Elder law encompasses many fields, focused on issues that affect or are of significant concern to older adults. One of the largest areas of elder law is estate planning, including drafting wills, designing trusts, and preparing other documents needed to ensure your family is cared for. Elder law also includes making decisions about your healthcare and finances as you age.
If you need help planning for your future, Robbins Estate Law can help. We understand that planning for your future means planning for your family’s future. Our firm has rapidly grown since its founding, and we only hire attorneys with excellent academic and work records. Reach out today to speak with an Austin elder lawyer.
Planning for a time you are no longer around can be challenging to think about, but the peace of mind that comes with knowing what will happen cannot be overstated. Every estate plan is different and tailored to the individual and their family. Most plans begin with a will and often include trusts to maximize the benefits you leave to your loved ones.
Probate and Non-Probate Assets
When a person dies, their assets can pass to their loved ones through or outside of probate. Property that passes through probate is generally disposed of by a will or, if the person does not leave a will, through laws designating who inherits under intestate succession. These probate assets can include real and personal property and money or investments.
Non-probate assets have a built-in mechanism to pass to another person when you die, so they do not require a will to change ownership. Trusts are a primary example, but joint bank accounts or property arrangements that include rights of survivorship qualify as well.
Many people prefer to minimize what goes through probate or, when possible, avoid probate entirely. Probate is a legal process that can tie up assets for months or years, especially if there are any will contests or disputes over who should get what. Passing assets outside of probate allows your loved ones quicker access and can sometimes lower your estate taxes.
If you die without a will, the law designates what happens to your assets in its best approximation of what you and everyone in a similar situation might have wanted. The process of distributing your assets if you die without a will is called intestate succession. If you die with a surviving spouse, most or all of your estate passes to your spouse, depending on whether you have children or surviving parents or siblings. Your children get preference if you die without a spouse. Inheritance moves outward from your parents and siblings, then to your grandparents and their descendants.
Nearly everyone knows you should have a will, but many people put it off, thinking they will get to it later. Having your desires on paper offers protection should the worst happen, and there is no reason to delay the comfort of having that will in place. Wills also allow you greater control over your assets, allowing you to leave specific assets to certain people and avoid intestate succession.
As a formal declaration of what you want to happen when you die, wills require specific formalities to be valid. To create a valid will, you must be 18 or older and of sound mind, and the will must be:
- In writing,
- Signed by you, and
- Signed and attested to by two witnesses in your presence.
With a carefully designed will, you can rest easier knowing your assets will reach the right people.
Trusts allow you to protect your assets and set them aside for specific purposes. These can be living, also known as “inter vivos” trusts, or testamentary, meaning they begin operating after your death. They can also be revocable or irrevocable. While revocable trusts allow more control, they do not offer as much asset protection as irrevocable trusts, particularly concerning taxes.
There are many kinds of trusts, and we can help you set up the type that suits your needs. For example, if you want to take care of a loved one who struggles to or cannot care for themself, you can create a:
- Support trust,
- Special needs trust, or
- Spendthrift trust.
You can also create trusts to support charitable causes, allowing you to keep giving to causes after you pass on. Or you can set up a trust to provide for a loved one over time, care for a precious pet, or hold title to specific property. Ultimately, trusts are adaptable instruments you can design to suit your needs.
Healthcare and Finances
An elder law attorney can help you lay out what you would like to happen should you be unable to make your own medical or financial decisions. This typically involves drafting an advance directive and powers of attorney.
You can use an advance directive, also known as a living will, to explain what you would like to happen in specific circumstances if you cannot consent because of temporary or permanent incapacitation. The document provides information about your preferences related to medical treatment, like CPR, ventilation, or certain medications.
Powers of Attorney
You can establish both health and financial powers of attorney. When you designate a power of attorney, you grant the person you select the authority to make important decisions on your behalf if you cannot.
Before you designate a person as a power of attorney, you should tell them and talk about what it means. The person or people you select should know what you would likely want if you cannot communicate it. You should also trust them to enforce your desires, even if they want something different.
Hire an Austin Elder Lawyer
As you age, your needs change, and you begin to think more about what will happen when you pass on. If you need an elder lawyer in Austin, contact Robbins Estate Law today. We offer simple, convenient flat rate fees, meaning you will not get surprise bills. We can help you prepare for your life as you age and make plans to ensure your loved ones are cared for once you are gone.