Estate Planning can seem daunting, but it is a crucial step in ensuring that your assets and affairs are in order. The trusted attorneys at Gray Becker have the experience necessary to guide you through the estate planning process quickly and effortlessly, ensuring that your wishes are honored and protected.
As in most states, Texas law dictates that your estate is inherited by friends, relatives, or other associations as stipulated by the details of your written will. The future is uncertain, and none of us truly knows what’s in store for us or how many years we have left. While this is an unpleasant thought, it’s also a significant reason why so many of us procrastinate when it comes to estate planning. Let’s face it… it’s scary to contemplate our own mortality. On the other hand, the uncertainty of the future is precisely why no adult should put off estate planning. Creating a thorough, legally sound estate plan is the best way to ensure that your wishes are honored and that your loved ones are taken care of when you are no longer around. The good news is that estate planning is easier than you might think, especially with the help of an experienced estate planning attorney.
The Documents and Instruments You’ll Need
The process can feel overwhelming if you’ve never done it before. But truth be told, you’ll only need about half a dozen documents and legal instruments in place. Most are customizable with the help of an attorney, which means they can cover a lot of important information tailored specifically to your needs and goals. Additionally, estate plans function as “living documents,” meaning that almost all estate planning tools can be updated at any time to reflect preferences and circumstances as an individual’s situation evolves.
Here is what most estate plans should contain:
A will: This document helps you list out all of your assets and specify which heirs should receive specific items. You will also name an executor in your will, who will be the designee trusted to carry out the terms of your will and other final affairs. The will is a legally binding document that details exactly how you would like your property divided after your death. In Texas, the law requires that for the execution of a will to be valid, the person to whom the will applies (the testator) must be mentally capable, also referred to as “of sound mind,” and be at least 18 years of age.
By law, the will requires two credible witnesses (or 3 for an oral will) and their signatures. If you die without a legally binding will (intestate), a Texas court must determine your legal heirs based on your blood relationships. This includes all of your children, both from current and past relationships. In this situation, your significant other, step-children, personal friends, etc., are not considered heirs, nor are our grandchildren unless their parent (an adult offspring) has died before the testator.
In situations of intestate determinations, the probate court will be tasked with classifying and dividing your property as personal or community, real estate or separate.* Dying intestate can lead to a lengthy, emotionally draining, and expensive process, with fees and court costs to pay from your estate before any distribution.
One or more trusts: These are highly customizable legal tools that allow you to pass on property to heirs while minimizing the need for probate, reducing taxes, and giving you significant control over how and when the assets are distributed.
An Advance Directive: this is also known as a “Directive to Physicians and Family or Surrogates.” In other states, it is called a living will. In short, an advance directive is a document specifying your medical care wishes in the event you become incapacitated and unable to make or communicate your wishes at that time.
Medical Power of Attorney (medical POA): A major responsibility of estate planning is making advance decisions of who has a say, or the final say, in your financial and medical affairs, should you be rendered unable to communicate your desires or make these important decisions for yourself. A Medical Power of Attorney designates a (trusted) person to make medical decisions on your behalf if you can no longer make or communicate them yourself. If certain decisions are already spelled out in your advance directive, your medical POA will honor those wishes. If no guidance is given on a particular subject, he or she will make the decisions for you.
Durable Power of Attorney for Finances (durable POA): Incapacity can take many forms in later life. Most common among them are dementia and coma. If you become unable to make or communicate decisions for yourself, a durable POA for finances can make financial decisions on your behalf and access your funds to pay your bills and take care of other financial matters. This position requires a great deal of trust, so choose wisely. The fact is, none of us can take our belongings, assets, or worldly goods with us when we die. Estate planning is an essential step in ensuring that everything we own is distributed according to our wishes.
Ready To Get Started? Contact Us Today.
Our firm’s estate planning attorneys can help you create a customized, thorough, and legally sound estate plan that offers maximum protection under Texas law. To learn more about how we can guide you through the estate planning process, call the experienced Texas team at Gray Becker to arrange an initial consultation. We look forward to speaking with you.
*Texas Estate Code, Title 2, Subtitle E, Chapter 201, Subchapter A: INTESTATE SUCCESSION: Sec. 201.001.
I’ve worked with Nathan Kennedy at Gray & Becker since 2017. I consider the entire firm extremely courteous and professional. Whatever my needs were, they were happy to help and provided me an honest opinion. Even if the opinion was not the one I wanted to hear. I recommend Nathan and this firm to anyone that may need assistance in Family Law or Estate Planning.
Nathan assisted me and my family in settling my grandfather’s estate. Of course this is a difficult time to begin with, and this was somewhat compounded by the fact my grandmother is 91. Nathan was compassionate and professional, and handled everything in a very timely manner. The estate was settled without any issues and I very much felt that we worked as a team through the whole process. I have no hesitation recommending Nathan and will absolutely call on him with future legal needs.