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Fundamental Estate Planning

Serving Families and Individuals in Houston, Sugar Land, The Woodlands and all Throughout the Houston Metro Area

There are many legal strategies involved in estate planning, including wills, revocable living trusts, irrevocable trusts, durable powers of attorney, medical powers of attorney, and other health care documents. We have had many people say that they do not have an estate plan. We believe most people would be surprised to learn that they actually do have a plan. In the absence of legal planning otherwise, their estate will be distributed after death according to Texas's laws of intestacy. Of course, this may not be the plan they would have chosen. A properly drafted estate plan can replace the terms of the State’s estate plan with your own.

More About Estate Planning Services: Your Last Will and Testament

Your Last Will and Testament is just one part of a comprehensive estate plan. If a person dies without a will, he or she is said to have died "intestate," and state laws will determine how and to whom the person's assets will be distributed. Some things you should know about wills:

  • A will has no legal authority until after death. So, a will does not help manage a person's affairs when he or she is incapacitated, whether by illness or injury.
  • A will does not help an estate avoid probate. A will is the legal document submitted to the probate court, so it is basically an "admission ticket" to probate.
Trusts: Revocable Living Trusts, Irrevocable Trusts, Testamentary Trusts, Special Needs Trusts, etc.

Trusts come in many "flavors." They can be simple or complex and serve a variety of legal, personal, investment or tax planning purposes. At the most basic level, a trust is a legal entity with at least three parties involved: the trust-maker, the trustee (trust manager), and the trust beneficiary. Many times, all three parties can be represented by one person or a married couple. In the case of a revocable living trust, for example, individuals may create a trust (the trust-maker) and name themselves the current trustees (trust managers) who manage the trust assets for their own benefit (trust beneficiary).

Depending on the situation, there may be many advantages to establishing a trust, including avoiding probate court. In most cases, assets owned in a revocable living trust will pass to the trust beneficiaries (or heirs) immediately upon the death of the trust-maker(s) with no probate required. Certain trusts may also result in tax advantages both for the trust-maker and the beneficiary. Trusts may be used to protect property from future, potential creditors, or simply to provide for someone else to manage and invest property for the trust-maker(s) and the named beneficiaries. If well drafted, another advantage of trusts is their continuing effectiveness even if the trust-maker dies or becomes incapacitated.

Trusts 101: Why is Everyone Trying to Sell Me a Trust?

Powers of Attorney

A power of attorney is a legal document giving another person (the attorney-in-fact) the legal right (powers) to do certain things for you (the principal). What those powers are depends on the terms of the document. A power of attorney may be broad or limited and specific. All powers of attorney terminate upon the death of the principal. Powers of attorney can be effective immediately or upon the incapacity of the principal. When the intent is to designate a back-up decision-maker in the event of incapacity, then a durable power of attorney should be used. Durable Powers of Attorney should be frequently updated because banks and other financial institutions may hesitate to honor a power of attorney that is more than a year old.

Health Care Documents (or Advance Directives)

An advance directive is a document that specifies the type of medical and personal care you would want should you lose the ability to make and communicate your own decisions. Anyone over the age of 18 may execute an advance directive, and this document is legally binding in Texas. Your advance directive can specify who will make and communicate decisions for you, and it can set out the circumstances under which you would not like your life to be prolonged if, for example, you were in a coma with no reasonable chance of recovery.

HIPAA Authorizations

A document that goes hand-in-hand with your advance directive is an authorization to your medical providers to allow specified individuals to access your medical information. Without this authorization, your doctor may refuse to communicate with your hand-picked decision maker, in fact your doctor may not be able to disclose pertinent health information to your loved ones.

Client Reviews
★★★★★
"In late February, 2020, I needed to file from out of state for successor Letters Testamentary in Harris County for my father's estate. The attorney I used, Ryan Cook, returned my call promptly, gave me the option of hourly or flat rate fee, explained what would be involved, then let his paralegal and other staff handle most of the contact with me. I worked with Kendall and Crystal. Both were very responsive and tech savvy. As the pandemic hit and communication everywhere was getting difficult and the probate court had limited access, these women continued to stay in touch and help me through the process, with us all working remotely. We were all experiencing a new way of being in the world and all three of them handled it with grace, humanity and efficiency." L.B.
★★★★★
"I would highly recommend this law firm because of their caring and professional staff. Mr. David Miller, Crystal Collins and Kendall Mair have gone above and beyond to help our family get all our elderly parents legal paperwork up to date. We are extremely appreciative for all they have done for us." A.B.
★★★★★
"I engaged the services of McCulloch & Miller to assist me with the difficult task of navigating Medicaid eligibility requirements for a close family member. I found them to be knowledgeable and thorough. Working with Darby was a pleasure. She took the worry and aggravation of dealing with a government entity off my shoulders. I highly recommend McCulloch and Miller for eldercare issues." B.S.
★★★★★
"We needed assistance with a Medicaid application and McCulloch & Miller were extremely helpful and expedited the paperwork promptly. We also greatly appreciated the professionalism, and caring manner in which Darby handled our case. If you need assistance, we highly recommend this firm!" P.M.