Thinking about the future of your family beyond your lifetime is a difficult challenge, but it’s something everyone needs to face at some point. Whether you have significant assets now or expect to eventually, making a plan for the distribution of your estate after you pass on helps ensure your family is financially secure.
Here are some benefits of estate planning now, and how you can obtain the legal help you need to get started.
Why Do You Need an Estate Plan?
Your estate plan is, at its core, a set of documents that describe your wishes for the disposition of assets after you pass away. In other words, it defines in clear legal language who will inherit money, real estate, valuables, and other items of worth; and how much each recipient—whether a family member, friend, charity, university, or other entity—should receive.
If you should unexpectedly pass away before you have the chance to make an estate plan, the rules of inheritance follow Texas state laws, which might not be ideal for your family's needs. The legal delays and expenses can result in an additional burden on your surviving family members, and money and other assets may not go where you intended.
Protects More Than Assets
Estate plans aren’t entirely about assets, though. You can also use yours to spell out how health matters are handled should you become completely incapacitated by illness or injury, including your desires for medical treatment based on personal preference or religious beliefs. You can also elect someone to be responsible for further medical or financial decisions on either a temporary or permanent basis, based on whether you're able to recover.
An estate plan can also outline your wishes regarding the final disposition of your body after death. Details may include allotting funds to pay for funerary expenses; burial, cremation, and internment instructions; and other after-death requests.
Another essential factor of estate planning is to designate a trusted executor or administrator who will handle legal affairs once you pass on. Otherwise, the court will appoint an executor for you—someone who may not have been your first choice.
Your plan may also involve setting up trusts, which can be used to provide financial security for family members, provide a college fund for your children or grandchildren, or give financial support to a friend or family member with disabilities. You can also plan how the money is to be distributed, especially if you don’t think a recipient will be responsible enough to receive a large inheritance in a lump sum.
In addition, certain types of estate plans can be used as asset protection and provide tax benefits to your beneficiaries when you pass on. This can save your beneficiaries legal headaches when dealing with your holdings, and speed up the process through which they receive their inheritances, rather than keeping assets tied up in court.
What Type of Estate Plan Is Right for You?
With proper planning and dependable legal guidance, there's a strategy for nearly every family situation. For some, a last will and testament, an advance directive for medical care, and powers of attorney may be enough.
For others, a revocable living trust may be more appropriate due to the additional level of control it offers, as assets in a trust don't go through the probate process. Unlike a will, trust documents aren't entered into public record, so the affairs of your estate and beneficiaries remain private.
Other types of trusts are available as well, with different benefits and trade-offs to consider for your unique needs. Though you don't need an attorney to begin a simple estate plan, working with an expert in this area of law can help you decide what's best for your current situation and future intentions, and ensure there are no mistakes that put your family’s future in jeopardy.
Get Help With Your Estate Plan
Estate planning is not a one-size-fits-all financial decision. You want a partner who can strategize with you to help reach key goals and objectives.
Sometimes it's challenging to know exactly where to begin. Aaron Miller and the team at Miller Law Office are ready to help you protect your family’s future now so you don't have to worry about tomorrow. To begin discussing legal options for a new estate plan, or to get help with your existing one, call us or use the online contact form on this page to arrange a consultation.