The Livens Law Firm

Estate planning gives choices for privacy and preserving assets

In Texas, as elsewhere, when a person dies with assets in his or her name, there must usually be an estate filed to account for the assets, pay bills and fees and administer the deceased person's estate. What is left is the proceeds that may be distributed to the beneficiaries. If the decedent engaged in estate planning during life, the estate will end up being distributed as he or she desired.

In that event, the executor of the estate, who is the person appointed in the will to administer the estate, will perform all the statutorily required procedures of estate administration. Hopefully, the decedent will have updated his or her estate planning documents every few years to make sure that ownership in assets has not become outdated and to make sure that all beneficiaries are still the correct choices. Deaths, divorces, births, marriages and the like are all events that could affect the way assets should be titled and the beneficiaries who are selected for distribution of assets.

Generally, an estate can be administered and closed out without the intrusion or approval of the county probate judge. In some cases, where complicated transfers are required, or even where the beneficiaries dispute the proposed handling of the estate, the probate court must assume control of the proceedings and determine the legal status of such issues. With proper estate planning, the estate should be administered in most instances without court control or intrusion.

The matter is settled generally by the final act of the beneficiaries signing a release that affirms acceptance of the payments and distributions. Because estate administration is a public matter subject to public perusal and access, some individuals prefer to avoid it if possible. Through estate planning, they may be able to establish living trusts that will take the assets out of the decedent's name during his or her lifetime. The trust is private and the assets in the trust will not be subject to court administration or probate. These are complicated matters and early consultation with an estates attorney is necessary to assure that the choices made are appropriate and efficiently executed pursuant to Texas law. 

Source: recordonline.com, "Bonnie Kraham: Privacy and your estate", Bonnie Kraham, Nov. 2, 2016

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