Frequently Asked Questions
Do you have questions about estate planning or the probate process? Do you need to know more about family law in Dallas? Are you wondering if you have a personal injury case? Are unsure if you need a lawyer?
The Ashmore Law Firm, PC provides the answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs) about estate planning, probate law, family law and personal injury law. Please select a category from the box below to narrow your FAQ search.
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Who Can be Appointed to Serve as a Guardian?
I’d like to start out by saying that it is very important to give careful consideration when designating who you would like to serve as the guardian of your estate and the guardian of your person.
Why you ask? Because there is not an absolute clear cut answer as to who is qualified to serve as a guardian and who can be disqualified to serve as a guardian. The only constant is that in order to be a guardian you must be over the age of 18.
The Court has significant leeway when deciding who to appoint as a guardian of an estate or person. For example, according to the Estates Code, a person may not be appointed as a guardian if a Court finds them to be “unsuitable” or if their conduct is “notoriously bad." This is one of the many reasons why it’s so important to meet with a qualified guardianship attorney to get your questions answered with respect as to who can and who cannot be appointed as a guardian.
What is a Declaration of Guardian?
A Declaration of Guardian is a document that allows you to name the individuals who will be your guardian of your person and estate in the event of your incapacity or disability. More importantly, it allows you to name the individual you DO NOT want serving in that capacity.
My minor child was listed as a beneficiary on my parents’ life insurance policy, but the insurance company won’t release the money. What can I do?
Although you are the parent, the insurance company will not release funds to any minor child. You will need to either institute Guardianship proceedings, or have the funds placed in the court registry until your child reaches age 18. At that point, the funds will be given directly to your child.
For more information, read our article, The 1 BIG Problem with Designating a Minor as a Beneficiary.
My sibling has my parent’s Power of Attorney, but is refusing to pay for living expenses. What can I do?
There may be a few options. One would be to contact Adult Protective Service (APS), or the Elder Exploitation and Financial Service. If not, it may be necessary to begin Guardianship proceedings.
Learn more about Guardianship in our new book, Is Your Loved One in Need of a Guardian?
What do I do if my parents are becoming confused and cannot handle their finances?
Your parents have the option to sign Power of Attorney Documents to appoint someone to handle their finances and/or their medical decisions. However, if they do not have the capacity to understand what the documents mean, it may be necessary to begin Guardianship proceedings.
My son or daughter is diagnosed with a mental illness and refuses to take medication, what can I do?
If he or she is a danger to himself or herself, or anyone else, call 911 or obtain a Mental Illness Warrant. If he or she meets the criteria, he or she will be taken to a hospital, which would begin the Mental Illness Commitment process. Part of this process will be to file an application for court ordered psychiatric medication. Keep in mind that he or she would have to meet the necessary criteria. Contact us for additional information on this process.
What is a Temporary Restraining Order?
A Temporary Restraining Order sets forth the acts which either or both parties are prohibited from doing immediately after a petition is filed. Sometimes this order is called a "TRO."
What is Conservatorship in Texas?
In Texas, custody is known as conservatorship. It is a legal term that defines the rights and responsibilities of a parent under the Texas Family Code.
What is the 2017 Estate Tax Exemption Limit and Why is it Important?
Essentially, the Estate Tax is a tax on a person’s right to transfer property upon his or her death.
The “Gross Estate” includes everything from cash and securities to business interests to real estate. Basically, everything a person owns. Tax deductions are taken from the Gross Estate to create the “Taxable Estate.”
If a person’s Taxable Estate is over the exemption limit, $5,490,000 for 2017, the estate will be taxed at a rate of forty percent (40%). It is important to understand what the Estate Tax is and why it could affect your estate, whether you are over or under the exemption, because it will dictate the type and complexity of your estate plan.
It is best to work with a qualified attorney to determine the most viable estate plan for you based on your planning goals and objective.
What is a Disposition of Remains?
A disposition of remains is an estate planning document that allows you to appoint an agent to make all decisions about the disposition of your remains after death. For example, if you would like to be buried, cremated, have your ashes spread in a specific manner, etc.
Learn about other important estate planning documents.
How can I keep my divorce private in Texas?
In Texas, you can keep your divorce proceedings private by requesting the Court sign an “Agreed Order to Seal” the case file.
This prevents the pleadings from being publicly accessed and also prevents non-parties from attending any hearing or trial. However, whether the Court signs an Order to Seal is up to the discretion of the judge and is not guaranteed.
I founded my own business and two of my children have already become involved in the day to day operations. Do I really need to think about business succession planning?
Yes. Succession planning is not just about preparing a will or a trust. It is not even about deciding who will run the company when you die. Succession planning documents can provide the protection your company needs to combat business risks, but they can also protect your estate against any future estate taxes. Further, it is equally as important that you, the benefactor, are protected during your lifetime. Succession planning works hand in hand with estate planning to provide that protection.
Can I Designate a Minor as a Beneficiary?
Yes, you can designate a minor as a beneficiary, but doing so can create MAJOR problems.
THE PROBLEM: In the state of Texas, minor children (any person under the age of 18) cannot legally own any real property or be entitled to receive any assets. This means that if minor children are designated as beneficiaries, they need a guardian of the estate appointed by the court to control the assets or property on their behalf until they turn 18 years old. Appointing a guardian of the estate for minor children can be a long and costly process.
If you or a family member has designated minor children as beneficiaries on any current documents, it may be time to reconsider. Please contact a probate attorney to discuss the alternatives.
Who Gets the Ring in a Broken Off Engagement?
Many people believe that after a proposal, the engagement ring is yours. WRONG. In Texas, engagements rings are “conditional gifts.” This means that if you don’t actually get married and the engagement is broken off, the ring goes back to the person who purchased it. This makes sense, because an engagement ring is seen as a promise to marry someone. Thus, if the promise of marriage isn’t fulfilled, then the person wearing the ring shouldn’t be able to keep it.
Can I Get a Legal Separation in Texas?
The short answer is… ‘No’. The long answer is… ‘No’.
Although legal separation is available and sometimes had in many states, Texas doesn’t have legal separation. In order to protect your interests regarding your property and your children if you are separated from your spouse, you must file for divorce and obtain temporary orders from the Court.
Learn more about separation in Texas.
Do I Need a Trust if I Own Property Outside of Texas?
We recommend that if you own property outside of the state of Texas that you have a revocable living trust. Without having the trust in place, upon your death, your family has to go through the probate process in every state that you own property. This can be a costly and time consuming process.
You can save your loved ones the time, money, and stress by having your out of state property in trust.
What is a Step-up in Basis?
A step-up in basis is the readjusted value of an asset inherited by a beneficiary. The readjusted value is referred to as “stepped-up” because the asset’s base value is increased to reflect the value of the asset at the date of the decedent’s death. This adjustment creates a huge tax advantage for the beneficiary because, if the asset is ever sold, the capital gains taxes due upon the sale of an inherited asset are reduced.
For example, let’s say you purchased your home for $100,000. Your “basis” in the house is $100,000. Upon your death, you leave the home to your daughter and it is now worth $150,000. Her basis in the house is $150,000 not $100,000. Should your daughter decide to sell it for $150,000, she would not recognize a “gain” because the sales price ($150,000) minus the value ($150,000) is zero. Should she sell it for $170,000 she would only pay capital gains taxes on $20,000 ($170,000 minus $150,000) rather than $70,000 ($170,000 minus $100,000).
Do I Really Need a Trust?
When I meet with clients it seems there is one question I am asked over and over again: “Do I need a Trust?”
The answer is not everyone needs a trust. There are many different types of trusts and there are certain situations where having a trust would be beneficial. Learn the most common reasons for a trust by reading our article, 6 Reasons for a Trust.
What is a No Contest Provision in a Will or Trust?
How to prevent beneficiaries or heirs from contesting a Will or Trust.
In order to address the possibility of any person – whether related to you or not – attempting to oppose the provisions or probate of your Will, we include a No Contest Provision. This means that if any of your beneficiaries or their heirs choose to contest your Will or Trust and lose, they are no longer entitled to any portion of your estate and will receive just $10.00.
We consider this provision to be non-negotiable and we require it to be in every Last Will and Testament we prepare.
Who Gets the Ring in a Divorce?
In a divorce, the engagement ring is considered the separate property of the person it was gifted to (absent a different agreement between the parties).
In Texas, separate property is defined as anything that was owned prior to marriage, gifted during the marriage, or inherited during the marriage. Thus, after you marry the person who gave you the ring, you have fulfilled your promise to marry and it is your separate property.