Texas estate planning isn’t just for the elderly or those with a terminal or irreversible condition. And it’s not just for those with huge bank accounts and multiple properties. Estate planning in Texas is for those with children, assets, or the desire to record their medical and end-of-life preferences.
We understand that creating an estate plan may sound intimidating and time-consuming. That’s why we’re here to give Texans some guidance.
What Does It Mean to Have an Estate Plan?
An estate plan is a set of legal documents that spells out what you want to happen in the event of your death or incapacitation. It’s more than a will.
While the basic estate planning process focuses on what you want to happen to your assets, it can also address other important decisions – such as the following:
- Who will make your medical decisions if you cannot make them yourself?
- Who do you want to care for your minor children if you cannot?
- How do you minimize estate and inheritance taxes?
You don’t want to leave behind a mess for your children or other beneficiaries. So, make a goal to complete the process by the end of next month. Here’s how to get started.
How To Get Started With Estate Planning in Texas
The first step in the Texas estate planning process is to contact an attorney in your area to schedule an appointment. It should take less than five minutes.
To maximize your time with your attorney, you and your spouse need to discuss your goals and gather information before your scheduled consultation. Here’s a planning checklist to help you prepare for your appointment.
Estate Planning Checklist
Is your appointment with a Texas law firm scheduled? Then, it’s time to get organized!
Gather and organize your financial records.
Arriving at your appointment with specific information and documents will make the estate planning process go much more quickly.
- Copies of the deeds for your home, land, or other real estate and a document showing the approximate value
- Copies of titles to your vehicles and their approximate values
- List of collectibles and their approximate values
- List of assets that will need to be distributed after your death
- Checking and savings account statements
- Statements from stocks, bonds, and mutual funds
- Life insurance policies
- Retirement plan statements
- Health savings account statements
Besides recording the approximate value of the assets, you also need to know account numbers and the account owners.
Gather other important legal documents.
Your estate plan should follow any prenuptial or divorce agreements or other vital contracts.
Create a list of beneficiaries.
You may want specific assets to go to particular people. Or you may want your assets distributed equally among your children. Bring a list of your beneficiaries, including their full names and contact information.
If you don’t designate beneficiaries, the state will name them during the Texas probate process.
Decide who you wish to assign these important roles:
- Guardian for your underage children
- Executor of your estate
- Power of attorney
- Medical power of attorney
- Backups for all of these roles
Write down your list of questions.
It’s easy to become overwhelmed by getting your financial affairs in order. So, if questions come up as you are gathering documents – write them down.
Then, at the end of your appointment, look at your list of questions to see if they have been answered during the consultation. If those issues weren’t addressed, ask your attorney.
Estate Planning FAQs
An estate attorney will look at the individual needs of your family. However, you may have general questions about the estate planning process. Here are the answer to FAQs about estate planning in Texas.
What are the five most important estate planning documents?
- Last will and testament
- Financial power of attorney
- Revocable living trust
- Healthcare power of attorney
- Living will
What happens if I die without a will?
If you die intestate (without a valid will), Texas statutes will determine how your assets will be divided during the probate process.
Do I need to complete the estate planning process?
Some Texas residents make sure all their accounts have beneficiaries – and call it good. However, there’s much more to estate planning than transferring assets.
It would be best if you also left behind a plan for who will manage your assets in the event you are temporarily or permanently disabled. You also need to record who you would like to be a guardian for your young children.
Few people want to think about these traumatic events or other end-of-life decisions. However, creating such a plan would ensure an easier transition for those you leave behind.
How often should I update my will?
Your estate plan should be reviewed periodically or if one of the following situations occurs:
- change in marital status
- addition to your family
- death of a family member
- change in the value of your assets
- move to another state
- changes in the tax law
Who needs estate planning?
Typically, estate planning is recommended for anyone with children or assets. However, the better answer to this frequently asked question is that we all need to complete basic estate planning documents.
Estate planning documents will help you record the following:
- your medical care preferences in the event you can’t communicate them
- the person who will make medical decisions for you if you are incapacitated
- the person who will manage your assets if you are incapacitated
Does Texas have a state inheritance tax?
No, Texas does not have a state inheritance tax. However, your estate may have to pay federal inheritance tax. Discuss these matters with your estate planning attorney in Texas.
What is a Living Will?
A living will (sometimes called an advanced directive) is a written statement detailing a person’s preferences regarding their medical treatment in circumstances where they can no longer express informed consent.
For example, a living will might instruct physicians not to use artificial methods to extend life under certain conditions.
What is probate?
Probate is the legal process by which a will is proven valid (or invalid). The word also refers to the probate process – collecting the decedent’s assets, paying off debts (including taxes), and distributing the remaining assets to the beneficiaries.
Can I use legal software to write a will?
You can, but Texas has precise requirements concerning wills. Not complying with those requirements may mean that your will is declared invalid during probate.
Estate Planning in Texas: What You Need to Know
Estate planning documents in Texas include a will, financial power of attorney, revocable living trust, healthcare power of attorney, and living will.
If you die without a will in Texas, the state statutes will determine how your assets are divided during probate.
Estate planning entails more than just transferring assets; it includes creating plans for disability and guardianship.
Texas does not have a state inheritance tax, but your estate may have to pay a federal inheritance tax.
Hire an Expert Texas Estate Planning Attorney
Wilson Brown Law will help you create a will, living trust, power of attorney, or other estate planning document that will help you record your preferences and protect your loved ones and assets.
We know you have many questions about Texas’s estate planning process. So, feel free to call our expert San Antonio attorneys to schedule a consultation.