We Have Answers For Your Estate Law Questions

Paralysis by analysis is one of the primary reasons too many people put off estate planning. With so many steps and so many questions people often wind up doing nothing at all, increasing the chances they'll leave nothing but a mess behind for their heirs.

It doesn't have to be this way. Our experienced lawyers at the Newman Law Firm can answer your estate-related questions and create clear, durable estate plans that will protect everything and everyone you hold dear. If complications arise in the estate administration process, you can rely on us to pursue your interests in estate litigation.

Here are answers to some of the most common estate law questions we receive from our clients in the Houston area.

What happens if I die in Texas without a will?

Dying without a will is legally referred to as "dying intestate," which means a person has died without a valid will. Long story short, your estate will be at the mercy of the courts who will divide your property according to Texas statutes. This may not be a problem if the statutes happen to match your own wishes, but that is a big IF.

What is power of attorney?

Power of attorney grants another party the legal authority to make decisions on your behalf. This can be in the form of health care power of attorney or financial power of attorney, allowing a trusted individual to make decisions about your health or finances in the event you are incapacitated or otherwise unable to do so.

When does an estate have to go through probate court?

Probate often sounds like a big, scary and long process. However, at its core, it's a simple process that consists of a judge giving the OK for assets to be legally passed to beneficiaries. Unless steps have been specifically taken to avoid going through probate — such as placing property in certain trusts — probate will be required before property can be passed on. This can come in the form of carrying out the provision of a will or probating the estate of someone who died intestate.

How long does probate take in Texas?

The timing varies significantly due to court schedules, unforeseen complications and other factors. However, probate will always require at least one court appearance before a judge. There are required notice periods for notifying creditors, beneficiaries and others who may be affected by the distribution of an estate's assets. For example, creditors have four months to file claims with an estate administrator or probate court after receiving notice. Long story short, most estates can be fully probated within six months to a year. The presence of debt can significantly increase that timeline.

I'm not wealthy. Why do I need an estate plan?

Although you are not legally required to have a will regardless of your financial situation, it is always a good idea to have a last will and testament in place. A will can provide you with peace of mind knowing that your assets will be handled according to your wishes after you're gone and even reduce the amount of taxes your estate is subjected to. If you don't care to get a will for yourself, get one to avoid leaving a stressful mess for your heirs to sift through during their time of grief. Also, you may have more wealth than you realize, once you add up the equity in your home and the total of your retirement assets.

What is a 'living will'? What if I don't have one?

A living will or advance directive provides your instructions to physicians regarding the use of life-extending measures. For example, if you are diagnosed with a terminal illness or irreversible brain damage, you may decide you do not want to be resuscitated or placed on life support. A living will can make sure this wish is carried out and relieve your loved ones of the burden of choosing for you.

What is independent administration?

Unique to Texas, independent administration grants the executor more leeway, eliminating the need to go to probate court for permission for every action. If independent administration is not specified in a person's will, an executor must petition the court to be appointed as independent administrator.

What are letters testamentary?

Also known as "letters of administration," they are a document issued by the court to verify that you are authorized to act on behalf of the estate. For example, letters testamentary would need to be produced prior to you having the ability to sell an estate's property.

Still Have Questions About Estates?

We have answers. Call us at 832-390-4161 or send us an email to arrange a consultation with one of our proven estate attorneys.