When it comes to planning for the future, how do you know whether a will or a trust is best for you? What is even the difference between them? To put it simply, a will is a legal document that directs how your property and assets should be distributed after you pass while a trust is a legal instrument that is intended to control your assets. Both wills and trusts have their positive and negative aspects – the correct choice depends on your own personal situation and how you want your property and assets to be handled. In order to find the right choice for you, a wills & trusts Houston attorney can provide you with the knowledge to make the best decision possible.
Wills are extremely important because they allow you to determine multiple important issues in a single document. Of course, a will enables you to choose who will be the executor and how they will divide your assets and property. This will already prevent a lot of strife that may occur between your loved ones after you pass away. If you have young children, you can list in your will who is to be the guardian in the case that you are no longer able to take care of them. With this, a will provides a sense of security for loved ones as both, a layer of protection in case tragedy occurs and a secure future. However, wills cannot: determine your legal and medical powers of attorney (they must be determined on separate documents), avoid the probate process, or keep your affairs private because wills are public documents. Although none of these are necessarily deal breakers, it is important to consider if trusts better meet your needs.
Trusts allow you to take your assets and place them in a trust, which you can continue doing as new assets arise throughout your lifetime. Not only will you be able to avoid probate, but you will be able to pay your legal fees up front (as opposed to during the probate process) as well as keep your affairs private. On the other hand, trusts cannot determine a legal guardian and the trust cannot be changed after you pass even if you did forget an asset. In this light, it is evident that both wills & trusts have their benefits, and with a seasoned wills & trusts lawyer you will be able to make the best choice for your future.
Probates can be a hassle. When all you want to do is settle the assets, property, and debts associated with your recently deceased loved one; it may seem that the court is trying to interfere and prolong the process at every turn. In Houston, as well as other cities across Texas, probates can be simple if you know what you’re doing. In acquiring the advice of a Houston probate attorney, you will have the information necessary to make the probate process as simple as possible.
Before we begin, you must understand what items do not need to undergo the probate process. Although there are not many, some items that are excluded from the probate process are: life insurance proceeds, survivor benefits from an annuity, community property with right of survivorship, etc. Most everything else must go through the probate process through the financial management of a chosen or appointed executor. However, the probate process can be potentially sped up based on decedent’s will and the beneficiaries.
Many Houston families choose “independent administration” to quicken the probate process for themselves. Of course, this option can only be chosen if the decedent explicitly wanted the executor to pursue “independent administration” or the beneficiaries have collectively agreed that they want to pursue it. What an independent administration does is it removes the requirement where the executor has to ask the court permission for various issues such as paying debts, family allowances, and more. Also, the executor does not have to post a bond or, in other words, an insurance policy that would insure the decedent’s assets and property in the case that an executor mismanages the assets. Of course, the executor must still file the inventory of assets with the court and publish a notice to potential creditors in a newspaper. In addition, the executor must still safeguard the estate assets until they are ready to be distributed. If your loved one has been deceased for a while, keep in mind that you have four years after their death to ask for an independent administration and begin the probate process. After the deadline, the courts will have no authority over appointing an executor and the process will become more difficult.
Although we have touched upon a few topics to quicken the probate process, the best way to expedite the probate process is to know what to do. With a skillful probate attorney at your side, you will have the tools to make the probate process faster.
You can never start too early when it comes to estate planning. Estate planning is more than just planning for asset and property distribution; it’s planning for the future. Although making decisions regarding financial, medical and other aspects of your life in the future may seem daunting, it is essential if you want you and your loved ones to be taken care of. With a Houston estate planning attorney, you can begin shaping how you want your future to look.
In order to have an estate plan that covers all bases, you will need: a will, a durable power of attorney, a medical power of attorney and an advanced healthcare directive. A will is a document that determines how your assets and property are to be distributed after you have passed. This step is incredibly important- if you are unable to make clear how you wish your assets and property to be handled after you pass, then it may cause strife between your loved ones as the courts take the lead in determining who gets what. In Houston, the person to whom you assign a durable power of attorney will make financial decisions on your behalf. With such responsibility, you will want someone who has a clear understanding of business and finance in order to make decisions that will best suit you and your family. If you do not assign a durable power of attorney, the government will assign a guardian to handle those affairs for you. The person to whom you assign the medical power of attorney will make medical decisions on your behalf. Although you may want to choose your spouse for this position, keep in mind that they will be emotionally distressed when they have to make medical decisions for you. Sometimes, it may be better if you choose someone who can remain calm even in times of hardship. On a similar note, an advanced healthcare directive is a document in which you will state any medical decisions (or other decisions regarding your death) that you see fit. With this, you will be able to relieve your family from making difficult choices and allow them to grieve.
Estate planning is the best gift you can give your loved ones because you are making plans with them in mind as well as plans to take care of yourself. With a seasoned estate planning attorney, you will have all the tools you need to create the best estate plan for your future.
You’ve worked hard to build the life that you have. If you and your spouse decide to get a divorce, it may seem like all those years of hard work will go down the drain. Since Houston courts will strive for equitable distribution in the event of a divorce, it is important to understand that your spouse will have a right to half of almost every asset and property that was accumulated during the marriage. In order to protect the valuables that you desire most, you need to go through your belongings and determine what is separate property and what is community property. Also, if you both are not divorcing, you might want to consider the benefits of a postnuptial agreement. With the aid of a Houston divorce lawyer at your side, you can take the necessary steps to protect your assets.
Community property is property that was acquired during the course of the marriage, with a few exceptions. Separate property are assets acquired before or after the marriage. In Houston, community property can include: any pieces of property that you both purchased together, retirement accounts, accumulation in pensions, 401ks, etc. This may seem overwhelming considering that community property covers a lot of what you own, but keep in mind that separate property cannot be touched. Any money that you had saved prior to the marriage, gifts that you have received (including wedding rings), and inheritance can be kept. By being able to distinguish between these two types of properties in your household, you will have a greater understanding of what will stay or go in the event of a divorce. This way, there are no surprises and you can begin to determine which properties and assets are most important to you.
By understanding what you would want out of a divorce, the knowledge of which property is which will help you determine how you would want a postnuptial agreement to look. Of course, such an agreement must still be considered equitable for your spouse. If the agreement seems astronomically disproportionate in benefits, your former spouse may be able to have the courts overrule the postnuptial agreement. In terms of speaking with your spouse, let them know that a postnuptial agreement is great because it protects both of you. In hiring an experienced divorce lawyer, you and your former spouse will be able to create a postnuptial agreement that you both are happy with.
You can’t control everything that happens in life. Sometimes, you have no choice but to deal with circumstances that make it difficult to pay the bills. If you’re a single parent, such financial burdens may seem insurmountable even when receiving child support. Although it may seem as if you are stuck with your lot in life, you can create a better life for yourself and your child by asking for a child support modification. In having a family lawyer in Houston to help you, you can successfully attain a child support modification to take care of your child and overcome the financial hardships that you are dealing with.
The first step to a child support modification is to request a child support review from the Office of the Attorney General in Houston. What this means is that you will meet with a child support officer and your former spouse to discuss your current financial situation. In other words, you are asking to raise the child support for the time being. These sessions are similar to mediation sessions because you are trying to compromise with your former spouse for the sake of the child’s welfare. Keep in mind: in such sessions you want your former spouse to understand that your main concern is the child instead of simply getting more money from them. Of course, sometimes you will need to take your former spouse to court. In order for the courts to order a child support modification, you will need to provide an adequate reason for additional child support. Some of the reasons can include: your children’s medical insurance coverage has changed, your children’s living situation has changed, noncustodial or custodial parent’s income has increased or decreased, etc. These reasons are intended to prevent spouses from requesting more money than they need. After all, spouses paying child support have to pay their own bills too. If you do qualify for a child support modification, the courts will be able to raise the child support by approximately 20 percent (the actual increase will be determined on a case-by-case basis). With a knowledgeable and experienced family lawyer, you will have the tools at your disposal to get the child support modification you need so that you and your child can live without overwhelming financial burdens.
Life can have some unexpected twists and turns – especially in the financial department. Sometimes, we find ourselves in situations where the financial burdens are so overwhelming that it may seem like there’s no way out. Don’t go down that mental path. If you feel that you may not be able to pay off your debts, you may want to consider filing for bankruptcy. With a bankruptcy attorney in Houston at your side, you will have the choice to start new, financially.
First, there are different types of bankruptcy that you can choose from. The most common and applicable bankruptcy types in Houston are Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcies that both have their own benefits and downsides. A Chapter 7 bankruptcy is where you will no longer have any debt or owe money to any creditors (thus stopping their harassing phone calls). This means that you can start anew without any lingering debt to pay. Of course, the flip side is that you may lose your house, car, and other pieces of property that will be sold and then given to different creditors to make up for their losses. Although there are “exemptions”, which are types of property that cannot be taken or sold, you need to be ready to lose important pieces of property if you want to have a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The other option, a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, is where you must file a payment plan that will last for the next three to five years that will help you pay down all of your debt. The benefit of this is that you will be able to keep your house, your car, and other pieces of property that are important to you. With a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you will no longer have a fear of the unknown. Instead you’ll have the confidence of knowing that you will be debt free in a few short years.
Keep in mind: no matter what type of bankruptcy, there are certain debts that must be paid. This includes child support, alimony, student loans, criminal fines, etc. Despite this, filing for bankruptcy will set you on the right track to overcoming your financial burdens. With an experienced bankruptcy attorney, you will be able to start anew debt free.
During divorces, there are numerous moving parts to account for. Without a doubt, this can be overwhelming for anyone who is trying to deal with each and every variable all while trying to keep their life together. But when it comes to child custody, you should pause. The type of child custody that you and your former spouse agree on, or one that is court ordered, will affect your future relationship with your children. In hiring an experienced child custody attorney in Houston, you are taking the first step to ensure that you will always have a great relationship with your children.
Houston courts prefer to order joint custody arrangements because they want to ensure that both parents have a meaningful relationship with their children. This means that you need to help create an arrangement where you will always be deeply involved in your children’s lives. Of course, this does not mean that you and your former spouse have to split time between the children directly down the middle. In fact, having a joint custody arrangement can mean that the child still lives predominantly with one parent while the other visits on a frequent basis. Although this may not seem ideal, especially for the noncustodial parent, it can still lead to a fruitful relationship between you, your children, and your former spouse. Especially when the children are older, it becomes difficult to constantly have to switch between houses. For this reason, it is important to discuss and execute a visitation schedule that you, your children, and your former spouse will be happy with.
Also, another requirement in order to attain child custody as well as your divorce is to complete the state mandated parenting class. And yes – both parents are required to take it. Even though it might be a hassle to prioritize the parenting class in your already hectic life, it will provide numerous benefits for your relationship with your children after the divorce because it will help you understand how to help your children overcome the trauma of divorce. Since both you and your former spouse will have taken the class, the aftermath of the divorce can be a healing process instead of a destructive one. In hiring a child custody attorney, you will ensure that you have the type of custody with your children that you desire, making sure that your future after the divorce is bright.