Estate planning is advisable for most people, especially for families with children. Unfortunately, many estate administrations occur when there has been inadequate estate planning. Most Americans have not made even a simple will, to say nothing of a more comprehensive plan to avoid probate or save on estate taxes. Of course, you cannot plan anything once you have departed or become incapacitated. Estate planning is not for the "then," it is for "the now." If you wish to avoid or minimize estate taxes, keep your estate in the family, distribute family assets, or personal mementos per your personal wishes, you must have an estate plan. Estate planning is about life, not death.
Most people need an estate plan, and people with large estates, spouses, and children (particularly those with special needs) are especially in need of such planning. Many people assume that the surviving spouse or parent would receive all the deceased spouse's or parent's property, especially if the children are young. But often, this ends up not being the case. In this situation, Texas law normally awards between one-third to one-half of the decedent's property to the surviving spouse, and the remainder to the children, regardless of their ages. Planning for death is not something that most of us want to think about. But it is something that must be done if you want to make sure that your assets are distributed per your wishes and that your family is provided for after you are gone.
Texas law provides several different types of probate, or estate, administration, and the one you choose depends greatly on the circumstances. When a person dies without a will, or with a will that leaves out certain legal terms, the responsible party must depend on the court for supervision. Depending on the type of probate case, that person is either called "dependent executor" or "dependent administrator."
Probate is the legal process of making the will a matter of public record. The legal procedures involved establish the validity of the will. Probate addresses some of the following questions:
- Is this, in fact, the last will; or, was another made later?
- Who are the true heirs?
- Is the paperwork authentic and not fraudulent?
In Texas, you have four years after the date of death to probate a will. After that period, probate becomes very difficult, and perhaps not possible in some instances, because the statute of limitations runs out. As a practical matter, it is best to start the probate at a minimum within a few months' post-mortem.
The following is a list of items that you should bring to your first Estate Planning meeting with Jerry W. Melton:
- A copy of your current wills or trusts
- A financial statement or summary
- Copy of your most recent loan application
- A copy of your current bank and investment-account statements
- Printouts from your software finance program
- A copy of your deeds to your house or other real property
- A copy of your retirement benefits
- A copy of your employee benefits
- Life Insurance Information (policies, statements, etc.)
- A copy of your stock/share certificates
- A copy of your trust document (if applicable) and any financial statement or summary you have from that trust
- An outline of your "family tree" showing your parents, your siblings, and your children and grandchildren
If you would like to begin planning your estate or need advice on the best way to administer your estate, you will need the experience of an attorney previously involved in such matters. Our firm has served the Dallas area for over 40 years. We have the resources to answer all your questions concerning estate planning and administration with the qualifications to present a strong plan for you. Please fill out our form online or call 972-980-8000 today and schedule your free consultation.