You’ve worked hard your entire life to build up savings and make a great life for your family. However, if you don’t have an estate plan – a legal plan for what will happen to you, your assets, and your loved ones if you become incapacitated or pass away unexpectedly – everything you’ve worked for could be lost. Your family might not know what your wishes were. Even if they did, the Texas government may not honor them, which means that your family may not receive the inheritance you had intended to leave behind without having to go through a lengthy, expensive court process. Having an estate plan protects everyone you love and everything you care about from whatever the future holds.
Estate planning can seem like an overwhelming endeavor, though, and many people are hesitant to hire an attorney because of the cost of legal fees and because it can seem like an intimidating thing to do. While you can find many options for templated estate planning documents online, cheap and generic forms won’t give you the same confidence and preparation as a lawyer will. The best way to protect your assets is to hire a knowledgeable estate planning attorney in your area!
Why is this the case – why should you rely on a legal professional to prepare and execute the legal documents you need, such as a will, trust, power of attorney, and health care directive? There are multiple reasons, but here are five benefits of hiring an estate planning attorney.
1. You Can Access And Update Your Documents When You Need To.
Establishing a relationship with an estate planning lawyer helps keep your documentation current with life developments. Major life events may affect how you want your personal assets handled, and you might experience a shift in your financial situation. An estate planning attorney helps you keep your paperwork updated over the years; if you use templated documents online, you will have to figure out how to update them or will need to start from scratch, and you will likely forget to do so. If your estate plan becomes outdated and irrelevant, it won’t be effective when your family needs to use it, and may not be any more useful than if you didn’t have one at all.
Some significant life changes affecting your estate might include:
- A marriage or divorce
- The death of a spouse
- Starting a family
- Adopting a child
- Inheriting money
- Filing for bankruptcy
- Purchasing property
- Starting or closing a business
As you experience changes in your life, an estate planning attorney can help guide you by regularly reviewing your documents and making suggestions that reflect your plans for your estate.
How Do Significant Changes in Finances Affect Your Estate?
An influx or loss of money may change how you wish to distribute your assets upon your passing. Significant financial adjustments can impact estate taxes, probate costs, and other fees associated with your trust and estate. While the state of Texas doesn’t require an estate tax, larger estates may incur a federal estate tax.
2. Your Documents Stay Legally Compliant With Texas Laws.
Each state governs probate and trust laws differently. DIY options are mostly universal. They probably were not made to fit Texas’s unique laws, and while some DIY documents provide some state-specific guidance, they may not update quickly enough to keep up with changing legal compliance in Texas. If something happens to you, and your family tries to use your estate plan only to discover that it isn’t legally valid in Texas, they may be left in a tough position; just like with an outdated estate plan, an invalid estate plan isn’t much better than not having one at all. Don’t waste money on documents that you’re not certain will work. A Texas estate planning attorney will ensure that your estate plan is legally compliant, and every time a change appears in the legal code, they can help you update your documents to adhere to the parameters of state law.
3. You Can Rely On Professional Legal Advice From Experienced Estate Planners.
The world of wills, trusts, and probate court is complex. There’s a reason that lawyers go to school for years and have to pass a bar exam in order to navigate estate planning! Instead of filling out a universal form from a DIY website, working with an estate planning attorney allows you to customize your estate plan and have the peace of mind that it was created correctly. Estate planning lawyers know which property and assets require special language, help you establish legal finalization, and ensure the Texas courts will honor your wishes.
What Specific Wishes Can an Estate Attorney Help Me Fulfill?
Your estate planning attorney can help ensure the proper execution of your wishes for many aspects of your life and your family’s life after your death, including:
Your Preferences For Medical Care
Should you become incapacitated, proper legal documentation can outline whom you want to have power of attorney (who can make medical decisions for you) and what medical decisions you want those to be. It’s important to make these choices known before you become unable to communicate. Some of these decisions include:
- Which nursing or care home you want to live in
- How long you want to remain on life support
- Whether you prefer resuscitation
Who Cares For Pets After You Pass Away
Pets like dogs and cats frequently end up at animal shelters when no one volunteers to take care of them after your passing. Your estate planning attorney can help you discuss a designated person to adopt and care for your pet in the event of your death or incapacitation.
Decisions Regarding Your Funeral And Burial
Before passing, many people purchase grave plots, pay for cremation or embalming services, or designate a specific funeral home to care for their bodies. This can save your family from experiencing additional stress on top of their grief. An estate planning attorney can ensure that preferences are honored and that your family won’t have to worry about anything.
The Proper Distribution of Assets and Finances
Retirement accounts, bank account balances, and trust funds, among other financial savings accounts, can be converted into an inheritance and passed to whoever or whatever organization you like. You can leave your money to family members, friends, pets, and organizations. An estate attorney helps ensure your funds go to the right people.
Safe Allocation of Specific Gifts
Collections, family heirlooms, and rare or expensive items can be passed down to a particular person through specific gifts. By directly naming the beneficiary of a particular item, you can fulfill promises to family members or friends and keep your memory alive. For instance, you may decide to leave the century-old family Bible to your firstborn child, or your wedding ring to one of your grandchildren.
4. You Will Thoroughly Understand Exactly What Your Documents Say.
Estate planning legal language can confuse the average person. Complex jargon can cause issues – and even family conflict – later on if you aren’t sure what the legal documents that are supposed to carry out your wishes actually say, or if your documents are unclear. Estate planning attorneys understand legal lingo and can explain your options to you. They know how to properly communicate what you want so that it is clear to the court and to your family, and won’t result in any confusion when it comes to interpreting and executing your estate when you pass away or become incapacitated.
5. Your Family Will Have A Trusted Source When They Need It Most.
An estate planning attorney can offer compassionate guidance to grieving family members who aren’t sure what to do next when you pass away or become incapacitated. They can keep copies of your documents so that nothing gets lost, explain how your plan works to your loved ones, and offer any necessary legal advice to your loved ones. Having an estate planning attorney can be a tremendous source of comfort and support to your family during one of the most difficult times of their lives.
DIY Estate Planning Documents Can’t Replace a Professional Estate Planner
Don’t risk the assets you worked your entire life to accumulate or allow your end-of-life wishes to pass unacknowledged. Take advantage of these five benefits of hiring an estate planning attorney!
Attorney Michelle E. Murphy can help you plan for your estate within the boundaries of Texas law. She can create all of the documents you need, including a will, trust, health care directive, power of attorney, and more. Because she has over 20 years of estate planning experience, she knows the difference between lawyer-drafted plans and downloaded plans; you can rely on her to achieve your legal goals and preserve a lasting legacy. Call The Law Office of Michelle E. Murphy to schedule a free consultation and get started!