Few people like to think about their own mortality. Yet planning for the future is essential. Whether you have a large number of assets or more modest means, having a comprehensive estate plan can ensure that your wishes are followed and that your property is protected.
A carefully designed estate plan provides security for both you and your loved ones. It can also help to minimize taxes and provide for your family in the future.
At Forbes & Forbes, we have 75 years of combined experience helping clients with all phases of estate planning. We craft personally tailored estate plans to meet our clients’ needs, working collaboratively throughout the process.
Why Do I Need an Estate Plan?
Estate planning, like planning for retirement or working with a financial adviser, is an important way to protect your family as well as your assets. An estate consists of everything that you own, from your vehicle to your home to your investment accounts. It also includes the right to control these assets and their disposition.
Through an estate plan, you can determine who should control your assets and your rights in the event that you become incapacitated or when you pass away. A good estate plan can:
- Ensure that your assets go to the person you want to receive them after your death;
- Name guardians for minor children;
- Choose your personal representative (executor);
- Determine who will take care of your financial affairs if you become incapacitated;
- Direct your family and physician on healthcare decisions if you become incapacitated;
- Avoid the public nature of probate, if desired;
- Eliminate or minimize fights over your assets after you pass; and
Without an estate plan, the government makes many of these decisions for you through the rules of intestate succession (if you die without a will) or the conservatorship process (if you become incapacitated without a durable power of attorney or healthcare directive).
What Are the Essential Components of an Estate Plan?
Each estate plan should be written based on the specific needs of the individual and their family. Certain aspects are critical for almost every estate plan, while others — like a special needs trust — may only be necessary for some individuals. Our law firm will thoroughly analyze your situation to help you develop an estate plan that works for you.
There are four main legal documents that an estate plan may contain: (1) a last will and testament; (2) a trust; (3) a durable power of attorney; (4) medical power of attorney and (4) an advance directive. The specific documents that you need will depend on your assets, wishes, and other factors.
A last will and testament — commonly referred to as a will — is what most people think of when it comes to estate planning. A will allows you to designate who will receive your assets after your death, and how these assets will be distributed. In Texas, a will must go through the probate process.
A trust is a legal entity that can be used for a variety of purposes, such as protecting property from creditors or reducing taxes. There are at least three people involved in a trust: the trust-maker, the trustee, and the beneficiary of the trust. The use of a trust depends heavily on the specific circumstances of the individual.
Depending on your needs, you may establish a revocable (living) trust, an irrevocable trust, a special needs trust, a testamentary trust, or another type of trust. There are many advantages to trusts, including that they continue to be effective if the trust-maker dies or becomes incapacitated. If you are interested in setting up a trust, an El Paso estate planning lawyer can help you determine which type of trust is right for you.
A power of attorney is a legal document that gives another person (known as the attorney-in-fact) the legal right to do certain things for you during your lifetime. A power of attorney can be broad or relatively limited, based on your needs. A durable power of attorney is commonly used to nominate an attorney-in-fact to take care of your financial affairs in case you are unable to do so.
A medical power of attorney is a legal document that gives another person the legal right to make medical decisions for you in the event you are unable. It also can spell out the type of medical care you will receive or gives your attorney-in-fact to make those decisions.
An advance directive, or healthcare directive, is a document that specifies what measures can be taken if your death is imminent and who will make decisions on your behalf, and what life-saving measures you would like to be taken if you are in a certain medical condition. These documents are legally binding under Texas law.
Why Do I Need an Estate Planning Attorney?
In the era of do-it-yourself legal kits, you may be wondering why you should work with a lawyer instead of making your own estate plan.
In Texas, you can write your own will or other estate planning documents. That doesn’t mean that you should do it. There are a number of reasons why it makes sense to work with an estate planning lawyer instead of buying a form or finding blank documents online.
First, a good estate plan involves a number of documents — not just a will. Many online DIY services only provide an option for a will. While that is a good start, having a will won’t protect you in the event of disability, reduce your tax liability, or any other of the goals that can be accomplished with a comprehensive estate plan.
Second, estate planning involves a number of complicated areas of law, both state and federal. A good estate planning lawyer will analyze your needs based on Texas estate and trust laws, federal and Texas tax laws, Texas guardianship and conservator laws, and Texas family law. You may be able to get a basic estate plan using a kit, but you won’t be able to tailor these documents based on your needs and current law.
Third, a do-it-yourself estate plan may cost less upfront but can end up being more expensive over time. A well-drafted estate plan can reduce professional fees, court costs, and taxes. These savings are often far more than the initial cost of working with an estate planning attorney.
Fourth, when you write your own estate plan, there is no guarantee that it will be upheld in court. If you fail to comply with specific requirements in Texas law, it could result in your will, trust, or other document being thrown out. Your legal documents may also be challenged in court, which may cost significantly more money than you would have otherwise spent consulting with an estate lawyer.
How We Can Help
Estate planning is a daunting process for many Texans. We understand that reality. Our legal team is knowledgeable, compassionate, and experienced.
Since 1989, Forbes and Forbes have provided a range of estate planning and probate services to individuals in the El Paso area and beyond. We’ll work hand in hand with you to develop an estate plan that meets your needs. To schedule a free consultation with a member of our team, contact us today at 1-877-585-3827, or email us at any time.