If you’re like a lot of people, outlining your estate distribution with a small estate planning lawyer is one of those things that you know you need to do yet keep putting off until later because it doesn’t really seem that pressing.
Maybe you’re in good health or not too advanced in age yet or think you don’t have much to pass down, so why do you need to talk to an estate planning attorney?
The truth is, it’s a good idea for most people to construct an end-of-life plan with an estate lawyer even if you don’t have investments, expensive possessions, or even a huge house to pass down.
In Texas, if you do nothing it will be left up to the court to decide who will get anything you may have left even if it’s against your wishes.
The Texas Intestacy Statute
In the event that you should die with no will or estate planning in place, the state will decide who gets your assets in accordance with the Texas Intestacy Statute.
This law applies to anyone who passes without a will and allows the court to disperse assets according to a strict set of rules.
No matter what your assets may be, they will go to a successive list of your relatives as stated without any regard to whether you had a current good relationship with them or not.
Since most people prefer to specifically choose who will inherit their property when they die and may even want to split assets among different people, leaving things to the Texas court to follow the Intestacy Statute is not recommended.
Choose Your Executor
When you prepare for your passing by planning the distribution of your assets with an estate planning lawyer, you can assign your chosen trusted person to act as your representative or executor who is charged to make sure your estate is dispersed according to your will and estate documents.
If one isn’t named and no relative comes forward, certain people cannot be appointed to distribute your estate including a non-resident or anyone who was ever convicted of a felony; however, you again face the risk that the state may assign a total stranger to this position.
Probate, Creditors, and Taxes
Through the skillful planning of living trusts with a small estate attorney, you can also protect your assets from probate and being accessed by creditors or the IRS after your passing.
Without such planning, your assets may be subject to probate which allows creditors to obtain repayment of any debts you owe and your heirs may face considerable taxes on the assets they inherit from you.
Trusts and Charities
In setting up trusts, you have the ability to designate who gets specific assets and be certain that specific loved ones are provided for when you are gone.
This is especially important for those caring for children, elderly parents, or people with special needs who might not otherwise receive those assets if the state court is in control of your estate.
With a charitable trust, you can also gift assets to a charity of your choosing without the state or anyone else interfering with that donation.
Guardianship and Healthcare Decisions
Yet another thing that the Texas court can take control of is your health and personal care should you become incapacitated and unable to make your own decisions.
The state can also assign a guardian who has control of your assets if this happens.
The best way to avoid both of these and be certain your assets are controlled by someone you trust and your medical care is provided according to what you want is to plan this out with an estate planning lawyer.
By assigning Power of Attorney and Medical Power of Attorney, you remain in control of your assets and medical care in the event that you can no longer make those such decisions due to your incapacitation.
Don’t Let the State Handle Your Estate
Though it may not be a pleasant thing to think about, it’s important to face the fact that maybe sooner than you expect the day will come when you pass on.
Preparing ahead for this moment so your loved ones are not saddled with legal battles and your assets are dispersed as you desire is the best insurance to see that your wishes are followed when you are gone.
Contact an estate planning attorney who can help you get started in planning your estate so you remain in control of your assets even after you are gone.
As painful as the thought may be, now as we are facing a global pandemic is the right time to take care of this for the family you love and want to protect.
Schreier & Housewirth Family Law
1329 College Avenue, Suite 100
Fort Worth TX 76104
Gregory L. Housewirth is a Board-Certified Family Law Specialist practicing in Fort Worth, Texas. With 30 years of family law experience, Mr. Housewirth has represented hundreds of clients in divorce, custody, CPS, modification, and grandparent cases. In addition, Mr. Housewirth is a qualified family law mediator and a member of Collaborative Law Texas, a practice group dedicated to promoting collaborative divorce in Texas.