Estate planning is a topic that most people prefer to avoid, yet it is vital to ensure your family members receive your assets according to your wishes. When you don’t have a will or other estate planning documents in place, the state will have a will for you. At the least this will result in unnecessary expenses paid from the inheritance you are leaving your family and in the worst case, it will result in an unequal distribution of money, property, and other items or.
At Patel Law Group, we have over 23 years of experience in estate planning and administration. We work with you to implement a plan that your family understands and feels confident in administering. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and learn more about your estate planning options.
Taking the time to establish a carefully thought-out estate plan can be one of the greatest gifts you leave to your family. Our estate planning attorneys can introduce you to a range of financial instruments and planning tools to meet your specific needs. Regardless of how much you own, we are prepared to help you create a tailored strategy that makes the most of your assets.
Patel Law Group is a boutique law firm committed to providing top-notch legal services for families and individuals who want to protect their interests for future generations. We not only help you create your initial estate plan, but we can work with you throughout your life as your needs change to ensure asset protection is a key part of your strategy.
Planning for what happens to your assets after you pass away makes most people uncomfortable. However, leaving things to chance or the control of a probate court is never the best way to go. Instead, preparing a will or trust can ensure your final wishes are carried out without disagreement or contest.
To build a customized approach, you need the experience and knowledge a qualified estate planning lawyer provides. At PLG, we offer support for every decision you make through the following services:
- Education: We review common estate planning tools, discuss how they are used, and answer your questions regarding your particular needs.
- Document management: Once you have decided on your plan, we handle the details. We prepare the documents and guidance to effectuate that plan.
- Maintenance and administration: We can update documents to fall in line with asset accumulation, and your family needs change. We can also assist and guide the fiduciaries you have named in your wills, trusts, and other estate tools.
Your estate planning lawyer will work to ensure your estate plan serves you and your heirs for many years to come.
Even if you feel you are not wealthy enough to need an estate plan, it is important to understand that a plan is not about what you own. It is about how your assets can most benefit your loved ones. Thinking of an estate plan as a way to care for your family after you have died turns it into a final act of love.
Planning for medical emergencies and end-of-life decisions can also take the burden off your family when you clearly express your wishes in your estate plan. Instead of fostering bitterness and disagreement among family members, estate documents describing when you wish to be resuscitated and when to let you pass peacefully help them prepare.
Leaving a large amount of money to a young child can leave the door open for wasteful spending and losing their inheritance. When you create a trust as part of your estate plan, you can protect them from their own worst impulses and ensure they have plenty to live a safe and comfortable life.
Many people have heard of leaving a last will and testament but may think that trusts are only for the wealthy. The truth is many families will benefit from having both a will and a trust since each has a different function. At PLG our estate planning lawyers can help you determine what will work best for you.
A will is a legal document primarily intended to express your wishes around your final burial and funeral arrangements, care for your pets and children, and distribution of personal property. You can distribute land and other assets through a will, but it will be subject to probate. This means it becomes public record, and inheritors have the right to contest the will’s provisions.
If you die without a will, your estate will pass through probate court, and everything will be distributed according to Texas state laws. How it is distributed will depend on whether the property was separate or community property, your marital status, and the parentage of your children. Having a will takes the guesswork out of it.
A trust can work at the time of your death, called a testamentary trust, or it can be created during your life to benefit you and your family. Typically, a trust as part of an estate plan is meant to control the distribution of funds or property to your heirs after your death so they have a reliable source of income.
Trusts are created by the grantor (you), who writes down the terms of the trust, funds it with money or property, and names trustees and beneficiaries. Trustees manage the trust, distributing assets to the beneficiaries in accordance with the terms of the trust. There is a wide range of trust types that can serve a variety of needs.
Trusts can be revocable or irrevocable. A revocable trust works like a will in that you can change who gets what; however unlike a Will a trust can also determine when they can get it and who manages it.
An irrevocable trust is a separate legal entity that takes ownership of your assets and cannot be dissolved or altered. Trusts are complicated and usually constructed specifically for the grantor’s needs, so it is critical to discuss your goals with a skilled estate planning attorney.
At PLG our family trust is set up to provide all the benefits of a revocable trust but still protect your beneficiaries inheritance.
In addition to wills and trusts, your estate plan should have a Durable Power of Attorney, Medical Power of Attorney and an Advance Directive. These can protect your assets in the event you are incapacitated and allow your family to know your wishes in the event of a medical emergency.
Durable Power of Attorney
A Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA) assigns critical financial decisions to someone you trust. It takes effect immediately and expires when you pass away. You are known as the “principal,” and the person you choose is the “agent.”
Medical Power of Attorney
Like a Durable Power of Attorney, a Medical Power of Attorney assigns your medical decisions to someone you trust. However, it takes effect when you are not able to make your own choices and expires when you pass away.
Suffering a severe emergency or illness can leave your family stunned and unable to agree on medical decisions. When you have created an advance care directive, your wishes regarding resuscitation, extraordinary life-saving measures, and other decisions are clearly spelled out. They do not have to spend time discussing what to do because you have done them the kindness of thinking about them when you met with your estate planner.
Texas allows for dependent and independent administration of an estate. A dependent administration requires court approval and oversight. Independent administration must first be approved by the probate court, then can be conducted without court intercession.
Each requires the approval of a personal representative (PR) by the court, even if that person is named in the will. A PR can fall to the spouse, oldest adult child, or anyone who is over 18, mentally competent, not a convicted felon, and a Texas resident. If the PR is a corporation, it must have an appointed agent in Texas.
Managing the process is challenging without guidance. It involves the following steps:
- Locating the will: The PR locates the most recent legal copy of the will. They must also find all life insurance policies, retirement account statements, and other assets that name beneficiaries. If there is no will, the PR still continues with the remaining steps, as required.
- Contacting heirs and beneficiaries: The PR contacts all those named in the will as heirs and any beneficiaries listed in insurance policies and retirement funds. The PR files a proof of this notice with the court.
- Inventorying the assets: The PR creates an inventory of all assets for the estate, including the value of those items at the time of the deceased’s death. This must be done within 90 days.
- Filing with the probate court: Within 20 days of the death, the PR will file an oath of office and open the probate proceedings on the estate. If all assets are protected under a trust, probate may not be required.
- Notifying the public: The PR must publish a notice to creditors in the local newspapers.
- Notifying creditors: The PR sends a certified letter to secured creditors notifying them of the death. This includes credit card companies and mortgage lenders.
- Notifying government agencies: The PR contacts the Social Security Administration about your death to initiate benefits to your spouse or children.
- Taking control of assets: The PR takes control of all assets, determining the estate’s value and protecting the interests of heirs until the estate is closed.
- Calculating debts: The PR calculates the assets against the debts, paying any required debts before distribution to the heirs. If the debts are more than the value of the estate, the PR will not be required to pay more than the estate is worth.
- Managing assets: The PR maintains all assets, sells property, or uses monies to settle liabilities, and ensures the assets do not lose value.
- Distributing assets: Once debts and taxes are paid, the PR has as long as three years to distribute the assets according to the decedent’s wishes.
- Closing the estate: The PR may close the estate when all known debts have been paid, and there is no more need for administration. There is no time limit for managing the estate to closure.
The more you have prepared your estate plan before it is needed, the faster the process goes and the less work your PR must perform. Your heirs can receive what they expect in a timely manner, and your assets are distributed according to your wishes when you have established a solid plan.
An Estate Administrator Works as a Fiduciary
Administrating an estate is not only complicated, it can become a full-time job. The PR functions as a fiduciary, which means they act in the interests of others. They are taking your place as the owner of all your assets and making critical decisions about how to manage things the way you would have wanted.
The personal representative will be expected to protect and maintain all properties and ensure the value of financial assets is supported by making sound decisions. Working with legal and investment advisors can make this easier.
The more detailed your estate plan is, the less emotional and mental load you are placing on your PR. They may be someone you trust completely, yet they have little to no legal training. They may need experienced guidance from our estate administration attorneys to understand the best actions to take and share some of the burden of seeing the job well done.
After working hard to reach your wealth goals, you must take steps to ensure what you have built remains protected after your death. Your family and other heirs benefit substantially when you have spent time with accomplished estate administration lawyers to develop a will, trust, advance directive, or any combination of documents to manage your assets. You can rest knowing they will be protected.
Instead of leaving your loved ones with additional trouble and frustration when you pass away, schedule a consultation with the estate planning and administration team at Patel Law Group today. We are ready to put our skills and background to work for you, building a plan that serves your family after you are gone. Contact us to learn more and get started.