry out your end-of-life care plan if you’re unable to do so yourself. Talk to an elder law attorney to help you with issues like funding nursing home care, what to do if you’ve outlived your retirement funds, and other needs of senior citizens.
  3. Draft a Living Will. This details the medical care you would want if you become unable to make your own health care decisions.
  4. Create Your Will. This is the first step to making certain that your wishes are executed. You’ll be able to name the people you want to receive your assets, as well as designate a guardian for any minor children.
  5. Draft a Living Trust. A trust allows you to transfer property to your heirs without going through probate. If you only have a will, any property that’s only in your name at your death will go through probate court to be distributed. A trust lets you specify when and how your heirs will receive assets, which is particularly helpful with minor children.
  6. Write Funeral or Memorial Instructions. This isn’t included in your will because wills often aren’t opened and read until weeks after your death! Use a separate document to describe the type of memorial service you’d like and whether you want to be buried or cremated. Also, make certain your friends and family know about your wishes—give them copies of this document or tell them where to find it.
  7. Make a List of Accounts and Documents. This should include all of your financial accounts, insurance policies, and contact information for any professionals you work with—like attorneys, accountants, brokers, and financial planners. Make copies of your estate planning documents, the mortgage or deed to your house, and titles to cars and other property. Keep the list and documents in a safe location, like a home safe or safety deposit box. Make sure to let family members know where it’s located in the event something unexpected happens.
  8. Create a Care Plan for Your Pet. Selecting a beneficiary for your pet is an important decision. You’ll want to be sure you have a good fit, as well as a back-up person. To have control over the care of your pet and how the money you earmark for that care will be spent, ask an estate planning attorney to create a detailed trust. This will let you to state your wishes in detail—from the food your pet likes to veterinarian information and health care philosophies.
  9. Organize Your Social Media Accounts and Digital Assets. This means your digital music library and social media profiles for Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. The answer for what to do with your social media accounts and digital assets isn’t black and white. Because of various laws, it might not be legal to log on with your loved one’s password to view his or her email or access his or her banking records. Terms of use and laws in this area change frequently, so be aware of updates that could affect your account and your estate plan.
  10. Review the Plan Yearly. An estate plan isn’t something you do once and never look at again. As your personal circumstances and state and federal laws concerning estate taxes change, you need to review your plan annually to ensure it will still work.

Be sure to work with a qualified estate planning attorney to make sure that the estate plan will foster your goals.

Reference: gobankingrates.com (June 22, 2016) “Your Estate Planning Checklist: How to Create a Financially Sound Estate Plan”