Wills & Probate

Your “Life” Documents and Last Will and Testament 

Death affects people in many ways. It is never timely. Death confronts a family with bereavement, with the need to readjust emotionally and financially, and often with an unknown future. Aging without a Durable Power of Attorney and dying without a Will causes many unnecessary problems and expenses for loved ones. 

It is generally not expensive or time-consuming to have all your legal business in order. That’s where West & West comes in. If you spend 30 minutes in our office or on the phone with us, we will get all of the information necessary to prepare your Will and other essential legal documents. 

Our full Will Packages include the following: 

  • Last Will and Testament
  • Durable Power of Attorney
  • Medical Power of Attorney
  • Directive to Physicians 
  • HIPAA Release

Let West & West help you with your estate planning to provide your loved ones with a “roadmap” to protect them and help guide them when you cannot. 

Thanks, but I Can Get it Cheaper Online

So you think you’ll save money. You may save a little bit by using forms or online services, but beware of problems that may cost you more in the long run:

  • Individuals run the risk of using a form that does not meet state law requirements.
  •  New state laws are often passed, making forms incorrect, obsolete, and unacceptable by the courts. 
  • Often, forms are posted by unqualified individuals.
  • Complexities without counseling are often missed.
  • Online legal services are not overseen by higher authorities, such as the Texas State Bar, thus disciplinary action resulting from poor legal practices cannot be enforced.
  • Any forms that must be filed with the Court must meet changing filing methods and standards
  • Often, no guarantees are given.
  • No notary service is provided. 

When to Update Your Will

You may already have a Will, but you may be unaware of the life changes that trigger the need to reevaluate your Will, such as 

  • Change in marital status
  • Change in financial status
  • Birth, death or change in the life of a beneficiary or fiduciary 
  • Purchase or sale of a business
  • Move from another state
  • Changes in benevolent desires. 

The Woman Without a Will 

We received a call from a client informing us that his aunt died without a Will. According to Texas law, many more legal hurdles have to be jumped, which translates into more money spent. What would have cost approximately $2,400, more than tripled for our client, not to mention the additional hours of work the client spent himself. Sadly, the deceased aunt had no input regarding the distribution of her estate, and the grief of her family was compounded. 

You should be the one to decide which of your loved ones will receive what part of your estate. If you die without a Will, the State of Texas will do it for you, and it will decide how to distribute your estate to your loved ones. 

It is estimated that up to 70% of the population die without a Will. Don’t contribute additional burden or grief on your loved ones, and don’t let the state decide who will receive your assets. Call West & West, to schedule a Will planning appointment now. 

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Probate and Probate Litigation 

Probate is the orderly method of distributing the assets of a deceased person following his or her death. A probate may be testate (died with a Will) or intestate (died without a Will). 

Testate Estates (With a Will) 

If a person has a Will upon his or her death, the probate court will honor the wishes of the deceased person (“Decedent”). Probate of an estate with a Will generally has a person or persons identified in the Will to serve as the Executor. Unless there is a contest to the appointment, usually the first named Executor that is alive, willing and legally able to serve is generally appointed. The Will determines if a bond or surety is required. It is up to the Executor to pay the debts of the estate and to distribute the assets of the estate according to the Will. 

Probate is initiated with the filing of an application to open the estate, to enter the Will into probate and to appoint the Executor. There are specific rules and statutes that require notification to heirs and creditors of the estate and time frames for heirs to contest the proceedings or any portions of the petition. Texas law requires the Will be filed within 4 years after the death of the testator. Probates with a Will are typically not overly expensive or complicated and can be completed in approximately 90 days.

Intestate Estates (Without a Will) 

When there is no Will, court intervention is required. Texas law has very specific provisions about how a decedent’s estate will “pass” upon that person’s death. While these “Descent and Distribution” laws may be straightforward in some circumstances, in others, they can be very difficult to maneuver.

Probate is initiated with the filing of an Application to Determine Heirship. The court will assign an attorney ad litem (an attorney appointed to advocate for the unknown heirs) to verify or determine the heirs of the decedent. An Application and Order to Appoint an Independent or Dependent Administrator will also be filed in order to designate the person who will be responsible for closing out and distributing the estate’s assets and paying off its debts. As in a Testate probate, proper notification to heirs and creditors of the estate is required by statute, and proper accounting of the estate must be made and presented to the court. The process is more lengthy and complicated than probates with a Will. 

Probate Litigation 

Both Testate and Intestate Estates are subject to Probate and should be handled with an Attorney. Disputes frequently arise along the way, which should be navigated with an attorney by your side. The attorneys at West & West have encountered a multitude of Probate scenarios, from simple to complex, and that experience can go to work for you. 

The attorneys at West & West represent plaintiffs and defendants in probate litigation matters, including Will contests, breach of fiduciary duty and other probate related claims. Will contests and court battles over a loved one’s estate are extremely emotional and complex. Our compassionate and experienced attorneys and staff attempt to alleviate the stress by providing you with honest and knowledgeable legal advice. We will keep you informed throughout the entire process so that you always know the status of your case and our legal strategy. 

Wills and other estate documents are difficult to overturn because the decedent is unable to testify regarding his or her wishes. If you are involved in a contest over a Will or an estate, let the knowledgeable and experienced attorneys at West & West protect your rights and wishes of your loved one.

Pasadena, Texas Wills & Estate Planning Attorneys

We know that it’s difficult to think about the end of a life, let alone plan for it. But at West & West, LLP, we want to make sure that the process is as easy as possible. Whether you want to guarantee that your legacy is secured the way you want it or you just want to make sure that your loved ones are taken care of, call us today for an easier tomorrow.