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Left without Direction, Families Spend Thousands Trying to Find It

When Texas schoolteacher, D. Preston, passed away more than five years ago, she left no will or any other piece of estate planning. Her only heir, as The Texas Tribune points out, was a 52-year-old adopted son who is also mentally handicapped. The assets she left behind were modest, but family members hoped it would be enough to provide for him following her death.

It hasn't been a smooth transition.

Without any sort of estate planning, the case went to probate court, where an attorney and guardian were appointed to look out for the man's best interests. Over the past five years, the probate judge hearing the case has approved close to $450,000 in legal fees, split between the court-appointed guardian and attorney

Family members are outraged, accusing the court of using massive amounts of money from the woman's estate to pay unneeded appointees of the court's own designation. These court appointees argue that the family members are not looking out for the 52-year-old's best interests and, therefore, will continue to stand up for his rights.

It's unclear which side is "telling the truth," though it's more likely that both have valid points which continue to butt heads and prevent a resolution. What is clear, however, is that the man who the money was meant for is losing hundreds of thousands meant to provide for his well-being.

This case is occurring in Texas, but it could be happening anywhere. Estates that are unresolved, lack allocation or planning will often lose much of their assets in probate court. The more family members involved, the longer it will likely take and the less assets that will be available in the end.

It cannot be stressed enough. Planning for the protection and distribution of your estate is absolutely essential if you want the things you have worked so hard for to last long after your passing.

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