Wills, Trusts & Powers of Attorney

There are six (6) estate planning documents you may need, no matter your age, health, or wealth:

  1. Last Will and Testament

  2. Durable power of attorney

  3. Medical Power of Attorney

  4. Advanced Medical Directive

  5. HIPAA Release

  6. Living Trust for Specific Purposes

The last document, a living trust, isn’t always necessary, but can help estate plans.

Last Will and Testament

A will is often the first and only thing someone thinks of when planning an estate. It is the cornerstone of any estate plan. The main purpose of a will is to disburse property after your death. If you don’t leave a will, disbursements will be made according to Texas state law, which might not be what you would want.

There are two other equally important aspects of a will:

  1. You can name the person (executor) who will manage and settle your estate. If you do not name someone, the court will appoint an administrator, who might not be someone you would choose.
  2. You can name a legal guardian for minor children or dependents with special needs. If you don’t appoint a guardian, the state will appoint one for you.

Remember a will is a legal document, and courts are very reluctant to overturn any provisions within it. It is crucial that to have a well written will properly executed under Texas laws. It’s also important to keep your will up-to-date.

 

Living Trusts for Specific Purposes

A living trust (also known as an inter vivos trust) is a separate legal entity you create to own property, such as your home or investments. The trust is called a living trust because it’s meant to function while you’re alive. You control the property in the trust, and, whenever you wish, you can change the trust terms, transfer property in and out of the trust, or end the trust altogether.

Not everyone needs a living trust, but it can be used to accomplish various purposes. The primary functions are if you have a need to restrict distribution of property, a beneficiary who may not be fiscally responsible or a special needs child. Please call us for more information on Trusts if you fall into one of these categories.

Caution: Although a living trust transfers property like a will, you should still also have a will because the trust will be unable to accomplish certain things that only a will can, such as naming an executor or a guardian for minor children.

Tip: Often you will be told to use a trust to avoid probate. In Texas, probate is a simple process that is often much easier than creating and maintaining a trust. However, there are other ways to avoid the probate process besides creating a living trust, such as titling property jointly with rights of survivorship or designating beneficiaries when available.

Caution: Living trusts do not generally minimize estate taxes or protect property from future creditors or ex-spouses.