5 Probate Problems You Can Avoid with a Proper Estate Plan

Last updated on: August 10, 2023

When I discuss the importance of an estate plan with clients, it is usually due to several probate problems your loved ones are likely to face in the aftermath of your death. While going through probate court to distribute assets is a lengthy, time-consuming process altogether, that is not the only reason you should take steps to avoid probate. Speaking to an experienced Houston probate attorney can help you better understand your role and responsibilities when it comes to the probate process and how a comprehensive estate plan can help provide you and your family peace of mind. To speak with an experienced Houston attorney about the importance of having an estate plan, contact The Law Office of Whitney L. Thompson at (281) 214-0173 today. 

Starting Your Estate Plan

A last will and testament is often the first thing people start with when they plan their estate. A person who dies without a will is considered to have died intestate. This means that their estate is probated when they pass away. The courts will decide how the assets of the deceased are distributed to their heirs, based on Texas’s intestacy laws. The probate process may apply to titled property (such as a car or real estate), personal property, and financial holdings that are not payable on death. Without a will, the probate process can be lengthy and expensive. A will can make the probate process easier and less costly for your heirs.

A will can help you:

  • Name an executor to administer your estate
  • Name guardians for your minor kids or dependents
  • Draw up a plan for how your estate will be divided and distributed among your heirs
  • Plan for end-of-life care
  • Prepare for burial and funeral preferences
Estate planning attorney in Houston

In estate planning, trusts and powers-of-attorney are often recommended as part of the valuable tools a client can have. There are many types of trusts available, including living, charitable and special needs trusts. Trusts can help limit the amount of your estate that is subject to probate and even reduce your tax liability. You can use powers of attorney to name someone to act and make important decisions on your behalf when you become unable to decide on your own.

Contact a skilled estate planning lawyer right away if you want to learn more about estate planning in Texas. 

Contesting a Will

In every legal proceeding, such as a will contest, the individuals initiating the case must possess legal standing. As defined by the Texas Estates Code, an interested party refers to an heir, devisee, spouse, creditor, or anyone else who possesses a property right or claim against the estate under administration. This also includes individuals concerned about the well-being of an incapacitated person or a minor.

An interested party can be defined as an individual who would receive a financial advantage if the will contest leads to the nullification of the will. Aside from having standing, an interested person must present and substantiate the grounds on which they are challenging the will. These grounds can be classified into several factors, including but not limited to:

  • Improper Execution: Executing a will involves signing the document, with specific procedures to follow under Texas law. Non-compliance with the procedures can give rise to complications and the possibility of a will contest.
  • Lack of Testamentary Capacity: To ensure a valid will, the testator must be mentally capable and understand their assets and rightful heirs. Mental capacity includes comprehending ownership and inheritance matters.
  • Undue Influence: Undue influence occurs when a person other than the testator manipulates their decision-making process through tactics like fear and intimidation, thereby influencing the distribution of the inheritance property in the will.

If you find yourself in a situation where you need to contest a will, having the assistance of an experienced legal professional is crucial. At The Law Office of Whitney L. Thompson, our Houston probate attorneys are knowledgeable in probate law and dedicated to safeguarding your interests. We understand the intricacies of the legal process and can diligently work to achieve a favorable resolution for you. Reach out to us today to learn more about how we can help.

5 Probate Problems You Can Avoid with an Estate Plan 

#1: Someone Contests the Will

In Texas, a person can contest a will for up to two years after it is admitted to probate court. When a person contests a will, they challenge the terms within the document. For instance, if they feel that they have been excluded unfairly from an inheritance or that the will was executed improperly, then they may bring these issues up to the court. For the heirs and beneficiaries already included in the will, it may be frustrating to deal with this problem when it comes up. When this legal issue is not resolved as soon as possible, it may drag proceedings out for even longer.

#2: Heirs Disagree Over Joint Inheritances

If you leave an inheritance to multiple people, that asset can quickly become a source of disagreement among your heirs, especially when it comes to large assets like real estate. In many cases, they may argue over which share of the property is theirs or heavily disagree on what they should do with the inheritance. Unfortunately, these relationships can deteriorate rapidly due to rancor or resentment.

#3: A Will Includes International Property

When leaving international property to your heirs, probate problems can multiply. Distributing this asset can quickly become complicated since you must consider laws in different countries. Your heirs may need to pay double the estate taxes, depending on whether the second country requires it. A similarly complicated situation is one in which you leave property to relatives outside of the United States.

#4: Will Executors Cannot Find Certain Assets

There are times when the executor of a will cannot track down assets that an individual named in their will. If these assets cannot be found, then they cannot be transferred to heirs and beneficiaries. This issue certainly places a dent in court proceedings as it can take time to recover those lost assets.

#5: Probate Court May Get Expensive

Executors, administrators, and guardians will often need to pay for an attorney to represent them in probate court. Executors, in particular, have a duty to represent all heirs and beneficiaries named in a will. That is why if you are applying for letters of administration and determinations of heirship, for example, you will need to hire a licensed lawyer. Depending on how involved your attorney needs to be, you may end up paying a significant amount.

Probate Problems You Can Avoid with an Estate Plan Description
Someone Contests the Will Challenges the terms of the will, such as unfair exclusion or improper execution
Heirs Disagree Over Joint Inheritances Disagreements among heirs regarding their share or how to handle inherited assets
A Will Includes International Property Complexity in distributing international assets, considering laws in different countries
Will Executors Cannot Find Certain Assets Inability to locate assets mentioned in the will, preventing their transfer to beneficiaries
Probate Court May Get Expensive Costs incurred by executors, administrators, and guardians for legal representation

Provide Your Family with Peace of Mind

As you can imagine, these issues often quickly tear families apart. Not only are probate problems expensive, but they also take years to resolve—even when an estate is modest. Help your family avoid probate after your passing and form an estate plan before it is too late.

A skilled estate planning attorney in Texas can guide you down the right path. They can help you understand the importance of having an estate plan in place. Book a consultation and contact Whitney L. Thompson, Esq. at (281) 214-0173 today.

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