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A Texas durable power of attorney is an important document. It authorizes another person to handle financial affairs on your behalf. If you don’t have a durable power of attorney and become incapacitated, guardianship may be necessary. Guardianships are expensive and cumbersome and can be avoided with a durable power of attorney. Generally, you can amend your durable power of attorney by signing a new durable power of attorney. You also have the right to revoke or terminate your durable power of attorney. But what happens if you become incapacitated? Is it possible to make a durable power of attorney…
I recently worked with a couple that wanted to make sure that all their worldly possessions passed to the surviving spouse upon their death, and then to their children when both of them died. Rather than listing out every specific asset they owned, I used a residuary clause to accomplish their goals. They became alarmed when they read their Wills. They were concerned that if their Wills did not specifically identify each item they owned, the item would not pass according to their wishes. What is a Specific Gift? It is possible to make a specific gift in a Will.…
I have written before about the risks of do-it-yourself estate planning and explained how people who use do-it-yourself solutions end up with a false sense of security. They create documents that they believe will address their needs but wind up being ineffective and ultimately more costly than what an attorney would have charged to draft a simple Will. Wills that Do Not Contain Residuary Clauses Can Be Problematic A recent case out of Florida illustrates the potential problems that can arise. It involves a Will written by Ann Aldrich, who wrote her final wishes on an “E-Z Legal Form” rather than…
After reading a post I had written on the risks of do-it-yourself estate planning, a skeptical reader commented that his friend’s situation contradicted my article. His friend had written a will on a paper towel leaving his entire estate to his girlfriend. His friend’s ex-wife and three children contested the will to no avail. Despite the efforts of four lawyers arguing against its validity, the will was declared valid by the court. The holographic will that his friend wrote without the help of an attorney had carried out his wishes. But at what cost? The fact that the Court upheld…
NB: This post is part of a series highlighting wills that contain some interesting, and sometimes bizarre, bequests and stipulations. You can see all these posts here. Leona Helmsley is often referred to as the “Queen of Mean”, but her dog might disagree. During her life, she dressed her Maltese Terrier, Trouble, in pricey outfits, including a diamond collar, and fed him meals prepared by a chef that included steamed vegetables and steamed or grilled chicken or fish that were served in porcelain bowls on a silver tray. When she died in 2007, the hotel magnate left $12 million in…
Life Changes Can Result In Unintended Consequences, Even For Those With Wills Many years ago, I read an essay entitled “second-chance family” that reinforced the importance of keeping a Will updated. It was written by a woman named Kate Simonson, who had been adopted as an infant. Her father died in a work accident when she was just three years old. Her mother raised Kate and her younger brother, Jason, until she died suddenly of a brain aneurysm when Kate was 17 and Jason was 15. Even though they had extended family, none of the family members stepped forward to…
I received a note from someone who said he had gone to court to probate his grandparents’ Wills. His grandparents signed their Wills in the presence of two witnesses; however, the Wills did not include self-proving affidavits. Consequently, the judge told them that the witnesses had to appear in court to prove the Will was valid. Unfortunately, one of the witnesses who signed his grandparents’ Wills had died. The other lives out of state. As such, proving up the Will may be more difficult and expensive if the Will had included a self-proving affidavit. What is a Self-Proving Affidavit? A…
A self-proving affidavit is a sworn statement that accompanies a Will. In the case of an attested Will, the testator and all witnesses sign it in the presence of a notary. The self-proving affidavit affirms that the testator properly signed the Will in the presence of two witnesses. Is it Necessary to Include a Self-Proving Affidavit? The absence of a self-proving affidavit does not invalidate a Will. However, having a self-proved Will is beneficial because it eliminates the need for witnesses to appear in a probate proceeding to prove the Will is valid. Proving up a Will during probate requires…
A reader recently submitted a comment to my article titled “LegalZoom vs. Lawyer: What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You.” This reader’s view of lawyers had been shaped by his experience in a protracted divorce proceeding. So needless to say, it was not positive. The gist of his comment was that the legal profession had more bad, incompetent, lazy, careless, and overpaid law firms than the legal community chose admit.  “I am not saying LegalZoom is perfect, but do not try to claim that attorneys are also, or that the probability is high that any attorney you find…
“Why do people use lawyers to prepare their wills?” a prospective client once asked me. “I don’t have a lot of stuff and I was wondering whether I could buy the forms at Office Depot.” It’s a valid question. After all, Office Depot sells will preparation software for $69.95, less than the cost of consulting an attorney to prepare your will. And several other do-it-yourself services offer wills for less. You can probably even find a free will form online if you look long enough. Why should you use an attorney to prepare a will for you? DIY Estate Planning…