Estate planning involves the preparation of legal documents to ensure that all of your property transfers at the time of your death to those persons, charities, or others whom you select to receive your estate. If you fail to do estate planning, then your property passes to specific designated heirs as determined by Texas law. Sometimes people are surprised to learn that all of their property does not pass automatically to their surviving spouse in some circumstances; or they may be surprised to learn that their death creates the need for the appointment of a guardian for their minor children to manage an inheritance.
Proper estate planning not only ensures that your property passes in the manner you wish, it also serves other purposes, including but not limited to: (1) preventing the need for the appointment of a guardian for you if you become incapacitated, (2) ensuring that someone is appointed to manage an inheritance for your heirs if they should be incapacitated or underage at the time of your death, (3) protecting means-tested public benefits such as SSI and Medicaid in the event of disability, and (4) planning to minimize federal estate and gift taxes.
An estate plan generally involves a will, a revocable trust, or both, used to transfer wealth on death, plus a series of documents designed to manage your personal, financial, and medical decisions in the event of your incapacity (a medical power of attorney, a financial durable power of attorney, a directive to physicians, and a declaration of guardian in advance of need). In some instances, additional complex trust planning may be advisable or desirable, depending on a variety of factors.
The estate planning process begins with a conversation about you, your property, your family and friends, and your plans or desires regarding your future. It is extremely helpful, but not absolutely required, that you complete our estate planning questionnaire before your appointment to discuss your estate planning needs.