Houston Estate Planning Law Blog


Most Texas residents know the importance of a will, yet many people still don’t have one. With changing times, wills are more necessary than they ever were. Not having a will can place families and other loved ones at risk of being cut out of their inheritances or facing unnecessary time and expense to receive them.

New research shows that many people still don’t have a will. Actually, 71 percent of adults younger than 34 are without one, and some 41 percent of baby boomers also are living without a will. Many are operating under the mistaken idea that they either do not have enough assets or they believe the process of creating a will is expensive. Others may simply be suffering from procrastination.

Furthermore, domestic partnerships have increased over the last few years. Ensuring partners are included in wills can stop legal disputes and can clearly define last wishes. This step is critical for those who may be in a same-sex marriage because marriage for these couples is not enforced everywhere. Couples who have children from other relationships should also invest in a will.

Also, don’t forget about Spot. Pets can also be an important aspect of the will process. Many people think of their pets as family members, though 61 percent of Americans do not believe pets should be included in a will. Making an informal agreement to care for a pet with a friend may work, but if the relationship or plans change and the plans for the pet are not in writing, a beloved pet could wind up in a shelter or even put down.

In general, a will can typically cover most anything that happens to be important to the person creating it, at least insofar as assets are concerned. But even Texas residents with few assets can benefit from having a will in place. Doing so can ensure that one’s last wishes are followed.

Source: USA Today, “Times change wills, yet many Americans don’t have one,” Christine Dugas, April 25, 2012


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If you do not make clear arrangements for your money in a comprehensive estate plan, your loved ones may find themselves debating over assets after you pass away. For example, due to the existence of multiple wills, Gary Coleman’s ex-wife and ex-girlfriend are currently battling over the former actor’s estate.

Many Texas residents probably remember Coleman from his regular appearance on “Diff’rent Strokes.” The show ran for six seasons on NBC and two seasons on ABC. Coleman’s famous catchphrase on the series, “Whatchu talking about Willis?” became his trademark.

The child TV star was taken off of life support in May 2010 after suffering a traumatic head injury after a fall at his home.

This case concerns which of Coleman’s multiple wills should direct the allocation of his assets. Wills for Coleman’s estate were drafted in both 1999 and 2005. The latter document names Coleman’s ex-girlfriend as his executor and heir. However, an amendment, which was hand-written by Coleman in 2007, names the actor’s ex-wife as his sole heir. It states that the document should replace any previous wills.

Ultimately, the decision turns on whether the presiding judge believes Coleman’s ongoing relationship with his former wife after their divorce constituted a common law marriage.

Coleman’s ex-wife asserts that even though the two divorced in 2008, they kept living together and represented themselves as married until he passed away.

On the other hand, another woman, the actor’s ex-girlfriend, claims that Coleman named her as a beneficiary and executor of his estate in 2005. This woman managed his business affairs for several years.

There is no exact number as to the worth of Coleman’s assets; however, court papers mention a $324,000 house and a pension.

Ultimately, legal specialists indicate that the case is more about future rights to Coleman’s name and brand than assets. Which woman will prevail?

It’s okay to change your mind when you are making estate plans. However, it is so important that any amendments that you make to your legal documents are in accordance with the law. If they are not, your estate may be distributed to an unintended person.

Source: KGMI News, “Utah judge to decide fate of Gary Coleman’s estate,” May 9, 2012

Source: Huffington Post, “Gary Coleman Estate: Actor’s ex-wife Shannon Price and ex-girlfriend Anna Gray battling it out,” May 7, 2012


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