No one wants to plan for their death, yet it is an inevitability that we all must face. Making these end-of-life decisions when you’re young, vibrant, and healthy may seem stressful and unnecessary, and even a bit unsettling. But, it’s important that you have the necessary legal documents that detail how you want your assets to be divided, who you want to be responsible for your end-of-life care, and the healthcare decisions you want to be made should you in a position where you cannot make them on your own.
When you do not provide clear instruction about your estate and your end-of-life wishes, those important decisions could be left up to the probate court or to the state, and your family may not be considered or protected like you want them to be. Probate can be a long, drawn out and expensive process, and furthermore, your case could become public record. The goal of a proper estate plan is to establish your desires and wishes, appoint a trusted individual for financial and medical decisions, to avoid probate, and to preserve and distribute your assets exactly the way you desire.
Remember, estate planning is not just about planning for your death, but it is also about planning for your potential incapacitation, and while we never want to think about being a victim in an accident, accidents happen all the time and you just never know when tragedy could strike.
What’s Included in a Comprehensive Estate Plan?
A proper, comprehensive estate plan involves a combination of different legal documents that outlines your wishes to your loved ones and provides detailed instructions for how those wishes are to be carried out if you ever become incapacitated or upon your death. There are a number of things to consider and address when creating an estate plan, including property distribution, minor and special needs children care, and end-of-life medical decisions.
Our comprehensive estate plans will cover the full range of topics and will include documents like:
- Last Will & Testament. Your Last Will & Testament is considered the foundation of your estate plan. It will detail how you want your assets to be divided, what happens to your property, and who will care for any dependents you may have. When this document is utilized with a Revocable Living Trust, it acts as a back-up that protects any assets that have not been included within the Trust.
- Trust. A Trust is created to distribute property in all stages of your life: before you die, upon your death, and after your death. A Trust takes effect as soon as it is created, and it allows a third-party, the Trustee, to hold, manage, and be responsible for certain assets on behalf of the Trust’s beneficiaries. Trusts are a great way to avoid probate saving time, money, and headaches, and allowing beneficiaries to gain access to the assets much more quickly.
- Financial Power of Attorney. A financial power of attorney allows you to appoint an individual, your agent, to manage your finances on your behalf in the event you are not able to do so yourself.
- Healthcare Directive. If you’re unable to make critical decisions about your own health care, this document details your end-of-life medical wishes, including life-sustaining treatments. Sometimes this document is referred to as a “living Will”, but it should not be confused with your Last Will & Testament.
- Medical Power of Attorney. A medical power of attorney allows you to appoint an individual, your agent, to make important medical decisions on your behalf in the event you are not able to do so yourself.
- HIPAA Authorization. A HIPAA authorization allows you to give certain individuals access to your medical information, which could be critical when attempting to make medical decisions for you. Typically, it is your medical power of attorney agent that you give this access to.
Other Estate Planning Concerns
It is not enough to just create an estate plan. An estate plan is meant to be maintained. You don’t just create it and then let it sit for 20 years. Once you have created your estate plan, it’s important that you keep it up to date. As life circumstances change, they can have a significant impact on your plan and raise some crucial questions, including:
- How can your new spouse be factored into your estate plan?
- How does your previous marriage and prior estate plan effect your new one?
- Are there still assets assigned to your ex that you now want to go elsewhere?
- How are your children from your previous marriage going to be taken care of?
- How are your stepchildren going to be taken care of?
Your estate plan should be updated along with important life events: a marriage, a divorce, a new child, the purchase, or sale of property. These events should be an automatic reminder to review your estate plan and update it so it accurately reflects your current circumstances and your desires. Periodic updates to your documents and your estate plan as a whole are critical for its success and effectiveness.
Our Wichita Falls Estate Planning Attorney Can Create a Customized Estate Plan Specifically for You
If you are interested in getting started creating an estate plan that better protects you and your family and provides you with peace of mind knowing everything is accounted for, our experienced Wichita Falls estate planning attorney can help you. We create customized, comprehensive, and full-proof estate plans all the time that are tailored specifically to meet our client’s needs.
We’ve established a process that’s quick and easy with as little headache as possible. The importance of proper estate planning can’t be emphasized enough, so when you’re ready to get started, our legal team will be here ready to help every step of the way. Call us today at 940-569-4000 or fill out our contact form to set up a free, confidential, no-obligation consultation.