Livens & Reed, PLLC

Estate planning usually means much more than just a will

In Texas and anywhere else, elderly family members sometimes die without leaving all of the pertinent information to guide their heirs in processing matters as they would have wished. There are matters, such as papers relating to the right to a military burial, that may be never passed on to assure that such a burial occurs. One woman's right to have her remains cremated and scattered at sea was never confirmed prior to death. Special circumstances like these must be incorporated into estate planning documentation and discussed with family members during the loved one's life.

Perhaps the most important document at the center of the estate planning process is the will. According to one elder law attorney associated with AARP, a will can sometimes be the main document in an estate planning inventory, and living trusts may not be necessary. She gives that conclusion in opposition to some common wisdom that says it's best to avoid the after-death probate process by administering the assets during life through living trusts.

She has authored, in cooperation with the American Bar Association, an upcoming publication called the "ABA/AARP Checklist for My Family: A Guide to My History, Financial Plans and Final Wishes." Thus, in many instances it may be that a will is sufficient to handle the legal aspects of administering one's estate. However, it's best not to try to make one yourself.

That may end up being a hodge-podge of provisions that are these days readily found on the Internet. A screw-up in the wording could bring twisted results that are the opposite of what the person wanted to happen. Furthermore, the intricacies of an estate plan do not just include a will.

There are the all-important powers-of-attorney, health care directives, and a living will that are necessary components of most estate plans for most people. It's also increasingly important to provide all Internet information to the appropriate persons during one's lifetime. Estate planning in Texas includes all of these subjects. Most importantly, everything must be adequately communicated to those who are charged with carrying out your wishes.

Source: The New York Times, "There's More to Estate Planning Than Just the Will", Alina Tugend, Sept. 5, 2014

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