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Estate Planning

Estate planning is the process of organizing and preparing for the distribution of your assets after death. It is an important task because it helps ensure that your assets are distributed according to your wishes and that your loved ones are provided for after you’re gone.  With proper estate planning, most Texas families can ensure their loved ones can skip the cost and headache of probate altogether.

Depending on your personal needs and goals, the estate planning experts at Dustin Whittenburg & Associates will help you decide if a Last Will and Testament or Trust are best for you.

A living trust and a will are both legal documents that help you plan for what will happen to your assets after you die. However, there are some key differences between the two:

Time of Effectiveness: A will typically only takes effect after you die, while a living trust takes effect as soon as it’s created and funded.

Probate Avoidance: A living trust can help you avoid the probate process, which is a court-supervised process for distributing a deceased person’s assets. On the other hand, a will must go through probate.

Privacy: Probate is a public process, which means that the details of a person’s will, including their assets and who they’ve chosen to inherit them, become a matter of public record. In contrast, the details of a living trust remain private.

Flexibility: A living trust can be amended or revoked at any time while you are alive and competent, whereas making changes to a will typically requires creating a new will.

Control: With a living trust, you can specify exactly how and when your assets should be distributed, while a will only gives directions to the court on how to distribute your assets after you die.

  • Dying without a Will in Texas

    When a person dies without a will in Texas, it is referred to as dying “intestate.” If a person dies intestate, their property is distributed according to the laws of intestate succession in Texas.

    Intestate succession determines who will inherit the deceased person’s property. The laws of intestate succession give priority to the deceased person’s closest relatives, such as a spouse and children. If the deceased person has no close relatives, their property will pass to more distant relatives or to the state.

    Dying without a will in Texas also increases the time it will take for your loved ones to access any assets you have left them and often doubles the cost of probate.

  • Transfer-on-Death Deeds

    In 2015, the Texas Legislature passed a law commonly referred to as the Texas Real Property Transfer on Death Act. The passage of this law allows people to designate the transfer of property to others without a Will or without the probate process. Filing a Transfer-on-Death Deed allows you to remove one of your larger assets from the probate process and protect it from creditors.

    Talk with Dustin Whittenburg & Associates about adding Transfer-on-Death Deeds to your estate planning portfolio.

  • Importance of Estate Planning

    Estate planning is an important step for everyone, regardless of age or wealth, to ensure that their assets are protected and their loved ones are taken care of after they’re gone. Don’t leave your estate planning to chance. We see the pain and strife that lack of planning causes for families all too often. Create your estate plan and enjoy knowing your passing won’t cause any more grief than necessary for your family and loved ones.

    Here are some reasons why estate planning is important:

    Protect your assets: Estate planning can help protect your assets from taxes, creditors, and other claims. This can ensure that your assets are passed on to your beneficiaries as intended.

    Provide for loved ones: Estate planning allows you to specify how you want your assets to be distributed after you die. This can provide peace of mind knowing that your loved ones will be taken care of.

    Avoid probate: Estate planning can help avoid probate, which is a court-supervised process for distributing your assets after death. Probate can be time-consuming, expensive, and stressful for your loved ones.

    Appoint a guardian: If you have minor children, estate planning allows you to appoint a guardian to care for them if you’re unable to. This can provide security and stability for your children if the worst were to happen.

    Plan for incapacity: Estate planning can also include planning for the possibility of incapacity. This can involve appointing a trusted person to make financial and medical decisions for you if you’re unable to.

20 Years of Helping Texans Plan for Their Future

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Interested in estate planning, having a Last Will and Testament created, forming a trust, or simply in need of a Transfer-On-Death Deed filed?

Call The Law Office of Dustin Whittenburg at 210.826.1900 or submit your request by clicking the button below.

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Probate in Texas

Probate is the legal process that is used to settle the estate of a deceased person. It involves the distribution of a person’s assets to their beneficiaries or heirs according to the terms of a will or, if there is no will, according to state law. Probate also includes the payment of debts and taxes owed by the estate.

In Texas, probate is usually handled by a court-appointed representative, called an executor or administrator. This person is most often named by the decedent in his or her Last Will and Testament and then appointed by the Judge overseeing the probate.

The executor or administrator is responsible for gathering the deceased person’s assets, paying debts and taxes, and distributing the remaining assets to the beneficiaries.

Probate can be a time-consuming and costly process, and it is typically necessary if the deceased person owned significant assets that need to be transferred to their heirs. However, not all assets are part of the probate process. Assets held in a trust, life insurance proceeds, jointly owned property or property to be transferred according to a filed Transfer-on-Death Deed.

It’s important to note that the probate process can be complex and may involve legal proceedings. If you’re the executor or administrator of an estate, we advise you to consult with an attorney to help you navigate the process and ensure that it is handled correctly.

Texans have Four Years to File for Probate

Texas courts don’t require you to file to probate the estate of a loved one for four years. Rushing to probate may not be in the best interest of the heirs.

The Texas “timely billing” law requires health care service providers to send patient bills no later than the 11th month after services were provided. If the bill is not sent within the timeframe required by law, the health care service provider can not collect payment for certain charges. Depending on the expected bills of your loved one incurred during her or his year, it may be advisable to postpone filing for probate until the legal billing period has past.

There are several other reasons why it may be advisable to wait before filing for probate in Texas:

Estate Administration: In some cases, the estate may not be ready for probate immediately after the death of the decedent. This could be because the estate needs time to gather information, organize paperwork, or pay outstanding debts. Waiting to file for probate until the estate administration is complete can make the probate process smoother and more efficient.

Final Tax Returns: The estate may need to file final tax returns for the deceased person, and it may be beneficial to wait until those returns have been filed before starting the probate process. This can ensure that all tax obligations have been fulfilled and prevent any issues from arising during the probate process.

Inheritance Tax: Texas does not have an inheritance tax, but if the decedent lived in a state that does have an inheritance tax, it may be necessary to wait for that tax to be paid before filing for probate.

Estate Planning: In some cases, the deceased person may have had an estate plan in place that could impact the probate process. Waiting to file for probate until the estate plan has been reviewed can help ensure that the probate process

Avoiding Contested Probate: If there is potential for disputes or disagreements among the heirs or beneficiaries, it may be advisable to wait to file for probate until those issues can be resolved. Starting the probate process before disputes are settled can lead to a contested probate, which can be more time-consuming and costly than an uncontested probate.

It’s important to consider these factors and others when deciding when to file for probate in Texas, as waiting to file could have advantages for the estate and its beneficiaries. Talk with one of our probate attorneys before making a decision.

Two Decades of Experience

Handling Texas Probate

Probate can be an emotional time for the family wrapping up a loved one’s estate, don’t let the probate process add unnecessary stress. Let The Law Office of Dustin Whittenburg guide you through the process with the care and compassion as you deserve.

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