Most people think that they don’t have an estate. They think the word estate means that they must have millions of dollars. In reality, it can be as simple as making sure that your home, bank accounts and retirement assets are transferred to your family safely, regardless of their value. Any estate plan is designed to make sure that your assets pass to your family as quickly and as cost-effectively as possible. Without a proper estate plan, your assets could be tied up and spent towards the probate process for months, or even years.

What Happens When We Die Without An Estate Plan Or Even A Will In Texas?

If you die without a will and you have assets, all of your assets have to go through probate. If you don’t have a will in place, then it’s what we call an intestate probate, which is a lot more time consuming and a lot more expensive. We have to hire a second probate attorney, who has to do research about your heirs at law, and then we have to go through an extra hearing called an heirship proceeding. In addition, we have to collect testimony from two disinterested witnesses who are willing to go to court on a weekday morning. It costs more money in attorney’s fees and takes more time because there are lots of extra steps. Typically, not having a will more than doubles the amount of time and money that it costs to go through the probate process.

How Often Should I Review Or Checkup On My Estate Plan?

Every five years it’s a good idea to take a look at your estate plan and refresh your memory as to who you have chosen to serve and in what capacity. Also, if there is a major life event, like a death or a divorce, it’s extremely important to call your estate planning attorney in Texas and see if you need to update your plan. Other major life events could include the birth or adoption of children or grandchildren, or a large increase in your assets, such as receiving your own inheritance.

Is It Difficult To Go Back And Make Changes To an Existing Estate Plan?

It is not difficult to change your plan. If you have a will-based estate plan, we have to have two witnesses and a notary to make amendments. If it’s a revocable living trust-based estate plan, it’s even easier than that. All we need is a notary to adjust your plan. Many people put off getting their estate plan in place because they are afraid of making difficult decisions, like who they would want to be the guardian of their children. It’s important to remember that any decision is vastly better than no decision at all and that anything we put in place today is easy to adjust and make changes to tomorrow. Your estate plan should grow and change with you, just like your family grows and changes.

Should People Consider Incapacity Planning When Setting Up Their Estate Plan?

In my experience, the vast majority of people do not have a plan in place in the event that they might become mentally or physically incapacitated. That’s really unfortunate because due to the many advancements in modern medicine, having a long term care event is much more common than it used to be. If you don’t have a plan in place and you do go through a long term care event, it can be financially devastating for your family. In that instance, the only way for your family to gain access and control over your assets is to sue for your financial rights through guardianship proceedings.

It’s very difficult to win a guardianship case because it’s a big deal to take financial rights away from someone, and even if you do win, it’s extremely burdensome and time-consuming do be someone’s guardian. You have to go back in front of the judge every single year to give an accounting of every penny you’ve spent over the year and give a budget for the year to come. A guardianship typically costs thousands of dollars to put in place and thousands of dollars to go back in front of the judge every single year.

If you have a proper plan in place in the event of your incapacity and you’ve chosen the people you would want to manage your assets for your benefit, then you will never go through a guardianship proceeding. This is because your family will be able to gain access to your finances and manage them for your benefit through your estate planning documents, like a financial power of attorney, or a revocable living trust.

For more information on Estate Planning In The State Of Texas, a free initial consultation is your next best step.