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.

4 Tips for Avoiding a Will or Trust Contest

By |2021-02-05T21:22:18+00:00March 10th, 2021|Categories: ESTATE PLANNING, POA, Trusts, Wills, wwPROBATE|

A will or trust contest can derail your final wishes, rapidly deplete your estate, and tear your loved ones apart. But with proper planning, you can help your family avoid a potentially disastrous will or trust contest.  If you are concerned about challenges to your estate plan, consider the following: Do not attempt “do it yourself” solutions. If you are concerned about an heir contesting your estate plan, the last thing you want to do is attempt to write or update your will or trust on your own. Only an experienced estate planning attorney can help you put together and [...]

Three Liability Planning Tips for Physicians Anyone Can Use

By |2021-02-05T20:53:56+00:00March 3rd, 2021|Categories: BUSINESS PLANNING, ESTATE PLANNING|

Whether you are a physician or not, you probably know that the practice of medicine is a profession fraught with liability.  It’s not just medical malpractice claims either – employment related issues, careless business partners and employees, contractual obligations, and personal liabilities add to the risk assumed by a physician in private practice.  Unfortunately, in our litigious society, these liability risks are not unique to physicians.  Business owners, board members, real estate investors, and retirees need to protect themselves from a variety of liabilities too.  Below are three liability planning tips anyone – physicians and non-physicians alike – can use [...]

What to Bring to Your First Meeting with the Estate Planning Attorney

By |2021-02-12T20:08:30+00:00February 24th, 2021|Categories: wwPROBATE|

If you are thinking about putting together an estate plan, it is important to consult with an attorney who is knowledgeable and experienced in this area of law. Your initial meeting with an estate planning attorney is a good opportunity to discuss your family’s financial situation as well as your concerns and goals. If you are able to prepare ahead of time for this meeting, there are several items you should bring with you to benefit the most from the consultation. Helpful Information to Bring With You Before meeting with the attorney, consider writing down your goals and wishes for [...]

Estate Planning for Rental Property Owners

By |2021-02-05T20:47:02+00:00February 17th, 2021|Categories: BUSINESS PLANNING, ESTATE PLANNING, HOME/PROPERTY OWNERSHIP|

In all parts of the country, services such as Airbnb have grown in popularity over the past few years. Indeed, these alternatives to hotel stays are popular among homeowners and vacationers alike. If you have a home or other rental property that is generating income, you should understand the following asset protection and estate planning considerations. Protecting Owners from Liability Just like any rental relationship, there is risk for the property owner. If anyone is hurt on the premises during their stay – no matter how short – a property owner could be held legally and financially liable for injuries [...]

Organizing for Tax (and Estate Planning) Season

By |2021-02-05T20:39:46+00:00February 11th, 2021|Categories: ESTATE PLANNING, HOME/PROPERTY OWNERSHIP, RETIREMENT|

It’s the start of a new year, which means tax season—and this year’s April 15th IRS filing deadline—is just around the corner. Soon you’ll be receiving tax forms such as your W-2 or 1099s, and you’ll start thinking about the life events that could affect your taxes in various ways. This flurry of tax prep activity is the perfect opportunity to get your estate plan in order, too, and kill two birds with the proverbial stone. Why? Because as you run down your list of “tax prep” questions, you will find that your answers could also impact your estate plan. [...]

Financial Firms Roll Out Form Aimed at Stopping Financial Elder Abuse

By |2021-02-05T20:35:58+00:00February 4th, 2021|Categories: ESTATE PLANNING, POA, RETIREMENT|

With cases of financial exploitation of the elderly on the rise, advisors who work with older clients are looking for ways to head off the abuse before it happens.  Enter the “Emergency Contact Authorization Form,” a document in which clients can list a trusted person who should be contacted if an advisor suspects a client is starting to lose their mental capacity or, worse yet, being financially abused or scammed. How Does an Emergency Contact Authorization Form Work? The Emergency Contact Authorization Form is a document which allows you to identify someone your financial advisor can contact if your advisor [...]

Stress Test Your Estate Plan

By |2021-01-22T12:59:06+00:00January 14th, 2021|Categories: Design, ESTATE PLANNING, Trusts, Wills|

So you have done the hard work of establishing an estate plan. Good for you! However, you still have serious work to do to ensure that the strategy you have selected will maximize your peace of mind and protect your legacy. Estate plans should be like living, breathing creations that reflect the changes in your life. Your life can and will change due to new births, children getting older, and other shifts in the family; changes to your investment portfolio, career and business; and changes to your health, where you live, and your core values. Likewise, external events, such as [...]

Four Types of Gifts Under A Will

By |2021-01-22T13:12:42+00:00January 11th, 2021|Categories: Design, ESTATE PLANNING|

Many people believe making a will is something that can be done with ease, and although most estate plans do not need to be complicated, most situations will call for something more than just a simple will. We have set out the legal requirements for making a will in one of our previous blog, which you can read up on here: "Anatomy of a Will". "Simple Wills" refer to a document where someone leaves all their assets to their spouse, that's it, nothing else, nothing fancy. It's like a "here you go" transaction. If however, this is not what you [...]

The Harmonious Family that Won’t Fight? The Outcome May Surprise You

By |2021-01-22T13:14:29+00:00January 7th, 2021|Categories: ESTATE PLANNING, Wills, wwPROBATE|

Most families are happy families. They get together for the holidays, share laughs, and tell stories. Everyone gets along and enjoys each other’s company. Then, the matriarch or patriarch dies. Suddenly, years of pent-up resentment and hurt feelings bubble to the surface, and the once-happy family is now embroiled in litigation over the decedent’s estate. When everyone is alive and happy, it is easy to think that nothing will break a family apart. Many people think that since everyone is getting along, estate planning is not needed because everyone will look out for one another and do what is fair. [...]

Loan, Gift, or Advancement: Why the Classification Matters

By |2021-01-22T13:17:09+00:00January 4th, 2021|Categories: ESTATE PLANNING|

While we all want to provide financial help to our loved ones—whether they are family or close friends—it is important to understand that how the money is classified will directly affect your estate planning. Accordingly, the intent behind the transfer of the money is key when determining if it will be considered a loan, gift, or advancement. Understanding the Differences Loan If there is a mutual understanding that the money you gave to a loved one is to be paid back, this is considered a loan—whether the so-called loan was documented or not. If the money lent is not paid [...]

James Brown’s “Vague” Estate Plan Forced Family into Years of Litigation

By |2021-01-22T13:01:28+00:00December 26th, 2020|Categories: Design, ESTATE PLANNING, wwPROBATE|

James Brown, the legendary singer, songwriter, record producer, dancer, and bandleader was known to many as the “Godfather of Soul.” Although he intended his estimated $100 million estate to provide for all of his children and grandchildren, his intentions were somewhat vague.  This forced his family into years of litigation which ended up in the South Carolina Supreme Court. Everything Seemed In Order… Brown signed his last will and testament in front of Strom Thurmond, Jr. in 2000. Along with the will that bequeathed personal assets such as clothing, cars, and jewelry, Brown created a separate, irrevocable trust which bequeathed [...]

Just Like You Need a Medical Checkup, Your Estate Plan Needs a Checkup!

By |2021-01-22T13:27:26+00:00December 18th, 2020|Categories: ESTATE PLANNING|

Whether or not you currently have estate planning documents, one important item to add to your calendar is getting an estate plan checkup. Don’t Have an Estate Plan?   If you don’t already have an estate plan, then getting one in place should be at the top of your to-do list. Why?  Because without an estate plan, you and your property may end up in a court-supervised guardianship if you become incapacitated, and your property and your loved ones may end up in a time-consuming and expensive probate proceedings after you die. Worse yet, if you don’t take the time to [...]

Seeing an Estate Planner? Three Key Questions to Ask

By |2021-01-22T13:30:33+00:00December 11th, 2020|Categories: Design, ESTATE PLANNING|

Hiring an estate planner is an important decision as you are seeking advice on how to protect your loved ones once you are gone. For this reason, it is critical to hire an attorney with good knowledge of estate planning and how to use the tools available to create the best plan for your particular needs. Be sure to ask questions of the lawyer before deciding whether or not you will hire him or her. Here are three key questions to ask when looking to hire an estate planner. How does the attorney’s estate planning process achieve your goals? Just [...]

Four Common Myths about Estate Planning

By |2021-01-22T13:30:38+00:00December 4th, 2020|Categories: Design, ESTATE PLANNING|

1) Myth: My spouse can make all of my healthcare and financial decisions because he/she is my spouse. Reality: This is not always the case. To make sure your spouse can indeed make important medical decisions on your behalf, you should sign a durable power of attorney and a medical advance directive. 2) Myth: I’ve told my family how I want my affairs handled after I die. They’ll divide everything the way I want it divided. Reality: Informal discussions about your affairs have no legal enforceability. Even if your immediate family does carry out your wishes, if there is a [...]

Integrating Community Property Trust Into Your Estate Planning

By |2021-01-22T13:27:38+00:00November 27th, 2020|Categories: Design, ESTATE PLANNING, Trusts|

A well-crafted estate plan is comprised of many individual parts, and careful, trust-based estate planning is the best way to ensure the highest possible quality of life for you and your loved ones. One way couples can make get the most mileage out of their estate plans is through community property trusts. This is a special type of trust that combines a couple’s jointly acquired assets as community property and can save a significant amount of taxes. Why community property trusts are a great idea The essential benefit of a CPT is that the basis of community-owned property is stepped [...]

The Harmonious Family that Won’t Fight?  The Outcome May Surprise You

By |2021-01-22T13:27:31+00:00November 20th, 2020|Categories: ESTATE PLANNING, Wills, wwPROBATE|

Most families are happy families. They get together for the holidays, share laughs, and tell stories. Everyone gets along and enjoys each other’s company. Then, the matriarch or patriarch dies. Suddenly, years of pent-up resentment and hurt feelings bubble to the surface, and the once-happy family is now embroiled in litigation over the decedent’s estate. When everyone is alive and happy, it is easy to think that nothing will break a family apart. Many people think that since everyone is getting along, estate planning is not needed because everyone will look out for one another and do what is fair. [...]

Revocable Trust  vs. Irrevocable Trust: Which Is Best for You?

By |2021-01-22T13:45:54+00:00November 13th, 2020|Categories: ESTATE PLANNING, Trusts|

Trusts  allow you to avoid probate, minimize taxes, provide organization, maintain control, and provide for yourself and your heirs. In its most simple terms, a trust is a book of instructions wherein you tell your people what to do, when. While there are many types of trusts, the major distinction between trusts is whether they are revocable or irrevocable. Let’s take a look at both so you’ll have the information you need: Revocable Trusts. Revocable trusts are also known as “living trusts” because they benefit you during your lifetime and you can alter, change, modify, or revoke them if your [...]

Are Handwritten Intentions Enforceable? Princess Diana Thought So…

By |2021-01-22T13:45:50+00:00November 5th, 2020|Categories: ESTATE PLANNING, Wills|

Princess Diana of Wales was one of the world’s most loved celebrities – and one of the richest.  Her tragic death in 1997 was world news. The majority of her estate, reportedly worth $40 million at the time of her death, was divided between Prince William and Prince Harry in her estate plan.  However, she also wrote a “letter of wishes” that directed her executors to give a number of personal effects to her godchildren. Those executors, her mother and her sister, went to court and had it ruled unenforceable.  Holographic Wills – Sometimes Enforceable, Sometimes Not Princess Diana’s letter [...]

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