Estate Planning and Probate
Creating a good estate plan includes thinking about difficult topics such as how you want to be treated towards the end of your life. Experienced attorney Kristin Kline handles all aspects of estate planning for clients in Houston, TX, and the surrounding area. Proper planning can provide you and your family with peace of mind and ensure your assets are properly protected and distributed.
What is a Will?
In order to avoid unsolicited intervention from the courts or state, it is absolutely necessary to have a Will. Also called a Last Will and Testament, a Will can protect your family and property by: leaving your property to family members, friends, or organizations; naming an executor (someone who makes sure the terms of your will are carried out); naming a personal guardian to care for minor children or manage property that will be left to children; and more.
What Is a Living Will?
A living will is a document that expresses your preferences and desires regarding medical care in the event that you have a terminal illness or succumb to a permanent state of unconsciousness and you are incapable of expressing your instructions.
Durable vs. Medical Power of Attorney
In order to choose someone to act in your place and make decisions for you, you will need to complete a legal document referred to as a power of attorney. A “durable” power of attorney means that the document will still stay in effect if you become incapacitated and unable to handle matters on your own. A medical power of attorney goes into effect when a person is unable to make decisions or consciously communicate their intentions regarding treatments to their physician.
How Does a Living Will Differ from a Medical Power of Attorney?
A living will differs from a medical power of attorney in that the living will only goes into effect if you have a terminal illness or are in a permanent state of unconsciousness.
A living will can direct your healthcare providers to withhold all treatment so that you can die a natural death free from artificial life support and other advanced medical techniques. A living will can also state that you want all of the available treatments and techniques tried in order to preserve your life. You may also reject some treatments and choose others.
An important reason for executing a living will is that your family members will be aware of your wishes ahead of time and they won’t be forced to make those decisions when the time comes. You can discuss these wishes with your family members so that there is not any uncertainty later on.
A medical power of attorney and a living will are important parts of your estate planning process. Without these essential documents, family members may end up arguing over what healthcare treatments you should and should not receive. A living will, in conjunction with a medical power of attorney, and a do not resuscitate order, will ensure that all of your healthcare requests will be followed in the event that you become incapacitated and cannot communicate your desires. Attorney Kline will ensure that your living will properly expresses all of your wishes. She will also verify that all of the necessary documents are executed properly.
What is Probate?
Probate is the legal process that occurs after a person has died in order to settle their final business affairs. It is important to know that whether you had a will at the time of your death or not, your estate will be subject to probate. You can, however, avoid probate by setting up a living trust, which is a key aspect of wise estate planning. A living trust ensures that your affairs will be managed the way you intended, and it helps your family members avoid potential problems and conflicts after you are gone.
The process begins with filing an application for probate in a local Texas Probate Court. If you have a will, then the person you named as executor files the papers. If you did not have a will, then a judge will appoint someone to file them. The purpose of this process is to validate your will, take inventory of your assets and debts, pay your creditors and taxes, and distribute your remaining assets. (When there is no will, the estate will be distributed according to Texas law regarding intestacy, which means dying without a will). If you have been named as executor of another person’s will, Kristin Klein can handle the court-related tasks associated with probate, which can be complex. She can also guide and advise you throughout the entire probate process.
Learn More During a Consultation
Attorney Kline is experienced in handling all aspects of estate planning and can make this often complex process simple and stress-free. Contact our firm today to schedule an appointment and learn more about the estate planning process.