A wooden gavel rests on a closed book with a small house model beside it, symbolizing legal matters related to property or real estate, on a wooden table surface with soft lighting.

Houston Estate Planning Lawyers

Nothing is more important than family, and though it’s not always at the forefront, estate planning is a critical part of protecting your family. If you’re considering drafting your will, creating a trust, or creating an overall comprehensive estate plan, our Houston estate planning lawyers are here to help. Contact Patout & Shaw today so we can get started.

Estate Planning Lawyers | Protecting Your Legacy

Patout & Shaw has decades of experience helping clients create estate plans that preserve their legacies and ensure their loved ones are well taken care of upon their passing. With our Houston lawyers in your corner, you can rest easy, knowing you’re estate is in good hands.

Important Components of a Comprehensive Estate Plan

A well-rounded estate plan will include a wide range of documents, including the following:

  • Wills: A will is the cornerstone of any estate plan. It allows you to specify how your assets should be distributed upon your passing, designate guardians for minor children, and even make charitable bequests. Without a valid will, the state’s intestate laws will govern the distribution of your assets, which may not align with your wishes.
  • Trusts: A trust enables you to transfer assets into a trust during your lifetime and designate beneficiaries who will receive those assets upon your passing. One of the most important benefits of creating a trust is that it can help you avoid probate. Trusts can also offer certain tax advantages and provide you with more control over how your assets are distributed.
  • Financial Powers of Attorney: This document appoints someone to manage your financial affairs if you become incapacitated. It allows your chosen agent to make financial decisions on your behalf, pay bills, and manage investments.
  • Medical Powers of Attorney: Similar to the financial power of attorney, this document designates someone to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so. It ensures your healthcare preferences are respected.
  • Advance Healthcare Directives: Advance healthcare directives, also known as living wills, can outline your medical preferences, particularly regarding end-of-life care. This document can include instructions about life support (such as your preferences for a ventilator), organ donation, pain management, and more.
  • Guardianships: If you have minor children, creating a guardianship will allow you to designate a guardian who will care for them in the event of your incapacity or passing.

Probate in Texas

Probate is the process of settling the estate of a deceased person. Generally, the probate process involves validating the decedent’s will, paying their debts, and distributing their assets to their beneficiaries. Probate can be a complicated process, depending on the type and size of the estate, and whether there are any disputes among the beneficiaries or creditors.
There are three main types of probate proceedings in Texas: dependent administration, independent administration, and muniment of title. The first two types require the appointment of an executor or administrator to manage the estate under the court’s supervision, while the third type is unique to Texas and allows the transfer of property without an executor or administrator, as long as there is a valid will and no debts.

Independent administration is faster and cheaper than dependent administration. This type of administration also affords the executor has more freedom to handle the estate affairs without court intervention, as long as all the beneficiaries agree. In independent administration, the executor will file an application for probate, a copy of the will, and a notice of hearing with the county clerk. After a hearing, the judge will admit the will to probate and issue letters testamentary to the executor. The executor must then file an inventory of the estate assets, pay the debts, and distribute the remaining property to the beneficiaries according to the will.

Dependent administration is similar to independent administration, except that the executor must seek court approval for every action involving the estate, such as selling property, paying creditors, or making distributions. This type of probate is more expensive than independent administration and is usually reserved for complex or contested estates.

Muniment of title is the simplest and least expensive type of probate, and can be used when there is a valid will, no debts (except for mortgages), and no need for an executor or administrator. The beneficiary must file an application for probate, a copy of the will, and a notice of hearing with the county clerk. After a hearing, the judge will admit the will to probate as a muniment of title, which means that it serves as evidence of ownership of the property. The beneficiary must then file an affidavit with the court within six months, stating that they have received their share of the estate.

Contact Our Harris County Estate Planning Lawyers

Whether you’re looking into drafting your estate plan or need guidance through the probate process, you can have confidence in your decision to turn to the legal team here at Patout & Shaw. Contact our Houston estate planning lawyers today so we can guide you through every step of the legal process ahead.