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Austin Estate Planning Attorney

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Texas Estate Planning

Many people assume that Estate Planning is not applicable to their situation, believing that only very wealthy, older, or ill individuals need to maintain an up-to-date Estate Plan. However, every adult should have an Estate Plan, regardless of the size of their estate or how healthy they are. Life is unpredictable and an estate plan alleviates many burdens placed on loved ones after a death, unexpected or not. For parents of minor children, it is especially important to have a Will in the unlikely event that something unexpectedly happens to both parents.

Comprehensive Estate Planning Package

Kirker | Davis LLP offers a comprehensive Estate Planning package for a flat-rate rate fee. This package is comprised of the following eight (8) documents, which are intended to offer protection to individuals and their estates as well as safeguard their wishes:

  • A Will states how you want your property disbursed upon your death. Texas law provides for independent administration, meaning your estate can be administered without court supervision. However, failure to properly execute the necessary estate planning documents will result in your assets being distributed according to Texas’s laws of intestacy, which may or may not reflect your wishes.
  • If you have minor children, a Declaration of Appointment of Guardian for Children gives people confidence in who you want to care for your children in the event of your death. While not binding on a court, it represents your voice as well as your belief in who would serve your child’s best interest.
  • A Medical Power of Attorney appoints the person you want to make health care decisions for you if you are unable to do so.
  • A Durable Power of Attorney appoints an agent to make legal and financial decisions for you.
  • A Directive to Physicians is also sometimes referred to as a “living will.” It communicates your wishes to your physician and family regarding whether or not to continue life-sustaining treatment if you are diagnosed with a terminal or irreversible condition for which there is no available treatment. It is distinct from a “DNR” (Do Not Resuscitate Order) in that the Directive to Physicians only applies where a medical condition is known and treatment options have been fully assessed. Advance Directives executed in other states are considered effective in Texas, however we advise updating your document after a move so that it reflects the format that Texas hospitals are most used to seeing.
  • A HIPAA Release authorizes the release of your protected health information for a purpose other than treatment to those people you designate. This may be for the benefit of your family in making healthcare decisions so they aren’t left in the dark, for your lawyer, or for your insurance company.
  • The Designation of an Agent for Disposition of Remains communicates any wishes you have for your funeral and burial arrangements and names the person in charge of these arrangements. These are decisions that usually need to be timely made. Executing this document separately from the Will avoids immediately having to find and consult the Will before your funeral.
  • A Declaration of Guardian in the Event of Later Incapacity or Later Need names who you want to be the guardian of your person or estate in the event you ever needed a guardian. It can also specify persons you do not want to be your guardian. The imposition of a guardianship requires court proceedings, doctor’s notes, and a finding that no less restrictive alternatives are appropriate.

Revising Estate Plans

Many people with estate plans do not realize that those plans should be revisited upon major life events, including but not limited to: (1) a marriage or remarriage; (2) the birth of a child; (3) a change in the nature of your estate; (4) the death of a beneficiary; (5) a divorce or separation; (6) an interstate move; or (7) a change in goals regarding how the estate is to be distributed.

A more thorough discussion of some of these life events is as follows:

  • The nature of your estate changed.

Many people go through financial phases throughout life, and the value of your estate can increase or decrease substantially for many reasons. Every time your estate value changes, consider whether you want to update your distribution instructions in light of the circumstances. For instance, if you experience a windfall, you might want to include beneficiaries in your estate plan who otherwise might not be included, since there is more to share now. If your estate decreases, you might want to update your plan to focus on the beneficiaries closest to you.

You should also update your plan if you sell a major asset, such as a home or business, that was a primary part of your estate. The same goes if you acquire a business or real estate that is now part of the estate. Significant changes in the composition of your estate also warrant a review of your plan.

  • You had an interstate move. 

Every state has the ability to make its own laws regarding estate planning requirements. While it might not seem like small differences in the law will have a major impact on your estate plan, moving to a new state can affect the effectiveness of many estate planning documents, and unexpected complications might arise.

For example, your new state might have requirements for a power of attorney that did not apply in the first state. This could render your existing power of attorney document unenforceable. Other documents that might be affected include an advanced medical directive, your last will and testament, living will, and more.

There also might be additional laws that affect an automatic inheritance by a spouse or the disinheritance of a former spouse. There might be different child guardianship standards, estate tax liability, gift tax rules, and more. If you move to Texas, it is important to have an experienced estate planning attorney who understands how to update your estate plan in line with Texas law.

  • A change in goals.

Major life events are not the only reason that people should review their estate plans. Over time, goals can slowly and subtly shift, and it is critical to schedule periodic reviews with your estate planning attorney to ensure that your plan continues to reflect your desires and affords appropriate protections.

Not only do family changes mean that you might need to update the beneficiaries of your estate plan, but they also might mean changing your executor, trustee, or POA. These are all critical designations, and you want to ensure your documents are updated so the right individuals are named for specific roles.

Contact an Austin Estate Planning Attorney

If you are interested in an Estate Plan, but do not want it to include all these documents, Kirker Davis can customize a package to serve your needs for a flat-rate fee. Contact our office for more information.

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