The probate process can sometimes be a confusing and complicated one for a family that has lost a loved one. It can be especially so when the family's deceased loved one did not make a will.
This is because, when a person dies without a will or other estate planning devices in place, there are generally no legally-binding instructions from the deceased regarding what is to be done with their estate.
Sometimes, over time, things go out of date. For some things, having an out-of-date version of the thing is generally just a minor inconvenience. For other things though, having an out-of-date version can be remarkably negatively impactful.
Estate plans are something that fall into the latter category. Having out-of-date estate planning documents (like an out-of-date will) can be very problematic. For one, an out-of-date estate plan may no longer be in tune with the wishes of the person who formed it. Also, in some cases, an out-of-date estate plan's documents might not even be valid anymore.
When a person thinks about the type of care costs they could end up facing as they get older, their mind might go right to nursing home costs. However, elderly individuals can end up facing substantial care costs even if they do not end up having to move into a nursing home.
Sometimes, an elderly person's overall medical condition will be such that they are still able to live in their own home but they do need some special care. In such a situation, an elderly individual may need home care services. Home care services can have some significant costs associated with them.
One of the aims of guardianships is to protect vulnerable individuals whose decision-making abilities have been impaired. Individuals with disabilities and elderly individuals are among the vulnerable individuals who are sometimes put under guardianships here in Texas. In some instances, a guardianship can be an invaluable tool in making sure a vulnerable individual's best interests are being looked out for.
Now, there are some criticisms that have been leveled against the guardianship system here in Texas. Some of these criticisms include:
- That there is sometimes insufficient oversight of guardianships after they have been set up.
- That guardianships sometimes take more legal rights away from a vulnerable adult than is necessary.
For most wills here in Texas, one of the things that needs to happen for the will to be valid under state law is for the will to be witnessed by at least two people. These witnesses are to sign their names on the will. Such action by the witnesses is to happen in the presence of the person whose will it is.
There are many questions a Texan who is planning to form a will may have on the issue of witnesses. One such question is: Can a minor be a valid witness to a will?
Many people here in Texas have charitable organizations that they strongly admire the work of and care a great deal about. Sometimes, a person will have a desire to not only support the charitable organizations they care about during their lifetime, but to provide such support after their death as well. Estate planning can make fulfilling this desire possible.
There are many different types of after-death goals a person can set their estate plan to achieve. Providing after-death financial support to charitable organizations is one such goal.
So, you think you've got a good handle on estate planning because of your demonstrated acumen in the realm of financial management.
That might be so, but it is more likely that a narrow focus on how money management and asset flow will look in retirement seriously compromises the more comprehensive thinking that needs to take place to ensure a tailored and seamless estate plan across all relevant dimensions.
Rather than fashioning a gentle segue into this blog entry focusing on how things can go wrong with life insurance beneficiary designations, let's employ a real barn burner right at the outset as an example of how horror can strike unexpectedly and toss best-intentioned plans right out the window.
Here's the hypothetical (which, rest assured, has been a real-life outcome in some situations).
The widow says that the stepkids are unlawfully claiming personal property that was bestowed upon her. The children counter that many of the assets claimed by their stepmother belong to them and that they "are heartbroken" that she has acted against their deceased father's wishes. The trustees have weighed in with comments underscoring their power to act, which they say is being undermined. An attorney for the trustees says that what has become an acrimonious spat should have remained a purely private matter.
And the judge? He just wants the at-odds parties to work things out as best they can informally. If they can't, a June 1 court date looms.
Wills, trusts and other estate planning tools help you protect your assets, provide guidance for family members and prevent consequences or distributions that go against your wishes. Selecting an executor for your estate or an administrator for your will is an important part of the process.
An executor will have the responsibility and the authority to collect assets, pay debts or claims against the estate, pay taxes, distribute property and assets to beneficiaries, and manage the property in the estate. This is a serious task, which means you need to choose wisely when designating your executor.