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What does the executor do during the probate process?

Closing out an estate after a loved one passes on is not an easy task. The bulk of it is done by the executor. This is a person, assigned by the decedent or a Texas probate judge, who is responsible for making sure everything is done and done properly. So, what exactly is the role of an executor when closing out an estate through the probate process?

There is actually a long list of things that an executor is charged with completing in order to close out an estate properly. Some of these tasks will be shared here. This is a general list, so some of these items will not apply to every case. Some responsibilities include:

  • Finding the will and other estate planning documents
  • Inventory assets
  • Filing a probate petition
  • Informing banks and other lenders of the decedent's passing
  • Paying taxes
  • Paying creditors
  • Distributing assets

Digital assets may complicate Texas probate

While many in Texas and across the country may be able to navigate through social media sites or use virtual currency, it is likely that few understand the laws concerning what happens to those electronic resources at the end of their lives. In fact, the paradox of privacy laws is that, in some cases, the estate executor cannot even use the account holder's password to access the account. This can be difficult during probate when a personal representative is trying to inventory the assets, including digital assets, in someone's estate.

The Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act gives account holders three options for allowing personal representatives to access their digital assets. The first comes directly from the companies of the accounts held, such as Google. Many of those companies provide tools for account holders to set up legacy agreements indicating how they wish their accounts to be handled when they become inactive.

Start Medicaid planning early: Use a qualified elder law counsel

When it comes to planning for one's retirement and post-retirement days, there are only a few ways to finance the expensive health care options that are available. In Texas, as in the rest of the country, the cost of annual nursing home or other institutional costs are through the roof and exceed what most people can afford. Some will be fortunate enough to have planned early enough to purchase private long-term care insurance, which may be sufficient to pay the large tab for institutional care. For those who could not afford private insurance, the major option is to engage in Medicaid planning to determine one's qualifications for Medicaid.

Medicaid, which is the main government program that will pick up the ticket on long-term care costs, does have some strict requirements to qualify. The amounts may vary from state to state, but in general the income limit to qualify is $2,205 per month per person, including social security. Asset ownership is also limited.

The last will and testament can protect a parent's minor child

A family with young children is one that needs some basic estate planning. In Texas and throughout the country, estate planning is often looked at as simply a process to provide for the disposition of one's assets after death. That approach ignores some vital preparatory tasks that should be put in place to protect and make more secure the future of minor children. New parents can make a last will and testament in which the care of their young children is specified in case the parents should die by some unforeseen tragedy.

The provision will identify the person who will take care of the children if the testator (the maker of the will) dies while his or her children are minors. In addition to appointing a personal guardian, the testator can make provisions for a designated trustee or guardian of the funds that are left for the children. The guardian of the funds acts according to the testator's wishes and distributes funds to the children to be used for their health, welfare and education.

Texas care planning: What is a DNH order?

Most people really do not like to give a lot of thought to how, when and where they want to die. Unfortunately, at some point, this is something for which one may want to prepare. When going through their care planning efforts, Texas residents who do no want to spend their last days in a hospital room may want to consider DNH orders.

A health care institute attached to a leading university issued a report noting that those who reside near teaching or more advanced hospitals are more likely to spends their last days admitted as a patient. This means spending one's final days being subjected to tests and procedures. Some people may not feel that they have other options, but that is simply not true.

POA, living will or both?

Getting a full estate plan together can take quite a bit of work. A lot of that has to do with figuring out what really needs to be included. For example, does one need a power of attorney, living will or both? Some Texas residents may not really know what the difference is between these documents to really make an informed decision.

A POA and a living actually serve two very different functions. A power of attorney gives an assigned individual the right to make decisions on one's behalf in the event of incapacitation. There are POAs for health care and for finances. The same person does not need to be named on both. If desired, it is possible to split the responsibilities among a few people so that it all does not fall on one person's shoulders.

Medicaid planning is not so simple

No one wants to end up in a nursing home or other long-term care facility, but it happens. When it does, figuring out how to pay for it can be a bit of a nightmare. Many people in Texas and elsewhere end up turning to Medicaid in order to pay their living and care costs. This is something for which they can plan, but Medicaid planning is not all that simple when the government is weighing what to do with the program.

As it currently stands, approximately one in three people who are 65 or older end up living in a nursing home or other care facility. That is a pretty significant number. Of those, approximately 62 percent are unable to pay for their care and living costs without help.

Care planning for assisted living

No one wants to give up the freedom and comforts of living in his or her own home. Unfortunately, with age or illness sometimes comes the need for a little assistance. Not everyone can afford private home care, so moving into an assisted living community may be the answer. Care planning for assisted living is good to arrange long before Texas residents need it.

Knowing when it is time to consider assisted living can be difficult. One may feel that he or she is doing fine at home, but family members may disagree. Some signs that it is time to consider assisted living include:

  • Being prone to falling
  • Not eating
  • Home and yard maintenance is lacking
  • Not remembering to take medications
  • Bills are overdue
  • One is isolated
  • One's overall life is limited due to physical or mental limitations

Why would a young adult prepare a will?

Wills are for older adults, right? Wrong. They are actually for anyone of legal age. But, why would any young adult in Texas or elsewhere want to take time to prepare a will?

When one is young and has more debts than assets, one may not feel that having a will is necessary or one may simply not want to think about his or her own mortality. At the end of the day, though, no one can escape death. It happens to everyone, and no one knows when it will come. It is a sad reality that many young adults lose their lives in accidents and to illness. When they do, without a will in place, who will decide what to do with their estates?

Don't start the probate administration process empty handed

Making sure that an estate is properly closed out is a burden placed on the assigned executor. It may not seem like a difficult task at first, but things can get overwhelming pretty fast. One way to make probate administration go over smoothly is to go in prepared. This means having all the necessary documentation in hand and ready to go for when the case is opened in a Texas probate court.

Taking inventory is simply an important part of an executor's job. Why? It helps him or her prepare for any issues that might arise during the administration process and ensures that all assets are on the table for distribution to beneficiaries. Without taking inventory of an estate, beneficiaries may end up receiving less than intended, and the executor can be held financially liable if that happens.

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