Getting Started with Estate Planning
Did you know that most people can benefit from some form of estate planning? Most people associate estate planning with the very wealthy and/or assume it is something that doesn’t need to be done until you retire or reach old age. However, both of these things are myths. If you have any major assets or important items you want to be passed down, or have minor children, you likely could benefit from an estate plan, regardless of how much wealth you currently have.
Additionally, estate plans are useful for more than just end-of-life planning. They can also help you prepare for the unexpected, ensuring that your children, pets, or other dependents are taken care of should something happen to you. In fact, there is usually no reason to delay in beginning your estate planning, especially if you have dependents.
Want to know more about estate planning? Below we review five frequently asked questions about estate planning and what Texas residents can do to get started.
FAQ #1: What Can You Do with Estate Planning?
Most people associate estate planning with wills and trusts. Wills and trusts are indeed a major part of estate planning. But there is also a lot more that you can accomplish! With a strong estate plan, you can protect your assets, ensure that your estate is disbursed according to your wishes, and work toward your financial goals.
Commonly used estate planning tools include:
- Will, including living wills
- Trusts, revocable & irrevocable
- Powers of attorney, including medical powers of attorney
- HIPAA releases
- Medicaid planning
- Prenuptial and postnuptial agreements
- Probate services
Another major area of estate planning is asset protection. This can be done in a variety of ways, using a variety of tools. It can also include tax planning, liability and creditor protection, and divorce protection.
FAQ #2: Where Should I Start with Estate Planning?
Often, the first place people start with estate planning is with a last will and testament. If someone dies without a will, they are said to have died intestate. When this happens, their estate is probated, and the courts decide how the deceased individual’s assets are disbursed to their heirs based on Texas’ intestacy laws. Assets subject to the probate process can include titled property (such as real estate or cars), personal property, and financial holdings for which no payable-on-death (POD) designation is established. The probate process for estates without a will can be long and costly. Having a will on record can help mitigate the probate process, making it smoother and usually less expensive for your heirs.
With a will, you can:
- Designate an executor for your estate
- Designate guardians for your minor children or other dependents
- Outline how you want your estate divided and disbursed to your heirs
- Make provisions for end-of-life care
- Make provisions for funeral and burial preferences
After wills, we also recommend that people consider other estate planning tools, such as trusts and powers of attorney. There are many kinds of trusts, including special needs, charitable, and living trusts. Trusts can often help you limit how much of your estate is subject to probate and can even help reduce your estate’s tax liability. Meanwhile, powers of attorney allow you to designate someone to act on your behalf and make important decisions if you cannot, such as financial and medical decisions.
Contact our law firm to learn more about the many estate planning options available to you in Texas.
FAQ #3: How Often Should I Review My Estate Plan
Generally speaking, you should review your estate plan every time a major life event occurs. For example, if you get married, have children, or get divorced, you should check your estate plan to ensure that these changes are reflected in your plan. Beyond this, it is recommended that you review your estate plan at regular intervals, such as every three to five years. This will help ensure that your planning is up to date and reflects your current situation.
FAQ #4: How Do I Get Started with Estate Planning
Your first step when it comes to estate planning is to find legal representation you feel confident in and who is experienced in handling estate planning matters in Texas. Working with an attorney can be invaluable when it comes to developing a strong strategy for your estate plan. Because an estate planning attorney, like ours at Burrows Law Group, lives and breaths estate law, you can rely on their knowledge, experience, and resources to ensure that you develop a plan that meets your specific needs.
Estate law is very complicated and can have serious ramifications if not handled properly. We always recommend that people work with an experienced attorney when drafting important estate planning documents like wills, powers of attorneys, etc. Though you can find DIY wills on the internet, you should never sign an important legal document without having it reviewed by a lawyer who practices estate law in your home state.
FAQ #5: How Do I Choose an Estate Planning Attorney
So, you know you need an attorney to help you with your estate planning, but how do you find one? And how do you know that the attorney is right for you? First and foremost, you want to find an estate planning attorney who practices in your home state, in our case, Texas. Every state has different estate and probate laws. Working with an attorney who is not licensed or experienced in your state can lead to miscommunications, errors, and in a worst-case scenario, your estate planning documents not being recognized by the courts.
It is also a good idea to select an attorney whose practice focuses on just a few areas of the law and not a one-stop shop that does everything. This will help ensure they have the focus and the resources you need to draft a detailed, focused estate plan. For example, at Burrows Law Group, we focus on Estate Planning, Probate, Family Law, and Small Business Formation. We find that these areas complement each other well and allow us to offer our clients a range of services that best meet their needs.
To learn more about how to choose an estate planning lawyer, review our blog here.