Q: Do I need a Will if I have a small estate?

A: Many people believe that if there is no Will, all their assets will be distributed to their surviving spouse. If you do not create a valid Will, the state of Texas has a statute that will dictate where your assets go and who will administer your estate. If there are children from a previous marriage they automatically become primary heirs, a head of the surviving spouse. So, Texas law isn’t as simple as “community property”.

Q: What is Probate?

A: Probate is a court proceeding to transfer title from the decedent’s name to the living beneficiaries. Probate occurs in the state of your legal residence as well as any state where you own real property. The length of time to complete a Probate varies from state to state, but can take six to eighteen months, on average. Probate is frustrating to the heirs and is public record.

Q: What is a Revocable Trust?

A: A Revocable Trust serves a number of purposes. One important purpose is that assets in the trust will not be subject to probate administration. This is accomplished by transferring your assets out of your name as individuals and placing them into a Trust, which you control. As a result, you have no assets in your estate therefore no need to have anything probated. After your passing the Trust dictates the distribution of your assets, in a similar fashion to an old fashioned Will. However, with a Trust you can hold assets back to be distributed throughout a specific period of time. This prevents irresponsible heirs from receiving a lump sum windfall.

Q: When should an estate plan be reviewed?

A: If you already have an estate plan, it should not be considered permanent. Conditions, as well as your desires, may change. Estate plans should be reviewed at least every two-three years but, additionally, any important change in your life demands immediate review.

These changes might include:

  • Birth, death, marriage, divorce or disability of you or a beneficiary

  • Large increase or decrease in the net worth of you or a beneficiary

  • Substantial change in the type of your assets

  • Purchase or sale of a business

  • Change of residence to another state

  • Change in tax law

Q: If I am married does everything go to my spouse without probate?

A: Although your spouse is entitled to assets from your estate, if you have not planned correctly, your spouse will likely be subject to the probate court and its control.

Q: How much will it cost?

A: The cost of an estate plan can vary depending on your situation and who you hire. Unless there is a dispute among the family members we can normally quote a set fee for all services, but we always suggest you come in for a consultation so we can discuss your specific situation.

Q: Do I need a Will or a Trust?

A: This is probably my most commonly asked question. The real answer is that it depends specifically on your situation. Are you looking to completely avoid probate? Do you have multiple pieces of real estate in different counties or even a single piece of real estate in another state? Are your beneficiaries and/or executors living in another state? All of these questions help us understand your situation and allow us to better advise you on what you need.