About Gratia P. Schoemakers, Esq.

Gratia P. Schoemakers is the Owner and Founding Member at GP Schoemakers, PLLC a Texas web-based law firm with a Virtual Law office in the Houston/Galveston area. Gratia’s goal is to make Estate Planning more accessible to all Texans, whether they need a simple will, trusts, or more complex estate plan. As a mother and attorney, Gratia understands that you might be too busy to make it to a law office for a 9-5 appointment, or that you rather have a meeting from the convenience of your home. Our Online Estate Planning Services are designed for people just like you! If you are interested in getting your Estate Plan done, send Gratia a message and she will get back to you as soon as possible to help you protect you, your family and your future.

How Does an IRA Fit Into Your Estate Plan?

By |2019-11-07T11:13:11+00:00December 10th, 2019|Categories: ESTATE PLANNING, RETIREMENT|

When you think of IRAs, you probably think of retirement. But what happens to your IRA money after you’re gone? The answer depends on how you go about creating your estate plan and selecting beneficiaries, and you might be surprised to find out that your money could end up with the wrong people or cause an unexpected tax bill if you don’t take action ahead of time. What your IRA means for your estate plan Individual retirement accounts (IRAs) are often one of the biggest financial accounts you invest in over the course of your lifetime. When you’re working on [...]

How Does My Annuity Fit Into My Estate Plan?

By |2019-11-07T11:08:14+00:00December 3rd, 2019|Categories: Uncategorized|

Selecting the right type of annuity for yourself is no small feat. Of course, you’ve put in the research and planned with your financial advisors. But, you might still be wondering what happens to those annuity payments upon your death. In addition to their benefits as a financial tool for your goals, annuities can have a positive impact on your beneficiaries after you’re gone — but only if you take smart estate planning steps to make sure your wealth ends up in the right hands. Types of annuities Your annuity type affects how things pan out after your death. In [...]

Dispelling the Top 3 Estate Planning Myths

By |2019-11-07T11:01:53+00:00November 26th, 2019|Categories: ESTATE PLANNING, PROBATE, Wills|

Like any other complex subject, estate planning has its share of myths and misconceptions.  Understanding the top three estate planning myths will help you to create and maintain a plan that will work the way you expect it to work when it’s needed. Estate Planning Myth #1 – You Don’t Need an Estate Plan Because Your Spouse Will Inherit Everything A common belief is that if you’re married and you don’t have a will or a trust, your spouse will still inherit everything.  Unfortunately this is not always the case.  Who will inherit your estate even if you’re married depends [...]

3 Ways to Minimize Estate Planning Fees

By |2019-11-07T11:01:21+00:00November 19th, 2019|Categories: ESTATE PLANNING, PROBATE, Wills|

Today, it is impossible to put together even a simple estate plan without the assistance of an experienced estate planning attorney. Why? Because estate planning laws vary greatly from state to state and these laws are extremely convoluted and constantly changing. One wrong word, one missing signature, or one procedure not followed to the letter of the law can partially or completely invalidate a Last Will and Testament, Revocable Living Trust, Advance Medical Directive, Living Will, or Durable Power of Attorney.  Though attorney fees may feel expensive, they’re actually not when viewed in light of the service and protections provided.  [...]

Estate Planning Considerations for Benefits Open Enrollment

By |2019-11-07T10:57:45+00:00November 7th, 2019|Categories: ESTATE PLANNING, RETIREMENT|

The fall, generally late-October or early-November, is the time when employers send out summaries of employee benefits offered by the company and give employees the option to enroll in these benefits. These can generally include retirement plan options, health care, dental, vision, short and/or long-term disability, and life insurance coverage. Your employer may pay 100 percent of the premiums, split the costs with you, or you may have to pay all of the premiums yourself. Below are several considerations you should keep in mind once open enrollment begins. Benefits Explained When considering any retirement plan offered through your employer such [...]

Baltimore Register of Wills Can’t Find Her Father’s Original Last Will, Will Your Family Be Able to Find Yours?

By |2019-11-06T22:31:23+00:00November 5th, 2019|Categories: ESTATE PLANNING, PROBATE|

While it’s not unusual for an original last will and testament to be misplaced, it is when your daughter happens to be the Register of Wills for Baltimore City. What is a Register of Wills? In Maryland, the Register of Wills is an elected official in each county and the City of Baltimore who is responsible for overseeing the administration of the estates of deceased persons during the probate process.  As an added benefit, each Maryland Register of Wills provides safekeeping for the last will and testaments of living persons. Why is it Important to Locate an Original Last Will? [...]

High Deductible Health Plan? How Your Health Savings Account (HSA) Works with Your Estate Plan

By |2019-11-06T22:19:24+00:00October 22nd, 2019|Categories: ESTATE PLANNING|

If you’re enrolled in a qualified high-deductible health plan (HDHP), you must consider how your health savings account (HSA) fits into your estate plan—especially to make sure that any hard-earned money left in your HSA when you die goes where you want it. What is an HSA? An HSA is an account whose funds may be used to pay for qualified medical expenses or saved for expenses that arise in the future. These accounts have several tax advantages. You can deduct contributions to the account up to the yearly limit. You pay no income taxes on earnings in the account [...]

Legal Paperwork Cheatsheet: A Guide to the Top 12 Must-Have Documents

By |2019-11-14T16:10:44+00:00October 15th, 2019|Categories: ESTATE PLANNING|

Whether you own a little or a lot, the last thing you want to do to your loved ones is leave a bureaucratic mess after you pass away or become incapacitated. Aside from mourning your passing or a significant deterioration in your health, this will cause the family additional stress. Heirs may forfeit life insurance payouts, tax deduction advantages, or miss accounts they did not know existed. This is why it is key to have your estate plan in place before life circumstances get the best of you. In order to avoid problems, below is a list of a dozen [...]

IRS Announcement:  Estate Tax Closing Letters Will Now Only Be Issued Upon Request

By |2019-11-07T10:58:48+00:00October 12th, 2019|Categories: ESTATE PLANNING|Tags: |

Due to the increased volume of federal estate tax return filings in order to make the “portability election,” the IRS has announced that estate tax closing letters will only be issued upon request by the taxpayer. This change in IRS policy started on June 1, 2015. What is the “Portability Election” and How is the Election Made? The “portability election” refers to the right of a surviving spouse to claim the unused portion of the federal estate tax exemption of their deceased spouse and add it to the balance of their own exemption. The portability election went into effect for [...]

Do you really need a trust?

By |2019-09-10T14:24:31+00:00October 8th, 2019|Categories: ESTATE PLANNING|

Although many people equate “estate planning” with having a will, there are many advantages to having a trust rather than a will as the centerpiece of your estate plan. While there are other estate planning tools (such as joint tenancy, transfer on death, beneficiary designations, to name a few), only a trust provides comprehensive management of your property in the event you can’t make financial decisions for yourself (commonly called legal incapacity) or after your death. One of the primary advantages of having a trust is that it provides the ability to bypass the publicity, time, and expense of probate. [...]

Do you really need a will?

By |2019-09-10T14:24:31+00:00October 1st, 2019|Categories: ESTATE PLANNING|

You May Not Think You Need a Will, But You Really Do.  Most Americans do not have a simple will as part of their estate plan. You might believe that a will is only for the rich and famous, and not the average person who has a far smaller net worth. On the other hand, you may think that a will is entirely unnecessary since you have a trust, jointly owned property, or have named beneficiaries on your insurance. So, do you really need a will? The short answer to this question is “yes.” In fact, everyone who owns anything [...]

Murphy’s Law and Estate Planning

By |2019-09-10T14:24:31+00:00September 24th, 2019|Categories: ESTATE PLANNING|

 As the old adage goes “anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.” Referred to as Murphy’s law, this well-known saying has no mercy. Sadly, estate planning is no exception to its wrath. There is hope! Below are five-estate planning mistakes and how to fix them: Incorrect guardian for your children: A will is a way for you to control what happens to your estate and your minor or disabled children from the grave. If you fail to put together a will, the state will decide who cares for them at a court hearing. If you do have a will, [...]

Trusts – The Swiss Army Knife of Estate Planning

By |2019-09-10T14:24:31+00:00September 17th, 2019|Categories: ESTATE PLANNING|

 To the general public, a trust may seem like an advanced tool only for the wealthiest among us. But, the reality is that trusts are a foundational estate planning tool with a solid history for being highly effective in ensuring a person’s wishes are carried out. The process begins with the maker of a trust – commonly referred to as the trust maker, grantor, settlor, or trustor – transferring his or her ownership of certain assets to the trust. A trustee is then appointed to manage these assets for the beneficiary (or beneficiaries) of the trust. In a “standard” revocable [...]

Avoid Living Probate: How to Keep Guardians and Conservators Out of Your Estate

By |2019-09-10T14:24:31+00:00September 10th, 2019|Categories: ESTATE PLANNING|

While most proactive individuals know the importance of having a well-rounded estate plan, it is typically considered as something that will take effect after they have passed away. But there are in fact many ways in which comprehensive estate planning can have a positive impact on your life while you are still around to reap the benefits. Planning for Incapacity Most people who reach old age come to a point at which they are no longer in a position to handle all of their affairs on their own. In many cases this incapacity is due to dementia or other cognitive [...]

Why a Trust Is the Best Option for Avoiding Probate

By |2019-09-10T14:24:31+00:00September 3rd, 2019|Categories: ESTATE PLANNING|

As Ambrose Bierce once darkly observed, “Death is not the end. There remains the litigation over the estate.” Obviously, ideally, when someone passes away, the paperwork and material concerns associated with the estate are so flawlessly handled (thanks to excellent preparation) that they fade into the background, allowing the family to grieve and remember in peace. In fact, the whole business of estate planning – or at least a significant piece of it – is concerned with ease. How can assets and legacies be transferred to the next generation in a harmonious, stress-free, fair process? To that end, one primary [...]

How to Build Freedom From Court Interference Into Your Estate Plan

By |2019-09-10T14:24:31+00:00August 27th, 2019|Categories: ESTATE PLANNING|

It’s clear why you might want to avoid court involvement in your estate for financial reasons, knowing that probate can quickly get costly and time consuming for those involved. But there is an emotional component to it as well. Your assets are just that: yours. And the idea of them being discussed and deliberated on in a public forum might not be such an appealing one. If you feel that the matters of your estate should be kept private and that your assets should be distributed to your loved ones rather than eroded by court fees, you’re not alone. And [...]

Money Isn’t Everything in Estate Planning

By |2019-09-10T14:24:31+00:00August 20th, 2019|Categories: ESTATE PLANNING|

How to Pass Your Stories and Values to the Future Generations Money may be the most talked about wealth contained within a person’s estate, but the riches of their experience and wisdom can mean even more to family members down the line. Reinforcement of family traditions can be built into your estate plan alongside your wishes regarding your money, property, and belongings. After all, what really makes a family a family is its values and traditions — not the way its finances read on paper. It's an excellent idea to hold a family meeting in which you discuss the sorts [...]

3 Decidedly Dumb Ways to Leave an Inheritance for Your Children

By |2019-09-10T14:24:31+00:00August 13th, 2019|Categories: ESTATE PLANNING|

Estate planning offers many ways to leave your wealth to your children, but it’s just as important to know what not to do. Here are some things that are all-too-common, but textbook examples of what not to do or try.... “Oral Wills” If you feel you have a good rapport with your family or don't have many assets, you might be tempted simply to tell your children or loved ones how to handle your estate when you’re gone. However, even if your family members wanted to follow your directions, it may not be entirely up to them. Without a written [...]

The Tragic Loss of Star Trek’s Anton Yelchin: Lessons for Estate and Legacy Planning

By |2019-09-10T14:24:31+00:00August 6th, 2019|Categories: ESTATE PLANNING|

On June 19, 2016, when successful actor Anton Yelchin (Chekov in the recent Star Trek movies) failed to show for rehearsal, his friends became worried and drove to his house. Sadly, they found Yelchin pinned between his security fence, brick mailbox, and Jeep Grand Cherokee. According to investigators, the 27-year-old star exited the vehicle before it allegedly rolled backwards down his steep driveway, pinning, and ultimately killing the Star Trek actor. Los Angeles County Coroner Assistant Chief Ed Winter stated the cause of death as “accidental blunt traumatic asphyxia.” Two days later, Fiat Chrysler released a statement informing the public [...]

Who Is Your Beneficiary? Marilyn Monroe Ultimately Had No Idea

By |2019-09-10T14:24:31+00:00July 30th, 2019|Categories: ESTATE PLANNING|

When creating a last will and testament, it’s important to know your beneficiary. Sadly, that’s not always the case. Marilyn Monroe, one of the world’s most famous icons, didn’t seem to have any idea to whom she left her money. Acting Coach & Psychiatrist Got Everything Marilyn Monroe died at the age of 36 from a drug overdose. The year was 1962 and there have always been questions as to whom she named as beneficiaries. In fact, her business manager, Inez Melson, was allegedly suspicious about Marilyn Monroe’s will when it was first drafted. Monroe’s will left some money to [...]