Thinking about your—or a loved one's—incapacitation or death can be both difficult and emotional, which is why many people prefer to put off contacting an estate planning attorney for as long as possible. Unfortunately, this hesitation can have devastating consequences. People are often incapacitated or die without a plan in place, leaving relatives to guess their final wishes, fight over property and assets, and either contact a probate attorney or be at the mercy of the state's decisions regarding the administration of the estate. Fortunately, a well-crafted estate plan can prevent this.
It's never too soon to start planning your estate. Waiting to make important end-of-life decisions until you are faced with a health scare or other crisis can be a serious mistake. Give yourself—and your family—much-deserved peace of mind. Read on to learn more about estate planning and probate in Texas, and how our accomplished attorneys can help you develop and implement a custom and comprehensive estate plan.
Benefits of Estate Planning
Having a thorough and well-tailored estate plan in place provides peace of mind and security for both you and your family. However, that's not all a great estate plan can do. It can also allow you to:
- Plan for serious illness or incapacity. You can specify what kind of medical care you want should you become ill or incapacitated, and designate a trusted loved one or personal representative to make decisions on your behalf if you're unable to make them for yourself.
- Ensure your final wishes are honored. Don't make your family try to guess your last wishes or assume that relatives will carry out your verbal instructions once you're gone. An estate plan lets everyone know exactly what you wanted and how it should be accomplished.
- Protect your assets. You can design your estate plan to shield assets from creditors or other unscrupulous parties, such as vengeful former spouses or family members who're struggling with addiction.
- Provide for your family. An estate plan lets you pass assets and property to family in the way you feel is best. You can also appoint a guardian for minor children, decide how and when their inheritance will be distributed, and choose a trustee to oversee their finances until they come of age.
- Support your favorite causes and charities. You can customize your estate plan to include donations to your favorite causes and charities, as well as provide instructions for how those donations should be administered.
- Reduce tax liability. Careful estate planning can help you reduce—or even eliminate—certain estate-related tax obligations.
- Minimize family conflict. Relatives often don't see eye to eye, and if your final wishes aren't clearly spelled out, conflict can result.
- Save your family time and money. If you don't have the right kind of will, the probate process can be lengthy and costly. A professionally prepared estate plan can help relatives simplify—or even avoid—the probate process.
What is Probate?
Probate means proving something before a Court. A Will has now power on its own until it is admitted to probate. A Court hearing is required to get the Will admitted to probate. At the hearing, someone must state certain facts about the deceased person, their Will, and their estate. If there was no will, the state has a default one that is used. This is called intestate probate, and is more complex.
At hearing, the Judge will appoint a representative of the estate, called an executor or administrator. This person is an officer of the Court and has certain duties and responsibilities that have to be carried out after the hearing concludes.
What Happens When There Isn't an Estate Plan? Understanding the Dreaded Probate Process
If you die without a will or estate plan in place—known as “dying intestate”—your property and assets will go through the probate process and be distributed according to Texas law. This process can be lengthy, public, expensive, and ensures that creditors are satisfied before assets are issued to your heirs.
Common Components of Texas Estate Plans
Our attorneys can help you create an estate plan according to your needs and goals. Common components of strong Texas estate plans include:
- Revocable or living trusts
- Medical powers of attorney
- Financial powers of attorney
- Irrevocable trusts
- HIPPA authorizations
Consult Our Experienced North Texas Estate Planning & Probate Attorneys
Whether you're planning your own estate, trying to understand a parent's estate plan, caring for an aging relative or facing probate, our attorneys can help you navigate the process and safeguard your family's future. Contact Smith Klein Law today to schedule an appointment for a free initial consultation. Can't come to us? We can arrange to meet you at your home, in the hospital, or wherever is convenient.