The Carlson Law Firm is no longer accepting Estate Planning or Probate cases. However, our practice areas are periodically updated.
Please check back in the future for the most up-to-date information.
Estate planning is for everyone, not just the elderly or those entering into retirement. If you have a car, a home, checking or savings accounts, life insurance, furniture, and other personal possessions, you have an estate. The size of your estate is irrelevant when it comes to planning for how you want your assets divvied up after your death. We know that it is difficult to think about preparing for the end of your life. However, to ensure your personal belongings are given to the people or organizations you care for most, you need to provide instructions. Consulting with the caring and experienced Texas Estate Planning Attorneys at The Carlson Law Firm to discuss the handling of yours or a family member’s estate can give reassurance that your family will be taken care of.
No matter if you’re planning or dealing with the loss of a loved one and in need of a probate attorney, The Carlson Law Firm’s team of experienced estate planning attorneys can help your matter run smoothly. We are ready to answer your questions related to several areas concerning estate planning.
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The Carlson Law Firm is no longer accepting estate planning clients.
What is estate planning?
Estate planning involves making a plan in advance and naming who you want to receive your possessions after you pass. This is a simple explanation and only covers your belongings. But a qualified estate planning attorney will ensure that your documents contain much more information. Proper estate planning should also include the following:
Further, estate planning is an ongoing process. It should not be a one-time event. Your plan should be reviewed and updated as your family, financial situation and laws change over your lifetime. The best time to begin your estate planning is when you are of sound mind and healthy. To ensure your wishes are carried out the way you want, you need a qualified Texas Estate Planning Attorney on your side.
Is probate a part of estate planning?
Probate is one of the final steps in the estate planning process. Once a person passes, their family members will need to probate a will through their county courts. During the process, the court will identify the rightful heirs of a will. The process can take as little as 4-6 months to as much as four years.
What is a will?
A will—also called a last will and testament—is a simple document that states your final wishes. At its core, a will provides a plan for who will raise your children, who manages money left to minor children, as well as who gets your property after your passing. Without a will, state law determines who gets your property, and a judge will decide who will raise your children.
Wills are what most people think of when they think of estate planning. And that’s for a good reason. Writing a will is the single most important thing you can do when it comes to estate planning. Wills ensure that your wishes are carried out the way you want after you pass. There is no such thing as having modest finances or being too young to write a will.
A valid will has to meet certain standards. For starters, the person making the will, or the testator, must be at least 18 years old and of sound mind. Also, the testator will to appoint an executor, provide for the distribution of property after death, and sign and date the document in the presence of witnesses. As long as these standards are met, a testator has the option of drafting several different types of wills.
Benefits of a will
When you pass, you no longer have a say in how your property is handled. But when done right, even those most basic will is a legally binding document that:
- Leaves your property with the people and organizations you choose.
- Names a guardian for your minor children.
- Names someone to manage property left to minor children.
- Designates an executor.
What is an executor?
An executor is a personal representative named in a will. This person is in charge of handling how property is distributed. The executor is in charge of collecting property, as well as paying any debts and taxes of the deceased. Whatever is left after debts are paid, the executor will distribute among heirs and beneficiaries. Also, the executor handles any probate court proceedings and notifies interested parties of the death.
Types of wills
Simple wills are best when the finances of the testator are uncomplicated. While many testators write simple wills themselves, the assistance of an estate planning attorney can prevent mistakes that might prevent their wishes from being carried out. Simple wills should be printed instead of handwritten.
Testamentary trust wills
A testamentary trust will put at least some of your property into a trust. A trust distributes assets to a beneficiary but is administered by a third person who controls how and when the property is given to the trust beneficiary. These wills are used when a testator is leaving trust assets to a financially irresponsible beneficiary. The trust administrator distributes trust assets gradually rather than in one lump sum.
A joint will is created when two testators leave their property each other. Basically, the testator who dies first gets everything. Further, joint wills specify how the estate will be distributed when the second testator dies. These wills cannot be changed or revoked without the consent of testators. In other words, a joint will is irrevocable when one of the testators dies.
State laws for the execution of each type of will vary and should be checked thoroughly. This is why it is so important to seek assistance from a qualified Texas Estate Planning Attorney from The Carlson Law Firm. Our firm’s expert estate planning attorneys can help you determine which type of will is best for you.
Establishing a trust
A trust is another popular aspect of estate planning. However, many people generally associate trusts with the super wealthy. But trusts are actually much more than just money in an account. Trusts primarily help individuals maintain greater control over their assets. They are generally the best way to ensure your wishes are carried out after you die. Because wills must go through a process called probate, many people are opting to establish trusts.
A trust provides more control over how funds are passed to heirs in ways that a will doesn’t. For example, a trust keeps assets from creditors during bankruptcies and lawsuits. Trusts are made up of three parts:
- Trustor: The person who creates the agreement to grant the trustee control over their assets, estate, or property.
- Trustee: This is the party that the trustor appoints to be responsible for managing the property or assets in the trust.
- Beneficiary: The person or people who receive the assets of the trust in accordance with the terms of the trust agreement.
Trusts can be used both during life and after death. There are many types of living trusts. A Texas estate planning attorney can help you determine which living trust best fits your needs.
There are several other types of trusts, but each must follow the same basic structure with three parties. A Texas estate planning attorney can help you identify which trust is suitable for your situation. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation with a Texas estate planning attorney.
What is a power of attorney?
A power of attorney is a document that appoints a person or organization to manage your affairs should you become unable to do so. Selecting a power of attorney is another situation where it doesn’t matter how healthy you are, it always a good idea to appoint someone the authority to make decisions on your behalf should you become unable to do so. But, like most things in law, there are different types of power of attorneys, and each one does something different than the other.
General power of attorney
A general power of attorney gives broad powers to a person or organization, known as an agent or attorney-in-fact, to act on your behalf. These power include handling:
- Financial and business transactions
- Buying life insurance
- Settling claims
- Operating business interests
- Making gifts
- Employing professional help
A general power of attorney is most effective if you will be out of the country or need someone to handle certain matters. In addition, a general power of attorney is especially helpful if you are physically or mentally incapable of managing your affairs. A POA is a crucial part of an estate plan to make sure someone can handle financial matters.
Health care power of attorney
A healthcare power of attorney grants your agent the right to make a medical decision for you if you are unconscious, mentally incompetent or otherwise unable to make your own decisions.
*If you become mentally incapacitated because of an illness or accident while you have a power of attorney in effect, you may be unsure if the document will remain valid. To safeguard against any issues, you can sign a durable power of attorney. A durable power of attorney is essentially health care power of attorney with a durability provision that keeps the current power of attorney in effects.
Special power of attorney
A special power of attorney specifies exactly what powers your agent can exercise. This is often used when a person is unable to handle certain affairs because of other commitments or health reasons. Common matters a special power of attorney may have control over include the following:
- Selling personal and real property
- Managing real estate
- Collecting debts
- Handling business transactions
Because of the amount control a power of attorney has over your affairs, it is vital that you select a trusted friend, relative or attorney to look out for your best interests. In addition, a trusted party will respect your wishes and will not abuse the powers granted to them.
Advance medical Directives
An advance medical directive is a broad category of legal instructions for your healthcare should you become incapacitated. A durable power of attorney, living wills, do not resuscitate (DNR) orders and organ donations fall into this category. A free consultation with a qualified Texas estate planning attorney can help you decide the best medical directive for you.
What is probate?
Probate is the legal process that wraps up the estate of a deceased person. It is the procedure that allows assets to legally pass from the deceased to his or her heirs or beneficiaries. The process involves:
- The collection, inventory and appraisal of assets
- Handling of will contests and estate disputes
- Filing and payment of estate taxes, payment and collection of debts
- The distribution of remaining estate assets to rightful beneficiaries
Types Of probate proceedings
In Texas, there are three types of probate proceedings:
This form of probate has a very high level of court supervision. That means the administrator needs the court’s permission to enter into almost any transaction, from paying the estate’s debts to selling a property.
This is the most common type of probate administration in Texas. Compared to dependent administration, this process is much less expensive because the administrator does not need to go to court very often, nor does he or she usually have to post a bond.
Muniment of title
This method of probate is unique to Texas. There is no appointment of an executor or administrator to distribute property. Rather, once the court certifies that the will is truly the last will of the deceased person, the court’s order itself transfers title to the intended beneficiaries.
Probating a will is another element in ensuring your loved one’s wishes are met. Without probating a will, state laws will go into effect and trump your loved one’s wishes. Contact a Carlson Law Firm Texas estate planning attorney to schedule a free consultation. Our compassionate team can guide you seamlessly through the probate process while you’re dealing with your loss.
There's a Carlson Law Firm near you
With 12 locations throughout Texas, there’s a Carlson Law Firm near you. We have law offices located in Killeen, Temple, Waco, Round Rock, Austin, San Antonio, Laredo, Bryan, Lubbock, and Corpus Christi.