Thinking about and planning for what happens after you pass away can be uncomfortable, but it’s essential to leave a legacy behind for your loved ones.
Creating an intentional estate plan allows you to accomplish this. An estate planning attorney can help you craft a personalized estate plan that suits your situation and preferences.
At The Zimmerman Law Firm, P.C., we take the time to understand your circumstances and wishes. Then, we work with you to curate a plan that reflects your priorities.
You can read more about the details of estate planning below. If you have any questions, please contact us online or call (254) 271-2540.
What Is an Estate Plan?
Estate planning is the process of creating a plan, a set of legal documents, that outlines your wishes for the management of your personal affairs and the distribution of your assets after you pass away.
The possessions and other things that you leave behind after your death are legally called your estate. Your estate consists of the property, both real and personal, that you own at the time of your death.
Real property includes land and improvements (such as fences and buildings) located on the land. Real property also includes oil, gas, and other mineral interests. Personal property is all property other than real property, including:
- Cash and bank accounts,
- Clothing and personal effects,
- Household furnishings,
- Motor vehicles,
- Stocks and bonds,
- Life insurance policies, and
- Government, retirement, or employee benefits.
Properly identifying and classifying your property can help you create an appropriate estate plan. For example, you might place some of your property in a trust to reduce the value of your estate, thus decreasing the total estate tax.
An estate planning lawyer can help you identify and categorize your assets to create an estate plan that fits your circumstances, preferences, and budget.
Why Do I Need an Estate Plan?
While the topic of death may be uncomfortable for some to consider, having an estate plan is crucial for protecting your family, ensuring your wishes are carried out, and avoiding potential legal issues.
In this way, estate planning can be another way to show care and compassion to your loved ones even after you’re gone.
Without an estate plan, your family may have to go through a lengthy and expensive probate process to distribute your assets.
Having an estate plan can help your family avoid probate and minimize the time and cost involved in managing your affairs.
What Happens If I Die Without a Will?
If you pass away without an estate plan, State law will decide how your assets are distributed. These laws provide a default plan for distributing assets, but may not align with your wishes.
By having an estate plan, you can ensure that your assets are distributed according to your preferences, rather than leaving it up to the state.
Texas law has rules about how personal and real property are distributed if you die without a will (called dying intestate). For example, if you die without a will and have a surviving spouse, the spouse may receive one-third of your assets.
Any children or grandchildren might receive their share of the remainder of your estate (divided equally among them). Finally, your spouse may receive one-third interest in your land, with the remaining going to your children and grandchildren.
Most people don’t like this arrangement, preferring instead to distribute their estate as they see fit. If you have an estate plan in place, you can put together an arrangement that you would want rather than rely on the default state laws.
What Are Examples of Texas Estate Planning Documents?
In Texas, there are several types of estate planning that a person can consider. Each serves an essential function in the estate planning process. Common types of estate planning documents include the following:
- Deeds (including Lady Bird Deeds and Transfer on Death Deeds),
- Powers of Attorney, and
- Directives to Physicians (also known as Advance Directives or Living Wills).
Estate planning can be complex, and there are many legal requirements that must be met for your documents to be considered valid.
Working with an experienced estate planning attorney can help ensure that your wishes are carried out and that your loved ones are protected.
A will is a set of detailed instructions you give about who is to receive your property upon your death. In the document, you also name the person responsible for carrying out the instructions in the will and identify your property and the names of people who should inherit your property.
In the will, you can also create a testamentary trust or request that items are transferred to a trust upon your death.
Trusts are legal instruments that can own, sell, and transfer property. People often use trusts to provide support to their loved ones after their death and avoid the sometimes costly and cumbersome probate process.
Different types of trust also allow you to name yourself as one of the beneficiaries, so you can receive needed support during stages of your life and provide for your loved ones when you pass away. The document names a trustee responsible for carrying out the instructions in the trust.
You can use a deed to transfer property to someone (an individual or organization) without going through the probate process or creating a trust. If you choose, you can also establish a trust and transfer your property to the trust using a deed.
A lady bird deed enables you to own and live in your house now, but have it automatically pass to someone else of your choosing upon your death.
Powers of Attorney
Powers of attorney enable you (the principal) to name someone else (the agent) to make decisions on your behalf during stated times. You can decide when this power comes into play.
For example, you may select a specific date or a triggering event, such as your incapacitation. You can also describe the scope and duration of the agent’s powers under the document.
Directive to Physicians
A Directive to Physicians (also called a living will) empowers you to create specific end-of-life plans if you become terminally ill or incapacitated. In the document, you provide detailed instructions about what types of medical care you would like.
You can also indicate whether you would like extraordinary measures to be taken if you become seriously sick, such as going into a coma.
Contact an Experienced Estate Planning Attorney for Help
At The Zimmerman Law Firm, our Central Texas attorneys can provide guidance on the best estate planning strategies for your individual needs and goals.
We can also help you understand the tax implications of your decisions, and ensure that your documents comply with Texas law.
Clients praise us for going “above and beyond” when representing them and promptly answering client calls.
Contact us online or call (254) 271-2540 to get started on your estate plan today.