A comprehensive estate plan includes a will and, oftentimes, one or more trusts. When drafted correctly, these estate planning tools will allow you to control how your assets are managed and distributed upon death. Failure to properly create the necessary estate planning documents will result in assets being distributed according to Texas’s laws of intestacy, which may or may not reflect your wishes.
Estate planning is complicated and requires significant legal knowledge and expertise. For this reason, it’s highly advisable to consult with an experienced Austin Estate Planning attorney before creating a will or trust.
A will is a legal document expressing a person’s intentions regarding how their assets will be managed and distributed upon death. Wills can also be used to arrange for the guardianship of minor children as well as who will take care of any pets. In Texas, there are certain formalities that need to be followed in order to make a valid will. Texas recognizes two types of written Wills:
Any assets that are passed through a will or through the laws of intestacy need to go through a court-supervised process known as probate. This process can be extremely time-consuming and expensive, and proper estate planning can minimize its role after your death. When there is a will, during probate that will is authenticated, assets are located and appraised, debts are paid, and the estate distributed.
A trust is a legal arrangement through which a person (the Grantor) transfers legal title of their assets to another person (the Trustee) to hold for the benefit of Trust Beneficiaries.
There are different types of trusts that vary in utility depending on the circumstances. One increasingly more common option in certain situations is the Revocable Living Trust. A Revocable Living Trust is one that (1) permits the Grantor to enjoy the benefits of the trust assets during her lifetime; (2) only transfers property to the beneficiaries after death; and (3) can be altered or canceled at any point during the Grantor’s lifetime, thereby providing flexibility.
A Revocable Living Trust can offer many benefits, including eliminating the costly and time-consuming process of probate. However, determining whether a Revocable Living Trust is appropriate in each situation, and subsequently establishing such a trust, requires legal skill and expertise.
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 a will and/or a trust, regardless of how modest their estate is or how healthy they are.
Life is unpredictable, and a will alleviates many burdens placed on loved ones after a death, unexpected or not. If you are a parent to minor children, it is especially crucial that you have a will in the unlikely event that something unexpectedly happens to both you and your spouse.
Living trusts are not just for wealthy individuals, either. If you own any property or assets (i.e. home, car, furniture, etc.), creating a trust can protect those assets from the probate process, as well as allow you to control their distribution to beneficiaries.
At Kirker Davis LLP, we are passionate about helping people preserve their assets and protect their wealth. We offer comprehensive estate planning services, including the creation, review, and modification of wills and trusts. To create or modify your estate plan, contact Kirker | Davis LLP and schedule a meeting with an attorney today.