Protect Yourself and Your Loved Ones Through Proper Estate Planning
Death and disability are never easy to talk about. However, planning ahead of time for what will happen to your estate upon death or disability is a major way you can protect yourself and your loved ones. Establishing an estate plan not only allows you to manage your own income and assets, but it also keeps your loved ones from going through costly, lengthy, and frustrating court processes at the time of your death or disability.
When an individual passes away, his or her estate must be transferred to another person. Additionally, if someone becomes incapacitated, their property must be managed by someone else. Competent adults have the right to decide how their assets will be distributed upon their death or disability. You can plan what will happen to your home, business, investments, life insurance, employee benefits and any other property you own.
Unfortunately, many people do not establish estate plans because they falsely believe that family members can distribute the decedent’s estate by themselves. This misunderstanding has led to much frustration and heartache for families because they did not plan ahead. If you do not establish an estate plan, a court will decide how your assets will be distributed upon your death, which often results in wrong people obtaining your assets, higher estate taxes, and lengthy court processes. This process is known as probate, and can be learned more about here.
We Will Help You Establish an Estate Plan Exactly the Way You Want It
It is not easy to know what kinds of estate planning documents you should have. Our attorney, Alison Packard, is very experienced and can talk you through all of your options so you feel confident about how to move forward with your estate plan. Documents that are typically included in a comprehensive estate plan may be:
- Will: A Will is a legal document that identified a person's wishes regarding the distribution of his or her assets after death. It can also include instructions regarding the disposition of one's body after death, a designation of guardians to care for minor or incapacitated children, and provisions for contingent trusts if necessary.
- Living Will: In Texas, a “living will,” “healthcare directive” or “advance directive” is formally known as a “Directive to Physicians and Family or Surrogates.” This legal directive instructs a doctor to either use or not use life support to extend the natural process of dying if the individual who signed the directive is in a “terminal" phase of an illness or has an “irreversible condition” as defined by Texas law.
- Living Trust: A revocable living trust (also called an “inter vivos trust”) is an instrument that provides lifetime and after-death property management, usually without the necessity of court involvement. A living trust is established by a “settlor” (the person who places the assets in trust) who then names a “trustee” to manage the property. The trust instrument identifies successor trustees and provides instructions about the management and distribution of property during one’s lifetime and upon death or incapacity.
- Power of Attorney: A power of attorney is a legal document appointing a person or organization to act for another person according to the specific instructions of the document. The appointed “agent” has designated powers, which can include an authorization to manage real and personal property, gift money, employ professional services, and make business and financial decisions. A separate medical power of attorney is used to appoint an individual to make healthcare decisions. In Texas, a medical power of attorney is effective only upon a medical determination of incapacity whereas a general durable power of attorney can be effective immediately or upon incapacity, according to the wishes of the person making the appointment.
Consult With Us
Alison Packard cares about each of her clients individually. She would love to sit with anyone who needs help establishing an estate plan. If you would like to schedule a consultation, call us today at 210-340-8877.
Want to learn more? Check out these Frequently Asked Questions.