The Rice Law Firm, PLLC
DISCLAIMER: The Woodlands and Houston lawyer, Merita Rice, has answered some frequently asked questions in the areas of Drafting Wills and Other Estate Planning. Please note that these questions are provided for informational purposes only; therefore, they should not be construed as legal advice. Contact an attorney experienced with Will Drafting and other Estate Planning to discuss the facts of your case. No attorney-client relationship is created via this website. An attorney-client relationship is created only after the client has signed a contract for services.
What is a Will?
A Will is a document indicating how you would like your property to be distributed after your death and who you would like to handle your estate distribution.
Can I write my own Will or do I have to hire an estate planning lawyer to draft one for me?
You do not have to hire an attorney, you can write your own will.
Why do people hire estate planning lawyers to draft Wills?
If you prepare your own Will, it may or may not be found valid by the court. Even if it is found valid, the estate administration may end up being a long and expensive process because of the way the self-prepared will was written. A Will drafted by an Estate Planning lawyer will include certain language to make probate easier and the administration of the estate more efficient and cost effective (it may save your estate thousands of dollars in the process).
I want to prepare my own Will. Do I have to leave my property to my children or my spouse?
No, you do not have to. The idea behind having a Will is that you can leave your property to whoever you want. However, if you are thinking of disinheriting certain family members, it may be a good idea to consult with an attorney experienced with drafting Wills who can help you take extra steps to hopefully avoid a will contest by the disinherited family members.
What happens to my property if I die without a will?
The State of Texas has specific laws according to which your property will be distributed to your family members. The process however is complex and more expensive because the court would first have to find out who your heirs are.
I am physically ill but I do have the mental capacity to sign my Will. How do I avoid any potential contests?
If you hire an experienced estate planning attorney, he/she will ask you questions in the presence of the witnesses, in order to ensure that you understand what you are doing, you know what your assets are, you know who your family members are, and you know what you are leaving to them. If there is a contest in the future, the witnesses will testify to you having the capacity to execute the Will.
My husband and I would like to name a guardian for our minor children in our Will. Can we do so?
Having one single Will for both of you is not recommended. Instead ask the lawyer to draft two Wills and request a discount since the Wills would be quite similar. Yes, you can designate a guardian for your minor children in your Will, or you can draft a separate document called Declaration of Appointment of Guardian for my Children in the Event of My Death/Incapacity.
Wills and Estate Planning lawyer drafts the following documents for clients in Houston and the Woodlands:
Wills for individuals or married couples:
Other estate planning:
What is a Power of Attorney?
A Power of Attorney is a legal document by which you appoint an agent (called "an attorney-in-fact") who will manage your financial affairs. However, only a "Durable" Power of Attorney will survive incapacity (i.e. will continue to be effective after you become incapacitated).
I heard that I have to record my Financial Power of Attorney for it to be valid, is that true?
Not unless you will be using that Power of Attorney in real property transactions. For example, if you have property in the Woodlands, and the Power of Attorney will be used to sell your house, then the Power of Attorney should be recorded in the Property Records of Montgomery County, because that is the county where the property is located.
My son was my financial Power of Attorney but he moved to another state. My daughter just moved to Houston, where I live. How do I change my Power of Attorney to make my daughter my agent instead?
Estate planning attorneys in Houston can assist you by revoking your current Power of Attorney and providing notice of revocation to all of the institutions that have a copy of it. If the current Power of Attorney is recorded with the County Clerk of Harris County, the revocation should be recorded as well. Then, your estate planning lawyer will draft a new Power of Attorney by which you can designate your daughter as your agent.
What is a Medical Power of Attorney?
A Medical POA is a document by which you appoint an agent who will make medical and health care decisions for you if you become incapacitated.
What is a Directive to Physicians and Family and Surrogates?
This document is commonly known as a Living Will. A Directive indicates your decision to withhold or withdraw life support if you are suffering from a terminal illness or an irreversible condition.
What is a Declaration of Guardian in the Event of Incapacity?
A person who has the mental capacity to execute legal documents may execute this document designating someone they like and trust to serve as guardian of the person and/or estate if/when that person becomes incapacitated in the future. This document may also be used for the purpose of disqualifying someone from serving as guardian of declarant’s person and/or estate.
What is a Designation of Agent to Control Disposition of Remains?
A person uses this document to designate an agent to handle funeral arrangements for that person. The declarant may also disclose in this document whether he/she wants to be cremated or where and how he/she wants to be buried.
What is a HIPPA Release?
A HIPPA Release Document authorizes health-care professionals to disclose and release declarant’s health information and medical records to the agent designated by the declarant.
What makes this attorney different from other attorneys who handle probate and estate planning?
When you hire Ms. Rice, you communicate with her and not secretaries or legal assistants. If you are a potential client, you might initially speak with the receptionist the first time you call this office, however, once you have signed a contract, every phone call and email you will exchange, will be with the lawyer. In addition, all of your documents are drafted by the attorney. Furthermore, the attorney handles the execution ceremony to make sure the well drafted documents are executed properly.
Where can I learn about probating Wills?
To learn more about Probating wills and Estate Administration, visit the PROBATE page of this website.
Where can I get continuous update regarding Wills and Estate Planning?
For continuous valuable updates regarding Wills and Estate Planning, follow Professor Beyer's blog.
Houston: 713.855.3060, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Woodlands: 936.271.1480, email@example.com