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Dallas Will Planning Attorneys

In so many of life’s everyday interactions, communication is key. Expressing our wants, desires, and concerns is what helps move us from point A to point B. What we tend to forget is that communication related to our passing is just as important. Even though we may be gone, there is a way to continue to communicate our wants and needs after our death – it is called a will. A will is a key piece of communication that directs our final wishes and provides for the loved ones that we leave behind.

At Staubus and Randall, we understand that each client has individual needs and goals. We work with you to customize your will and tailor it to meet your and your family’s needs. We know it is difficult to face a future without yourself in it, but our compassionate team of attorneys is prepared to help you ensure that your family will be taken care of, and your assets won’t be frozen in limbo. Ready to talk about your estate plan? Contact our office at 214-691-3411.

What Is a Will?

A will is simply a legal document that lays out your final wishes in regard to the distribution of your property, assets, and the care of minor children when you pass away. Unfortunately, many people mistakenly believe that a will is only for the very wealthy or those with complicated assets to divide.

A will is a legal document that can be as simple or as complicated as you make it. Everyone should have a will in order to clearly lay out their final wishes. Not only does it reduce confusion over who gets what, but it can also help your surviving family member gain access to your assets in a timely manner.

It is especially important to have a will if you have children. The failure to prepare a will may leave your children in a state of limbo, and it means that decisions about your estate will be left to the hands of judges or state officials, instead of the ones you love. Having a will means that you can rest assured that your affairs will be in order, and you’ve done everything possible to make your wishes known.

What a Will Can Do

A will provides direction for the distribution of certain property and assets at the time of your death. Again, wills can be as simple or as complex as you make them. A will can achieve a wide range of family planning goals, distribution outlines, and even some tax objectives. In addition to managing the distribution of your property and assets, a will can also do the following:

  • Guardianship for Children: In a will, you are able to designate a guardian of your choosing to care for your surviving minor children. This helps to reduce the involvement of judges or state officials when it comes to determining where a child should be placed.
  • You Can Choose Your Beneficiaries: A will can allow you to choose who receives your assets. For example, if you were to die without a will, state laws would typically not include friends, stepchildren, or godchildren as beneficiaries of your estate. By using a will, you are allowed to dictate who benefits from your passing, be it stepchildren, friends, or your favorite charities.
  • You Can Designate an Executor: This person can be a personal representative of your estate.
  • It Can Back-up a Living Trust: A will can be an excellent way to back up any type of living trust that you may have already established.

What a Will Can’t Provide For

While a will can dictate the majority of your wishes regarding property and asset distribution, it cannot dictate everything. In general, it is important to note that wills are typically not found or read until well after your death. That means a will is not the ideal place to layout instructions for your final arrangements and funeral instructions. Those instructions are better spelled out in a separate document and left with an executor or trusted family member.

There are also certain conditions that a will just can’t reasonably accommodate. Adding certain complicated provisions to a will can result in legal challenges that tie up the distribution of assets in court for months, sometimes even years. Here are instances where a will may not be able to accomplish certain goals:

  • Jointly Held Property: A will cannot transfer property that you hold jointly with someone else. This is also true for other assets that you own with rights of survivorship that pass automatically to the surviving owner.
  • Life Insurance Money: A will cannot dictate who gets your life insurance money. That money will pass to the beneficiary named in the policy.
  • IRA, 401(k), or Other Pension or Retirement Plan: The same holds true for IRAs and similar plans. A will cannot specify who this money passes to. It can only be distributed to the named beneficiary on the plan.
  • Property in a Living Trust: A will can be a wonderful back-up to a living trust, but you cannot establish a trust and then dole it out to someone else by stipulating the change in your will.
  • Putting Conditions on Gifts: Many times, people want to see their assets go to family members contingent on some expected behavior. For example, you may want to leave money to your son, but only so that he can pay for college. Making gifts conditional to behavior can be difficult to enforce and may open the document up to challenges. If you want to leave a gift contingent on a certain action, it may be better to discuss setting up a trust in addition to your will.
  • Leave Money or Assets to Cherished Pets: We’ve all heard the stories of eccentric millionaires who leave their vast fortune to their beloved pet Fluffy. Unfortunately, pets aren’t allowed to own property. So, in essence, you are really just leaving your final wishes open to legal challenges from disgruntled family members. You can leave your pet to a trusted friend or family member and provide them with money or assets to provide for that pet. You can also consider donating to your favorite pet-related charity.

Frequently Asked Questions

We’ve provided answers to some of the questions we frequently receive about wills and estate planning. Don’t hesitate to set up a consultation with our attorneys to discuss your specific questions and needs.

What is the difference between a will and a trust?

Wills and trusts are two different types of estate plans, both with their own sets of benefits and drawbacks. Generally, a will is intended to include all of your instructions, but it must go through probate following your death, which will incur additional fees and take time to process – weeks, months, or even years in some cases. A living trust may be more expensive to create initially, but you can avoid probate. There are also tax implications for whichever route you choose. Consulting an experienced estate attorney and laying out your ultimate goals and needs is the best way to determine which option is right for you.

When do I need to create a will?

That depends on where you are in life and the status of your personal finances. A will is not a document that should be crafted immediately before passing. It is a document that should be carefully crafted with proper understanding and perspective. Many people begin to consider drafting a will in the following situations: when they get married, have a baby, or accumulate a number of assets or property.

Can I change a will?

Yes. It is possible to make changes to a will when life events make it necessary, or if there has been a significant change in your personal situation. It is important to remember that the only version of your will that will matter after your passing is the most current and legally valid copy in existence at the time of your death.

Are there things I can’t include in a will?

There are certain assets that a will cannot govern – non-probate property, for example. There are some forms of real estate and other assets that will pass to the surviving owner and cannot be distributed through a will. Also, an IRA or insurance policy will be passed to the named beneficiary, regardless of what you stipulate in a will.

Do I really need to hire an attorney to create a will?

You do not technically need an attorney to create a will. Should you hire an attorney to layout your will? Absolutely, yes. To begin with, in order for a will to be legally enforceable, it must be created and executed in accordance with state laws. Trying to do it on your own can be confusing and difficult, and you risk challenges to the document after you pass away. Keep in mind that the more assets, property, or valuables you have, the more complicated it can be to create an estate plan. You want to ensure that everything is legal, and everyone is accounted for when creating a will. An experienced estate attorney is the best resource you have for making that happen.

Why Choose Staubus and Randall to Set Up My Will?

The attorneys at Staubus and Randall are dedicated solely to helping clients navigate their way through estate planning and probate. When it comes time to sit down and think about drafting a will, we can discuss your wants, needs, and goals, and we can craft a plan that integrates all aspects of your assets, property, tax concerns, business planning, and family welfare.

Trust the legal team with over 100 years of combined experience to look out for you and your family’s financial future. If you need help drafting a will, contact Staubus and Randall today at 214-691-3411. Let’s set up a consultation to talk about your needs and how we can help.

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Frequent Asked Questions

Estate planning is the arrangement of transferring a person’s assets and property after their death. The estate plan you create may consist of cars, homes, life insurance, assets, real estate, jewelry, and other types of personal property. When you create an estate plan, you must sign it in front of a notary public.

Even if you don’t have many assets, it’s still a good idea to create an estate plan, so that loved ones won’t argue over who gets what when you pass away. Your estate plan will ensure everything you own goes to specified parties and doesn’t end up in the wrong hands.

Typically, those with extensive or complex assets will hire an estate planning lawyer to help draft their will. Many use a will to divide personal property, such as a home, among their family members. When you’re preparing your will, you need to make sure you meet specific legal requirements. Having a witness present when you’re signing the documents is crucial.

Of course, it’s possible to draft a will on your own, especially if you don’t have significant assets to leave behind. However, hiring an estate planning lawyer can ensure that your documents comply with current law, and that everything gets divided among your family the way you want, so there’s no confusion.

A power of attorney is a legal document giving power to one person (an agent or attorney-in-fact) to act on your behalf if you become incapacitated. When you create a power of attorney, you can designate a specific person and decide how much authority they will have.

An attorney-in-fact would maintain records of all decisions made on your behalf. Some decisions could include recommending a guardian for dependents or minor children and financial decisions. They could also make decisions about healthcare.

If you allow your power of attorney the authority to stop, give, or withhold medical treatment, you can leave instructions on which services you want and don’t want, when to stop life-saving measures, and when to cease specific treatments.

It’s devastating to lose a loved one, and the last thing anyone wants to do is handle their affairs. However, you must ensure property and assets go to the right people, and everyone follows their final wishes.

The first thing you should do when your loved one passes away is to request a copy of a legal pronouncement of death. You should also notify close friends and family of their death. If necessary, arrange for the supervision of dependents or minor children. You’ll also be able to find instructions on how to move forward with their plans from their will or trust.

A trust is a document that places your assets into a trust fund to transfer to a beneficiary upon your death. Most people will create a trust to speed up the process of settling their estate. You can also protect your assets, reduce taxes, and prevent probate.

With a trust, you’re not only able to control who your assets go to but also how the money gets disbursed. This is especially beneficial if the person you’re leaving money to doesn’t know how to save and spend properly. You can create a payment schedule with a specified amount paid to them on a weekly or monthly basis, rather than as a lump sum.

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What Our Clients Say

"I recently had the occasion to hire Mr. Staubus for a hotly contested Guardianship matter. Mr. Staubus brought a rare combination of effectiveness, reasonableness and understanding of the human element involved. Mr. Staubus handled all things in a calm, highly competent, effective and reasonable way. It could not have been as easy as he made it seem. He's a credit to the Bar."

Jody

"Before retaining the guidance of the Staubus & Randall firm, I was at my wit's end trying to close an uncle's estate as a co-executor. In addition to dealing with difficult heirs, I had other pressing business issues coming up immediately on estate land in the middle of the Eagleford Shale including dealings with pipeline, seismic, oil & gas, and construction companies. The local bank also refused to give me access to information relating to the estate. This quickly became the most stressful and desperate time in my life...and then I found Joseph Legere who truly became my guardian angel. He was able to get all issues resolved efficiently and the estate fully closed. His professionalism, immense legal knowledge on a wide variety of topics, and amazing communication skills took the burdens off of me and quickly got closure. I am forever indebted to this firm for giving me my life back."

Martha

"Without exception, the legal service, professional attitude, prompt communication of your firm and your legal knowledge is second to none. I only wish I had an attorney here in Boston that could hold a candle to your experience and expertise. Working with you has been a pleasure, but even more, has made me believe that there are knowledgeable attorneys that do care about doing a good job. Thank you Keith! You may not truly understand how much of an impact you are having on peoples lives, but for me, you have helped change my life. As I begin making my dreams come true I can't help but remember none of this would be possible without you."

Joann

"Keith Staubus and Julie Blankenship and their team represented me in a jury trial in the probate court where the ownership of the business which I had worked hard to build was at stake. They successfully fought to preserve my business and my professional reputation, working masterfully to gain the support of the jury. I would not hesitate to hire them again in any bet-the-company litigation.”

Karen

"I have required legal representation twice in my life in two separate will contests. Both times I sought assistance from Keith Staubus and Staubus/Randall. Their service, approach, and determination to obtain results exceeded the other attorneys in each case. Mr. Staubus has always come across as genuine while being direct. He gets the process done in a timely manner with results. I will certainly use him again when and if any new challenges arise.”

David

"After my husband's death, I was devastated by having to defend against a vicious dispute over my husband's estate. Julie Blankenship and Keith Staubus made me feel very comfortable in this distressing situation. They were very tough and did an excellent job for me in obtaining a summary judgment in my favor without a full jury trial. I was glad to have them and Diane Walker in my corner to help me achieve an excellent result - I won! If I ever had to go back to probate court, I would hire them again.” - (will and trust construction case)

Flo

"If you need intervention for someone you love but don't know where to turn or who to turn to, Julie Blankenship and Keith Staubus helped me through the most difficult and stressful time in my life with a much loved family member. I now believe that good will triumph over evil. They fought for what was right, and good prevailed." (contested guardianship and will contest)

Janet

"As a professional money manager, I have used Ryan Randall's estate planning services both personally and for my clients. Ryan has exhibited three critical attributes in his work with me: (1) high intellectual capacity, (2) exceptional thoroughness, and (3) a total commitment to integrity. In today's litigious world, it can be quite costly not to "get things done right.” An added bonus to us was that we found one of the nicest people we could imagine.”

John

"I was represented by Keith Staubus as an income beneficiary in a lawsuit with the trustee of a family trust. Utilizing the expertise of a forensic accountant and his own trust expertise, Keith was able to negotiate a judicial modification of the trust providing for the buyout of my income interest for a substantial lump sum payment out of the trust, resulting in a win-win situation for all of the parties. I highly recommend Staubus/Randall for any trust disputes and trust modification actions."

Kathy

"I have been a wealth management specialist and retirement plan consultant with the Dallas/Fort Worth financial community for over 20 years. I have engaged Ryan Randall to work with a number of my best clients over the years, including business owners, professionals and families. My clients always appreciate Ryan’s straightforward approach to estate planning, asset protection planning and business succession planning. He makes even the most sophisticated estate planning strategies understandable."

Larry

What planning we can sue for?

When a loved one dies, and the execution of their estate plan begins, many disputes can arise among family members. Despite the decedent's creation of a good estate plan, problems can occur if a power of attorney doesn’t perform their duties or someone’s unhappy with the division and distribution of assets.

The most common disputes estate lawyers see include:

Bad fiduciary selection

A majority of disputes arise when the power of attorney, executor, or trustee doesn’t correctly perform their duties when their loved one dies. That failure is called a breach of fiduciary duty. Common breaches include:

  • Failure to file tax returns
  • Using assets for personal benefit
  • Failure to provide tax and accounting information to beneficiaries
  • Dividing and distributing assets improperly

To avoid these issues, you should ensure your loved one chooses the right fiduciary during the process of planning their estate. Careful selection can ensure there’s no breach of duty, and they act in the deceased’s best interest.

Will or Trust Contest

When someone contests a trust or will, it’s either because they don’t think it’s legally valid or believe someone influenced the creator into making decisions they didn’t want to make.

To be legal, the creator of the will must sign under specific circumstances and in a particular manner. In Texas, the person must meet the following requirements:

  • Be at least 18 years of age;
  • Be of sound mind, meaning they’re able to make decisions and understand the consequences of a will;
  • Sign the will themselves;
  • Signature of at least two witnesses; and
  • List at least one beneficiary.

Improper execution of a will is less common than undue influence. Many will argue that the creator of the trust or will made their decisions because of another party. The person accused of undue influence could be a friend, caregiver, professional advisor, or family member.

Distribution of property

Sometimes conflicts will arise when the creator of a will or trust intends to leave someone their property but dies before they can change their estate plan to reflect that decision. Other instances create conflicts when beneficiaries believe the distribution of property is unfair or inequitable.

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How should I handle estate law disputes?

If you come across the disputes listed above or any other types of disputes, there are options for resolving them. The remedy you choose will depend on the particular conflict and the people involved.

  • Remove the executor: If there’s a problem with the executor of the estate, you might need to replace or remove them. Finding a replacement can be difficult, especially finding one that all parties are happy with. However, it’s the best decision to ensure everyone is satisfied with how the estate gets handled. The best choice would be a neutral third party who doesn’t hold any biases.
  • Litigation: To litigate a dispute, you must be an inheritor and have sufficient grounds for pursuing a lawsuit. Most people will litigate if they believe there was an improper distribution of the property or suffered a financial loss because someone mismanaged the estate.
  • Mediation: This is the best option for individuals who want to settle the issues amicably, timely, and inexpensively. Mediations usually bring about quick results and cost less than litigation. You also have complete control over the outcome because there isn’t a judge or jury involved.

The Firm

The attorneys at Staubus and Randall have over 100 years of combined experience in estate planning, probate, and litigation. We have the knowledge and skills to tackle complex legal issues, such as guardianships, will contests, fiduciary litigation, and trust litigation. We can also handle routine matters, such as estate administration, probating wills, heirship determinations, and other probate court matters.

Staubus and Randall received a preeminent AV rating from Martindale-Hubbell, which is the highest rating possible from a peer-rated legal service. This rating recognizes our hard work, dedication, and the case results we’re able to achieve.

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