To make certain your assets pass to the proper loved ones, you should meet with an experienced estate planning attorney.
If you have assets you want to leave to specific individuals, if you have moved recently to a new state, gotten married, had a baby, retired, been divorced, or had any other significant change in your life, you need a will and other estate planning documents to put your financial house in order. To make certain your assets pass to the proper loved ones, you should meet with an experienced estate planning attorney.
A basic estate plan includes:
- A will
- A power of attorney
- A medical power of attorney
- A directive to physicians
- A HIPAA release form
- A living trust
Everyone needs a basic estate play to make certain their assets are distributed to the proper persons when they pass away. Your will determines how assets are distributed to loved ones or into a trust for the protection of children or disabled persons. A general power of attorney grants another person the power to act for you if you are unable to handle your own affairs. A medical power of attorney gives another person authority to make health care decisions when a physician certifies you are incompetent to manage your own health care heeds.
A directive to physicians communicates your wishes about end-of-life care to medical providers. A HIPAA release form is an authorization to disclose protected health information to listed individuals. And finally, a living trust gives you more privacy because you avoid the publicity of a probate proceeding and a trust is essential if you have young children who may need financial protection and guidance after you and your wife are gone or if someone in your family is disabled and cannot take care of their own finances.
If you have recently been divorced, the Texas Estate Code revokes your former spouse’s rights under a will or trust.
However, the Estate Code only controls who will not inherit assets; it’s no substitute for a new estate plan. Only a new estate plan can assure that your assets will be distributed according to your intent. These statutory protections prevent your former spouse from taking assets if you die. However, many people don’t name alternate beneficiaries in their will, insurance policies, pensions, or other employer compensation plans. Even if they do, the assets may pass to their minor children through the custody of an ex-spouse as a constructive trustee for the children. This is a situation ripe for misunderstanding at best and susceptible to fraud at worst. Better to draft a new estate plan to make certain your client’s assets pass to loved ones without falling under the control of a former spouse.
For complex estates that contain substantial assets, you should consider establishing a family limited partnership with one trust to manage the limited partnership and other trusts for each family member to hold minority interests in the assets. A family limited partnership can offer a substantial estate tax discount that can save or eliminate estate taxes at the death of a family member. In addition, the family limited partnership places another layer of security and protection between your assets and potential creditors and establishes centralized control of the family assets in a senior experienced family member or a professional estate manager.
You need a will or living trust to ensure that your assets are distributed to the proper individuals and managed in a prudent and efficient way by your executor or trustee when you are gone.
A will can be changed at any time by revising it or adding a codicil. If you don’t have a will, the State of Texas will decide who takes your assets according to the probate code and that scheme may not conform to your wishes. You should also name a personal representative, called an agent, to handle your affairs if you are unable to take care of yourself. You should see an estate planning attorney who can draft a complete legal will that will include all the requirements of a valid will.
Harry Munsinger is an experienced San Antonio and Bexar County Wills, Estates, and Trusts Attorney. If you have questions about getting a Will orEstate Planning call. Harry today at (210) 776-7707.