There is a common phrase that says, “the days are long but the years are short.” While this phrase was not created with estate planning in mind, the sentiment runs true: people talk about drafting an estate plan but rarely do so over time. However, it is never too early to start a Houston estate plan, especially with the unexpected occurrences that happen in life. And without an estate plan—or by making common estate planning mistakes—families can become dysfunctional and loved ones may show hostility to one another. Below are two common estate planning mistakes that must be avoided to avoid family infighting after a person’s death.
Not Having a Will in Place
Not having a will in place at the time of a person’s death is the worst estate planning mistake that can be made. Families will face dramatic consequences and uncertainty if a loved one dies without a will. A will is the place to express a person’s wishes for how their assets will be handled after their death—without this document, it is called dying “intestate.” This means Texas law—as interpreted by a probate court judge—will determine who receives the person’s assets, regardless of their personal relationship. This may lead to family fighting where one person, who may be genetically but not personally close to the deceased, receives an inheritance and others do not. All of these issues could be resolved by drafting a will.
Not Appointing an Executor of the Estate Plan
While a will specifies a person’s wishes, an executor of the estate plan is necessary to enact these wishes. An executor handles most of the administrative tasks required in an estate plan: they distribute the estate’s assets to the specified beneficiaries, pay any debts the deceased may have, and file the final tax returns. However, if a will does not list an executor, it will lead to a much more complicated and emotionally fraught process. Beneficiaries will not receive their assets in a timely manner and loved ones will have to go to court to see who a judge names the executor. While a spouse or other close loved one is generally named the executor in these situations, this entire process can be avoided if an executor is named in the estate plan.
Because there are many key issues that can arise when a person does not have an estate plan or neglects critical aspects of the process, it is essential to contact an experienced attorney and get started drafting an estate plan as soon as possible. Life is uncertain and it is better to have a plan in place than leave a family with more work to do during an already difficult time.
Contact a Houston Estate Planning Attorney
If you or a loved one believes they are currently making one of the discussed mistakes above, contact the law firm of McCulloch & Miller, PLLC to help. Our Houston estate planning attorneys have decades of experience creating effective estate plans in an efficient and straightforward manner. We will make sure to create an estate plan that fits your needs and allows you to pass your wealth onto the next generation. To schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys, give us a call today at 713-333-8900.