A comprehensive estate plan represents the culmination of a lifetime of planning, saving, and discipline. You work hard to provide for your family and loved ones during your lifetime; and chances are you wish to plan for their well-being after you are gone to the extent you are able. The best way to accomplish this is to create an estate plan that carefully expresses your wishes for the distribution of your assets following your death.
Estate Planning Does Not Have to be Scary or Depressing
Sometimes, people associate the word “estate” with vast wealth. The reality is that every individual has an estate that must be passed on and distributed after death – no matter how little or great the “wealth.” On one end of the spectrum, some individuals’ estates are high net worth, diversified, and include significant investments and possibly business interests. On the other end of the spectrum, some individuals’ estates are simple and consist of one vehicle. The vast majority of estates fall somewhere in the middle. Many of our clients’ estates consist of houses, retirement and bank accounts, vehicles, and other personal property. Whatever the “size” of the estate, we treat each one of our estate planning clients with respect, dignity, and care. We know that each estate plan is as unique as the person creating it; we pledge to work with our clients to create a solid, efficient plan that takes into consideration their wishes.
Even though estate planning is a very important step in someone’s life, it does not have to be scary or depressing. Working with a knowledgeable, experienced, and compassionate estate planning attorney allows you to express your wishes while leaving the legal research and drafting to your legal team. Estate planning documents are legal documents and must be drafted with the utmost care. You want to confidently trust your attorney to ensure the documents are valid, concise, and consistent with Texas and federal law. At Sheehan Law, PLLC, we craft all estate planning documents with vigilance, attention to detail, and with language consistent with all statutory and regulatory requirements.
Don’t put off until tomorrow what you should do today.
Estate planning is far more than planning for death. It also includes planning for your disability, if and when that should ever happen. If there is ever a situation where you cannot make decisions on your own behalf due to disability (because of an illness or accident, for example), proper estate planning allows your trusted loved ones to pay bills, manage your assets, and make your healthcare decisions.
With adequate and valid estate planning documents in place, you can remove a substantial burden from your loved ones during an already very difficult time in their lives. We want you and your family members – not the courts – to maintain control over decision-making abilities.
Estate Planning Tools
Last Will and Testament
Your last will and testament is an important component of any estate plan. This document goes into effect only upon one’s death and does not manage a person’s affairs during his or her lifetime, even if incapacitated. While a will does not allow a decedent’s family to avoid the probate process in court, it does make the process much easier. In addition to setting forth an individual’s wishes regarding distribution of property upon death, it is also the legal document in which an individual names a guardian for his or her minor children if both parents pass away. All parents of minor children should designate their choice of guardians so as to avoid any potential tug of war.
Even if you already have a will, an experienced estate planning attorney should review it every three to five years in order to verify that it is current with existing law, and/or when you experience any major life events, such as a marriage, divorce, out-of-state relocation, etc. You may also want to ensure that it was properly drafted in the first place, particularly if it was a form will.
In many circumstances, there are several advantages to establishing a trust – one of which is to allow your family to avoid going through probate court upon your death. In the vast majority of cases, an individual’s assets owned in a revocable living trust will pass directly to the named trust beneficiaries immediately upon death (and no probate process required). The creation of a properly drafted trust may also result in tax benefits and certain protections from creditors.
The creation and drafting of an appropriate trust for an individual or family requires extensive knowledge in federal and Texas trust law. Working with an experienced estate planning attorney is the best way to ensure that your trust is drafted properly.
Powers of Attorney
A power of attorney is a legal document that gives another person the authority and power to do certain, specified things on your behalf. In essence, a power of attorney allows another individual to “step into your shoes.” A power of attorney may be very sweeping and broad or very specific and limited. In any case, all types of powers of attorney terminate upon the death of the maker. Like all estate planning documents, powers of attorney must contain specific terms and provisions required by law.
Health Care Documents (or Advance Directives)
An advance directive is a legal document that lays out the specific type of medical care that a person wishes to receive, should he or she be unable to make and communicate these decisions. These documents may be executed by anyone over the age of 18; in Texas, they are legally binding. An advance directive may specify who a person wishes to make and communicate decisions on his or her behalf; and it can lay out your specific wishes regarding efforts to prolong life in certain medical circumstances. Also included in this category of healthcare documents are authorization releases that allow medical care providers to communicate with an individual’s chosen decision maker. These documents must be created in strict compliance with both federal and Texas law.
Contact Us Today
Selecting a qualified Austin estate planning attorney who will take the time to listen to your goals and convert those goals into the proper form is an essential part of this process. Contact us to schedule a meeting to begin the estate planning process.