The Importance of Estate Planning: Ensuring Your Loved One’s Future
Estate planning matters. With a proper estate plan, you can protect your rights and your interests and set your loved ones up for a secure future. Do you lack a comprehensive estate plan? You are certainly not alone. According to survey data from Gallup, fewer than half of American adults have any form of an estate plan in place. The right time to get started is now. Here, our Houston estate planning lawyer explains the key things that you should understand about estate planning in Texas.Why it Matters: Three Reasons Why Need a Customized Estate Plan
Every adult in Houston should have a comprehensive, customized estate plan. No matter your age, family structure, or financial situation, you can benefit from putting together a well-rounded estate plan. Estate planning matters. Here are three reasons why proactive estate planning is so important:
- Prepare for Incapacity: There is an all-too-common misconception that estate planning is only about deciding who gets to inherit what. While that is undoubtedly an important issue, estate planning is also about preparing for the risk of incapacity. Incapacity can arise unexpectedly due to illness or accident—thereby leaving a person unable to make legal, financial, and health decisions. A custom estate plan will put the structure in place to ensure that you are protected no matter what happens.
- Protect Your Beneficiaries: You can use your estate plan to decide what will happen to your property and assets. Notably, customized estate planning provides mechanisms to protect beneficiaries who might be too young, prone to poor decision-making, or subject to external influences. Through trusts and other estate structures, you can specify terms that dictate how and when your assets will be distributed.
- Provide Clarity and Limit Disputes: No person wants to leave their closest family and loved ones stuck dealing with a difficult conflict. Estate planning provides true, legally enforceable clarity about what you want to happen. Clear communication of your intentions through a well-drafted estate plan is instrumental in limiting disputes among heirs.
Knowing the importance of estate planning, you may have questions about what exactly goes into a comprehensive estate plan. One-size-fits-all solutions are not good enough for estate planning. Every person’s estate plan should be narrowly tailored to suit their specific needs and goals. Here are some of the documents that make up an estate plan in Houston:
- A Will: A will is the cornerstone of any estate plan. Broadly explained, a last will and testament is a legal document that lays out a person’s final wishes and provides instructions for the distribution of assets. A properly-written will also typically name an executor. The executor is the person who is in charge of carrying out the instructions laid out within the will. A will becomes active only after death.
- Trusts: Trusts are versatile estate planning instruments that provide a high degree of control over how and when your assets are distributed. A trust can help avoid probate, reduce estate taxes, and offer protection for your assets against beneficiaries' creditors. Notably, there are many types of trusts, each tailored to specific situations. Depending on your circumstances, you may want to set up a revocable trust, an irrevocable trust, a Medicaid trust, a special needs trust, or a charitable trust.
- Power of Attorney (POA): Power of attorney (POA) is another core estate planning document. A POA document authorizes another person—referred to in Texas as an attorney-in-fact—to act on your behalf in financial matters if you are unable to do so. The authority can be broad or limited to specific activities and can take effect immediately or upon a certain event, such as incapacitation. Notably, a durable power of attorney is essential as it remains in effect even if you become incapacitated, thereby ensuring continuous management of your affairs.
- Health Directives: Also frequently referred to simply as a “living will”, advance directives are documents that outline your preferences for medical treatment if you are unable to make decisions yourself. It can specify what life-sustaining measures should or should not be taken. Combined with a medical power of attorney—which designates someone to make healthcare decisions on your behalf—advance directives provide comprehensive protection.
- Guardianship: In the event that you can no longer care for your minor children or become incapacitated without an appointed guardian, the court will intervene to appoint someone on your behalf. However, through your estate plan, you can designate your preferred guardians for your children, ensuring they are cared for by someone you trust. In Texas, you can use your will to name a guardian for a minor child.
Estate planning is not easy. A lot of people put off estate planning until the future because they are not quite sure how to get started with the process. You do not have to figure out everything on your own. A top-tier Houston, TX, estate planning attorney will possess the expertise necessary to develop the right strategy for you. collaborating with a Houston estate planning attorney, you can secure peace of mind, knowing that your estate plan is comprehensive, customized, and legally sound. Along with other things, your estate planning lawyer can provide you with reliable guidance and support, including:
- Preparing for the risk of incapacity;
- Ensuring that your beneficiaries are properly protected; and
- Putting the right structure in place to limit the chances of a dispute.
At Thornton Esquire Law Group, PLLC, our Houston estate planning lawyer is driven to help clients find peace, security, and reliable protection through a personalized approach. If you have any questions about securing your loved ones, we can help. Call us now at (888) 378-1784 or contact us online to arrange your confidential initial appointment. From our Houston legal office, we provide estate planning services to people in families in Harris County and throughout Southeast Texas.