Why should I work with your estate planning team?

One of the most asked questions of the estate planning attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan is why a person should work with our team to create a will, trust, or other estate planning instrument. After all in this age of do-it-yourself everything, why couldn’t you just go online, pull up a guide to drafting a will, and then do it yourself? While there are countless do-it-yourself legal guides available to you online, there is still nothing quite like being guided by an experienced and contentious attorney and their staff of well-trained team members.

Call it whatever you would like, but the fact remains that most people are suspicious or at least skeptical of attorneys. There is a reputation in our culture that attorneys are money hungry, aggressive, and off-putting. You may not even know any attorneys, but you probably know enough about them to look at this stereotype and chuckle right along with it. There are so many advantages to working with a great estate planning team that simply telling you what to do or what not to do does not even begin to cover the benefits.

For starters, an attorney will not tell you what to do in the context of a will or trust creation. Rather, an experienced estate planning attorney with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan will provide you with information and context about the steps involved in the case, will educate you on the relevant laws, and then will help you put two and two together and create a viable path forward for you and your family. Do not get the wrong idea about what attorneys do or don’t do. Your attorney will meet you where you are and will provide you with helpful information and a fresh perspective on your case.

Setting up a proper estate plan for you and your family is not something that can just happen overnight. It takes time to sort through the different options and arrive at a plan that suits your needs specifically. There is no one size fits all plan that will work just as well for you as it will for another person. Rather, you need to be able to look at the entirety of your life and your circumstances and arrive at a plan that works best for the life that you have led and plan to lead in the future. Do not underestimate how much you and your specific life events will impact the kind of estate plan that you need. Certainly, all of the diligent planning that you and an attorney undertake can have massive repercussions moving forward for you and your family.

An attorney cannot simply sit down at their computer and rattle off a few documents related to estate planning and then call it a day for you and your family. This is not an insurance quote or something that can be automated based on your demographics or a set of criteria that the attorney plugs into the computer. You are an individual with unique needs. Your estate plan may have some qualities that make it similar to other people, but at the end of the day, your financial circumstances coupled with your specific goals make it difficult to plug in and go without a fair amount of planning and diligence on the part of you and your legal team that is assisting you in this matter.

You also should not view estate planning as insurance against failures in your investment strategy. Many people wake up one morning and feel uneasy about the types of investments that they have chosen to undertake. Whether you have chosen to invest in the stock market, real estate, or some combination of the two it is normal to have concerns about whether you have chosen wisely and whether those investments will stand the test of time when it comes to how sound they are. We know that past performance is no indicator of future success but at a certain point, that is all we can do to determine the soundness of our plan for investment purposes. However, looking at an estate plan as mere insurance against investment failure is not a great long-term outlook on either end. It is useful to have professionals in your corner both when it comes to investing and when it comes to estate planning.

What does estate planning cause you to think about?

Estate planning is something that should if done right, cause you to think about several different areas of your life and bring those areas to the forefront of your consciousness. We are so busy in our daily lives that we may not be able to think critically about each area for very long. There are just so many topics that are relevant to our lives that to think about all of them daily would be impossible. We would have no time to live our lives and would instead be spending all our time thinking about finances, our future, the future of our family, saving money, investments, etc. That is no way to lead a productive and meaningful life. Rather, you can take certain opportunities and make decisions to be fully conscious of them at certain important points. Estate planning offers you an opportunity to engage in thoughtful discourse about these important topics for a certain period.

Estate planning, when it is all said and done, is more than just a plan that centers around paper and spreadsheets, and the like. Sure, the planning stages of a case will see you and your attorney come up with plans that are based on your life and those of your loved ones. It may feel like you are going over small details that are never going to come to fruition and never be relevant. The problem is that you do not know where your life is headed, when it will come to an end and where your money will be at that time. This is one of the main benefits of having an experienced estate planning attorney in your corner. The attorney will be able to walk with you through these circumstances using their time to help people like you benefit from the planning that you are going to undertake. It is not enough to walk through this type of planning once and then never consider it again. Fortunately, having an experienced estate planning attorney in your corner means that you will be able to have an opportunity to engage in fruitful discussions and draw on their experiences to help you in this present moment.

For one, estate planning should cause you to think more clearly about where your investments are and what you need to do to help ensure that they will be intact now and in the future for the beneficiaries of your estate planning. An estate planning attorney will look critically at your investments with you and help you think about how you want to structure your estate plan in terms of keeping up with the money but also making sure the money is where you need it to be. It would be a real shame if the money that you have worked so hard to build up is not doing its fair share of the work. Unfortunately, money is an inanimate object that cannot guide itself. After you earn the money, it is up to you to tell it what to do and how to grow. While you may not be able to perfectly predict where the markets will go or what will happen to your money, it is certainly possible for you to walk through a case study and understand what the likely outcome of your situation in terms of your investments is, their growth and their risk profile moving forward.

The people or groups that you stand to help with your estate plan may have unique needs that require readjustment of your estate planning or even your investments. For example, if you are attempting to help a religious organization or other charity you may look differently at your assets than if you were going to help a distant relative. You may be willing to take on risk in your investments or may be able to project far enough into the future how that money can be helpful. If the horizon for your thinking is just a few years this may change how you view the situation versus an investment that should stand to help a person for decades to come.

Retirement is another major component of estate planning though it should be noted that you do not and should not wait until retirement age to start thinking hard about estate planning and end-of-life planning. For one, none of us know exactly when our lives are going to come to an end. This isn’t exactly the cheerful section of today’s blog post but it must be said. Planning our estate and matters related to our estates may sound like an activity that we can afford to wait on but the reality is that we do not know when it will suddenly become very relevant for our families. Some people, unfortunately “plan to plan” for a later date in time only to realize that the date they had in mind won’t necessarily be reached. With that backdrop in mind, you all should think clearly about what you have done to prepare your estate to this point and what you can improve upon for both estate planning and retirement purposes.

You do not want to structure an estate plan in such a way that you leave no wealth or options for yourself and your spouse in your retirement years. Many people think incorrectly that if you earn something of a nest egg for yourself and your spouse that it must be stowed away somewhere never to be tapped into. Rather, you can take advantage of your good decision-making and work with your estate planning attorney to see how you can lead a meaningful and complete life at retirement while planning for an end-of-life circumstance that you may not be able to predict with one hundred percent accuracy. It may not be fair that we cannot choose the moment in time when our lives will come to an end, but it is fair to say that we can use the time we have wisely. Estate planning is one of those activities that are not important until it is. Use the resources that you have as best as possible, and I think you will find that the stress associated with this topic will just melt away.

Does your spouse work? What is their ability to provide for themselves and you if something happens that impacts your ability to earn an income and work consistently? I think that is a useful thought exercise to undertake from time to time. Think about your life and what would happen if your income were suddenly and without warning taken away. Would your household go from a two-income house to a one-income home? Or would your home suddenly be left with no income at all? This is where your circumstances are unique and the needs of your family in the short term need to be considered. If you do not know where your spouse would be if your income was lost, then that is not abnormal. Again, in our daily lives, we have so many competing considerations to think about that we cannot ponder each important contingency all day long. However, now that your mind is about providing for a loved one or spouse that may impact how you plan your estate moving forward.

There are certain protections that you can build into your estate plan for a spouse at the end of your life. Certainly, if your spouse has a disability, impairment, or other restriction that impedes their ability to work that is something that you should contemplate when it comes to your estate planning activities. It is not enough to walk through your estate plan and assume that everything will work out for your spouse after you have passed on. That would be irresponsible and unnecessary. Rather, you have all the opportunity you will ever need when it comes to building a framework to protect your spouse while you are actively engaged in estate planning to do this. However, you need to be intentional about planning and think critically about what your spouse needs now and where their needs may change in the future.

What are the long-term projections in your life regarding healthcare expenses and costs? This can be a simple question to ask if you have relatively few health needs. You can probably find a calculator online that will help you think critically about how your healthcare choices may change and how the costs of those choices may need to be updated with time. An attorney who specializes in estate planning will have experience in helping you think more about how you can leave assets protected from the rising costs of health care while allowing you and your spouse to be able to access enough funds to be able to care for yourself from a health care perspective. Do not underestimate the extent that you may need assistance in planning healthcare-related costs especially as you get older and the burdens of paying for healthcare shift away from a private health insurance plan to Medicare.

Finally, if you own a business then you should think hard about how you foresee the transition of that business being owned and operated by you to how it will be handled after you pass on. Have you thought about a succession plan? This is not just a question for people with large and valuable businesses to consider but is something every small business owner should think about critically. Even if you do not believe that your business needs to survive it is a responsibility that you owe to your family and your clients. Making sure that they are taken care of means putting their interests ahead of your own to a certain extent.

Certainly, this is a subject that may require the input of multiple professionals. Your estate planning attorney may not be an expert in your area of business or in the type of operation that you run. However, an experienced estate planning attorney with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan has seen a great deal in their years of serving people planning their estates. That experience can be invaluable to you and your family as you begin to think hard about what it means to plan.

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