When individuals create their estate plans, they often take advantage of multiple planning tools. While this action can be useful in order to create a comprehensive plan, it can cause problems for executors during probate if different tools have conflicting information. When this happens, the process can become more difficult or even lead to disputes.
Two tools that many Texas residents use during planning are wills and revocable trusts. Wills, as most people know, are commonly used tools that express individuals' wishes for various topics, including guardianship and distribution of assets. A revocable trust, or a living trust, goes into effect as soon as it is created, and assets can be placed into the trust and removed from the ownership of the estate. Because the trust goes into effect before a will, which only plays a part after a person's death, the trust typically takes precedence in the event that a conflict between the documents arises.
For example, if a person puts an asset into a trust and stipulates that the asset should go to a specific person but later uses a will to indicate that the same asset should go to a different person, the instructions in the trust would be followed rather than the instructions in the will. However, this may not be the case if the asset was never funded to the trust. In other words, a person may have instructed in trust documents that an asset go to a specific person, but if the title, deed or other necessary document was not transferred to the trust, the will would dictate who receives the asset.
Having conflicting information in an estate plan is never ideal, and unfortunately, the conflict may not come to light until after the person has passed and the probate process has begun. As a result, the executor will have the obligation of sorting through the issues. On the bright side, Texas executors do not have to try to figure out these issues on their own as experienced attorneys are available to help.