Procrastinating over estate and long-term planning can cause immeasurable confusion and suffering to a person and his or her heirs in the event of one’s incapacitation or passing. It is easy to see why preparing for one’s end of days may be a frightful subject for some. Nonetheless, ignoring the task will only lead to future problems. The basic documents of estate planning are generally the same from state to state, including Texas, and an experienced estate planning attorney will work closely with financial advisers and with the client to keep the process as painless and engaging as possible.
A will is often considered to be the bedrock document of an estate plan. However, that is only true if there are assets owned by the testator that must be distributed at death. If all of a person’s assets are owned jointly with a spouse, as husband and wife, then the property does not go through the person’s estate at death; instead, the laws of survivorship will cause the jointly-owned asset to pass to the surviving spouse automatically by operation of law.
When the surviving spouse later dies with that property solely in his or her name, then all of that property must go through probate. Property titled in one spouse’s name during the marriage may be legally considered marital property for some purposes, but it still has to go through probate at death if titled in one spouse’s name only. In the latter situation, the will becomes a critical document that expresses to whom the person’s assets will be distributed.
Furthermore, assets that are placed in a revocable living trust in Texas during the owner’s lifetime will not have to go through probate and will not be subject to the will instrument. There are other important estate planning documents to prepare as part of a good, protective plan. All of the foregoing matters are complicated enough, and it is not advisable to attempt creating such legal documents without the primary guidance of an experienced estate planning attorney.
Source: greenbaypressgazette.com, “A guide to basic estate planning“, Debra A. DeLeers, Jan. 13, 2016