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Estate Planning

In life, there are many things you can’t plan for. Thankfully, what happens to your property after you die can be planned for in advance. The attorneys at Wilhite & Associates, P.C. are here to answer all of your questions and help create an estate plan that achieves your goals and will be honored after you die.

The term “estate planning” actually includes many areas of the law. Some areas that you might wish to explore include:

Creating an effective estate plan can be a fairly complicated process. If you are ready to start the estate planning process, or have questions about the right kind of plan to meet your needs, you should contact an experienced attorney today to discuss your options.

Houston Estate Planning Attorney

If you are in the greater Houston area, including Harris, Montgomery, Fort Bend, Grimes, Waller, and Washington counties, and you are ready to begin the estate planning process, contact Wilhite & Associates, P.C. for a consultation today. Our Texas civil lawyers are experienced and knowledgeable about all aspects of estate planning. No one is too young to plan for their future, and the future of their family.


Estate Planning Information

There are several key questions many people have about the estate planning process that our attorneys can answer for you. These include:


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Do I Need an Estate Plan?

No one is too young, or has too little money, to create an estate plan. Estate planning serves several purposes:

  • Estate planning provides peace of mind.
  • Estate planning insures that your assets go to those people or causes that mean the most to you.
  • Estate planning helps protect your assets from ending up in the hands of people you may not know or trust.
  • Estate planning protects your family’s financial security.
  • Estate planning helps you avoid intestacy, which can be a long and complicated process, and may mean your assets go to someone you do not know.

Everyone passes away, and everyone has a preference for where their property goes after their death. We encourage all adults to create an estate plan, to protect their family and their assets.


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What Happens If I Die Without an Estate Plan?

If you die without a valid will in place, your property will be distributed through intestate succession or "intestacy". Intestacy is a complicated process that involves distributing the property to your heirs. Whether your property is identified as community property or separate property determines how it will be distributed.

Intestacy

If you do not have a will or another estate planning tool in place when you die, your property will pass to your heirs through a process called “intestacy.”

If you are married, your community property will pass in the following way:

  • If you have any descendants (children or grandchildren) which are NOT descendants of your spouse, half of the community property will pass to those descendants, and the other half will go to your spouse.
  • If you have no descendants, or all of your descendants are the descendants of your spouse, then all of your community property will go to your spouse.

Whether you are married or single, your separate property will pass in the following way:

  • If you are survived by a spouse and descendants, one-third of your personal property will go to your spouse, and the other two thirds will go to your descendants. Your spouse will get a life estate on one-third of your separate real estate. He or she may live there for the rest of his/her life, and then it will pass to your descendants. The other two thirds of the property will pass outright to your descendants.
  • If you have a spouse but no descendants, your spouse will get all of your personal property. He or she will also get half of your separate real estate. The other half will go to your parents or descendants of your parents (ie: your siblings or nieces and nephews).
  • If you do not have a spouse, all of your separate property will go to your descendants. If you have no descendants, it will go one-half to each of your parents. If you have no parents, then it will go to your siblings and their descendants. If you have none of these, then the property will be divided up, and one half will go to any maternal kin you do have. The other half will go to any paternal kin.

Rarely, no heirs can be found, and the property goes to the State of Texas.

Community Property v. Separate Property

If you are married, most of your property will be identified as “community property.” Community property is property belonging to the marriage, and not to either spouse individually. In Texas, most property that either spouse acquires during the marriage, including wages, is community property.

Separate property includes that property owned before marriage; property acquired during the marriage by gift, devise or descent; and personal injury awards obtained during the marriage. Any property that is not separate property under one of these tests will be identified as community property.

No “Laughing Heir” Statute in Texas

In some states, no one more remotely related to you than your grandparents can inherit from you. After that, the state will get your property. Texas does not have such a rule. That means that your property may be inherited by someone very remotely related to you, who you may not even know.

This remote heir is called a “laughing heir”, since he or she has no relationship with the deceased, and likely feels no grief over their death.

If no heirs whatsoever can be found, the property will return (“escheat”) to the state. This is very rare. It is far more common for many unknown heirs to appear at the time of death and try to claim the property than it is for property to escheat to the state.


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Wills

Wills are the most well known kind of estate planning tool. There is a lot of misinformation about how to make a will, what can or cannot be included in a will, and how to revoke or destory a will. The attorneys at Wilhite & Associates, P.C., can help you create a will that is valid and achieves your goals. We can also answer your questions about revoking or proving a will, or challenging a will that you do not believe is valid.

More information about Wills in Texas


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Trusts

Trusts are another popular type of estate planning tool. Creating a trust can be a complicated process. If you are interested in creating a trust, or you are currently a trustee or beneficiary of a trust and you’re interested in modifying the trust, you should speak with one of our Houston civl law attorneys today.

More information about Trusts in Texas


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Life Insurance

Wills and trusts are not a substitute for life insurance. They are simply means of disposing of your property after death.

Life insurance offers a special type of protection to the family of the deceased. Our attorneys advise you to consider purchasing life insurance, separate and apart from creating a will or other estate plan.


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Powers of Attorney and Other Options to Consider

Of course, you should not plan only for what will happen to your property after you die. You should also consider planning for the end of your life. It’s never too early to plan for what will happen to you in the event of illness, accident, or old age. Some options to consider include:

  • Durable Power of Attorney
  • Medical Power of Attorney
  • Directive to Physicians

Our attorneys can give you more information about your options for insuring that your needs are met and your wishes are carried out at the end of your life.

More information on Powers of Attorney in Texas


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Wilhite & Associates, P.C. | Texas Estate Planning Lawyers

No one is fully comfortable thinking about the end of their life. However, it’s important to start planning early, to protect those you care about most. The attorneys at Wilhite & Associates, P.C., can help you navigate the Estate Planning process and create an estate plan that is right for you. If you are in the greater Houston area, including Harris, Montgomery, or Fort Bend Counties, and you are interested in learning more, contact us today to speak with one of our attorneys.

Wilhite & Associates, P.C. represents clients from all over Southeast Texas, including:

Harris County - Aldine, Atascocita, Barrett, Barker, Baytown, Bellaire, Brownwood, Bunker Hill Village, Channelview, Clear Lake, Cloverleaf, Crosby, Cypress, Deer Park, East Houston, El Lago, Galena Park, Hedwig Village, Highlands, Hilshire Village, Houston, Hudson, Humble, Hunters Creek Village, Jacinto City, Jersey Village, Katy, Kingwood, Klein, La Porte, Louetta, Lynchburg, Nassau Bay, North Houston, Pasadena, Piney Point Village, Seabrook, Sheldon, Shoreacres, South Houston, Southside Place, Spring, Spring Valley, Taylor Lake Village, Tomball, Webster, West University Place

Montgomery County - Conroe, Cut and Shoot, Magnolia, Montgomery, Oak Ridge North, Panorama Village, Patton Village, Roman Forest, Shenandoah, Splendora, Stagecoach, Willis, Woodbranch, Woodloch, The Woodlands

Fort Bend County - Arcola, Beasley, Fairchilds, Fulshear, Kendleton, Meadows Place, Missouri City, Needville, Orchard, Pleak, Richmond, Rosenberg, Simonton, Stafford, Sugar Land, Thompsons

Waller County - Brookshire, Hempstead, Pattison, Pine Island, Prairie View, Waller

Grimes County - Anderson, Bedias, Iola, Navasota, Todd Mission

Washington County - Brenham, Burton, Chappell Hill

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This site is sponsored by George W. Wilhite, P.C. Our principal office is located in Harris County, Texas at 17101 Kuykendahl Rd., Houston, TX 77068.

The information provided on this website is for general information purposes only. The information you obtain at this website is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your own particular situation. The content of this site, including but not limited to written text, images, videos, and informational articles, has not been prepared, endorsed, or reviewed by any form of licensed medical professional, doctor, or physician. The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, medical advice. All visitors are encouraged to consult with a physician or other licensed medical professional for any form of medical advice.

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