Estate Planning. Studies show that approximately 55% of Americans die without a Will or estate plan. If you don't make a Will, the state makes one for you. That means your assets and estate are distributed according to the generic laws of descent and distribution of the State of Texas. The top reasons given for not making a Will include:
~ I just haven’t gotten around to making one.
~ I don't think that making a Will is that urgent.
~ I don't think I need a Will.
~ I don’t have a Will because I don’t want to think about death.
If you want to ease the strain on your family members and make an active plan to direct your assets upon your death, at minimum you need to execute a Will. In addition to your Will, a more thorough estate plan may involve documents such as Trusts, Statutory Durable Power of Attorney, Medical Power of Attorney, Advance Directive, Declaration of Guardian, HIPAA Release, Disposition of Remains, deeds and assignments.
Probate is the formal legal process that gives recognition to a Will and appoints the executor or personal representative who will administer the estate and distribute assets to the intended beneficiaries.
If someone dies without a Will, their heirs may have to go through the Texas Probate Courts to determine the legal heirs and settle the decedent's estate. In most cases, this is a more tedious and expensive process than probating a Will. Save your heirs this headache and execute a Will.
If you or a loved one is concerned about the cost of long-term care and how you will pay for it, I can explain to you the various methods of paying for long-term care, including the government benefit programs that are available and how to qualify for them.
Services offered include income and resource review, qualified income trusts, lady bird deeds, special needs trusts
A guardianship is sometimes needed when a person cannot take care of herself or himself. To obtain a guardianship, the proposed ward's incapacity must be proven by clear and convincing evidence, a very high standard to meet. Unless the proposed ward is a minor, a certificate from a doctor who has examined the proposed ward must be filed with the court. Typically, a Texas Probate Court will look to alternative, less drastic measures to avoid the guardianship or by taking away as few of the ward’s rights as possible. This is because a guardianship takes a person's rights away including use of their finances, decisions on their daily care, living arrangements and the right to vote, among other rights.
A guardian of the person is authorized to make decisions involving the life and well-being of the ward, including health care decisions and living arrangements. A guardian of the estate is authorized to handle the financial affairs of the ward, and maintains the duty to manage, protect, preserve and dispose of the ward’s estate in accordance with the Texas Estates Code.
A guardianship may be necessary in some cases, but be aware that it is a very expensive process to administer. I help my clients with creative planning to find alternatives to a guardianship where they are appropriate.
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