For many years, there has been an estate tax (some people call it a "death tax") in effect in this country.  Historically, only about 2% of estates have been subject to this tax.  Most estates pay no federal estate tax because the fair market value of the decedent's estate does not exceed the exemption amount. The Tax Jobs and Cuts Act of 2017, signed into law in December 2017, increased the estate tax exemption amount to $11,200,000. Basic estate planning has always made it possible to protect greater amounts than the estate tax exemption ceiling.  If one’s estate is at or near the $11,200,000 range, the most prudent course of action would be to contact an estate planner and take advantage of this large applicable exclusion. 

Some people think if their estate is not as large as the figures set out above, they do not really need to do any estate planning.  As noted below, that is not true for many reasons (see Wills, Trusts, and Guardianships below).  For example, most clients can ensure that their estate passes in accordance with their wishes by drafting a Will.  To further protect our clients’ estates, we also prepare Trusts, Living Wills, Statutory Durable Powers of Attorney, Medical Powers of Attorney, and handle Adult Guardianships for our clients.

At our law office, we focus on ensuring that your estate plan (including wills, trusts, and powers of attorney) is consistent with your wishes. If for some reason you should pass without having time to plan how your estate will be handled, those left behind can frequently have to deal with complicated questions and additional fess and expenses. The state of Texas and their default planning for you and your assets may not be what you had in mind.

Only occasionally does the state's probate plan correspond with how a person would want their estate handled. Even if the state does match what a person wants, additional charges and expenses arise if there is no will. The only way to make sure your estate passes in the manner you wish is to prepare ahead of time. By planning ahead, you can direct that your estate be administered according to your wishes and preferences. There are many steps which can be taken in planning your estate. Our law office has dealt with all types of estates, ranging from small ones to multi-million dollar estates. When using our firm, you will be working with an office which has been involved in creating estate plans for clients in Tarrant County and the surrounding areas for many years. 

How Often Should I Review My Estate Plan? Mr. Catterton suggests that each client's estate plan should be reviewed at least once every three years. Changes in the client's life such as their assets, their health or changes in the family can have a serious impact on the plan, and ordinarily should prompt a review. It is sometimes unrealistic to expect that the plan established today will be exactly what is needed perhaps 10 to 20 or 30 years from now. Assets can change as well as family situations. Each time we review your estate plan, we will make sure that it reflects your wishes and desires. We will help you to reduce possible court costs, as well as other costs that may arise, in handling your estate.

If you die without a Will, State law will determine how, when, and to whom one's estate will be distributed. In addition to allowing you to make your own decisions regarding the distribution of your property, a Will also gives you a chance to provide guidance to the State as to whom parents want to serve as guardians for their minor children should something happen to both parents.  Also, a Will allows you to set up a trust should your children not have reached 18 (or older at your discretion) at the time of your death.  If there are potential estate tax issues, one can also set up trusts to avoid or reduce estate taxes.

In addition to guardianships for a minor, guardianships are also available for persons who are incapacitated.  In Texas, a person is generally deemed to be incapacitated if unable to provide food, clothing, or shelter for himself/herself, or who is unable to care for his/her own physical needs, or is unable to handle his/her financial affairs because of a mental or physical condition.  While such guardianships generally are concerned with the elderly, guardianships can be sought in court for anyone who has become incapacitated for any reason. 

A Directive to Physicians is a document directing your physician to withhold life-sustaining procedures if you are suffering from an irreversible or terminal condition. The Directive can be revoked at any time. 

A Durable Power of Attorney is a document that authorizes someone to carry on business or deal with your assets regardless of your disability or incapacity. 

A Medical Power of Attorney is a document that authorizes someone to consent to medical treatment for you if you are unable to give consent. 

If someone dies without a valid Will, Texas law allows probate of that person's estate in accordance with and as directed by state law. Probate is the Court process by which a Will is proved to be valid and in effect at the time of death.  It generally includes all matters regarding the administration of the estate of a deceased person.  See Elder Law Handbook (Eighth Edition: Spring 2018); published by Tarrant County Bar Association.  

​ ​Call Today for a Consultation - (817) 496-5200​

Law Office of William T. Catterton
6707 Brentwood Stair Road, Suite 210
Fort Worth, Texas 76112-3324
Telephone: (817) 496-5200
Fax: (817) 496-5252

The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for individual advice regarding your own situation.

Copyright © 2018 by The Law Offices of W.T. Catterton. All rights reserved.

Attorney and Counselor at Law