Boerne Estate Planning Lawyers
Serving Clients in Boerne, New Braunfels, San Antonio and the Surrounding Area
There are many legal strategies involved in estate planning, including wills, revocable living trusts, irrevocable trusts, durable powers of attorney, and health care documents. New clients often say that they do not have an estate plan. Most people are surprised to learn that they actually do have a plan. In the absence of legal planning your estate will be distributed after death according to Texas’ laws of intestacy. The State has a plan for you and it will be carried into effect through the probate process. Of course, this may not be the plan they would have chosen. A properly drafted estate plan with a San Antonio will or trust will replace the terms of the State’s estate plan with your own. Start the process and create your estate plan alongside Boerne Estate Planning Lawyer Shawn McCammon today. The coronavirus pandemic may be the encouragement you need to prepare your documents. Read more in our article C19 UPDATE: Emergency Estate Planning Decisions to Make Right Now.
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Your Last Will and Testament
Your last will and testament is just one part of a comprehensive estate plan. If a person dies without a will, they are said to have died “intestate” and Texas state laws will determine how and to whom the person’s assets will be distributed. Some things you should know about wills:
- A will has no legal authority until after death. So, a will does not help manage a person’s affairs when they are incapacitated, whether by illness or injury.
- A will does not help an estate avoid probate. A will is the legal document submitted to the probate court, so it is basically an “admission ticket” to probate.
- A will is a good place to nominate the guardians (or back-up parents) of your minor children if they are orphaned. All parents of minor children should document their choice of guardians. If you leave this to chance, you could be setting up a family battle royal, and your children could end up with the wrong guardians.
If I’m 35, Do I Need a Will? Keep in mind, even if you are a young adult, a will or estate plan is essential if you want your family to be able to deal with your affairs, debts included.
Trusts: Revocable Living Trusts, Irrevocable Trusts, Testamentary Trusts, Special Needs Trusts, etc.
Trusts come in many “flavors;” they can be simple or complex, and serve a variety of legal, personal, investment or tax planning purposes. At the most basic level, a trust is a legal entity with at least three parties involved: the trust-maker, the trustee (trust manager), and the trust beneficiary. Oftentimes, all three parties are represented by one person or a married couple. In the case of a revocable living trust, for example, a person may create a trust (the trust-maker) and name themselves the current trustees (trust managers) who manage the trust assets for their own benefit (trust beneficiary). If you have a special needs child or loved one with disabilities, read more about how to protect these family members with a support or special needs trust.
Depending on the situation, there may be many advantages to establishing a trust in San Antonio, including avoiding probate court. Our page on trust administration explains more about the probate process. In most cases, assets owned in a revocable living trust will pass to the trust beneficiaries (or heirs) immediately upon the death of the trust-maker(s) with no probate required, and no public disclosure of assets. Certain trusts also may result in tax advantages both for the trust-maker and the beneficiary. Or they may be used to protect property from creditors, or simply to provide for someone else to manage and invest property for the trust-maker(s) and the named beneficiaries. If well drafted, another advantage of trusts is their continuing effectiveness even if the trust-maker dies or becomes incapacitated. Reach out to our Boerne estate planning lawyers at (830) 217-1511 to find out if you and your family could benefit from establishing a San Antonio will or trust.
Powers of Attorney
A power of attorney is a legal document giving another person (the attorney-in-fact) the legal right (powers) to do certain things for you. What those powers are depends on the terms of the document. A power of attorney may be very broad or very limited and specific. All powers of attorney terminate upon the death of the maker, and may terminate when the maker (principal) becomes incapacitated (unable to make or communicate decisions). When the intent is to designate a back-up decision-maker in the event of incapacity, then a durable power of attorney should be used. Durable Powers of Attorney should be frequently updated because banks and other financial institutions may hesitate to honor a power of attorney that is more than a couple of years old.
Health Care Documents (or Advance Directives)
An advance directive is a document that specifies the type of medical and personal care you would want should you lose the ability to make and communicate your own decisions. Anyone over the age of 18 may execute an advance directive, and this document is legally binding in Texas. Your advance directive can specify who will make and communicate decisions for you, and it can set out the circumstances under which you would not like your life to be prolonged if, for example, you were in a coma with no reasonable chance of recovery.
A document that goes hand-in-hand with your advance directive is an authorization to your medical providers to allow specified individuals to access your medical information. Without this authorization, your doctor may refuse to communicate with your hand-picked decision maker.