Estate Planning is one of the oldest practice areas of law that is governed by federal law and each individual state. While some people might think you have to be wealthy to create an Estate Plan, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Estate Planning is simply creating a set of documents that outlines the final disposition of your assets, your medical care as you age, and how best to manage tax liability.
The Estate Planning process is not a matter of simply filing forms. It requires sincere thought on your part. During the process, we will help you determine how you wish to distribute your possessions, how you wish to control your estate, long-term care, how best to preserve the value of your assets, how you wish to live, who has authority to oversee your estate, and how to handle final disposition plus any related matters that need to be addressed. Taylor & Lassen can guide you through the Estate Planning process and explain the ramifications of each of your choices to effectively and legally put your wishes in place.
It may seem like a complicated process but in reality, it is not overly difficult. It is a straightforward process where the more organized you are, the easier the process. The purpose of Estate Planning is to organize your life now so that, as you age, the future has already been organized according to your requirements and any transition will occur smoothly.
On the legal side, one of the main reasons for Estate Planning is to avoid Probate Court, which is expensive and time-consuming. Another major reason is managing tax liability. Both of these factors can cause long delays, large reductions of your estate, and your wishes being voided. The best method to protect yourself and the rights of your beneficiaries are accomplished through Estate Planning.
Taylor & Lassen can support your needs as we deal with every aspect of Estate Planning, Elder Law, Elder Care, Asset Protection, and associated wills, trusts, and powers of attorney. The best assurance that your requests will be fulfilled is to employ a competent Estate Planning attorney to cover all the bases. Please contact us at your convenience to schedule a free and confidential consultation.
Last Will and Testament
A Will is a legal document that allows you to decide how your estate will be handled upon death. If necessary, a Will allows you to name a guardian for your children. As the validity of Wills are determined state to state, it imperative you get an Estate Planning attorney knowledgeable in Texas State Law.
Another benefit of a will is that it allows for people to disinherit persons if you so choose. This isn’t done for hurtful reasons but to protect loved ones. For example, if a wealthy person dies who was only cared for by his grandmother, an absentee parent or ex-spouse can show up and actually lay claim to the inheritance risking a total loss for the grandmother.
While a will is not an overly difficult legal instrument to create, a comprehensive will provides better for contingencies, such as the one mentioned in the example. Taylor & Lassen will work with you to account for these contingencies and provide the tailored support to secure your wishes.
Powers Of Attorney
A Power of Attorney is a legal document that gives another person the legal authority to act on your behalf. Depending on your needs, different “powers” can be granted to your agent or agents. You are able to give as much, or as little authority, to the person of your choice. However, this document becomes ineffective when the grantor dies or becomes incapacitated. A Durable Power Of Attorney remains in effect should you become incapacitated and cannot act on your own behalf. Also known as a “health care proxy,” it grants your agent to make medical and end-of-life decisions. An Estate Planning attorney can help document any treatments which should or should not be given by medical professionals, as well as any specific instructions.
A Durable Power Of Attorney is sometimes combined with a Living Will to create a comprehensive Advanced Medical Directive.
Living Will – Advance Directives
A Living Will is a legal document that provides specific directives about medical treatment should a person become too ill or mentally incapacitated to give informed consent or refusal of medical procedures. Being that it concerns life, there are specific legal and procedural requirements that should be followed to have your wishes performed accurately. While you can create a Living Will or a Durable Power of Attorney, having both will create a more comprehensive coverage. Taylor & Lassen has provided these services for many clients and can assist you with critical component of Estate Planning to ensure your requirements are created and carried out according to your wishes.
A Living Will is sometimes combined with a Durable Power of Attorney to create a comprehensive Advanced Medical Directive.
Asset Protection Planning
Asset protection planning is only one part of an entire Estate Planning process and a way of organizing one’s assets to preserve maximum value for those who are listed in your estate. It is a logical and legal method of setting up your assets to manage tax liability when death occurs. Typical methods such as Joint Property Ownership, Creating Death Beneficiaries, Revocable Living Trusts, and Gifts are used to accomplish protection. While many more methods exist, this exercise is only part of an entire Estate Plan and it is best to discuss your specifics in private with your Estate Planning Attorney under the protection of Attorney-Client Privilege rules.
When it becomes necessary to care for our loved ones who cannot care for themselves, legal guardianship is a necessary step where an Estate Planning attorney can play a significant role to achieve a desired solution. Having a full understanding of Guardianship legal procedures and applications in Texas Family Law can help relatives, and even family friends, determine who is best fit to oversee the care of loved ones and ensure their rights are protected.
Providing instructions for this eventuality in advance will create a calmer atmosphere and smoother transition when it occurs. There are different levels of Guardianship that can best be discussed in relation to your needs. Please contact Taylor & Lassen for more information or refer to the Texas Department of Human Services website.
When a person dies and no will is left, or the will is incomplete and doesn’t address all the assets of an estate, then administrators are appointed to distribute the estate of the deceased according to the laws and statutes enacted by the State of Texas. This is when a person’s estate is said to be intestate and sent to Probate. Even with a will, the decedent’s estate can still end up in Probate. The process can take months, or even years, and is very costly.
Due to the costly nature of Probate, there are many legal methods used to avoid it. The most typical are:
- Joint Property Ownership
- Death Beneficiaries
- Revocable Living Trusts
Dealing with the extensive nature of Texas Probate courts and complex legal proceedings during the mourning of a loved one can put needless stress on a bereaving family, further complicating an already exacerbated situation. With this in mind, and the time-consuming costly nature of Probate Administration, many people utilize an Estate Planning attorney to meticulously craft an Estate Plan that covers all the necessary details to avoid Texas Probate courts.
You must remember the purpose for estate and asset planning is to reduce costs and expenses and, perhaps, later taxes. This is when Taylor & Lassen can provide the thorough representation and thorough oversight of your estate to ensure your love ones receive the maximum amount of benefits you have granted them.
For more info on your research into Estate Planning, please refer to the American Bar Association website regarding Estate Planning.