Estate planning has been around for a long time. Archaeologists have found hieroglyphics dating back to 1770 BCE wherein two brothers document their wishes for property distribution and guardianship for their children.
The first formal laws on estate planning, on the other hand, date back to ancient Rome; Justianian Code from the 6th century CE recognized written and oral wills, provided they were approved by a government official.
This just goes to show that how we hand things down to family and loved ones has been on humanity’s collective mind for a long time.
Estate planning isn’t just for the wealthy (or historically minded). It’s an essential practice for anyone who wants to ensure that their family and loved ones are cared for and that their wishes are respected if they were to become incapacitated or pass away.
It’s never too early (or too late) to start preparing for the future. If you’re considering creating an estate plan in Texas, there are a few things you need to know about the process—and an experienced estate planning attorney can work with you to determine how best to meet your needs.
Five essential components of a comprehensive estate plan
One person’s circumstances and goals can be vastly different from another’s, which is why our Texas estate planning attorneys work to customize each estate plan accordingly.
That said, there are some essentials that every estate plan should include.
1. Last will and testament
For many people, a last will and testament is the one part of an estate plan that’s instantly recognizable. Your last will and testament states for your wishes for the distribution of your assets, charitable gifts, and the guardianship of your children in the event of your passing—although, we’ll note, a last will and testament can include as much or as little detail as you’d like.
A last will is the foundation of any estate plan, but it’s a common misconception that a will on its own is sufficient. In fact, it’s only the beginning of building a comprehensive strategy to ensure that your legacy is protected and your family is taken care of in the future.
2. Revocable living trust
Trusts are similar to wills, and can sometimes be used in their place. One form of trust that’s especially useful for estate planning is a revocable living trust. While the assets will technically no longer be yours when you put them into a revocable living trust, you can appoint yourself as the trustee. This allows you to continue earning taxable income and retain control of your assets.
Additionally, this will allow your family to avoid having to navigate the probate process during challenging times. Note, however, that a living trust does not protect large assets (such as real estate) from federal estate taxes.
3. Directive to physicians and medical power of attorney
A directive to physicians, also known as a living will, is an essential legal document that lays out your preferences related to all medical treatments you may receive should you become incapacitated. Your directive to physicians may include preferences for resuscitation, treatment for pain, or life support.
Closely related to a living will is a medical power of attorney, which allows you to choose a person to stand in as a proxy should you become incapacitated. This person will be legally allowed to make medical decisions in accordance with your stated guidelines and preferences involving your medical treatment.
Selecting a medical power of attorney or creating a directive to physicians can provide your family with essential guidance with respect to your preferences on medical care and life support—and give you the comfort of knowing that your desires will be respected even if you are unable to communicate them in the future.
4. Durable Financial Power Of Attorney
A Durable Financial Power of Attorney (DPOA) is a legal document that allows you to grant another person the right to make financial decisions on your behalf should you become incapacitated. Your DPOA is authorized to handle matters involving your property, business, bills, tax responsibilities, and more.
It’s important to note that it’s not possible for someone to become your DPOA once you’ve been incapacitated. Instead, your family will be required to go through time-consuming court proceedings to become a conservator or adult guardian, which could put undue stress on your loved ones during an already challenging time.
5. Customized provisions to safeguard assets
A Texas attorney can work with you to create additional protective measures for assets that require more protection than a standard trust or will. Creating these additional safeguards is especially useful for assets like real property and businesses.
Work with a trustworthy Texas attorney that cares about your future
Our lives, our families, and our wishes for the future are all unique. If you’re considering making an estate plan and you want a seasoned professional to guide you through the process to make the best possible decision possible for your unique circumstances, the team at Shann M. Chaudhry Esq., Attorney at Law PLLC can help.
We care deeply about helping people protect the things that matter to them the most. That’s why our goal is to help you and your family prepare for the future so that you can focus on the present with complete peace of mind.
Contact our offices to schedule a consultation.