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Will lawyers in Houston have more or less seen it all, yet things still come as a surprise to our clients when it comes to wills and trusts. When you are ready to start the estate planning process (which should be now, by the way), here are a few estate planning surprises you may want to keep in mind:

1. Nearly every estate that owns real property or mineral rights will go through Houston probate. Because probate is a public process in the courts, your information becomes public. Trusts may protect you from this.

2. Even if you have a will, #1 applies.

3. If you do not have a will or trust, the courts will decide who gets your assets and even who becomes the guardian of your children.

4. You are still responsible for debts after your death, and they will be collected out of your estate.

5. It may be a good idea to give away portions of your estate before you die in order to avoid extra taxes.

6. Estate plans, including your will, need to be updated regularly or there can be some really ugly implications later.

7. Life insurance and other funds that name beneficiaries might not be considered as a part of your estate for Houston probate purposes.

8. Minor children, as well as pets, cannot actually inherit from you. In the case of minor children, they will not receive their full inheritance until age 18. To ensure your pets and children have money when they need it, it is often best to create a trust to manage the assets.

9. Every single estate plan needs to be customized, despite what DIY kits and online sellers will tell you.

10. Trusts can give ownership of your property to someone else, so you want to carefully determine what kind of trust will allow you to keep using your assets until you pass away.

This list is far from complete, but these are some of the estate planning surprises that come up for clients, either during the planning phase or when a person has already passed away and the family is left to figure out what to do. A trust lawyer in Houston can help you prepare for, and avoid many of these less-than-desirable situations by making you aware of them and helping you figure out the best course of action to take.

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