The purpose of estate planning is to predetermine how to best protect one’s assets and personal property and their distribution to others if they are unable to speak for themselves or have passed. While estate planning can be an uncomfortable topic, it is an important component in providing for one’s loved ones.
In the most literal sense, estate planning consists of legal documents regarding issues such as:
- Power of Attorney
- Family Limited Partnerships
- Designation of Guardian
- Future Interest
- Divorce Planning
- Estate Roles
- Estate Tax Planning
- Advanced Directives
A will may be the best way for people to ensure their assets are distributed according to their wishes once they have passed on. Part of compiling a will includes identifying assets to be distributed, naming beneficiaries, and choosing an executor. By having an experienced estate planning lawyer compile a will, a client can have added peace of mind that the document is valid and would be able to stand up in a court of probate law.
Power of Attorney
If an individual gives someone else power of attorney, they are essentially allowing them to take a primary role in managing their financial and medical affairs if they are no longer able to do so. Our Houston estate planning attorneys and counselors at law can also help clients draft durable power of attorney and medical power of attorney documents.
Family Limited Partnerships
A family limited partnership generally refers to a company owned by at least two or more family members. However, in the event that one of these family members should pass, a legal agreement drafted by a Houston estate planning attorney may keep another family member from having to pay gift and estate taxes.
Designation of Guardian
Particularly in the case where an individual wants to make plans for a young or incapacitated child, it is critical to designate guardianship. This same legal agreement may also work for the individual seeking to have a designation of guardian document drafted should they themselves become incapacitated.
In some cases, a person may not have the rights or privileges for an interest but expects to do so in the future. These individuals are wise to plan ahead to protect future interests, which may include a life estate, simple estate, or remainder interest.
Couples that are planning a wedding often benefit from having a prenuptial agreement drawn up to protect their individual interests. Still, other couples may eventually seek a postnup to amend a prenuptial or to prepare for a divorce. If a division of community property is required, a partition agreement will likely be needed. For those couples who choose to cohabitate rather than marry, a cohabitation agreement is recommended to adequately protect their individual interests.
When making plans for your estate it is necessary to declare beneficiaries, but it can also be helpful to predetermine related fiduciary roles. These may include administrators, agents, directors, executors, officers, and trustees. These roles will have a significant impact on how matters are facilitated after an individual passes.
Estate Tax Planning
When people leave their assets to a beneficiary, they generally do not want to also burden them with taxes. For this reason, it is wise to have an estate planning attorney assist with making specific provisions for estate valuation, non-probate assets, and taxable estates.
Some individuals feel very strongly about the type of medical treatments they would either accept or refuse in life or death situations. By putting an advance directive in place, a person can ensure their specific wishes for medical treatments are still followed even if they are incapacitated. A component of putting together an advanced directive is naming a particular person to make certain medical decisions on their behalf if those choices have not already been determined.
A trust can be similar to a will in that it can provide for specified beneficiaries after one’s passing. The most common types of trusts are living trusts and testamentary, although we also handle pet trusts. Our trust attorneys can assist you with any of these trust types. One important distinction of a trust is that having one in place could prevent your loved ones from spending extended periods of time in a probate court.
Proving or verifying a will is often referred to as the process of probate. It ensures that a deceased individual’s assets go to their loved ones as designated by the will. Although the process can sound simple, it may in fact take months to years for probate to conclude if the terms of a will are not clear. A probate attorney can assist with:
- Court proceedings
- Creditor claims
- Distribution of assets
When a person’s estate goes through the probate process, an administrator may be named to help with financial duties. If a will does not name an executor or if the named executor refuses to act as such, typically a court will choose an administrator. Legal counsel can help administrators perform duties such as:
- Alerting creditors of an individual’s death
- Appearing in court
- Handling debt and income for the estate
- Distributing assets to beneficiaries
If you or a loved one want to get your affairs in order and ensure that they will be handled with confidence according to your specific wishes, please reach out to our law firm, Harold “Hap” May P.C., today to see how a Houston estate planning attorney may be able to help.