Livens & Reed, PLLC

Estate planning involves more than just a will

Most Texas residents and others around the country don't like to think about growing older or how life will be when they are no longer around. However, it is important to make decisions when a person still has the ability to determine the way he or she wants an estate distributed. In some cases, even with a will or documentation in place, heirs may encounter unforeseen issues. That is why financial experts stress the importance of estate planning.

Analysts share that when someone dies, some assets are distributed based on a will. However, a will does not determine non-probate assets, such as joint real property held with right of survivorship by two or more people or any account with a designated beneficiary. In fact, experts say that a valid beneficiary designation is a recognized legal document and would be utilized by the estate's executor in decision making. In fact, the terms of a will typically do not not supersede or change a beneficiary designation.

When no beneficiary designation exists, the assets will pass according to the terms of the will. Many disagreements among family members can occur when the deceased relative may have changed a will, but failed to update a beneficiary designation. Conflicts arise because part of an inheritance may be going to someone the deceased did not intend to benefit due to changing family circumstances.

It is helpful for Texas residents to develop a comprehensive estate plan when determining how assets will be distributed. A lawyer knowledgeable about estate planning can provide guidance throughout the process. An experienced elder law attorney can work with clients to develop plans that will ensure that the desired heirs receive their intended portion of an estate.

Source:, "Mom screwed up her estate plan. What now?", Karen Price Mueller, May 1, 2017

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