Estate Planning / Wills

Estate Planning Attorney in Tyler, TX

Asset Distribution After Death

Planning for the distribution of your assets after your death is a stressful and often overwhelming experience. There are many different strategies you can use to pass wealth to the next generation of family members, friends, and charities you care about. You can also provide for the care and well-being of beneficiaries who are not self-sufficient, and protect your assets from post-death creditors, in your estate planning documents. Which strategy you implement in your estate plan depends on your priorities, family structure, and asset types.

Wills

Wills are the most common estate planning documents. Your Will names your beneficiaries (who receives your property after your death) as well as your Executor (who is in charge of paying your final debts and distributing your property to your beneficiaries). Wills are simple to create and ensures your property reliably passes to the people or organizations you choose. Wills are perfect for simple estate plans in which all beneficiaries are responsible adults, all real property is located in Texas, and the Testator (creator of the Will) is not concerned about creditors. 

Real Property Transfers

Many times, real property (such as houses and land) are the most difficult assets to pass to beneficiaries after your death. You can significantly simplify the passing of real property by using real property transfers and agreements. Survivorship agreements, lady bird deeds, and transfer on death deeds are all strategies you can use to pass property to a beneficiary or joint owner immediately upon death, without the need for probate. 

Trusts

Trusts are common in estate planning and provide some benefits and flexibility that Wills cannot. If created and used properly, Trusts avoid the necessity for probate, even for out-of-state real property. Trusts can also help protect minor, special needs, and financially ill-equipped beneficiaries. When utilizing a trust plan, you can determine when your beneficiaries receive assets and have the ability to stretch out inheritance distributions over time. 

Beneficiary Designations

Beneficiary designations on financial assets are easy to establish. While beneficiary designations are most commonly seen on life insurance policies and retirement assets, almost any financial account or policy can be designated to pass to your chosen individuals through a beneficiary designation. By making these designations, your financial accounts avoid probate; however, beneficiary designations do not come with some of the protections other estate planning strategies do.

Additional Estate Planning Services

Estate planning is not solely planning for the distribution of your assets after your death. In fact, some of the most important documents in your estate plan are only effective while you are living. These documents protect you and your assets if you become incapacitated or need assistance making day-to-day decisions. These documents include a Durable Power of Attorney, Medical Power of Attorney, Directive to Physicians, Declaration of Guardian, and HIPAA Release.

Medical Power of Attorney

A medical power of attorney appoints an agent to make medical choices for you if you are unable to communicate effectively with your treating physician. Unlike a durable power of attorney, a medical power of attorney is only effective if you are incapacitated. Having an agent named in a medical power of attorney may help avoid the need for a court-appointed guardian if you can no longer care for yourself.

Durable Power of Attorney

A durable power of attorney appoints an agent to make financial and legal decisions on your behalf. Your durable power of attorney can either be effective immediately or upon your later incapacity. While it may be nerve-wracking to give another individual so much power over your assets, powers of attorney are essential to ensure your assets are protected and properly managed in cases of emergency or incapacity. Having an agent named in a durable power of attorney may help avoid the need for a court-appointed guardian if you can no longer manage your finances alone.

Declaration of Guardian

If you are unable to adequately care for yourself, you may need a court-appointed guardian. The process to get a guardian appointed can be cumbersome and expensive. A declaration of guardian allows you to tell the Court who you want to serve as guardian of your person (for physical and medical care) and the guardian of your estate (for financial affairs). Having a declaration of guardian significantly cuts down on the time and expense of a guardianship.

Directive to Physicians

A directive to physicians, sometimes called a living will, allows you to make end-of-life care decisions for yourself before the need arises. If you do not have a directive to physicians, your agent in a medical power of attorney will be responsible for making the choice to withhold or maintain life-sustaining treatments.

HIPAA Release

Medical facilities often ask their patients to fill out a HIPAA release and authorization as part of their registration process. These HIPAA releases are typically facility-specific and do not allow other, unrelated medical facilities to release your medical information to the individuals you list. A general HIPAA release will authorize all medical facilities to release your medical information, regardless of its nature, to the family members and friends you trust. Having a HIPAA release allows the people you name to be updated on your medical conditions if you are unable to communicate with them.