When it comes to planning for the future, most people in Texas recognize the importance of estate planning. Despite this recognition, some people may find the task daunting. In fact, some people are even unsure what documents are important to include in an estate plan.
Perhaps the most important document — and the one with which most people are familiar — is the will. This documents serves a variety of different functions, including determining how assets will be divided upon the testator’s death. However, beneficiaries listed on a retirement fund, for example, take precedence over the will so it is necessary to update beneficiaries if something changes. Additionally, many people choose to create a trust; assets that are in a trust do not have to go through the probate process.
In addition to tools that determine how assets will be divided, many estate plans also include documents that empower someone to make decisions on the creator’s behalf in the event he or she becomes incapacitated. For example, naming someone as the power of attorney gives that person the ability to make financial decisions under certain circumstances. Likewise, naming a health care power of attorney gives someone the legal authority to make medical decisions should the person be in a state where he or she is unable to do so. A living will, or advance directive, can provide important information about a person’s medical wishes, such as the use of certain life support measures.
There are a variety of different tools that can be included in a Texas estate plan. To help ensure that all aspects are clearly expressed and enforceable, most people going through the creation process want the advice of an experienced professional. Often having these documents in place can help family members as they cope with a situation that is already stressful.