What is a will?

A will serves several important purposes. It directs the disposition of assets at death, and names executors for the estate and guardians for minor children. Wills may also establish trusts for spouses, children, or grandchildren.

What is a living will? What is a directive to physicians?

Living will and directive to physicians are two names for the same document, the purpose of which is to outline preferences regarding medical care. Specifically, the document indicates whether you prefer to receive life-sustaining treatment if you are terminally ill or have an irreversible condition and are unable to communicate your wishes.

What is a trust?

A trust is a legal arrangement that establishes a fiduciary relationship between parties. One of the parties, the trustee, is entrusted with the care of assets for the benefit of another party, the beneficiary.  The trustee is also charged with distributing assets to the beneficiary in accordance with the trust agreement. For certain types of trusts, the trustee may be the same person as the beneficiary.

What is a living trust?

A living trust is also known as a revocable trust or management trust. Such trusts help manage assets during life and may also ease the probate process. While living trusts are useful in certain situations, they are not the right choice for every client.

Should I put my assets in a trust to avoid probate?

Maybe. The establishment and administration of a trust can be cumbersome. Some circumstances justify the establishment of a trust during lifetime.  However, the probate system in Texas is not particularly burdensome, and the use of a trust to avoid probate may not justify the expense and complexity to establish and maintain the trust.

Can I use a will form I found online or an online will service?

A meaningful part of the estate planning process is the advice you receive from an experienced estate planning attorney. I have many years of experience advising clients with regard to their specific circumstances. As a probate attorney, I have seen the results of well-planned estates and estates with poor or no planning.  Well-planned estates are easier to administer and result in less emotional turmoil for family members.  Estates with poor or no planning can be expensive and can cause increased emotional strife for families.

It is also important for wills to be properly executed.  The Texas Estates Code has specific requirements regarding the formalities required when signing a will.  Failure to follow those requirements may make a will difficult or impossible to probate.

Finally, experienced estate planning attorneys will understand which structures are most appropriate for each client, taking into account federal and state law, as well as the particulars of each family’s circumstances. Skilled estate planning attorneys will also educate their clients to help them understand the pros and cons of each available option.

I am concerned about privacy. How much financial information do I need to provide?

It is important for me to know the value and general nature of your assets so that I can develop an appropriate plan. However, I do not need to know exact amounts or account numbers.

You should also know that our attorney-client relationship is completely confidential. I do not share the identity of my clients, or anything about them, unless the client authorizes me to do so.

Do I need to probate my loved one’s will?

Probably. I would be happy to meet with you to review the relevant documents and provide general advice. I will only bill you for the time actually spent with you, which, if probate is not necessary, will be modest.

What if there was no will?

A determination of heirship proceeding and an estate administration may be necessary when the decedent did not leave a valid will. The process for an intestate (no will) administration is similar to probating a will, but a bit more involved.

There aren’t very many assets and the total value of the estate is very small – is probate required for all estates?

Regardless of the size of the estate, I strongly suggest that you seek an attorney’s guidance. If you do not need to probate a will or proceed with estate administration, the fees will be modest, and you will have peace-of-mind that the estate has been handled appropriately.

How much will probate cost?

Probate fees and attorney expenses are highly dependent on the specific facts of the case at hand. In all cases, it is cheaper and easier to probate a well-drafted will. I can usually provide a rough estimate of my fees after an initial meeting.

What are your fees?

For estate planning matters, I typically charge a flat fee determined after the first meeting. It is difficult to quote a fee until I have had a chance to discuss the client’s particular circumstances and needs.  I can usually provide a fee range with a modest amount of information from the client.

For general advice and for probate and tax matters, I charge by the hour. My hourly rate changes from time to time, but in all situations, the total fees charged will be reasonable for the work completed.

Will you share my personal information with anyone?

My client relationships are completely confidential. I do not disclose the identity of my clients, any personal information, or anything shared with me without the client’s consent.

Where is your office?

I live and work in the Mueller neighborhood, located just east of I-35 and south of 51st Street. I frequently meet my clients in locations convenient for them, whether at their home or office, or a conveniently-located office suite.