As you age, your needs change, and your priorities shift. You may begin thinking about what the rest of your life will look like. What will happen if you need help taking care of yourself? What will happen once you are no longer around? How can you leave a lasting legacy and do what you can to care for your loved ones?

An elder law attorney like those at Robbins Estate Law can help you begin to tackle these questions and more. We focus on helping our clients get legal documents in place to feel secure as they age. Our services include drafting wills, trusts, advance directives, and powers of attorney. We also represent parties throughout the probate process, including litigation. Reach out today to learn more about hiring a Cedar Park Elder Lawyer from Robbins Estate Law.

How Can an Elder Lawyer Help with Probate?

In a technical sense, probate is the legal process of establishing the validity of a will. However, when someone dies without a will, their estate typically passes through the same probate system. 

Intestate Succession

Texas law sets a path of inheritance meant to approximate what someone who dies without a will would have wanted. Called intestate succession, these laws favor your surviving spouse and children if you have them. After your spouse and children, your parents and siblings inherit, followed by your grandparents and their descendants. 

If an estate passes through intestate succession, an administrator is appointed to manage it. An elder law attorney can guide you through administering the estate to minimize the risks of a drawn-out process or problems.

Probating a Will

A person who dies with a will is known as a testator. Generally, the testator names an executor, who is responsible for bringing the will to a probate judge to prove its validity. The executor also ensures the will is enforced.

If no one contests the will, probate can be relatively simple. However, people who could be entitled to take property if the will is invalid may challenge the will’s validity, typically based on:

  • Lack of testamentary capacity—the testator was not of sound mind when they created the will;
  • Undue influence—a third party used improper means like fraud, threats, or coercion to induce the testator to create the will; and
  • Improper execution—the testator did not complete the will correctly.

Our elder lawyers can help raise or defend against any of these claims.

How Can an Elder Lawyer Help with Estate Planning?

On the other end of the spectrum, our elder lawyers can help you plan your estate to minimize the chances of a lengthy probate process and maximize what you leave to your loved ones. We can help you draft a will to ensure your assets go where they should. Instead of or in addition to your will, we can design a plan to avoid probate, primarily through the use of trusts.

Avoiding Probate

Your assets can either bypass or pass through probate. Because probate can be challenging and time-consuming, many people prefer to limit what passes through probate or avoid it entirely. 

Assets that bypass probate are fittingly called non-probate assets. Non-probate assets include property that, under its terms, passes to someone else when you die. Common examples include:

  • Trusts,
  • Life insurance policies,
  • Joint bank accounts, and
  • Real property with survivorship rights.

Assets that pass through probate, also fittingly, are known as probate assets. These assets require a legal document to go to a new owner when someone dies, usually a will. Most property, unless placed into a trust, qualifies as probate property.

Drafting a Will

Having a will is one of the best ways to leave a legacy and dictate how to care for your loved ones after you die. Your will allows you to ensure the right people get the right things. 

Wills are subject to strict legal requirements called will formalities. You must be 18 or older and of sound mind to create a will. The will must be:

  • In writing,
  • Signed by you, and
  • Signed by two witnesses in your presence.

Our elder law attorneys can guide you through drafting a will, ensuring it meets the legal requirements. We can also help you amend or update a previous will.

Creating Trusts

As non-probate assets, trusts are handy in estate planning. A trust can be living or “inter vivos,” meaning created in your lifetime. Or it can be a testamentary trust, meaning it is funded after you die, sometimes created within your will. Additionally, it can be revocable or irrevocable. Revocable trusts offer more control, while irrevocable trusts offer more tax-saving benefits.

Trusts are a flexible, tailorable tool. You can create a trust to support a loved one after you are gone, like a special needs trust for a disabled relative or a support trust for a minor child. Additionally, you can create a spendthrift trust to help someone who struggles with their spending habits, a trust to care for a beloved pet, or a charitable trust to support a cause near and dear to your heart. Our elder law attorneys can help design a trust that meets your needs.

How Can an Elder Lawyer Help Ensure You Have Medical and Financial Documents in Place?

Planning for your future does not just cover what happens when you are gone. You need to plan for getting older. Two powerful tools that can help include advance directives and powers of attorney. 

Advance Directives

Also known as living wills, advance directives set out your medical wishes in a binding legal document should you be unable to communicate them. You use them to explain what medical treatment you want to receive and what medical treatment you would prefer to avoid. 

Powers of Attorney

There are two primary types of power of attorney: health and financial. You can make one person both or select different individuals to fill each role. In both cases, the person you choose will be empowered to make decisions on your behalf if you cannot.

Your power of attorney has a great deal of authority to control your health and finances should you become temporarily or permanently incapacitated, so it is crucial to choose someone you trust. The person should dependably enforce what you would want.

How Can Robbins Estate Law Help?

The legal team at Robbins Estate Law can help you plan for the rest of your life and what happens after. Our firm is located in Austin and serves clients in the Austin, Cedar Park, and Round Rock areas. If you need a Cedar Park Elder Lawyer, reach out today to learn more, including more about our flat-rate, no-surprises fee structure.