About the Expert
For more than 25 years, Bill Houser has used his specialization in the area of estate planning and probate to provide boutique wealth law solutions. His estate planning practice is laser-focused on assisting his clients in protecting their legacies of wealth. Bill is the founder of Houser Law Firm, P.C., which has offices in Rockwall, Dallas, and Southlake.
I already have a will. What else do I need to ensure my family receives their inheritance?
A will is an important facet of a solid estate plan. However, depending on your assets and circumstances, a will by itself may not be enough. There are many tools available to an experienced estate planning attorney to address almost any situation. From using sophisticated strategies to minimize estate and gift taxes to establishing plans designed to protect certain assets, there are many ways to ensure that your family gets all you intend for them. The use of trusts and business entities is quite common in today’s estate planning. Determining whether a will is all that is needed is a critical starting point for discussions with your estate planning attorney.
I’m financially successful, but I’m not a billionaire. Do I need an elaborate estate plan?
Estate plans should always be customized to your needs and goals. There is no “one-size-fits-all” estate plan. You could be a billionaire with a very simple will. While preserving and passing down wealth can be a driving factor in many estate plans, we have found that every situation is different because every family is different. Ensuring that your legacy of wealth (whatever constitutes that wealth) is efficiently used during your lifetime and then passed on as you intend is critically important. Those you leave behind will be grieving. Having a clearly defined plan will minimize the stress in an already harrowing time.
How often should I review my estate plan?
It’s prudent to review your estate plan with your attorney every two to three years, although that doesn’t mean you’ll need to change your plan that often. It is most important that you review your plan when circumstances change, such as the loss or gain of a family member, changes in the law, or significant changes in your financial situation.
I prepared an estate plan in another state. Will my plan be valid in Texas?
The rules for having a valid will and other estate planning documents are governed by state law and vary from state to state. Out-of-state documents may be valid in Texas, but you should immediately consult with an estate planning attorney in Texas to ensure that you don’t have a disaster down the road.
I don’t have a will or estate plan. What’s the worst that could happen?
Actually, you do have an estate plan. Everyone does—they are called “intestacy laws.” The Texas legislature has effectively drafted your will. If you die without a will, your assets will pass to predetermined “heirs at law” regardless of your wishes. In some situations, your estate may end up paying exorbitant taxes, and your heirs may have to pay high probate expenses. Relatives you would have excluded from your will or whom you never met could receive some or all your assets. Your children could become co-owners of property with your spouse. If you have minor children, costly guardianship or management trusts may be necessary, as the children could get a substantial inheritance. We strongly encourage everyone to have at least basic estate planning documents in place to avoid these intestacy laws.