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The probate process in Texas

As one ages, mortality becomes an important issue. The individual often begins to consider what will happen with and to loved ones upon his or her death. Furthermore, the Texas resident usually addresses the inheritance that each of these loved ones should receive as a part of the estate planning process. Perhaps one of the most misunderstood parts of the estate planning process is probate.

In its basic form, probate is simply the process in which the personal representative acknowledges to the court that proper legal proceedings were followed and the wishes of the individual as indicated in the will were complied with. Every once in a while, a will is contested, thus adding to the probate process. However, the majority of wills are uncontested, and the personal representative is able to see to it that the estate is settled.

Experts stress importance of long-term care plan

Many Texas residents and those elsewhere around the country make plans for their retirement years and invest currently so that financial provisions will later be available. However, most do not consider their health or physical capabilities in making these decisions. Yet, long-term care needs could greatly affect someone's financial position should an illness occur.

In fact, the nation's Department of Health and Human Services estimates that nearly 70 percent of citizens will require some sort of long-term care after they reach age 65. Medical expenses could prove to be exorbitant, while many may need assistance with routine activities of daily living. These activities include such tasks as bathing, eating, dressing or going to the bathroom. Both skilled care and custodial care may be required.

Estate planning involves more than just a will

Most Texas residents and others around the country don't like to think about growing older or how life will be when they are no longer around. However, it is important to make decisions when a person still has the ability to determine the way he or she wants an estate distributed. In some cases, even with a will or documentation in place, heirs may encounter unforeseen issues. That is why financial experts stress the importance of estate planning.

Analysts share that when someone dies, some assets are distributed based on a will. However, a will does not determine non-probate assets, such as joint real property held with right of survivorship by two or more people or any account with a designated beneficiary. In fact, experts say that a valid beneficiary designation is a recognized legal document and would be utilized by the estate's executor in decision making. In fact, the terms of a will typically do not not supersede or change a beneficiary designation.

Long-term care important part of retirement planning

Many individuals in Texas and throughout the nation are retiring with expectations of living at least 20 to 30 more years. While this is positive news, it does require many people to consider how they will support themselves financially in the future when their physical abilities have diminished. The country's Department of Health and Human Services reported that those citizens over age 65 will likely need some type of long\-term care during their lifetimes.

Long-term care may include in-home care, an adult day care, an assisted-living facility or a nursing home. Studies show that a private room at a nursing home is over $7,500 a month. Arranging in-home care can even cost over $3,500 a month. All the long-term care options are expensive and the costs are on the rise.

Documents needed for estate planning

Planning for the future is difficult for most Texas residents and others around the country. It is particularly daunting for an individual to think about when he or she won't be around anymore. However, it is important to make certain financial decisions now before someone is incapable of doing so later. Estate planning is a necessary process to ensure that the future needs of family members will be met.

Financial planners have suggested five specific documents that are necessary in estate planning. First, it is of utmost importance to have a will in place. A will specifically dictates how an individual wants to have an estate distributed. Having this document will hopefully eliminate potential disagreements among heirs about asset or property distribution.

Options for skipping probate exist with many assets

Many people in Texas are motivated to begin their estate planning after they experience the death of a loved one. Having to go through the often frustrating process of probate may inspire some to spare their own heirs the complications and the sometimes prolonged wait before they receive their inheritance. However, with proper planning, there are several types of assets that can bypass probate relatively easily and go directly to the beneficiary.

For example, regular savings and checking accounts may skip probate if the account holder has completed a payable on death form. Such forms may also be used for money market accounts and certificates of deposit. Similar designations can be made for investment securities, real property and retirement accounts. However, forms transferring funds or deeds must be carefully prepared to be legally binding.

Important to protect assets when developoing inheritance plans

Division of assets is a critical component of a will or estate plan for Texas residents. Most individuals want to ensure that heirs are treated fairly and an inheritance is divided equitably. An estate planning expert recently offered insight on how to protect assets for future heirs and ensure that someone's intentions for distribution are respected.

An issue arose regarding an estate plan that included both someone who would receive farmland and others given various monetary instruments. It was noted that any obligations against the estate would be paid out of the monetary instruments involved. However, the family members receiving the money may be resentful of fulfilling these obligations and seeing an inheritance dwindle while others are not affected.

Long-term care issues should be addresed early

A university professor specializing in aging recently offered insights on how to best plan for medical care and other services as people enter into retirement years. Many Texas residents in this demographic have limited financial resources, making the provision of long\-term care difficult. He views long-term care as any service offered to someone who cannot provide self-care or management.

The professor acknowledges that the issues surrounding long-term care are varied based largely on age. A younger person with a disability may not require active medical care. However, a goal for someone in this scenario would be to live a mainstreamed life in society. For an older person, the needs tend to be related to medical issues.

Try to avoid probate litigation

Many Texas residents believe that a simple will is sufficient to ensure that their wishes will be honored after their passing. However, estates often land in the probate process when a will is disputed. This process is very time-consuming and can be very costly. Experts offer some suggestions to help one's heirs potentially avoid probate litigation.

One recommendation is to establish a living trust. This method may be more complex, but it is also more comprehensive in its coverage. Three people must be involved – the grantor, the trustee and the beneficiaries. A successor to take over the trust after the grantor dies should also be named. This person will see that the estate is distributed as the grantor specified.

Things to keep in mind when estate planning

A professional with many years of experience in the financial and trust fields has shared her suggestions regarding planning for the future. She has offered recommendations on best practices for estate planning and administration. Understanding what is successful and what is not when making plans for an estate is important for Texas residents and others around the country.

The expert stresses the importance of actually developing an estate plan. Failing to complete a plan could result in an estate not being distributed in the way it was intended. Once someone is deceased, the heirs would not be able to make changes in the way the estate assets are divided.

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