You can, but by doing so, you run the risk that your estate will not be handled according to your wishes. There are many risks associated with Do-It-Yourself Wills and Estate Planning. Texas has very specific requirements concerning wills. If a will does not comply with all these requirements, it can be declared invalid, meaning that your estate could be treated as though you never had one.By doing your own estate planning, there is a chance you could misapply the law, use the wrong form, or prepare it incorrectly. Additionally, the one-size-fits-all character of a do-it-yourself plan does not take into account each individual’s unique circumstances, and consequently each of their individual estate planning needs.
It doesn’t matter what stage of life you’re in — your family will always need some estate planning. Estate planning is making a plan in advance and naming who you want to receive the things you own after you die. However, good estate planning includes much more than a basic will.
Everyone has an estate. Your estate consists of everything you own, your home, real estate, furniture, personal property, vehicles, checking and savings accounts, brokerage accounts, life insurance, and retirement accounts.
Being prepared and controlling how and to whom your estate is given when you die or become incapacitated is something all adults need to do. To ensure your wishes are carried out the way you want, you need to provide a set of written instructions.
Our estate planning process takes into account and includes:
- Instructions for your care if you become disabled before you die.
- Instructions for passing your values (religion, education, work ethic, etc.).
- Specific provisions for loved ones who might be irresponsible with money or who may need future protection from creditors or divorce.
- Naming the proper beneficiary of life insurance proceeds and retirement accounts.
- Instructions for the transfer of your business at your retirement, disability, or death.
- Naming a guardian and an inheritance manager for minor children.
- Provisions for family members with special needs without disrupting government benefits.
- Many clients are extremely concerned about minimizing administrative hassles, court intervention, taxes, court costs, and unnecessary legal fees. I strongly believe that when a crisis hits, your plan should be arranged so that your family avoids as much of these expenses as possible.
Everyone needs to plan their estate.
Estate planning is not just for “retired” people or “wealthy” people. Everyone needs to plan their estate. If you don’t plan ahead yourself, the state of Texas will have a default plan, but it’s probably not the plan you want.
If you become disabled, a court, not your family, will control how your assets are invested and used.
If you are a parent and die with a minor child, a court determines who will raise your child. Courts can’t just give an inheritance outright to a minor. Therefore, any inheritance directed to your minor child will be controlled by a court. If both parents die and there is no estate planning, the court, as expensive and annoying as it is, will control your children’s inheritance. At age 18, when most parents plan for their children to attend college, your child will gain complete and unprotected access to their inheritance.
In Texas, if you are married but have a child from a previous marriage, your spouse and children will each receive a share. That means your spouse could receive only a fraction of your estate, which may not be enough to live on. If you have minor children, the court will control their inheritance. If both parents die (i.e., in a car accident), the court will appoint a guardian without knowing whom you would have chosen.
Most people prefer these matters be handled privately by their family, not by the courts.
Estate planning also means peace of mind.
Knowing you have properly prepared and planned your estate will give you and your family peace of mind. Planning your estate is one of the most thoughtful and considerate things you can do for yourself and for those you love. Having an attorney who knows you, knows your family and knows your goals, dreams and aspirations is an extraordinary relief and benefit.
Don’t wait until it’s too late to ensure that your wishes are fulfilled. Contact our office today.
frequently asked questions
If you die intestate (without a valid will), the Texas statutes will determine how your property will be divided. In other your property will be distributed in a manner set by the Texas statutes, which may conflict with the way you would have chosen to have your assets distributed.
Although a will is an important part of an estate plan, it only takes effect after you die. Other documents are needed to carry out your wishes and manage your assets in the event you are temporarily or permanently disabled. We recommend five basic estate planning documents.
In addition to a will, you should also have a durable power of attorney, a medical power of attorney, a health care directive and a HIPAA authorization.
There are no hard and fast rules about how often you should review your estate plan, but certain life changes, such as a change in your marital status, an addition to your family, a change in the value of your assets, a move to another state, changes in the tax code, and the simple passage of time may trigger a need to update your plan. We suggest you perform and annual review of your estate plan.
Estate planning is the process of making the legal arrangements necessary to protect your family, plan for your personal and health care, and manage or transfer assets in the event of your incapacity or death.
An “estate” consists of all your assets including real estate, bank accounts, stocks and other securities, life insurance policies, and personal property such as cars, jewelry and artwork. The value of your estate is equal to the fair market value of the assets minus your debts.
You do, regardless of the size of your estate. Without adequate estate planning, you forfeit your opportunity to make many important decisions such as:
- Choosing the person who will make health care decisions for you if you are incapacitated and not able to do so
- Naming a guardian for your minor children in case of your incapacity or death
- Naming a guardian to manage the assets you leave behind for your minor children and specifying when and how you would like those assets distributed
- Specifying how and by whom your assets will be managed if you are temporarily or permanently disabled
- Specifying how and to whom your assets will be distributed when you die
The federal estate tax is a tax imposed on the transfer of a “taxable estate” to a decedent’s heirs and beneficiaries. The “taxable estate” is calculated by deducting funeral costs, debts, and assets transferred to a spouse from the fair market value of all assets, including life insurance, in which the decedent had interest at the time of death.
Although every U.S. citizen is subject to the estate tax, the vast majority will never have to pay any taxes at all because a certain amount of a person’s estate is exempt from taxation. Currently, Americans can transfer $5 million, indexed for inflation, without any federal estate tax liability. Assets valued at over $5 million are subject to an estate tax of 40 percent.
A living will, or directive to physicians, is a document that allows you to instruct your physicians not to use artificial methods to extend your life in the event you are diagnosed with a terminal or irreversible condition.
Probate is the legal process by which a will is proved to be valid or invalid, though current usage of this term has been expanded to refer to the legal process in which the estate of a decedent is administered.
Generally, the probate process involves collecting a decedent’s assets, liquidating liabilities, paying necessary taxes, and distributing property to heirs. These activities are carried out by the executor or administrator of an estate.