FAQs About Estate Planning and Probate

What is our general process?

Our streamlined process ensures efficient creation and signing of your trust and estate planning documents in 6-8 weeks:

1) 10 Minute Planning Questionnaire: Complete a secure online questionnaire ("Family Profile"). This session will provide you with comprehensive information on your options and our flat fees. Once you're ready to proceed, we'll send you an engagement letter and invoice for online execution.

2) Estate Planning Design Session: Collaboratively design your trust and estate planning documents with an attorney based on the details you provided in your Family Profile. After this meeting, we'll draft the documents and send you a copy for review within two weeks. Any desired changes or updates will be made at this stage. Once everything is finalized, we'll arrange an in-person Signing Ceremony.

3) Signing Ceremony: Execute your documents with the necessary legal formalities, in the presence of two witnesses and a notary. The ceremony can take place at our office or your home. Following the execution, we offer unlimited lifetime consultations regarding your estate plan, free of charge.

What can I expect from my Design Session?

As an attorney, I strive to provide attentive listening, ensuring clear understanding of your options before decision-making. It is crucial to me that your concerns are addressed, and any queries are answered.

What are the initial steps to get started?

Please complete the Questionnaire and choose your package. After submission, we will send you an engagement letter, along with an invoice via our secure online payment provider. Once these administrative matters have been attended to, you may schedule your Estate Planning Design Meeting.

What kind of information do you need from me?

We don't require account statements, social security numbers, or tax returns. However, we do need general information on your assets (e.g., house, retirement account, life insurance) and their value, along with the ownership details (jointly, individually, etc.). Additionally, we need your answers to questions about your personal estate planning preferences.

* Who you would want to raise your minor children if something happened to you and your spouse or partner?

* Who you want to oversee your children’s money until they are old enough to manage it themselves?

* Who you want making medical and financial decisions for you in the event of your incapacity?

* Who do you want in charge of your assets after your death?

Please do not worry if you don’t have the answers to these questions at this exact moment! Please allow yourself sufficient time to contemplate these questions.

What is estate planning?

Estate planning is the legal process of appointing individuals to care for you, your children, your assets, and your finances after your death or incapacity. It also involves designating beneficiaries for your assets. An estate plan consists of all the necessary documents to achieve these goals. Even if you don't have a will or trust, you still have an estate plan established by the state of TX. All states have a default plan for your family and assets in case of your incapacity or death. Estate planning allows you to customize your wishes and opt out of the default plan.

How much does estate planning cost?

Estate planning is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor. To provide you with an accurate quote, we need more information about your specific situation. We have transparent pricing on our estate planning products that you can pick and choose from. We strive to clearly explain each product to allow you to make a decision based on your needs.

We understand that cost is a crucial consideration when selecting an attorney, and estate planning is a significant investment for many individuals. Our objective is to maintain transparency and fairness throughout the process. Therefore, we offer flat fees instead of hourly billing, ensuring you know exactly what your investment entails. Additionally, we provide a 100% satisfaction guarantee. If you are dissatisfied with our services, we are committed to rectifying the situation or issuing a refund.

Ultimately, we will only recommend our services if the potential savings from implementing an estate plan exceed our fee.

How long does the process take?

Our process aims to have your estate planning documents signed within 6-8 weeks of your completing the questionnaire, depending on your availability and document review time.

Can I sign my documents with DocuSign?

Wills, trusts, and other estate planning documents must be signed using specific formalities for legal validity. This requires signing in person, in front of 2 witnesses and a provided notary. The witnesses confirm mental clarity and absence of coercion, while the notary verifies identity. Any future changes to your documents must also comply with these legal requirements.

What kind of clients do you accept?

We have a limited clientele each month to ensure a high level of service to each family. Our focus is on working with people who value our advice and seek a long-term working relationship. If you prioritize cost over quality, are not interested in learning about your options, or prefer not to complete the Family Profile before our session, we may not be the right law firm for you. We would be happy to refer you to another lawyer who may be a better fit.

What is probate?

Probate is the court-supervised process of administering an individual's estate upon their death. In cases where there is no will, the estate must undergo probate before the distribution of assets to beneficiaries. Even with a will, probate is still required.

Isn’t estate planning just for the wealthy?

No, this is a big myth. Estate planning is not dependent on financial status, marital status, or parenthood. It involves creating legal documents to ensure your assets are distributed according to your wishes after your passing, aiming to alleviate the burden on your loved ones during a challenging time. Additionally, estate planning involves designating individuals to handle your property and make healthcare decisions if you become incapacitated, which is relevant to everyone regardless of wealth. Estate planning also allows for you to choose the people you want to care for your minor children upon your death. Looking for an estate planning lawyer in Conroe, TX or Houston, TX be sure to contact us. We can help you.

What is a power of attorney?

A power of attorney allows for the appointment of someone to manage property in case of incapacity. It involves naming a trusted agent to handle tasks such as bill payments, tax filing, and business management, in the absence of the individual.

FAQ image

What is a health care proxy?

A health care proxy, also known as a medical power of attorney or healthcare power of attorney, permits the appointment of a trusted individual to oversee medical decisions in the event of incapacity. A living will, distinct from a living trust or last will and testament, empowers pre-determined medical choices concerning end-of-life matters. A living will is also known as an advance directive to physicians.

What if I need to update my estate planning documents?

No problem! Estate planning documents can be modified or revoked by the creator as long as they are alive and possess the mental capacity to do so. Other estate planning documents, such as power of attorney, medical power of attorney and advance directive, are usually recreated for cost-effectiveness. It is important to update your documents as your life, assets, and the law evolve.

I’m not married – do I need an estate plan?

Individuals who are unmarried may have unique estate planning needs. Often their wishes vary greatly from the plan Texas law has for unmarried people who die without a will. Without proper documentation, the estate could unintentionally pass to a distant cousin. Therefore, it is crucial for everyone to have an estate plan in place, complete with appropriate powers of attorney. Reach out to us, Texas Estate and Probate Lawyers, PLLC today so we can help you.

How can I make sure my kids don’t get a big check on their 18th birthday?

That’s a good question! It is important to consider the implications of leaving a large inheritance to children upon reaching the age of 18, as this is the legal entitlement without a will. With the aid of an estate plan, you have the flexibility to determine a more appropriate age for inheritance, such as 25 or 30 or even older. During your Planning Session, we will explore the various options available to you.

How do I nominate legal guardians for my children?

Legal guardians can be nominated in a Will or in a separate document. Failing to nominate guardians will necessitate a judge's decision. Moreover, the absence of a preference may lead to family disputes over custody. Our firm provides comprehensive assistance in nominating guardians. Additionally, there is an option to exclude individuals from consideration as guardians, regardless of circumstances. Our services extend to supporting this aspect as well.

Can’t I just do my Will on Legal Zoom?

Legal Zoom provides self-fillable form documents without legal advice, while a law firm offers personalized counsel based on individual circumstances. Attorneys will tailor documents, ensure proper execution, and provide assistance when needed. We strive to develop a personalized experience for our clients in an efficient manner. If these aspects are crucial, working with an attorney is recommended. If not, Legal Zoom may be a more suitable alternative.

Do you work with families in all 50 states?

Estate planning requires a state-specific approach, so it's essential to collaborate with a licensed attorney in your state. At this time, our attorneys are licensed in Texas. If you reside in this state, we can assist you with preparing your estate planning documents. If you reside outside of Texas, please message us, and we will gladly refer you to a licensed attorney in your state.

What does an estate plan consist of?

An estate plan usually includes a will, , medical power of attorney, financial power of attorney, directive to physician, appointment of guardian for minor children, and declaration of guardian for yourself should you the need arise.

Already have an estate plan?

Please be mindful of significant life events that may necessitate changes to your estate plan. Examples of such events include birth, adoption, marriage, divorce, disability, significant financial changes for you or your beneficiary, or relocation to a new state. It is important to regularly review and update your estate plan to ensure it remains aligned with your evolving needs.

What is a Will and do I need one?

While the topic may be uncomfortable, it is crucial to recognize that a valid will is one of the most significant financial arrangements individuals can make in their lifetime.

A will is a legal document that outlines the distribution of personal and real property. Additionally, your will can include instructions for, the care of minor children. Failing to have a will or trust allows the state to determine property distribution, disregarding your wishes or the needs of your loved ones. A will, provides flexibility. You can allocate your property to a single individual or divide it into specific portions, such as leaving your wine collection to your brother and your laptop to your best friend. In addition, a will can facilitate the smooth transition of business or investment assets. It is important to consider tax implications, as a well-drafted will or trust can minimize tax liability. Please refer to the Estate Tax FAQ section below for information on Texas and Federal estate tax rates.

Can I make my own Will or Trust?

When it comes to estate planning, it is advisable to seek professional assistance rather than opting for a do-it-yourself approach. A professional can ensure that your property will be managed according to your wishes, your minor children will be raised by the designated person, and an executor will carry out your instructions upon your demise. Dealing with an estate can be complex and time-consuming if not properly planned. While there may be a temptation to save money by using online or store-bought wills and trusts, they often fail to account for real-life situations. Making a mistake in this process can lead to expensive and unpleasant consequences for your loved ones. Just as you rely on a mechanic for your car tune-up, entrust your estate planning needs to a professional. If you are interested in a Will lawyer in Houston, TX area be sure to reach out to us. We can help you.

Are there any assets that do not pass by a Will?

Wills often transfer all assets, but it's important to note that specific contracts or agreements can override the will. These often include life insurance, retirement assets, jointly owned property, and investment accounts with a "transfer on death" designation.

Life insurance proceeds are a prime example. Regardless of an individual's will or trust, the beneficiary listed on the life insurance policy takes precedence over the beneficiary stated in estate planning documents. The policy proceeds are automatically transferred to the named beneficiaries upon the person's death, without the need for probate or court proceedings. Therefore, reviewing beneficiary designations to ensure alignment with the will or trust is crucial.

What do I do with the Will of someone who is deceased?

If an attorney drafted the decedent's will, the attorney often retains a copy in their office, and the original is given to the client. The original will should be filed in the county where the decedent had their primary residence or owned real estate.

What if the deceased died without a Will or Trust?

If a person dies without a will or a trust, then that person is considered to have died “intestate.” Texas’s intestacy statute provides for different distribution schemes for separate and community property, married and unmarried persons, and persons with or without children. The distribution is fact specific and requires a case-by-case analysis.

How do I petition the court to administer the assets of a loved one who died without a Will?

To initiate the administration process, a person must have an interest in the estate and submit an application with the court in the county where the decedent resided or had property. In most case, an applicant must be represented by a licensed attorney. The initial filing fee is usually in the $300-$400 range.

How can I find out if the decedent had a Will?

To obtain information about a filed will, contact the probate court or court handling probate cases in the decedent's county of residence. The will can be viewed by the public or obtained by purchasing a copy. Alternatively, you may choose to engage the services of a lawyer or legal agency for assistance.

Who can be appointed as the administrator of the decedent’s estate?

When an individual passes away without a will or fails to appoint a personal representative (referred to as an "Executor") in their will, the court may appoint a legal representative known as an "Administrator" to settle the decedent's estate. Generally, a court can appoint any person who is entitled to a distribution from the decedent's estate, so long as that person is not disqualified. By way of example, a person is disqualified to serve as administrator if he or she is incapacitated, a convicted felon, a non-resident who does not appoint an resident agent, or someone the court finds “unsuitable.” To be appointed as Administrator, an interested party must file an application with the appropriate court. Notice of the application is then sent to all unknown heirs of the decedent, notifying them to appear in court on a specified date and express any objections.

What are the duties of an administrator / executor?

The duties of the administrator/executor of an estate include:

• Inventorying and collecting the decedent's assets

• Managing the assets during administration

• Paying claims of creditors and tax collectors of the estate

• Distributing the remaining assets to designated beneficiaries

• Signing documents, selling property, and distributing assets on behalf of the estate.

The personal representative is usually entitled to compensation for serving as executor or administrator, unless the will states otherwise.

What is probate and how do I avoid it?

Probate property refers to property that is transferred through intestacy (when a decedent dies without a will) or through the decedent's will. Non-probate property, on the other hand, is transferred through means other than a will (such as joint tenancy property, trust assets, life insurance policies, or pension plan proceeds).

Probate is a legal process where a court determines whether a will is valid and sometimes oversees asset distribution left by the decedent. Depending on the circumstances, this process can be smooth or time-consuming, expensive, and a public record.  

Although avoiding probate is not always desirable, you can avoid probate by:

1.      Transferring assets into a Trust.

2.      Designating a beneficiary on your life insurance policy.

3.       Properly completing a transfer on death deed;

4.      Managing retirement plan proceeds.

5.      Designating a person to receive money from your bank account upon your death (payable-on-death bank accounts).

Can I disinherit my spouse from my estate?

Under Texas law, you may disinherit your spouse. However, a spouse retains his or her one-half community property, which is not part of the Decedent’s estate, and therefore is not administered by the Decedent’s will. Children can also be disinherited. Texas law also grants surviving spouses other rights, such as a homestead right and an allowance from the Decedent’s estate.

Will I have to pay the debts of the estate out of my own pocket if my loved one’s estate doesn’t have enough money?

No, debts incurred during the decedent's life are solely the responsibility of the estate. Beneficiaries are not held personally liable for the decedent's debts without consent. Although the estate might not have sufficient funds for beneficiaries after settling creditor claims, beneficiaries will not be obligated to pay the creditors.

Will my estate have to pay estate taxes?

Large estates may be subject to Federal estate taxes before assets can be distributed to beneficiaries and heirs. At the time of this publication, Texas does not have an estate tax. This firm does not offer tax advice, but we can refer clients to and work with tax professionals for taxable estates if necessary.

For any unanswered questions, please visit our Contact Us page and complete the form. We are here to assist you in any way we can.



Estate Planning





© 2023 Texas Estate & Probate Lawyers, All Rights Reserved