Tag: wills and trusts

Houston Will Lawyer: Estate Planning Is About Creating Your Legacy

As a Houston will lawyer, I would like to talk to you today about one of the most overlooked aspects of estate planning – the opportunity to create your legacy.

Believe it or not, creating a legacy is not all about having libraries and hospitals named after you. There are great ways that you can help your family remember your values and beliefs that will cost you little to nothing.

A very thoughtful (and completely free) way to create your legacy is to write annual letters to your children and other important people in your life.  These letters can be kept with your estate planning documents.  Then, each person will have a special message sharing your feelings and thoughts.

The letters do not have to be held back until your death, either. Many people choose to present the letters to their children upon graduation or on their wedding days.  Estate planning certainly deals with death, but it also gives us a reason to think about life and the way we want to live it.

Another way to create a legacy is to determine important causes in your life and then support them through your estate planning. Whether you are an avid contributor to the American Cancer Society or you have a soft spot for a local animal shelter, these are the kinds of non-profits and charities you can support to ensure your values are represented in your planning.

Many nonprofit organizations will happily work with you to put together some kind of a giving plan for your estate.  There may be tax benefits in addition to knowing that you are doing something important for the world.

A Houston will lawyer can also help you with setting up a family trust that can be used to further causes that you or your loved ones are passionate about.  This is a great way to build a legacy, not just for yourself, but for your entire family.  If you are unsure of how or why you should set up a family trust to create your legacy, definitely take the time to meet with a qualified estate planning lawyer.  He or she will likely have many other suggestions for ways to use your planning in order to help build your legacy.

Pros and Cons of Wills and Living Trusts | Harris County Will and Trust Lawyer

As a Harris County will and trust lawyer, I realize that those of us in the estate planning industry often use technical language or “legal jargon” that is hard for most people to understand when setting out to get their affairs in order.  In fact, even the words “estate planning” can confuse people by making seem like you only need to plan if you have a large estate.  Not true!

There are other terms that you have probably heard along the way that can be equally confusing, as they are similar in theory, but different in execution. For example:

  • Estate planning versus Asset Protection
  • Healthcare Directive versus Advanced Directive versus Living Will
  • Power of Attorney versus Executor of an Estate

However, there are probably two estate planning terms that you will hear more than any other; trust and will.  These are key documents that do essentially the same thing, in theory. They both specify your last wishes and appoint someone to carry them out. However, there are reasons you would choose one over the other and sometimes you might choose both!

Hopefully we can help you understand the basic differences so that you have an idea of which legal tool (or combination of tools) would be best for you and your family.

Living Trusts

Pros

  • Ensures privacy, keeps your affairs out of the public record and helps you avoid probate.
  • If you own property in another state, a living trust may keep you out of that state’s probate court.
  • Some trusts offer protection from creditors, lawsuits and predators during your life.
  • You can designate a person who can take over management of your assets in case you are unable to function or incapacitated during your
  • You may not need to hire a lawyer when it comes time to distribute your assets.

Cons

  • A living trust can be more expense to set up initially.
  • You will also have to transfer ownership of all assets that are placed in the trust.
  • It can make it more complicated if you want to refinance property.
  • You cannot create a guardian for your children in a living trust. (However, you would be able to add a designation of guardian to supplement your trust that would take care of this.)

Wills

Pros

  • Setting up a will is less expensive and much simpler.
  • Creditors can only bring claims against your estate for a certain period of time.
  • You may name a guardian for your children.
  • You do not need to transfer any property.

Cons

  • After probate, your will becomes a matter of public record.
  • Probate can be take years to resolve and can be expensive.
  • A will does nothing for you while you are Your loved ones will be unable to manage or transfer assets using your will if you are incapacitated and/or unable to function.

There is quite a bit more to it, but this gives you an idea of the different techniques. If you really want a plan in place that will work when you need it, it is best to talk to a Harris County will and trust lawyer. Only an attorney that has had extensive experience can understand the nuances that could impact whether you have solid plan or simply a stack of paper that will not stand up in court. We help families throughout Houston gain the peace of mind that only comes with knowing your family will be okay no matter what. Call us today and mention that you read this blog and we will give you a free consultation so you can start the ball rolling on this important task.

Houston Will and Trust Lawyer: Read This Before Adding Your Child’s Name to Your Banking Account!

The probate process in Houston can be long and costly, which leads people to think of creative ways of avoiding or speeding up the process.  One thing that people often do is to add their child’s name on their bank accounts. They believe by doing so, their child will have immediate access to the money rather than having to deal with the courts. Another thing that people try is to add their child’s name to their property deed to avoid having to wait for the probate process to transfer ownership. Either of these methods might work, but they are fraught with problems. Here are just of few of them.

  1. Any decision you make about your assets requires mutual consent.

If you add your child’s name to the deed of your home, you made him or her joint owner. This means that any decision, like selling the property, will have to be approved by both of you. If your child disagrees with your decisions, it will be costly and will need court intervention. You can imagine the family problems that could result from that litigation.

  1. “Mi casa es su casa” also means “My creditors are your creditors.”

If your child has financial problems, you should absolutely not add their name to any of your assets. If you do, the asset is now vulnerable to your child’s creditors. You could possibly lose your home due to your child’s financial mistakes.

  1. The survivor may do anything they please with the assets.

Once you pass away, your child will become the sole owner of all your assets. Any verbal agreement you had with them to distribute your assets to the rest of your heirs is meaningless. I know you trust your child completely, but there is always a possibility that your child may change their mind and not follow your instructions.

There are other ways to avoid probate. If you want to speed up the process for distributing your assets to your heirs and make sure your wishes are followed, talk to an experienced Houston estate planning attorney. As you can see, simply adding a child as an owner of your assets can cause problems you never saw coming. Call us today at (281) 218-0880 to set up a free consultation today.

 

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.