What is an Estate Plan?
An estate consists of everything you own – your home, real estate, personal property, vehicles, checking and savings accounts, life insurance, retirement accounts, as well as other assets. Having an estate plan is the best way to ensure that your loved ones are cared for during difficult times. At The Larson Law Office, our lawyers will work closely with you to draft a customized plan that addresses your specific needs, desires, and concerns. We offer comprehensive estate planning services from creating a Will for the first time to updating your current estate planning. Our services include:
Ten Estate Planning Mistakes and How to Avoid Them
Below are 10 mistakes people tend to make when planning their estates and how you can avoid these oversights:
Failing to name a contingent beneficiary on retirement accounts and insurance policies is a very common mistake. If you fail to name a beneficiary, the result can mean that the proceeds likely will default to your estate. This means that an asset that would have passed without probate, would now be subject to probate. Also, neglecting to remove a former spouse on these accounts can have significant negative consequences.
After you complete your first Will, you may be tempted to “set it and forget it.” However, changes happen in life – children and grandchildren are born, family members get divorced and re-married. A good rule of thumb is to revisit estate planning every five years to see whether updates are needed.
Who will handle the money and assets for the minor children? And for how long – until they are 18, 25, 30 years old? Do you need a Trust to help in these determinations?
What are your wishes about who should raise your minor children if you pass when they are still small? You should make those wishes known in your estate planning to avoid costly litigation later.
Sometimes people automatically think that their spouse or a child should be the executor. Many times, this is the correct choice, but not always. In choosing an executor, consideration should be given to several things, including family dynamics, the personalities involved, who you think would be most suitable for the tasks involved.
If one of the two beneficiaries dies, where do the funds go? Does the money go to the surviving beneficiary? Or does the gift go to the heirs of the person who passed? Making sure to think through these contingencies is important!
As part of their estate planning, in addition to Wills many people create living trusts, also called revocable trusts. Assets in living trusts avoid probate court altogether. However, the assets have to be placed in the trust after the trust is created, which is called “funding the trust.” If the trust is not funded, the assets that were intended to be placed in trust to avoid probate, end up having to go through probate court. So, don’t forget to fund your trust with later acquired assets!
Do you have disability insurance? What about a durable financial Power of Attorney? A durable Medical Power of Attorney? A Medical Directive? We all understand the inevitability of our own mortality. But incapacity and disability may never occur, or they could appear at any time. Failing to address these is a large unaddressed risk
A residual clause is a “catch-all” provision that deals with the assets and property that you did not particularly provide for in the Will. This covers property left out of a Will accidentally, property later-acquired after the Will is executed, and many other situations.
Having a Will is helpful only if is enforceable in probate court. Texas law governing Wills and Trusts contains many procedural requirements, legal technicalities, and Texas-specific peculiarities to make them enforceable. Many other states do not have these specific requirements. So, many of the “do-it-yourself” Wills that you can get online from generic forms will not end up being enforceable in a Texas probate court. If that happens, you have an unenforceable Will, which means that it is disregarded and your estate will be treated as if you had no Will. Therefore, it is important to have professional assistance from a Texas estate planning lawyer to make sure your Will is enforceable in probate court.
Unfortunately, we are all going to die one day, but this is one of the most common and costliest estate planning mistakes. Facing the discomfort of our own mortality with a thoughtful plan that reflects what you want done with your assets and property is one of the most important thing you can do to ensure that your wishes will be followed in an orderly and proper way when that time comes.
Need to Speak to a Houston Estate Planning Attorney?
At The Larson Law Office, we pride ourselves on offering outstanding, individualized legal service in all aspects of estate planning, Will drafting and Trust preparation. We are dedicated to being extremely responsive and committed to help you achieve the goals and results you want and need. To speak with our Houston estate planning attorneys who can guide you through this process, call (713) 221-9088 today.