Legal Counsel to Help Families Attain Peace of Mind
Without proper planning, if the unthinkable happens to you, here’s what could happen:
- Your children could be placed into Child Protective Services (CPS) even if you have a will in place; even if you have a living trust while your legal documents or located or your family is identified. Or worse, your kids could be left in the care of the one person in your family you would never want raising them;
- A Judge who doesn’t know you, or your family, will decide who will raise your kids, even if it’s the last person you would ever want;
- Approximately 5% of the total value of your assets could be lost due to probate, a court process that can tie up your assets for months or years and deprive your kids of the resources they need to live comfortably;
- When your kids turn 18, they get a check for whatever assets are left – outright with no protection
- There are unscrupulous people who make it their business to review public records to find out what 18 year olds are coming into money;
- The vast majority of estate planning attorneys simply do not address these issues, and do not plan from a parent’s perspective.
Yes, these things scare us too. That’s why we offer a Kids Protection Plan® with every estate plan we prepare for families with young children.
Do you know what would happen legally- to you, your loved ones, your money and everything else you care about – if something unexpected happened to you?
If you have an estate plan and it’s out of date, your assets could be lost to the State Department of Unclaimed Property, or to an unnecessary Court process.
If you don’t know exactly what would happen for everyone you love and everything you own, then the first step is to find out exactly what would happen, legally and financially, so that you can decide if the current state of your affairs is okay with you.
We conduct a Family Wealth Planning Session, where we spend time together and you’ll get informed. Before your Family Wealth Planning Session, you will complete a Family Wealth Inventory and Assessment, which will help you to get clear about what you own and what you have to think about when it comes to planning for the well-being and care of your loved ones and loved belongings. If you decide the current state of affairs is unacceptable, and if we both decide that it’s a fit to work together, then we can design an estate plan together that will best suit the needs of your family.
The foundation of your estate plan will often include a revocable living trust; you transfer your property into this trust for your benefit during your life. One of the benefits of a revocable living trust is that, when done correctly and maintained over time, your estate plan should help your family to avoid the cost and delay of probate and minimize or eliminate estate taxes.
Unfortunately, most plans don't work because much of what passes for estate planning is little more than word processing. You are asked a few questions and then the drafter decides which "plan" is right for you, and fits you into a template. This is not estate planning; it is little more than a “search and replace” of your family’s name and then a hit of the “print” button which spits out form documents.
Your Personal Family Lawyer® at Bromlow Law, PLLC, we will educate you, take the time to get to know you, your family, your concerns, your goals and your issues and will gladly and patiently answer all your questions to produce an estate plan that is exactly right for you and will keep your loved one’s out of court and out of conflict.
If you are a family with young children, then your estate plan should begin with a foundation that ensures your children would always be taken care of, no matter what happens. At Bromlow Law, PLLC, one of our areas of greatest expertise is protecting minor children.
Asset Protection Planning
Nobody expects to be sued. Just ask the 20 million people involved in lawsuits last year.
Divorce, inheritance, health issues, creditors, employees, theft, changing markets, malpractice suits, sexual harassment claims, natural disasters and disgruntled business partners are just a few issues that can result in devastating lawsuits for unprepared business owners. The highest level of risk falls on those who think they are immune.
Americans are now more concerned than ever about protecting their assets from creditor claims, taxes, divorce and other disasters. Rightly so.
The more success you have (especially in business, professional practice or real estate activities), the more at risk you are as others see your success grow.
Will you be signing loan documents, a personal guaranty or a lease? Do you have rental properties or employees? Are you an attorney or physician? Do you work in construction or perform professional services? Are you getting married and have children from a prior marriage or separate property assets you are bringing into the marriage.
Here’s the thing: all of these activities are activities we want to see you do more of! They are, in many ways, the spice of life. But we don’t want that spice to become too hot and impact your life negatively.
That’s where we come in. We can set up your business and life structures to ensure that you can take maximum risk with minimum worry.
We assist our clients in determining the appropriate level of asset protection planning for their particular circumstances. We will consider insurance, prenuptial agreements, asset segregation, choice of jurisdiction, gifting, LLCs, partnerships, corporations, and asset protection trusts. Customized combinations are layered depending on the needs of the client and as appropriate.
There are many different strategies to accomplish the protection of your assets while you are alive and after you are gone. To find out which strategies may be right for you, contact us for a Family Wealth Planning Session.
Special Needs Planning
Estate planning for a family with special needs children comes with a complex set of financial, social, and medical issues that some lawyers are ill-equipped to handle. But the experienced special needs planning attorneys with Bromlow Law, PLLC are dedicated to ensuring your child with special needs will be well taken care of when you’re no longer able to serve as the primary caregiver.
We offer a variety of estate planning tools and strategies designed to accommodate the unique circumstances presented by children with special needs and their families in Texas. We can help you pass on the financial assets needed for your child to live a rich quality of life without jeopardizing their eligibility for government benefits. We’ll also assist you in finding and appointing a trusted guardian and/or trustee to look after them in the event of your death or incapacity. And we’ll help with locating the best residential opportunities—as well as the means to pay for them.
One “Catch-22-like” situation surrounding estate planning for those with special needs is leaving enough money to pay for the massive amount of care and supports these individuals typically need throughout their lifetimes. Yet, if parents leave a large lump sum of money directly to a child with special needs, they risk disqualifying him or her for government benefits like Medicaid and Supplemental Social Security Income.
Fortunately, the government allows assets to be held in what’s known as a “special needs trust” to provide supplemental financial resources for the physically, mentally, or developmentally disabled child without affecting their eligibility for public healthcare and income assistance benefits. That said, the rules for such trusts are quite complicated.
For instance, funds from a special needs trust cannot be distributed directly to the disabled beneficiary and must be disbursed to a third-party who’s responsible for providing the goods and services they need to maintain a comfortable lifestyle. What’s more, the requirements for a child with special needs change dramatically over time, as do the laws governing public benefits.
Given this, it’s vital to work with an experienced special needs attorney who can create a comprehensive special needs trust that’s both properly structured and appropriate for your child’s specific situation.
Contact Bromlow Law, PLLC if you need estate planning for your child with Down syndrome, autism, cerebral palsy, or another developmental or intellectual disability. Our experienced Texas special needs planning lawyer can develop a sustainable living plan for your child with special needs that will provide them with the finances they need to live a full life, while preserving their access to government benefits.
If you are here to learn about probate after the passing of a loved one, we first want to say that we are very sorry for your loss. We hope that the information you find on this page will simplify any legal and administrative headaches you might otherwise face during such a difficult time.
With that said, “probate” is a court supervised proceeding, a lawsuit filed by your heirs in local court. The goal of probate is to settle an estate under the jurisdiction of the probate or County Court.
Assets owned solely in the name of the deceased person are subject to probate. Assets that pass by means of title, such as real estate titled as “Joint Tenants with Right of Survivorship,” or bank accounts titled as “Transfer On Death” are not subject to the probate process as long as a the joint tenant or named beneficiary survives the deceased. Assets that pass by means of a beneficiary designation, such as life insurance or some retirement accounts, are also not subject to probate. In some situations, however, assets that would otherwise pass by title or beneficiary designation can be subject to the probate process. Talk to an attorney if you have questions about your specific situation.
Probate is required when a Will is the estate planning instrument used by the decedent to state their wishes. During the probate proceeding the court will determine whether the document presented is a valid legal Will and the Court will appoint a personal representative (“executor” or “administrator”) whose job it will be to pay debts of the estate and ultimately distributed the estate to the named beneficiaries. When the Will is admitted to the Court for the Probate proceeding, the Will becomes part of the public record. The law requires several steps to be taken prior to the personal representative distributing the estate.
The first step that a personal representative takes upon being appointed is to gather and inventory the deceased’s property and pay the debts of the estate, if those debts are properly presented as a claim on the estate. The personal representative will be responsible for filing an inventory or an affidavit in lieu of inventory with the court as one of his/her final acts. There are several types of probate processes in Texas and the legal requirements for each varies. Bromlow Law, PLLC can help you follow the legally required steps for your situation.
Texas has several types of probate proceedings, which are all different in the time required and expense. The probate procedure a client needs will depend upon the nature of the decedent’s assets, whether the decedent has a valid Texas will and the total dollar value of the assets. The most common processes are as follows:
This is the most preferable type of probate procedure when it comes to efficiency, time and cost. While there are reasons to opt for more oversight by the court, this type of proceeding is most often elected for mid-size to large estates. In order to follow an independent administration process, there must be a valid Last Will and Testament of the decedent, which is admitted to the Court. Upon approval of the Will as valid, the Court will issue Letters Testamentary. Unsecured creditors are served with the Notice to Creditors. Secured creditors are also notified and may in turn file a Statement of Claim. The only Court appearance necessary is when the Independent Executor appears in Court to qualify for appointment. The Independent Executor will also file an Inventory with the Court, but otherwise will act without Court oversight.
When more Court oversight is necessary or preferred (i.e. where there are numerous debts or the Will does not specify that executor is to serve under an Independent Administration), a Dependent Administration process will be used. In this type of process, there is a valid Will that is admitted by the Court and an Executor is appointed, but all actions require court approval prior to being taken. This is usually the most costly and time-consuming proceeding.
Determination of Heirship – “Intestate”
When someone dies without a Will or without a valid Will, the court will determine who the heirs of the deceased are based upon Texas Law. This process is called a Determination of Heirship. The process requires “notification” to all potential heirs. This may also result in a dependent administration. This can be a costly and inefficient means of distributing an estate. The State of Texas has a plan for heirship which provides for distributions to various heirs based upon degree of blood relationship and type of property. Oftentimes the State’s idea of who should get someone’s estate is very different than what that person may have actually wanted. These issues can be eliminated with a Will.
Muniment of Title, Small Estate Administration, Affidavit of Heirship, and several other proceedings may be instituted.
Other proceedings are available where there are few assets or no Will was probated within the required time of four (4) years or where “curative” measures are needed. These other proceedings are typically less efficient than an Independent Administration Probate proceeding.
What’s so bad about probate … and what should I do next?
Many people have heard that probate is bad news. Although in Texas probate is not as expensive in other states, it can be time-consuming, it’s a public process and some prefer to keep things out of the Court.
The easiest way to avoid the probate process is to plan; but if you are now in a situation where you must go through probate courts to finalize the estate of a loved one, the best thing you can do is get educated and get help to complete the process as quickly, and cost-effectively, as possible.
My loved one had a trust…will we need to go through probate?
In most cases, no. If your loved one’s assets are owned in the name of a Trust, the family can contact a lawyer who will complete some paperwork and guide the loved ones through the process with ease without the need for court involvement.
Unfortunately, many people who have a Trust think they have it all taken care of. But time and again, family members of a recently passed loved one come into my office and they find out they are facing the frustration, expense and delay of a probate, even though the person they loved had a trust.
Why is that?
Often the Trust was prepared many years ago and was never updated; and often, their loved ones’ assets were not owned in the name of their Trust. That is why it is so very important that you carefully choose your estate planning attorney and have regular reviews of your plan and assets so the planning you do now works as planned later.
It’s why we do things so much differently than most other lawyers and law firms, here at Bromlow Law, PLLC.
Getting Help: Choosing The Right Attorney For Your Probate Case
The best way to ensure your probate is done right is to choose your attorney wisely. Do not assume that all attorneys are the same! Too many lawyers only “dabble” in probate or trusts. Don’t choose a lawyer who does probate as a sideline because these lawyers often blunder causing real problems for their client and their cases often take longer than those handled by experienced probate lawyers.
You don’t have to use the attorney who prepared the Will either! Just because a particular attorney prepared the Will, this does not mean that attorney must handle the probate, nor are they necessarily the right person for the job. You need to be comfortable with the attorney and confident that they are the right attorney for you. Choosing your probate or trust lawyer is one of the most important decisions you will make. If you put in the time and effort to find the right lawyer, you will be rewarded with a skillful guide who will help you navigate the probate process.
Contact Bromlow Law, PLLC For A Complimentary Post-Death Estate Review
If you’re ready to get started with the probate process after the passing of a loved one, please contact Bromlow Law, PLLC at (281) 665-3807 or use this link to schedule a complimentary 15-minute consultation to help determine your next best steps. We are here in service to making this all as easy as possible on you.
During this appointment, we will answer all of your questions about probate and guide you and your family through the next best steps. We are committed to helping you administer your loved one’s estate as quickly and efficiently as possible, and look forward to relieving any administrative or legal burdens you may face during this time of loss.