How to Avoid Expensive Probate, by Kim Young
Do you want to avoid expensive probate issues?
In this “immediate gratification” world we now live in, it’s very easy to “do-it-yourself” Estate Planning. Unfortunately, most of the documents that one can find on the Internet are not sufficient to Texas Estates Code standards and lack the formality that is required by the Courts, and even in some instances, hospitals and doctor offices.
I often hear that “I don’t need a WILL, I don’t have anything!” This statement cannot be more false. I always tell my friends and family, if you have cars, bank accounts, and/or children, you need Estate Planning. If you own real estate or have retirement accounts, it’s even more important to avoid expensive probate issues.
I get at least one or more phone calls a month where someone has passed away without a WILL and left behind bank accounts, automobiles and property. All of these things make it very difficult to transfer title to, unless you have a WILL. A WILL tells everyone how you want your assets divided—no matter how little the value.
A few years ago, many were getting stuck doing an expensive “Administration” of an Estate to receive access to funds held in a bank account. Many would spend thousands of dollars for an Administration to gain access to a bank account, only to find it only had hundreds in it. Thankfully the banks have recognized this as problematic and are much more willing to share with heirs or beneficiaries the amounts in the accounts and they have put a couple of “catch-alls” into their systems to assist people who run into smaller accounts and where there is no WILL.
Saving your family time and money
All of this being said, it is so much easier to actually take the time and thought and contact an attorney to draft a Basic Estate Planning Package. It will save your family time and more importantly money, once you have passed. Our office has a package that includes the following documents:
- Last Will and Testament—explains how you want (or don’t want, in some instances) your Estate divided.
- Statutory Durable Power of Attorney—allows your representative to take care of financial matters for you should you be unable to, i.e., like pay your bills if you have had a car accident and are in the hospital and are incapacitated (temporarily).
- Medical Power of Attorney—allows your representative to make medical decisions when you can’t—same thing, like if you have had a car wreck and are unconscious, the hospital wants to do x-rays/blood transfusion, they can authorize the testing to be completed.
- Medical Directive to Physicians and Family—this document tells your family and the medical staff what your wishes are when you are terminal—allowed be kept comfortable and die as gently as possible or be kept alive by life support.
- Designation of Guardian—this tells the Court and family who or whom you do not want to be appointed as a Guardian in the event you need someone to take care of you and your estate.
- Memorandum for Personal Property—Tells your Executor that you want your teapot collection to go to your niece, your rolling pin collection to your nephew, etc.
Usually when a husband and wife come in, these documents the duties are given to each other 1st, and then to each parties individual representatives or same representatives.
Dying without a WILL can cost your family extra expenses and may even cause some to fight over things that if there was a WILL, wouldn’t happen! Probating an Estate, no matter how small, can be very expensive.