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What documents do I need to prepare for end-of-life planning?

The pandemic did something to wake up many of us to the realization that our lives will, someday, come to an end. This is a difficult sentence to write at the beginning of an estate planning blog, but it is necessary. None of us is going to get out of this life alive. Hopefully, we can pack a lot of living into the life that we have. In the meantime, it's not a bad idea to prepare for end-of-life scenarios when we have an opportunity to do so. The reason is that we don't know when the end of our lives will come. 

With that backdrop, the best time to have prepared a will was yesterday. The second-best time to have prepared a will is today. Whether it is a will, trust, or are there a state planning mechanism your life will be full of peace and serenity if you can adequately prepare for end-of-life scenarios as quickly as possible. However, before you get to that point you will need to understand what your needs are as well as the needs of your family now and after your passing. This is a complex question to ask in one best left to the council of people who have been there before. Asking experience, the state planning attorneys as many questions as you can about your circumstances can prepare you for these types of scenarios.

For instance, would you know how to proceed if you owned property in Texas and Louisiana? If you own land or real estate in Texas in another state, there is a distinct possibility that your estate will need to go through probate in Texas and any other state where you own real property. This means that after you pass away the executor of your estate may need to go through probate processes in Texas and Louisiana. There are administration costs, court costs, attorneys’ fees, travel, and any other fees and costs that might be associated with the probating of an estate. State costs can add up quickly so you should be prepared to plan for them now rather than leaving that to your executor and family.

After hearing all this it would make sense for you to be curious about why it is that people even bother drafting wills. After all: if it is necessary to draft, they will that touches on property in multiple states and is not even necessary for other types of the property then why do people even bother having wheels drafted? The simple reason is that a will is a tried-and-true method 2 address estate planning issues and end-of-life problems in general. Attorneys and the legal system, in general, have methods for addressing these problems and a system in place that is intended to help everyone in our community create a plan for end-of-life situations. A will fits in well with this method of estate planning and can be a great benefit to any adult.

What is the probate process?

Whether you pass away with or without a will, you're likely a state will need to be probated. The first step in this process will be that a probate court judge will need to determine if a will exists. If a will has been drafted, then the judge will divide your property according to the terms of that will assuming that it is valid. On the other hand, if no will exist then the judge will divide property according to the Texas probate code. For most people, their spouse and children will be the ones to receive most of the property. Before the property can be dispersed to beneficiaries, however, the property must be held until creditors can be alerted to your death while they have an opportunity to state their case and attempt to collect property if you owe any money. 

Additionally, if any person disagrees with portions of your will, then he or she can contest the will formally. There may be a question as to what a certain portion of your will means, whether the wheel was properly signed by you, whether you are of sound mind while creating the well, or whether or not the will was witnessed correctly period two witnesses need to be present for your signature on the document. If there are questions about these topics, then the probate court judge must consider the arguments and make decisions based on the facts and circumstances of your case.

If you pass away with a will then you will name an executor of your estate. This is the person whose job it is to execute your wishes after your passing. on the other hand, if you do not have a will when you pass away in your state and must be probated then the court will appoint an administrator to oversee the probate process and divide the property. If you are named as the executor of a will then it is likely that you will need to hire or probate or estate planning attorney to file any paperwork and make court appearances with you. Depending upon the nature of the will and the circumstances of the deceased person you may have multiple court appearances to make before the case is all over. This is especially true if you do not have any experience with the probate process or with administering at a state.

As I mentioned a moment ago, if you are the executor of an estate then you should be prepared to notify creditors of any issues regarding the passing of the deceased person. For example, you may need to print out a formal notice on behalf of the deceased person and place that notice in a magazine or newspaper. The probate process in Texas takes some months to complete. For most people, this is a four-to-six-month commitment if you are the party who is acting as administrator or executor.

Importantly, the assets of an estate cannot be disbursed until the probate process ends. Imagine the position of friends or family members of the deceased person who are waiting on the property to be disbursed so that they can pay their bills or meet other responsibilities. Four to six months, or longer, can't seem like an insufferable and incredibly long period. There is also liability involved for you as an administrator or executor in that you could be sued if you payout property too early or incorrectly to a party or group of people. This is more reason for you to seek the advice of experienced incompetent estate planning attorneys to help you develop a plan for addressing problems with the probate process so that you do not become liable for any mistakes made on behalf of a state.

The probate process also forces very private information to become very public. Imagine all the details of your life being pushed into the open I would just about anyone gain access to this information. This is the information that you will be responsible for protecting and evaluating as Executor or administrator of an estate. Personal liability there's never something that you want to deal with. However, you can learn more about the estate planning process end what your responsibilities are by speaking with one of the experienced probate and estate planning attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Not only can you learn something about the estate planning process, but you can also learn about how you can better approach your circumstances involving estate planning and probate needs. There is no better time for you to learn from the mistakes and circumstances of others than if you are named as an executor or administrator of the states like these.

What is a living trust? 

A living trust is intended to help you and your family avoid the delays and costs associated with going through probate. A living trust should contain very specific instructions on how to care for the well-being of you and your loved ones both while you are alive and after you pass away. A living trust is especially helpful and relevant if you become incapacitated or otherwise unable to care for yourself. The living trust can provide instructions to a trustee on how to invest money, release funds for medical care, and administer certain parts of your life while you were unable to make decisions for yourself. 

However, probably the most notable part of a living trust is that it avoids the probate process by transferring the title and ownership of various pieces of property to your trust rather than in your name. In this way, a living trust can be somewhat cumbersome in that the trust must approve of any decisions made regarding your property. For example, if you wanted to buy or sell an investment or purchase an item then you would have to seek approval from the trustee first period this can be cumbersome for most people who are used to making decisions on their own without having to consult with another person first.

As we just finished discussing, the most notable aspect of a living trust is that a living trust allows you to control property while you are alive. You can take care of yourself and your loved ones through living trust if you become incapacitated or otherwise disabled. The trust allows you to give property to whom and to what degree you would like. It is a vehicle for estate planning and end-of-life planning that allows you to maintain a great degree of control over your situation. It is also very possible that you can save money on taxes, attorneys fees, and court costs.

You can also provide instructions for your care and that of loved ones through a living trust. There will not be a possibility of In guardianship proceeding where the state has to determine who was going to take care of you or your family if they need to do so arises. You want to avoid situations where the state has more control over your life than you do. If you fear that you are in a position where you may be coming capacitate or otherwise not competent to make decisions for yourself because of declining health, then a living trust may be something that you would like to develop with your family while you are still able to do so. 

It is normal to have questions about this type of planning. It can be a lot I have to go through figuring out questions like this for yourself or forest spouse. If that is the situation that you find yourself in, I would recommend reaching out to one of the experienced probate and estate planning attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. We can walk you through solutions to these types of problems so that you do not feel like you are walking alone or have no one to turn to.

 It is best to approach this subject with an open mind and with an understanding that difficulties can happen from time to time. The only option we have is to respond to these challenges with a positive attitude and a spirit of humility. It is perfectly fine to be worried about your future and that of your family. However, do not let fear paralyze you from making decisions that are helpful for you and your family. Talking with an attorney can be the first step toward charming a positive course for you and your family.

If you have minor children, then a living trust may be especially attractive. By placing items into a living trust, you can appoint a trustee and establish the creation of trust if you passed away while the children are still minors. The trustee will be responsible for caring for the property inside that trust according to the terms of your will. You can create specific requirements for the property and even list how property should be invested on behalf of your children until they reach a certain age. You can also include provisions for the release of income or property for certain purposes such as college or buying a new car at age 16.

Estate planning should focus on you and not certain institutions

The bottom line is that a will should not be something that focuses on certain institutions or other parts of life. Rather, whether you are setting up a trust or drafting a will that process should focus on the needs of you and your family. Likewise, when it comes to hiring an attorney to help you with this process you should seek a lawyer who is able and willing to focus on you and your family and sees you all as individuals rather than as numbers within a bigger system. Since all of us face unique circumstances when it comes to end-of-life scenarios it would not be fair to take a solution from the client last week and give it to you. Rather, the problems of estate planning can be solved by tailored solutions meant to focus on you and your circumstances. 

One creating a living trust, for example, there should be specific instructions for how you would like to be cared for if you are becoming incapacitated. Additionally, if you have children that need to be cared for if you become incapacitated you should spell out instructions for caring for them. Only an attorney who meets with you, asks detailed questions, and otherwise takes an interest in you can determine what your specific needs are and what those of your family are.

And experience as a state plenty attorney can also help you by creating a plan which accounts for the current state of the law in Texas as well as changes that you may see in your life. Just because you draft a will or create a trust now does not mean that you should not be prepared to draft another in the future if your circumstances change period however, short of that, your attorney can work with you on creating a document that suits you and your family well now and in the future.

Importantly, a living trust is relatively easy to change or even cancel completely. There does not need to be a special proceeding filed with the court or anything else to change the documents. Just because you draft something and create a solution for your family now does not mean that this is something that you must stick by in the future. You can un-sign the document otherwise create a new plan for your family as your life changes. It would not make sense to stick with the plan just because that is what you all had in place years ago. Rather, it is important to regularly review here is state planning measures and 2 implement changes as need are. 

Questions about the material contained in today's blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan

If you have any questions about the material contained in today's blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed estate planning and probate law attorneys offer free of charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about the world of Texas estate planning and probate law as well as about how your family circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a probate case. 

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