Should Everyone Have an Estate Plan?
This is a common question that many people ask, and our answer is consistent—yes. The future is uncertain, for everyone. It is impossible to predict when you might have a serious emergency, develop an illness, become completely incapacitated, or even die. Whether you are young, or old, 100% healthy, or currently suffering from an illness, the fact is everyone needs an estate plan regardless of their current health or life stage. It is best to be prepared and to have a plan for your estate. Hopefully, you won’t need it for a long time, but if you do it will be ready if the unexpected happens quickly.
Estate planning, when done properly, is thorough and extensive, but our attorneys have the experience and can help you plan your estate. We tailor every estate plan to the individual client’s needs; we don’t use a cookie-cutter approach as many other firms do. We work with you to create a complete estate plan that protects all your interests. Let us take on the burden of estate planning for you, so you can enjoy your life knowing that everything is taken care of. Contact us when you’re ready to talk about your estate. We’re here to help. For your convenience, we’ve provided further information below detailing some of the situations that probably require a complete estate plan.
Considering Minor Children
Children are always our biggest concern as parents and guardians. We all want to know that our children will be protected and provided for, in the event that something happens to us. Who will take care of them if we fall ill? Who will govern their finances so they have the money they need for food, clothing, school, etc.? All of your concerns regarding children can be taken care of in a comprehensive estate plan. First, you’ll want to consider the ‘declaration of guardianship,’ which officially designates who will take care of the child or children from day to day. And you’ll need to consider a ‘trust,’ which will formally designate the party who will oversee and maintain the child’s or children’s finances, as well as any distribution of assets to the child or children, when and if that becomes necessary.
Considering Health Problems & Illnesses
Unfortunately, there is no advance warning system for illnesses. When a health problem strikes you need to be prepared. Part of being prepared includes having complete, thorough medical documents such as a power of attorney and a living will in place. Careful thought should be given to important decisions—what type of care you would like to receive, who will be making decisions on your behalf, etc. All these important questions can be answered in your estate plan, which will eliminate ambiguity. And if there are any ‘end of life’ decisions to be made, you certainly don’t want to leave them open to interpretation. An estate plan will cover the possible scenarios and make it clear what steps should be taken.
Considering Special Needs Planning & Care
Regardless of whether a special needs individual is your child, your parent, or someone else who is loved, they cannot be a direct beneficiary of your overall estate plan. Please note: if you pass assets to someone with special needs, this will terminate their typical need-based government benefits. You’ll want to keep this from happening, and one way you can do that is to create a ‘special needs trust’ for them. With a special needs trust, you can rest assured that your loved one will keep their government-provided benefits, and the inheritance can then be utilized to provide for other needs they may have that are not covered by their standard government benefits.
Considering Care For Pets
Many people are very concerned for their beloved pets. What will happen to them if you become ill or incapacitated? Who will care for them? Fortunately, it is possible to also designate a particular caregiver for your pets. Additionally, with an estate plan, you can orchestrate how certain designated funds will be allocated and distributed to your pet’s caregiver. Whether it’s a lump sum or other plan, it can all be written into a trust.
Concerning Blended Family Situations
Often, people have children from a previous relationship, and you will, of course, want to be sure that all your children receive the best care and consideration; a comprehensive estate plan could help to ensure your children’s needs are covered in the event that you become incapacitated or pass away. With a thorough estate plan, you can have things taken care of as you see fit, and designate how your assets will be distributed to all your loved ones, in a manner that is fair and considerate.
Considering The Affairs Of A Sole Individual
When the unexpected happens, you’ll want to have your affairs handled according to your wishes, and whether you’ve got a whole family to be concerned for, or just yourself as a single person, you need a solid estate plan that leaves nothing to guesswork. It is important to designate the proper person or persons to handle your financial and health decisions when or if the time comes. There are a number of issues and factors to consider, but one that many sometimes forget is that they should make immediate changes to an estate plan after their divorce. A former spouse should be removed from the process of making your financial or health-related decisions altogether. Additionally, it is important to remove your former spouse from any decision-making roles regarding your assets and how they will be handled and distributed, as well as removing them as your listed beneficiary.
Regarding Significant Assets & Estate Taxes
Some individuals may have significant assets and be concerned about estate taxes. In these cases, tax planning is imperative. You may want to consider gifting throughout your lifetime. And, for the benefit of your beneficiaries, you might want to evaluate which assets fair better in regard to taxes.
In Regard To Business Owners
You’ve built your business with hard work, and therefore you’ll want to be sure that your business is considered carefully during the planning of your estate. Businesses operate as sole proprietorships, limited liability companies, and more. You may have zero employees or thousands, but regardless of how big or small your business is you’ll want to designate a single individual within your business who will take over for you and keep it running in the manner you choose, or who will sell it and thus create a return for your named beneficiaries. Careful estate planning will determine how things will go should you become incapacitated or pass away.
Regarding Investment Properties
You’ll always want to protect every asset you have or hold, and investment properties are an important consideration in any estate plan. It is important to protect your assets from lawsuits and claims. Renters can and do sue if the property is not maintained or cared for. Considering this, you may want to protect yourself, as well as your important assets, by forming an LLC. An LLC (limited liability company) can be utilized to protect or insulate a rental property from other important assets you may have, in the event of a lawsuit. It is always best to be prepared and protect every asset you have, in every way possible.
Considering An Inheritance
It is important to note that an inheritance is viewed as separate property, even if the individual is married. But you should be aware that commingling could change that status. For example, if you receive an inheritance and then deposit those funds into a named joint account, or if you add your spouse’s name to any inherited real estate, this could then be considered a joint asset. Therefore, in a divorce proceeding, your spouse could be viewed as a joint owner of this real estate. As you can see, it is crucial to plan your estate with a qualified, skilled attorney so that your assets are protected. Your attorney can introduce you to the various ways you can protect your assets, such as separate property trusts, and more.
What About A Pre-Nup Agreement?
Pre-nuptial and post-nuptial agreements should always be considered carefully when making your estate plan. Consult with your attorney to ensure that your pre or postnup agreement does not conflict with your estate plan and that all your assets will be distributed according to your wishes.
In Regard To Charity
Your estate plan can incorporate designations in regard to charities. And as some charitable organizations are tax-exempt, a skilled attorney will be able to offer his or her input and help you determine how to manage charitable considerations in a way that will provide the optimum tax benefit to your estate, as well as the charity.
Regarding Out Of State Property
Real estate outside of your home state may require special consideration. You should inform your attorney of all your real estate holdings to ensure they will be distributed according to your wishes. A trust is one way to deal with real estate. Real estate holdings transferred into a trust will not be probated in various states. A trust will ensure that these valuable assets are handled carefully in regard to distribution and cost management.
In Consideration of International Property
Internationally owned property must be considered in your US estate plan. You must directly address any and all international assets such as real estate holdings because the US government does not have any jurisdiction over the distribution of assets in other countries, in the event you should pass away. Each country has its own specific laws that govern inheritances. Your US estate plan needs to directly mention that you hold assets in another country and that you will specifically designate in an official document, according to the laws of the particular country, how those assets need to be distributed. In addition, you should indicate that your US will not invalidate other international estate planning orders or documents that have been created by you. These issues dealing with international real estate holdings can be especially complex, and you should consult with an experienced attorney who understands the laws in the US and abroad, regarding real estate holdings. This special consideration to international holdings will allow you to relax knowing that all your assets, domestic and international, will be managed and distributed properly.
For more information on The Need For An Estate Plan In Texas, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (512) 288-3200 today.