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Houston Estate Planning and Probate Law Practice

Vicki Whitlow Thomas has experience and compassion

It is never too early to begin planning for your future, and the future of your family.

Vicki Whitlow Thomas is highly qualified to handle all your estate planning and probate needs, from simple document preparation to complex probate matters.

Preparation of wills

Simple wills

  • Total estate value less than $1 million
  • Likely to be uncontested
  • No special conditions or restrictions
  • No trusts included

Tax planned wills

  • Create testamentary trusts (created at death) for spouse, children, parents, or others
  • Beneficiaries receive their inheritance in trust that provides creditor protection
  • Avoid or minimize death taxes

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Preparation of inter vivos trusts (created during your lifetime)

Revocable living trusts

A living trust allows you to name another person to help you manage your assets if you become incapacitated and then distribute your assets after your death. You may want a living trust if:

  • You have out-of-state real property
  • You need help with your finances
  • You expect your will to be contested
  • You want your estate to remain private (probated wills are public record)

Irrevocable life insurance trusts

The proceeds from a life insurance policy will be subject to estate taxes if you own the policy. The best solution is an Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust ("ILIT").

  • Typically for the benefit of your spouse and/or children
  • A life insurance policy in an ILIT is considered to be owned by the trust, not the insured
  • An existing policy can be assigned to the ILIT

Educational trusts for children

You can use an educational trust for children or grandchildren to receive annual gifts:

  • Preserve the funds for the child's education or other needs
  • Protect the child's education fund from claims by creditors

Special needs trusts

To manage property for the benefit of disabled individuals, you can create both testamentary and inter vivos trusts that:

  • Will still allow the individual to qualify for government assistance
  • Can be used only to supplement government assistance programs

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Documents for incapacity and end-of-life decisions

Directive to physicians (living will)

A living will states your preferences regarding life-sustaining treatment if you become unable to make or communicate decisions regarding treatment and you are terminally ill or have an irreversible condition.

Power of attorney

You can appoint a person(s) to be responsible for your important decisions in the event that you become incapacitated.

  • Statutory Durable Power of Attorney (for property and finances)
  • Medical Power of Attorney (for health care)

Declaration of guardian

In the event it becomes necessary to have a court-appointed guardian, this document allows you to:

  • Name who you want to be the guardian of your person and estate
  • Name who you don't want to be your guardian
  • Prevent the court from appointing a stranger to be your guardian

Appointment of agent to control disposition of remains

You should use this document if:

  • You are not married
  • You would prefer a non-family member control the disposition of your remains

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Beneficiary designations

Certain assets are controlled by the beneficiary designation and need to be coordinated with the estate planning to be sure that they are distributed properly.

  • Life insurance
  • Retirement assets

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Administration of trusts

Accepting the position of trustee means that you have legal obligations such as:

  • Accounting to the beneficiaries
  • Distribution of property to the beneficiaries

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Administration of decedents' estates

As an executor or administrator, you will be responsible for the administration of the decedent's estate, with or without a will.

  • Dependent or independent administration
  • Heirship proceedings (if no will)
  • Probate of wills

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Probate Litigation

Probate litigation involves any contested matter involving

  • contesting a will or interpretation of a provision of the will
  • contesting a trust or matters relating to a trust
  • accounting demands on an executor or trustee
  • any contested matter relating to a decedent's estate or a trust

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You may need to take action on behalf a person in need of care:

  •  A minor
  • An incapacitated adult

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You can position yourself to minimize your obligations regarding:

  • Estate tax
  • Gift tax
  • Generation-skipping transfer tax

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Marital Property Agreement

Premarital agreements and agreements between spouses allow you to clarify the ownership of marital property by distinguishing community property from separate property and your agreements regarding each in the event of death or divorce.

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Houston probate attorney and estate planning Vicki Whitlow Thomas

I have the proven experience and the legal focus that you need for your family’s future. Please contact me.