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Is there anything that I do not need to include in my will?

Making sure one's estate is in order in the event of one's death is something that everyone should take the time to do. It certainly does not hurt to be prepared. When writing one's will, there is a lot to consider. A question some Texas residents may have when going through this process is whether there's anything that does not need to be included in a will?

A will covers a lot of ground. It is in this document that one can list beneficiaries and provide information about how assets are to be distributed to loved ones, friends and charities. As wills are not generally looked at until after a funeral takes place, it is not the place to give information about end-of-life care or funeral wishes.

Guardianship of adult: Roles, responsibilities and limitations

Being appointed a guardian of an adult is a significant job. With it there comes numerous responsibilities and certain limitations. If you are considering taking on a guardianship, it is normal to have questions about what your role will be in the life of the individual placed in your care. This week's column will address some the most common questions Texas residents may have about guardianships.

If you are made a guardian over an adult, what exactly will your role be in his or her life? Before taking on this responsibility, it is wise to know what will be expected of you and the impact it will have on your life and the life of the person placed in your care. The roles and responsibilities of a guardian are many. These include:

  • Provide for everyday needs
  • Advocate for legal rights
  • Make medical care and treatment decisions
  • Handle financial affairs
  • Ensure a safe and appropriate living environment

Doing medical care planning now can prevent issues in the future

Getting older, getting sick and needing medical assistance is all a part of life. Whether people like to think of these issues or not, they happen. Being prepared for these things is important, but it is something for which many Texas residents fail to effectively plan. Taking the time to handle medical care planning now will only make things easier down the road for one's family.

A lot of people are unsure of where to start when is comes to medical care planning. There are numerous things to consider, so it is understandable that it can feel a bit overwhelming and even confusing. When it comes to planning for future medical needs, the best place to start is weighing the options for care and looking at one's current insurance coverage. By reviewing just these two things, one can make informed decisions about what further coverage may be needed or desired and what kind of assistance truly is within one's reach.

Is a will all I need?

Knowing where to begin with estate planning can be rather confusing. There is a lot of information out there and numerous opinions about what should and should not be included. For instance, many Texas residents may be unsure about which documents they really need -- such trusts or wills. This week's column is going to address what a will is and if it alone will meet your estate planning goals.

What exactly is a will? To many, a will is the foundation of an estate plan. In this document you will name beneficiaries and specifics about property distribution. You can also name personal representatives to handle your affairs if you become incapacitated or in the event of your death.

What is the purpose of estate administration?

When a loved one passes away, what happens to his or her assets and debts? If a will or trust has been created, there are likely to be specific instructions for beneficiaries to follow in order to take care of these things. If not, it will be up to the court to decide. Regardless, every estate in Texas or elsewhere must go through the estate administration process.

Estate administration is the process of closing and distributing an estate. This usually takes place in probate court; however, there are select few cases that may avoid probate altogether. During the estate administration process, an executor or administrator will be responsible for making sure debts are paid and assets are distributed appropriately.

Will disputes may cause complications for Texas residents

It is not uncommon for surviving family to face conflict after the death of a loved one. In many cases, parties may feel the need to dispute the decedent's will due to concerns over the contents and intentions of that document. When such disputes arise, it is likely that the concerned parties will go through litigation in order to have the issues formally addressed.

Texas residents may be interested in such a dispute currently underway in another state. Reports indicated that the widow and mother of a deceased man have been in conflict over the late man's will due to the mother having been removed from it. The mother wants to obtain a copy of an earlier version of the will in order to review the contents. However, the man's wife believes her mother-in-law has no right to the previous will.

Agreement reached in siblings' probate dispute

The relationship between a set of siblings can vary. While many siblings argue, in most cases they ultimately love each other and would do anything to help one another. The last thing that most parents in Texas would want is for their death to spark a dispute among their children. While it won't always prevent a probate dispute, careful estate planning can help surviving relatives understand a parent's wishes.

Unfortunately, a will did not prevent two out-of-state siblings from becoming involved in an estate dispute. In fact, a recent agreement ended a legal dispute that has lasted for over seven years. The case involved a brother and sister battling over their father's estate. The father's estate included Jarmoc Farms Tobacco, a farm that sells approximately $2 million of tobacco each year. At the time of his death, the estate was listed as having $5 million in assets and only $100 in debt, but the estate is currently listed as having $7 million in debt and only $2.8 million in assets.

Family dispute over Bobby Vee's trust

Families in Texas often struggle with conflict under the best of circumstances. In times of grief or turmoil, conflict can often be magnified. Unfortunately, the family of Bobby Vee, an American singer, are embroiled in a battle over his and his wife's estate. As a result, two of his children are asking that the other two be removed as trustees of the estate's trust.

The two plaintiffs in the case claim that two of their brothers are mishandling the estate. Court papers indicate that the plaintiffs believe that the defendants are using money from the estate for their personal benefit. They also accuse their brothers of using estate money on a production facility and recording facility called Rockhouse Productions. While Rockhouse was established by Bobby Vee and his wife, it is currently run by the children who are named defendants in the case; the company is also named as a defendant.

Deceased senator's wife, sons argue over his will

Families can often be complicated, especially blended families. While many are able to seamlessly come together without conflict, others are unable to do so. In some cases, relationships that were previously devoid of conflict may fall apart after the death of the loved one who tied the family together. In order to ensure family harmony, many people in Texas create a will describing their wishes in regard to estate administration and distribution of assets.

Unfortunately, there are some situations where a family member may decide to challenge the contents of a will. If it is believed that someone else placed undue influence on a testator, a legal challenge may be filed in probate court. Such is the case involving the sons and widow of U.S. Senator Fred Thompson as they battle over his will.

Making decisions regarding a guardianship in Texas

In a perfect world, all people would create estate planning documents that detail who will make medical and financial decisions on their behalf in the event that they become unable to make such decisions. However, even when a person does have such documents in place, they may be out of date or no longer applicable for a variety of reasons. As a result, families in Texas often find themselves seeking guardianship of a relative.

There are two different types of guardianships, and in each case, the person being served by the guardian is called the ward. A guardian of the person makes decisions regarding the ward's personal well-being. This includes deciding where the ward will live and making medical decisions.

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