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Houston Estate Planning Law Blog

Wills aren't as permanent or ironclad as they may seem

A will is a very important part of your estate plan. Many people may think that the will is the only document that relates to your estate plan -- some may even think the will is the estate plan. But your estate plan is actually a collection of documents, assets and contracts, of which the will is an important factor.

These misconceptions about the will actually lead to another myth: that the will is almighty and all-powerful. Once it is put together and signed, that's it. What it says, goes. Though this is the usually the case, there are certain circumstances in which a will is actually quite fallible and open to a legal challenge. Let's examine a few of these situations.

Making sure your will is enforceable

Wills can be a very helpful tool for a person when it comes to having their desires regarding their property carried out upon their death. However, wills can only serve this important role when they are legally enforceable. There are certain mistakes that can cause a will to be unenforceable. Such mistakes can undermine the entire purpose of a will and can make it so all the work a person did to form a will was for naught. Thus, avoiding such mistakes is very important.

One type of mistake that will generally render a will legally invalid is failing to sign the will. Generally, here in Texas, a signature is required for a will to be enforceable. Thus, a will typically won't be enforceable until it's signed.

End-of-life care planning and cancer patients

When a person has been diagnosed with cancer, there are many things it can be important for them to think about and plan for when it comes to the care they receive for their condition. One is, if the cancer ends up being fatal, what will happen with their care in the last stages of their life.

There can be many important decisions to make when it comes to end-of-life care, including decisions regarding what treatments should and should not be given. These decisions can touch on issues that can have major impacts for a cancer patient and their family.

Don't let fear and anxiety get in the way of estate planning

Many people find thinking about the reality that they will one day pass away very difficult. This is understandable. One's mortality can be a scary thing to contemplate. Also, thoughts about what will happen with one's family and friends after one passes away can trigger many strong emotions and anxieties.

While it is perfectly natural to feel unease when thinking about one's mortality, it is very important for individuals to not let this unease stop them from engaging in planning regarding what will happen with their estate when they die. One trap individuals can fall into is letting fear, anxiety and strong emotions lead them to major procrastination, inattentiveness and indecision when it comes to such planning. Among the things this could result in is a person simply not having an estate plan or having a plan that is out of date or fails to address some major issues.

Special concerns can arise in high-asset estate planning

Estate planning can be valuable for individuals of all income and asset levels. However, this does not mean that how much in assets a person has is irrelevant when it comes to estate planning matters. It is one of the things that can heavily impact what sort of estate plan is best for a person.

Woman uses estate plan to help fight bullying

There are many different causes a person may care greatly about during the course of their lifetime. An important thing to note is that a person's support of causes that are important to them doesn't have to end when they pass away. One of the things individuals here in Texas can use estate plans for is setting up after-death gifts towards causes they care about so they can continue to financially support the cause even after they die. 

This use of estate planning can be seen in an after-death gift a woman in another state recently made. The gift is aimed at fighting bullying.

Survey: nearly 2/3rds of Americans are without a will

Wills are very powerful and helpful legal documents. They let a person express, in a legally enforceable manner, what should happen with their property and other important matters when they die. Thus, having a will can give a person a great deal of control regarding what will happen when they pass away.

However, despite all this, many Americans continue to not have a legal will. Just how widespread lacking a will is in the country can be seen in a recent survey. Based on the answers given by respondents, the survey indicates that around 64 percent of Americans are without a will.

How are 'ethical wills' different from legal wills?

One type of will you may have heard of recently is an "ethical will." These wills are also sometimes referred to as "legacy letters." Ethical wills have been around for a long time, but have recently seen a spike in popularity.

Ethical wills are quite different from legal wills. For one, legal wills are (when executed properly) binding and legally-enforceable documents, whereas ethical wills are typically non-legal, non-binding documents. 

Probate implications of the same-sex marriage decision

As our readers have likely heard, last week, the U.S. Supreme Court made same-sex marriage legal throughout the entire nation. This will have some major implications here in Texas, as Texas was one of the states that did not legally recognize such marriages. An important thing to note is that these implications are not limited to just the area of family law. The Supreme Court's decision has implications for many areas of law here in Texas, including estate planning and probate.

Estate planning can help with a wide range of things

One assumption some might make about estate planning is that estate planning is just about setting up who gets what stuff when you pass away. It is true that post-death asset distribution is one of the major things that wills and other estate planning documents typically touch on. It is also important to not underestimate how important having a clear plan in place regarding such distribution is. Having a well-tailored and legally enforceable plan for such distribution in one's estate plan can help make property distribution issues less complicated for one's family when one passes away and help ensure that the assets one worked so hard for during their life go where they would want upon their death.

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