Securing Your Legacy: The Advantages of Estate Planning

It is a common misconception that estate planning is only appropriate for the wealthy or people of a certain age, but these are common misconceptions. The main benefit of having an estate plan in place is to ensure that your last wishes are executed in the event that you pass away. Without an estate plan, your property is unprotected and the intestate succession laws will apply. This means people may inherit your assets, and those people may not align with your wishes.

In addition to making sure the appropriate loved ones receive their inheritance, an estate plan can also protect your beneficiaries from certain taxes and other legal requirements. Below, our Houston estate planning attorney outlines more benefits of having a plan in place.

Eliminate the Need for Your Family to Make Hard Decisions

Estate planning can provide your family with the peace of mind they will need following your death. If you do not have an estate plan in place, your family members will have to determine who will inherit certain property of yours, and this is often extremely stressful for families. By taking the time to create a comprehensive estate plan, you will retain control over what will happen to your property after you pass away.

Also, if you ever become incapacitated at some point in the future, your family will also have to make important medical decisions on your behalf. These decisions are also very difficult and your family may not know of your wishes. Through an estate plan, you can create a will, power of attorney, health care proxy, and a medical power of attorney. These important legal documents can dictate these decisions, so your loved ones do not have to make them. They can also give you the peace of mind you need during your lifetime.

Protect Your Children

If you still have minor children, an estate plan can determine what will happen to them if you pass away or become incapacitated and cannot care for them. For many parents, choosing a guardian for minor children is the most important aspect of estate planning. This is a decision that requires serious thought, as the impact on your children will be significant. Most parents want to make this decision on their own instead of the courts making the decision for them.

There are certain priorities the Texas courts give to family members when making decisions about guardianship. For example, in most cases, the courts will appoint a grandparent to become a guardian in the event that neither parent can care for their children. If you want someone else to become guardian of your children, it is critical that you create an estate plan that makes your wishes known.

Limit Taxes and Legal Fees

If you include certain documents in your estate plan, it can allow your beneficiaries to receive their inheritance in a timely manner. A trust, for example, will protect your family members from going through the probate process which can include legal fees, court costs, and attorney fees. Probate is not only an expensive process, but it is also a lengthy one. If your entire estate has to go through probate, it can take a long time for your beneficiaries to receive their inheritance.

Trusts do not have to go through the probate process and so, the inheritance you left for loved ones can be distributed to them directly. It is important to work with a Houston estate planning lawyer who can advise on the best ways to limit taxes and legal fees.

Make Specific Bequests

Individuals commonly want to include certain bequests in their estate plan. Bequests are any gifts given to beneficiaries as part of a will. Bequests can include prized vehicles, art collections, family heirlooms, antiques, and more. There are also many different types of bequests. For example, a residuary bequest grants a person any remaining portion of the estate once all other property has been distributed.

Name Your Own Personal Representative

One of the most important aspects of any estate planning is the naming of a personal representative. A personal representative of any estate has many responsibilities. They must pay the expenses and final costs of the deceased, manage the estate, handle creditor claims, and more. Personal representatives have a fiduciary duty to act in the best interests of the estate, so it is essential that the person you choose is trustworthy.

Without an estate plan in place, the court will name a personal representative on your behalf. This may not be the person you would have chosen. Creating an estate plan during your lifetime will give you the reassurance that upon your death, your personal representative will be someone you trust to make the best decisions.

Continue Business Operations After Your Death

If you own and operate a business and you do not create an estate plan, there is a real possibility that your death may cause the business to shut down. This will not only create unnecessary financial hardship and stress for your loved ones, but it may also lead to your legacy being unprotected. If you do want to pass your business down to a loved one as an inheritance, creating an estate plan will ensure they receive it after your death and that your legacy will be protected. An estate plan can also leave specific instructions for the family member you want to take over the business, so they can run it just as successfully as you did.

Call Our Estate Planning Lawyer in Houston to Get Started Today

Regardless of your situation, it is essential that all adults have an estate plan in place. At Integrity Law Group, PLLC, our Houston estate planning lawyer can help you draft the important documents that will help your family members make difficult decisions, and that will ensure your final wishes are fulfilled. Call us now at (832) 280-8874 or contact us online to request a consultation with our experienced attorney and to obtain the legal advice you need.

Protecting Your Personal Assets in the Event of a Business Lawsuit

It is critical to protect your personal assets in business, particularly when you are facing a lawsuit. A lawsuit will be bad enough for your business, but you do not want it destroying your personal property, as well. Below, our Houston business law attorney outlines some of the best ways to protect your personal assets in the event of a business lawsuit.

Use Proper Business Entities

Using the right business entity is critical for protecting your personal property in the event of a business lawsuit. To give yourself peace of mind and a sense of security, you should consider all possible options before making a final decision, from limited partnerships to corporations to LLCs. Do not unnecessarily make yourself vulnerable. By establishing the proper business entity, you will have legal protection in the event of litigation or a business dispute. The different business entities and the protection they do or do not provide are as follows:

  • Sole proprietorships: As a sole proprietor, you and your personal assets have no protection in the event of a business lawsuit. One mistake can jeopardize your personal assets, as well as your business’ profits and income.
  • General partnerships: A business partnership can be profitable for all parties, but it can also come with some risks. If your business is sued, you and your partner could be held jointly liable, so it is important to choose partners carefully.
  • Limited partnerships: A limited partnership will allow you to enjoy the benefits of being an entrepreneur without exposing yourself to the risks associated with it. When you structure your business as a limited partnership, any lawsuits filed against the business do not extend to any assets outside of it. 
  • Corporations: Establishing a corporation is a great way to protect your personal assets in the event of a business lawsuit. Generally speaking, your personal assets are not vulnerable to a business lawsuit unless fraud is involved.
  • Limited Liability Companies: LLCs offer great asset protection, as well as flexible taxation options. Owners of an LLC can protect their business from creditors, who would only be awarded a membership interest without gaining control or access over the assets of the company.


Certain professions, such as doctors, financial advisors, and real estate agents, are at particular risk of having a lawsuit filed against them. Insurance is very valuable when trying to protect your personal assets, so it is critical to ensure that coverage is sufficient and that it remains current. Sometimes, investing in extra coverage can be the difference between staying afloat or facing financial ruin during a lawsuit. The different types of insurance businesses may need are as follows:

  • Homeowners insurance
  • Commercial liability insurance
  • Worker’s compensation insurance
  • Auto insurance
  • Umbrella coverage
  • Long-term care insurance

Utilize Retirement Accounts to Protect Assets

Under federal law, retirement accounts offer a great deal of asset protection. Retirement plans that are ERISA-qualified have unlimited asset protection. It is critical to consult with a Texas business law attorney who knows the law and who can help determine whether creditors can choose between the federal and state exemption amounts.


You can protect property that is co-owned by looking at the titling options that are available. Tenancy by the entirety is an agreement between married couples that is legally binding and that protects the primary residence from a spouse’s creditors. This option does not always apply to investment properties, but there may be other forms of protection, such as tenants in common or joint tenancy, which can provide protection in the event the owner of the property passes away. To fully understand what title you need for your situation and to secure maximum asset protection, it is important to consult a lawyer who can help with these options.

Transfer Ownership to Family Members

Maintaining control of your assets is critical to ensure your financial security. By creating an irrevocable trust, you can place property into the trust, which protects it from creditor claims while also providing an inheritance or income stream for your family members and other loved ones in the future. This is only a viable option if you have sufficient funds, and the transfer of ownership will not leave you insolvent. Some of the most common types of trusts used to protect assets from lawsuits are as follows:

  • Domestic asset protection trust: This type of trust exists solely for the benefit of the person who created the trust. A domestic asset protection trust allows the creator to keep a certain degree of interest in the property in the trust. Unlike in other states, though, a domestic asset protection trust does not protect the creator if they are also the beneficiary of the trust.
  • Lifetime qualified terminable interest trust: A lifetime qualified terminable interest trust is for the benefit of the spouse, and they utilize the gift tax marital deduction to reduce overall taxes. This type of trust can also use the federal estate tax exemption for the less wealthy spouse and provide a lifetime of asset protection for the benefit of the wealthier spouse.
  • Medicaid planning trust: Through a Medicaid planning trust, a person can qualify for Medicaid and still maintain an income for the spouse who does not apply. When assets are transferred into these trusts, they can pass to heirs who are protected from the government’s estate recovery, which would require the Medicaid assets to be paid back during the lifetime of the creator.
  • Spousal lifetime access trust: A spousal lifetime access trust is created for the benefit of a spouse and uses the lifetime gift tax exemption as well as the annual exclusion gifts.

Our Business Law Attorney in Houston Can Help Protect Your Assets

As a business owner, it is important that you not only protect your company, but your personal property, as well. At Integrity Law Group, PLLC, our Houston business law attorney can advise on your case and suggest the best asset protection tools to use. Call us now at (832) 280-8874 or contact us online to schedule a consultation and to learn more.

Securing Your Financial Future: Strategies for Protecting Your Assets During Divorce

You did not get married thinking it was going to end in divorce. Sadly, the divorce rate in the country shows that divorce is all too common. Ending your marriage will bring with it mental, psychological, and emotional hardships. Still, there are also many financial matters you must consider, as well. Our family lawyers know how to protect your property from divorce proceedings, even if your case seems extremely complex. Below are just a few ways to protect your assets during divorce.

Identify Separate and Community Property

If you know that divorce is inevitable, you should start creating a complete list of property owned by you, your spouse, or jointly. Separate property includes assets either of you owned before the marriage, while community property is considered jointly owned by both parties. Common examples of community property include:

  • Vehicles
  • Shared investment accounts
  • Bank accounts
  • The marital home
  • Retirement accounts
  • Real estate, such as an investment property
  • Personal property, including furniture
  • Equity or proceeds from a business
  • Pensions
  • Cryptocurrency

Remember that when creating a list of inventory, you must include all debts and liabilities, as well.

Determine the Value of Your Assets

After you have written a comprehensive inventory of your separate and marital assets, you then need to determine the value of the property. When resolving property division issues, a judge will consider the income level of each spouse before and after the marriage, as well as the amount of separate and community property owned by the couple. To obtain the most accurate valuation, it is important to speak to a professional.

Open Separate Accounts

As soon as you know you are getting a divorce, you should also open separate accounts. Open a separate bank account, apply for a credit card that is in your name only, and separate your personal property as much as possible. If you have a joint bank account or credit card with your spouse, try to remove your name from it as soon as possible. Gather the financial documents for all separate and joint accounts and transactions, as your attorney and judge will want to review them.

Consider Tax Implications

Taxes are commonly overlooked in divorce cases, but they are one of the most important things to consider. While the tax law on alimony changed several years ago, there are other implications to think about. 

For example, the tax law regarding retirement accounts still applies, and so when dividing this property, you must know how it will affect you. You do not want to agree to accept a taxable retirement account while your spouse receives one that will not be impacted by taxes. It is best to work with an asset protection lawyer who can advise on the tax implications of dividing certain types of property.

Change Your Will

State law will automatically revoke your spouse as a beneficiary in your will after you get a divorce. Still, it is important to review your last will and testament to revoke your spouse on your own and to confirm that all previous versions of your will are invalid. You may also want to change certain terms so your children or other trusted individuals receive what your spouse once would have. Of course, if you have a joint will with your spouse, you need to ensure you have one of your own after divorce.

Use a Trust to Protect Assets

A trust is a legal document that can also protect assets during a divorce. To shield the trust assets from being subject to division, the document must be drafted prior to the marriage. Still, any assets placed within it at that point can be classified as separate, and you can retain them after your divorce is final.

There are many different types of trusts that can protect your assets during divorce. A Domestic Asset Protection Trust (DAPT) is an irrevocable trust that can provide the protection you need. Some individuals choose to open an offshore trust, as this provides the highest level of protection. You should always speak to an asset protection lawyer who can advise on the best trust to use for your situation.

Draft a Prenuptial or Postnuptial Agreement

Most couples should have a prenuptial agreement prior to getting married. A prenuptial agreement mainly outlines financial provisions in the event you get divorced. A prenup can outline which property is considered separate and therefore protected from being divided during divorce. A prenup can also stipulate terms surrounding alimony and how income will be used during the marriage.

A postnuptial agreement can include all of the same terms as a prenuptial agreement. The only difference between the two is that a postnuptial agreement is drafted after the marriage. There are many reasons couples draft postnuptial agreements. For example, you may start a business after you get married. To prevent it from being divided during a divorce, you can draft a postnuptial agreement that classifies it as separate property.

Keep Inheritances Separate

Under Texas law, inheritances and gifts are generally considered separate property and, therefore, will not be divided during the divorce process. There is a large caveat to the law, though. If you commingle the inheritance with marital property, it will no longer be considered separate. For example, you may place your inheritance in a joint bank account you hold with your spouse. There would then be no way to determine which funds are from the inheritance and which are marital property. The entire account would be divided according to the state’s community property laws.

Our Family Lawyers in Houston Can Protect Your Assets

At Integrity Law Group, PLLC, our Houston family lawyers have the knowledge about real estate and business law to protect what is most important to you in the event that you get a divorce. Call us now at (832) 280-9576, contact us online, or email us to schedule a consultation with one of our skilled attorneys and to learn more about how we can assist with your case.

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