Wills & Estate Planning

WILLS

Whether we’d like to think about it or not, for most of us, a will is a necessity. Even those with very few assets should consider a will in order to make certain that their final wishes are known to loved ones after they have passed. It’s a mistake to assume that your family knows how you want your property distributed after you pass – it may be true – but that doesn’t mean that all your family members will be on the same page when the time comes. A well-drafted will can remove any uncertainty about your final wishes and also prevent conflicts and even litigation amongst family members.

If you’re married your husband or wife, by law, would receive all your property upon your death if you die without a will. If you’re married and have children and pass without a will, then your wife would receive half of your assets and your child or children would split the other half. However, you would prefer to make your own decisions instead of relying on a statutory formula then you need a will. Additionally, if you have children from another marriage or other family members to whom you’d like to leave some of your property, then a will is necessary to make sure that your wishes are known as they would likely be excluded from the state statutory distribution formula.

It’s important to remember that wills are not just about property. If you have young children at home, particularly if you’re a single parent, you need a will in order to name a guardian for your child or children in the event you die. Even if you have a spouse, it’s not a good idea to rely on the hope and expectation that your spouse will survive you. The decision as to whom will care for your children if you and your spouse pass away while they are still minors is too important to leave to chance or the decision of a judge.

Without a designated guardian for your children your family members may be forced to engage in costly litigation and ultimately a judge, who knows next to nothing about you or your children, may decide who will be awarded guardianship of your children until they reach the age of majority or are otherwise emancipated. Don’t take the risk of leaving your children’s future in the hands of others in the event you and your spouse pass away while they are still under the age of 18. A professionally prepared will can go a long way toward protect the most valuable asset you will ever have, your children.

If you’re in need of a new will or need to make changes or update an existing will, give us a call. We have drafted wills and other estate planning documents for many local satisfied clients.

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POWERS OF ATTORNEY

Estate planning can also help in the event that you become incapacitated and are no longer able to handle your personal affairs such as banking, taxes, investments or real estate matters. With a power of attorney, you can designate another person to act for you.

In the event you become physically incapacitated and your doctor certifies that you no longer are capable of making your own medical decisions, a Power of Attorney can permit you to designate someone to make medical decisions for you.

Below is a list of some of the powers of attorney and other important documents we can draft for you:

  • Texas Durable (Statutory) Power of Attorney

    A durable power of attorney is a document used to designate another person, usually a family member or trusted friend, called your “agent” to manage your financial interests on your behalf. The decisions your agent makes are as binding as if you had made them yourself; and so, it is important to designate an agent who is trustworthy and responsible. This type of power of attorney is called “durable” because it will remain in effect unless you revoke it before you become incapacitated or after you regain your ability to handle your financial affairs.

  • Texas Medical Power of Attorney

    A medical power of attorney is a document that allows someone to designate an agent to make medical decisions for them in the event that they become incapacitated of making those decisions for themselves. Typically, the agent is a family member or trusted friend. Medical powers of attorney are not just for the elderly. Unexpected injury or illness can happen to any of us and so it is important for all adults to have a medical power of attorney in place.

  • HIPAA Authorization

    The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act is a federal law that sets rules as to whom may gain access to American’s medical records or other health information from healthcare providers. A signed HIPAA authorization allows you to designate someone that may have access to your medical records. This ensures that your healthcare provider or your insurance company can provide information to someone you designate that is involved in your healthcare – such as someone you have named as your medical power of attorney.

  • Texas Directive to Physicians

    A directive to physicians, also called a “living will” is a document that allows you to instruct your doctors as to your wishes regarding the use of artificial methods to extend your life in the event you are diagnosed with a terminal or irreversible condition.

TRUSTS

A trust creates is a formal fiduciary relationship between one party, called the “trustor” and provides the other party, called the “trustee” the right to have title to property or assets on behalf of and for the benefit of, the beneficiary. Trusts are used to offer legal protection for the trustor’s assets and also to ensure that those assets are distributed according to his or her wishes. Trusts can save time and limit paperwork and, in some instances, avoid or reduce estate taxes. Additionally, a trust’s provisions can remain private, unlike the probate process which creates a public record. Several types of Texas Trusts are listed below.

  • Testamentary Trust

    A testamentary trust is one created via a person’s will. The trust is not created or take effect until the grantor’s death. At that time all of the assets will pass through the probate process into the trust. The grantor, may at any time prior to his or her death, change the provisions of the trust by modifying the will. At the time of the person’s passing, the trust

  • Living Trust (Inter Vivos Trust)

    A grantor can create a living trust while alive. The trust may last until the grantor’s death or continue thereafter according to the trust’s provisions. Unlike the testamentary trust, the living trust is not created by the grantor’s will; therefore, the trust assets do not have to go through the probate process.

  • Revocable Trust

    As implied by the name, a revocable trust can be revoked, amended or dissolved as the grantor chooses. In most instances, when the grantor dies, the trust assets are distributed according to the provisions of the trust document. For tax purposes, revocable trust assets are included as part of the estate for tax purposes, but as with a living trust, the assets are not included in the probate process.

  • Irrevocable Trust

    Again, as implied by the name, once an irrevocable trust is created it cannot be revoked or amended. Avoiding estate taxes is the most common reason for the creation of an irrevocable trust, as the trust assets are not counted as part of the gross estate for tax purposes.

  • Crummy Trust

    A Crummy Trust is usually used as a way for parents to give their children lifetime gifts that enables them to shelter the gift from federal gift taxes as long as the gift is the equal to or– that amount for 2019 was $15,000.

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