Estate Planning and Probate Attorney

Estate Planning and Probate Attorney
James Montgomery

Estate Planning Attorney

An estate planning lawyer can provide you with a sense of security and protection by helping you design an estate plan that fits your needs and goals.  Most people think that an estate plan only applies when you die to specify who gets your “stuff”.  Estates don’t have to be “big” with lots of money and assets to have the proper estate planning.  An estate lawyer though can go through a checklist with you to plan for retirement, the potential of disability during your life, the protection of your children in the event you and your spouse are in an accident, as well as planning for what happens when you die.

You may search for an “estate lawyer near me” or “estate planning attorney near me” or “estate attorney near me” but in today’s world that attorney does not have to be in the same town as you are located.  It is best to have someone who is in the same state where you reside as laws affecting estate plans and probate differ from state to state.  The state where your property is located is the proper place to do a probate if one is necessary.

What is involved in working with an estate planning attorney?  Your estate planning lawyer will have a questionnaire that will guide you through the various decisions that you can make.  Often, going through a checklist will simplify your plan and make sure that you have not missed important documents and options that you have to choose.

You can download our checklist with no obligation Just click here. You can call 210-690-3700 to schedule a time to get to know each other.  You can also use our online calendar,

While many people prefer a face to face meeting, most people have found in today’s world that video conferencing and telephone along with email have streamlined the process of doing an estate plan.  Documents can be quickly reviewed with email.  Final documents can be produced and signed without having to go to the estate planning attorney’s office.  Signatures still in most states need to be done in front of witnesses and a notary public.  But the signers only have to be in the presence of the notary public normally.

What types of documents should you have as part of your estate plan?

In Texas, where I am located, probate is simple.  I refer to it as the 15 minute probate state as the only court appearance in front of a judge takes 15 minutes although you may wait an hour for the hearing.  In short, you don’t need to avoid probate in Texas.  In states like California, Michigan, New York and Florida, where probate is difficult, lengthy and expensive, a living trust or intervivos trust is recommended because trusts don’t die. 

In Texas, you don’t need a trust to avoid probate.  A trust lawyer might advise you to use a living trust for other reasons.  A living trust attorney can craft a trust for a special needs situation where because of disabilities, an individual cannot or will not be able in the future to manage finances.  A special needs trust can protect assets if a person needs to utilize Medicare or Medicaid benefits but does not want to use personal assets before being able to access those programs or wants to avoid reimbursement claims from the government programs.  If you have questions about whether a trust should be used, consult with a trust attorney like me near where you are located.  If you are going with a living trust, make sure you have an experienced living trust attorney who does those trusts fairly frequently and best has some litigation experience involving trusts.

So if your estate planning attorney does not recommend a living trust, what documents and review should you do?  Estate planning should include a complete review of your situation:  your assets and liabilities, retirement goals, business ownership(s), cash flows, family situation, education plans, life insurance policies and potential needs, and what should happen to all of your property if you should become disabled or die.  Do you have buy sell agreements involving your business and how are they funded?  A will lawyer will have an extensive questionnaire and checklist to guide those conversations which might also involve your CPA or tax preparer.

Will Attorney

What documents do you need if you are using a will as the basis for your planning:

  1.  Will
  2. Financial power of attorney (Statutory Power of Attorney)
  3. Medical power of attorney (Durable Power of Attorney)
  4. HIPAA Release
  5. Directive to Physicians (Living Will)
  6. Beneficiary Designation for bank accounts and life insurance

You can find will attorney by searching “will attorney near me” on google.  Of course, you are already on the page of a will attorney so you need look no further.

You can call 210-690-3700 to schedule a time to get to know each other.  You can also use our online calendar,

If you have questions about the documents above, I have prepared a series of lessons that will educate you on each of the documents.  Although I strongly recommend against it, you may wonder how to make a will without a lawyer.  One of the lessons covers how to do make a will without a lawyer and the pitfalls that await the non-lawyer doing his or her own legal work.

Two of the most important documents are the financial power of attorney and the medical power of attorney.  Perhaps worse than death, if that can be said, is the debilitating injury that disables one from being able to make decisions, a stroke or severe head injury or other situation that destroys ones capacity to make decisions.  If one knows that a medical condition like Alzheimers or other diseases will result in that status, then a living trust or special needs trust should be considered.  But one never knows when a serious injury or stroke might occur, having the powers of attorney in place can avoid the necessity of hiring a guardianship lawyer to file a guardianship.

A guardianship is a guardianship attorney’s dream.  Imagine having to file a motion and get a court order to handle the day to day affairs of a person.  The attorneys fees in a guardianship are large and ongoing.  Yet that situation is easily avoidable simply by having the durable power of attorney (medical) and the statutory power of attorney (financial) in place.  Those powers of attorney allow someone to stand in your shoes and make decisions for you without any court intervention.

Why a medical power of attorney?  We have all seen the medical shows on TV that talk about how in an emergency the next of kin can make decisions.  What people don’t realize is that decision making power like that is very limited.  If you need a blood transfusion or elective surgery, the hospital needs someone with full power to make decisions.  Perhaps you don’t have any next of kin or they live in New York or the west coast and are unavailable.  Your girlfriend, boyfriend, or significant other is not your next of kin.  There is no need to take a risk, just get a medical power of attorney signed.

Likewise the financial power of attorney allows someone to make financial decisions, pay bills, and take other day to day actions that we all do without thinking about.  If you are the only person on your bank account, who will pay your bills if you are in a bad car accident and can’t function for months (or forever)?  What if you get sick with COVID or something and are in a medical induced coma?  There is no need to take a risk, just get a financial power of attorney signed.

What does getting an estate planning package cost?  Our firm does everything on a fixed fee basis, no hourly fees unless we agree on that in advance for special services.  Typically, a complete estate plan will run $2500.00 and includes not only the document preparation but also a financial overview and insurance overview.  That fee also includes annual review sessions for five years and a reduced fee for any changes that you want to make during the five years (five years from the date of signing).   We also provide options that you may choose for additional fees like a transfer on death deed, a children’s trust, minor child protection plan, and other specialize but desired options.

You can call 210-690-3700 to schedule a time to get to know each other.  You can also use our online calendar,

Probate Attorney

So what happens when you die?  What do we do as your probate attorney?

The process for probate in Texas is to locate the original will (copies only in very limited situations can be used.  Then an application to probate the will is prepared and filed with the probate court where you live.  A search for a “probate lawyer near me” might be appropriate if you live a significant distance from San Antonio, Texas.  However in this hopefully post-pandemic world many of the hearings are now conducted by Zoom so probates can be handled all over Texas.

The process that I, as your probate lawyer, will guide you through will first be to gather the information about all of the assets and liabilities of the deceased’s estate.    What property was owned: real estate, personal property, bank accounts, insurance policies, intellectual property,  etc.  What did the deceased owe:  mortgages, loans, credit cards, debts, bills, etc.

Who are the heirs of the person who has died and how can they be contacted?

When the application to probate is filed, notice must be given to the heirs and beneficiaries.   Public notice is given by posting notice on the courthouse bulletin board.  Ten days later the Court will hold a hearing on the application and enter an order admitting the will to probate.  The executor has to attend and testify although many of the hearings are done online rather than in person due to current conditions.

The next steps with your probate lawyer are to inventory the estate.  We don’t file inventories at the courthouse anymore unless there is an issue and the judge insists.

Our firm will assist with making sure any assets are transferred and all funds in accounts properly collected and delivered to the designated beneficiaries.  Our goal is to make the process as painless as possible and with as little of your time as possible.

You can call 210-690-3700 to schedule a time to get to know each other.  You can also use our online calendar,