Throughout our lives, most people are tasked with handling a myriad of things. You take care of your home, take care of your children, take care of your bills, and take care of your body by eating healthy and exercising. Similarly, you should take care of your future, particularly if you have loved ones counting on you every day. Estate planning is important to ensure your loved ones are secure when you pass on.
The best way to begin this journey is by creating an estate plan with the help of a seasoned Porter estate planning and probate lawyer from Bolton Law. While it may feel like a daunting process, drafting an ideal estate plan can make a world of a difference for you and your loved ones going forward. Seek the peace of mind you deserve with our experienced team in Porter, Texas by calling 281-351-7897 today!
What Is Probate Law?
Probate is the legal process that entails the determination of a will’s validity and authenticity. Is also the process of administering a dead individual’s estate. This involves organizing their assets, possessions, and money as well as distributing them as inheritance after clearing any debts and taxes.
If the deceased left a Will, the chosen person will take on the role of administering the estate (Executor). If there is no Will, the court will assign an administrator to handle the probate process.
What Is Estate Planning?
Estate planning is the process of determining how a person’s assets and possessions will be managed, preserved, and distributed after they die. It also addresses the management of a person’s financial responsibilities and properties in case they become incapacitated. Assets that make up a person’s estate include properties, cars, artwork, pensions, life insurance, and debt.
What Are the Services Provided by a Probate/Estate Planning Lawyer?
A probate or estate planning lawyer is tasked with an array of tasks including:
Creating a Will and Identifying the Beneficiaries
While you will come across numerous Will templates online, chances are you won’t find one that matches your needs. It is unlikely for people’s assets, lives, and families to fit into a standard template. There’s also the option of making a handwritten (holographic) Will, but there are specific rules to get it right, which, for the average person, often results in litigation.
If you die without a Will, your estate will be divided according to Texas intestate law, and this may not be in keeping with what you would want.
The best course of action is to meet with a reputable estate planning lawyer. This way, you’ll ensure all your Will requirements are put into writing and reduce the chances of going to court. In addition, these lawyers are excellent resources to utilize when distributing your assets to beneficiaries. They will listen to your needs and provide solid advice.
Helping Avoid the Long and Expensive Probate Process
Going through probate can be a costly and time-consuming process (with most proceedings taking up to 2 years. It is also extremely public, allowing anyone to obtain copies of the Will and any associated legal documents.
Fortunately, probate is not always necessary even if you do not have a trust. If all your assets have been designated to your beneficiaries, then probate can be avoided. In addition, if your estate consists of less than $150K of total property and less than $50K of real property, a Small Estate Affidavit can be implemented to transfer the assets to beneficiaries. However, some entities may refuse to accept the Affidavit, forcing the heirs to either engage in litigation or open probate.
Using a probate lawyer can help avoid the probate process entirely, by making sure all your assets are designated properly. If the heirs go into probate, the lawyer can help them navigate the complex legal system.
Assistance With Financial Obligations to Avoid Estate Taxes
What steps should you take to avoid a higher tax rate for your assets? How do you transfer your assets without incurring hefty taxes? Full comprehension of the economic instruments is vital when it comes to estate planning.
The laws and regulations that govern these instruments are always changing and so, this is an aspect that calls for vigilant attention to legislative updates and financial news. A seasoned probate lawyer comes in handy for this.
Planning Living Trusts
There’s an array of documents that go into effect following your death, while others can be used for smart asset management while you’re still alive. An ideal living trust addresses your wishes while you’re still around to see them come to fruition.
Making a plan to move your assets into trusts can help bequeath those funds to your heirs while you’re still alive to witness it. A good estate planning lawyer will help you come up with a schedule that matches your requirements and put provisions into place.
Protecting Your Assets From Creditors
Creditors have numerous tactics to make claims on an estate. A seasoned estate planning lawyer will help build the legal protections to keep the creditors at bay. They will put safeguards in place to protect your assets from the vultures after your death.
Protecting Your Heirs From Lawsuits
A probate attorney will serve as a representative to your loved ones when they get involved in a lawsuit claim. They will also help prevent the potential of lawsuits among the family members. In addition, the legal heirs can challenge the validity of the deceased will through a probate lawyer.
Creating Health Care Directives and Power of Attorney
If a medical condition or emergency leaves you unable to communicate easily and effectively, a healthcare directive will help clarify your preference regarding medical care. Instead of leaving your loved ones to make guesses, it’s wise to make your intentions clear today by working with a reputable Porter estate planning lawyer.
A power of attorney gives someone else the ability to make decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated.
Other notable ways where a Porter estate planning and probate lawyer may come in handy include:
- Collecting life-insurance payments
- Identifying all estate assets
- Determining and paying inheritance tax
- Opening and Managing an estate checking account
- Making final distributions following the payment of taxes and bills
- Satisfying claims
- Getting property appraised
- Distributing assets to the designated heirs
When Do I Need a Probate Attorney?
Not all cases call for a probate lawyer. However, legal representation is essential in more complex cases, or where the appointed estate’s executor is not comfortable handling the process alone. The executor is usually tasked with the following:
- Notifying the beneficiaries listed in the Will or determined by the court
- Completing court paperwork
- Distributing assets to legal heirs and changing the legal ownership
- Paying the debts and taxes of the deceased
- Paying the funeral expenses
- Documenting everything involved in the estate closing
If you are uncomfortable or uncertain with the above-mentioned steps, you should consider a probate lawyer. A probate lawyer is also worth retaining if:
- The Will instructions are incomprehensible.
- The deceased has significant assets and no will.
- There’s a dispute over the assets’ distribution.
- You do not understand Texas’ succession laws.
- The deceased owned complicated assets like ownership of a business, royalties, and mineral rights.
- The estate has more debts than assets.
Meeting With an Estate Planning Lawyer
You’ll be able to work with the estate planning lawyer in a more efficient manner if you take the time to plan for the initial meeting. This involves making a list of assets and liabilities and collecting the necessary documents.
In addition to collecting the necessary documents, ensure you take the time to think about what you wish to achieve. Are you looking to protect your children and other possible beneficiaries? Do you expect dissension in your family over the decisions you’re about to make? Are there possible events down the line that call for contingency planning or an occasional review of your plans?
A reputable estate planning lawyer will not only help you draft a current plan but also help you update it on a regular basis. One of the biggest mistakes people make is to create a plan and fail to review it as situations and circumstances surrounding their lives change. Ensure you revise your will with the lawyer after every few years, or following a major life event like a birth, marriage, divorce, or death.
Our Porter Estate Planning and Probate Lawyers Can Do a Lot for You!
Many aspects of estate planning tend to be hard to understand or achieve. That is why Bolton Law takes a client-first approach when creating a plan that matches your needs. We do not just want to make a checklist of the things we think would be good for you.
We will collaborate with you to make sure everything you require from an estate plan is put in place with the assistance of our Porter estate planning and probate lawyers. Call us today at 281-351-7897 or fill out our contact form and learn more about how we can help you protect your future!