Why Estate Plans are Important
Regardless of your age, health, or the amount of property or assets you own, an estate plan can help ensure you and your loved ones are protected.
Estate planning is a topic that is often shrouded in mystery. Some shy away from it because they are uncomfortable talking about end-of-life issues while others feel their age or financial situation excludes them from needing to put estate planning documents in place. The fact is that the matters addressed through these documents are vitally important in protecting both you and your loved ones, regardless of your specific situation.
Your Will: One of the Most Basic and Important-Estate Planning Documents
A last will and testament is one of the most basic estate planning documents. Your ‘estate’ refers to any personal property, real estate, or financial accounts you possess. Your will provides an inventory of these items and conveys your wishes regarding who should inherit or benefit from them. It also helps guide the probate process.
For residents of Houston, when you pass away your estate must be settled through the Harris County Probate Courts, for Pearland residents, it is the Brazoria County Courts at Law which operate with the probate jurisdiction. Without a valid will in place, these proceedings can be time-consuming and costly. It will also subject your loved ones to the rules of intestate succession. This means that rather than being able to designate beneficiaries, the Texas Estates Code determines who is entitled to what, regardless of your wishes.
Once you have a will, it should be updated regularly to reflect the following:
- Increases or decreases in property and assets;
- Changes in your personal situation, such as a marriage, the birth of children, or a divorce;
- Changes in your beneficiaries, either due to changes in relationships or marriages, births, and deaths among family members.
A trust can be used alone or in conjunction with your will to protect assets and guide distributions, while helping to ensure long term care needs are met.
Other Important Estate Planning Documents to Put in Place
Other basic, but important, estate planning documents everyone needs to have in place are advance directives. The Texas Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) advises that these are designed to help avoid confusion in the event of accidents or illnesses and keep loved ones from having to guess what you would have wanted. These include:
- Directive to Physicians and Family or Surrogates Form: This conveys your wishes regarding medical treatment in the event an injury or illness leaves you incapacitated.
- Medical Power of Attorney Form: This authorizes someone you trust to make important medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so yourself.
- Statutory Durable Power of Attorney: This authorizes someone you trust to manage your business and financial affairs if you are unable to do so on your own.
Request a Consultation with Our Pearland, TX Estate Planning Attorney
The above outlines some basic estate planning documents you should have in place. Attorney John Powell, III can advise you on additional steps you can take to protect yourself and your loved ones. To request a consultation, call or contact our Pearland, TX estate planning attorney today.