Estate Planning

Practice Areas

What is estate planning?

Estate planning is deciding in advance how you want your property and assets to be divided among your loved ones or organizations, and how decisions should be made if you become incapacitated. Generally, an estate plan includes a will, an advance directive, and a power of attorney. Depending on your needs, a trust might also be advisable.

It's never too early to make your wishes known and provide a plan for your future and the future of your family. Effective estate planning can relieve many burdens for your loved ones and ensures that the State does not control the distribution of your assets.

Who needs an estate plan?

Honestly, most people need an estate plan. If you have a house, real property, banking or securities accounts, personal assets, motor vehicles, dependents, a spouse, or anyone else you intend to care for when you die, you need an estate plan. An "estate" can be a home, car, small bank account, etc. If you have an estate, you need an estate "plan".

What are the benefits of having an estate plan?

The key advantages of an estate plan are as follows:

  • Minimizes the probate process and its expenses, delays, and loss of privacy
  • Gets assets to loved ones quicker
  • Can manage your assets after your death depending on your wishes
  • Can provide huge tax benefits
  • Reduces taxes
  • Plans for incapacity and important medical decisions
  • Makes the transition of your business smoother
  • Saves family members from difficult decisions and possible disputes
  • And much more

Do I need an attorney to prepare my estate plan?

Technically, no. However, there are countless benefits to utilizing an experienced, licensed attorney. With so much at stake, the small investment required to hire an estate planning attorney can give you peace of mind in knowing your documents are legally sound and your plan is prepared correctly.

What is a will?

A last will and testament is a legal document that outlines how you want your financial assets and property distributed, and to whom. A will can also designate guardians for minor children. Although you must still go through probate with a will, it makes the probate process much faster and cheaper.

The elements of a valid will in Texas are:

  • Legal Capacity – the testator (person creating the will) must be at least 18 years old, legally married, or serving in the armed forces
  • Testamentary Capacity – the testator is of “sound mind”
  • Testamentary Intent – the testator intends to make a document that distributes his/her property after death
  • In writing
  • Signed by the testator
  • Signed by two credible witnesses over the age of 14 in the testator’s presence

What is a trust?

A trust is a legal entity that holds property and assets for the benefit of another. Control of the property is given to an appointed third party, or trustee, who has a fiduciary duty to act on behalf of the beneficiaries. If the trust is created by the owner of the property while the owner is living, the trust is called a Living Trust and can be revocable or irrevocable. Living Trusts are beneficial if you own property outside of Texas, have a blended family, or have complex estate planning needs. Trusts also provide a level of privacy about your assets in the event that your will is contested. If you have a living trust, you will also need a pour-over will, which will funnel all remaining assets into the trust upon death. The pour-over will may not require probate if all assets pass into the trust.

Trusts can also be created by will and are called Testamentary Trusts. Testamentary trusts are useful if you have minor children or beneficiaries that do not manage money well. A testamentary trust can also protect the inheritance of a beneficiary who subsequently gets divorced. Testamentary trusts, however, are administered through probate and lack the privacy that living trusts provide.

What is an advance directive?

An advance directive is a document or documents stating your wishes about medical treatments or appointing someone to make medical decisions for you if you cannot make those decisions for yourself. Some advance directives are called "Living Wills," but are not the same thing as a will. A "Living Will" states whether you want to receive life sustaining treatments if you are in a terminal or irreversible condition. There are three other types of advance directives recognized under Texas law, including a medical power of attorney, a mental health treatment declaration, and an out-of-hospital DNR.

What is a Power of Attorney?

A Power of Attorney (POA) is a document that when executed gives an appointed person, called the agent, the authority to manage your assets and enter into transactions on your behalf. A General POA authorizes the agent to take any actions that you could, while a Special POA limits the agent to specific actions. The duration of the POA is also necessary to consider. A Durable POA will survive your subsequent incapacity or disability and does not lapse unless a time limit is specifically stated in the document. A Medical POA is similar to a durable POA, but will only take effect if specific conditions take place (i.e., you cannot make medical decisions for yourself). A Medical Power of Attorney grants someone you trust the right to make important medical decisions quickly if needed.

Texas Estate Planning Attorney

Give yourself and your family peace of mind and call one of our Texas Estate Planning Attorneys to start your estate plan today. Eliminate uncertainty – make a plan.

Texas Estate Planning Attorney

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