While it is an uncomfortable discussion to have, estate planning is essential when planning for your future. No one knows what the future holds, but having a well-thought-out estate plan in place avoids additional costs, conflict and eases the burden for your loved ones in times of need.
What is an Estate Plan?
An estate plan is a set of legal documents created to manage your "estate" during your life if you can no longer make your own decisions due to an illness or an accident. A good estate plan should always include a Will that lists your beneficiaries and dispose of your assets.
A basic estate plan is comprised of five essential legal documents that will ultimately give you peace of mind.
- Last Will and Testament. It is a legal document created to preserve your last wishes if you pass. A will distribute your estate to your loved ones, appoint guardians for your minor children, if any, and name an individual you trust tasked to carry out your wishes (an executor).
- Durable Power of Attorney. It allows you to appoint a trusted person to make financial decisions, manage your property, seek benefits, collect debts, etc., if you become incapacitated due to illness or an accident.
- Medical Power of Attorney. It appoints a person you trust to speak with physicians and make medical decisions on your behalf if you cannot do so.
- Advanced Healthcare Directive. Gives physicians and family members instructions about what healthcare actions they should take (or not accept) on your behalf if you cannot communicate due to illness or incapacity.
- Designation of Guardian. Tells the court who is the person you selected to serve as your guardian if a need arises.
Sizable estates, complex family, or business situations may require other estate planning alternatives to maximize the amount of assets that can be distributed to your loved ones. Estate planning legal documents such as living trusts, special needs trusts, and life insurance trusts are among those instruments that can be incorporated in your estate plan to manage such special circumstances.
Bottom line, we can help you develop your estate plan based on your goals and circumstances, reducing or eliminating conflicts if you pass away or become incapacitated.
Why do you need an Estate Plan?
If you don't have an estate plan in place, a court in El Paso, Texas, may make the following decisions on your behalf:
- If you died without leaving a lawful Will, a Probate Court in El Paso, Texas, will distribute your assets according to Texas intestate succession rules. This means that your estate will not be distributed according to your wishes.
- The Probate Court will appoint an Administrator according to the Texas Estate Code. The Estate Code sets out the order of preference for who the court should appoint. Sometimes, a statutory selection may create conflict between the heirs.
- The Court will also appoint a guardian for minor children if both parents are deceased. In doing so, the court will follow the Texas Estates Code. Sometimes conflict may arise between family members who believe they are entitled to serve. Ultimately, the court has the discretion to determine who will best suit as a guardian considering the child's best interest. Nevertheless, leaving that decision to the court may result in a choice you would not have made.
- The court will appoint a guardian to care for you and your estate if you become incapacitated, leaving you without the choice of selecting a trusted person to take care of these financial and medical decisions.
- Finally, an absence of estate planning can lead to a long-drawn-out, expensive judicial process for you and your family.
Why do I need an Estate Planning Attorney?
The importance of estate planning in Texas becomes abundantly clear when families are forced to go through an expensive judicial process. This happens because a loved one passed without a will or must seek Guardianship for a loved one due to not having Powers of Attorney in place.
This is one reason why it is best to consult an experienced Estate Planning Attorney. An estate planning lawyer can give you professional advice and recommend the best course of action based on your circumstances.
You can write your own will, but it may not hold up in court if the document does not comply with the Texas Estate Code, does not properly dispose of property, fails to name an executor, or cannot be successfully probated in court. There are generic "Do-it-Yourself" (DIY) forms available online, but a mistake when drafting these documents may have a long-lasting impact on your plan and your family's relationship.
Hiring an attorney is the best course of action for someone in need of an estate plan. Look for a highly experienced attorney in estate planning in El Paso, Texas. An attorney that has represented hundreds of clients with probate and guardianship issues is your best ally when drafting your estate plan. Integrating all that expertise can help you navigate through your personal circumstances and make good decisions for your future.
Our Estate Planning Attorney at Karen Colon Law PLLC will work with you, taking all your needs into account and helping you craft the best solution to meet your needs. If you are ready to take control of your final affairs, give us a call at (915) 444-5003, or contact us online.