People often think it’s macabre to plan for one’s death, but the reality is that doing so can greatly help your loved ones. Individuals with comprehensive estate plans can help their loved ones reduce the stress of handling affairs after their death. This allows your loved ones to focus on grieving and healing. At The Haney Law Firm, we work closely with clients and their financial advisors to understand their situation, analyze their assets, and create individualized estate plans.
What Happens If You Don’t Plan
Anyone without an estate plan needs to consider what will happen in the event of his or her death. You might think your assets will automatically be distributed to your spouse or your children, but the transfer does not happen automatically unless the family plans for the automatic transfer of certain assets at death. All of your assets will have to go through probate, which is the legal process of collecting a deceased’s assets, paying off creditors, and distributing the remaining assets to beneficiaries. With a properly executed will, the probate process is often affordable and straightforward.
It’s also important to note that without the proper documentation, a probate court will determine who your beneficiaries are and distribute your assets according to Texas law, not according to your interests. Even if it is known how you wanted your assets distributed (think: I want my eldest son to inherit my house), a probate court will not enforce your wishes without it written down in a legal enforceable estate planning document.
Comprehensive Estate Planning
Many people have misconceptions about estate planning. Estate planning usually includes multiple documents detailing a wide variety of information. Estate planning involves much more than just determining how one’s assets will be distributed after death. Essential estate planning components in a comprehensive estate plan can include:
- Wills – In Texas, having a will is incredibly important. Texas has very complicated laws regarding how assets will be divided if an individual dies without leaving a will (also known as intestate). This can lead to lengthy probate proceedings, whereas leaving a will can make the probate process easy.
- Trusts – Trusts allow assets like property or life insurance payouts to be passed on to a beneficiary in a managed way. Trusts can also safeguard designated items for beneficiaries who may be too young to manage the assets themselves.
- Medical Power of Attorney – Estate planning can and should include more than what happens after your death. For example, by granting someone medical power of attorney, you can make sure your wishes about your care are expressed even if you should become incapacitated.
- Statutory Durable Power of Attorney – This document allows you to designate someone to manage your financial affairs on your behalf, and can be made effective immediately or only upon later incapacity. This document, along with the Medical Power of Attorney, reduces the chances that a guardianship will be needed in the future.
- Advanced Directives to Physicians, also known as Living Wills – Advanced Directives leave instructions for family members regarding how you would like to be treated at the end of your life. Living wills can specify your desires on end-of-life care and other medical treatments.
Estate Planning Is Complex
Estate planning is a complex and highly nuanced process. Not creating a will or trying to create a will without help from an estate planning attorney could have serious consequences: your will could be ruled invalid, your family could incur unnecessary fees, and your wishes may not be followed. At The Haney Law Firm, we work with clients every single day to give them and their loved ones peace of mind knowing their estate plan is detailed, thorough, and unique. Contact us today to begin your estate planning.