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What is estate planning, and why is it important to have one?
An estate plan is a collection of legal documents and tools that determine how your estate (your assets, or everything you own) will be managed during your lifetime and how it will be distributed to your beneficiaries upon your passing.
Many people put off estate planning because it can seem like an overwhelming, complicated, time-consuming, expensive, emotional process. They think that they don’t really need to get their affairs in order legally, or that they’ll have more time to do so when they’re older, but these are two dangerous misconceptions. Firstly, no one is guaranteed more time. The future isn’t promised, so no one should wait to attend to important legal matters. Secondly, the consequences of not having an estate plan are more serious than most people realize. Without a Texas-compliant plan for our assets, they are vulnerable to creditors, taxes, and court costs. If you pass away or become incapacitated and don’t have an estate plan, your family may fight about your wishes, and they will likely have to go through probate court (which can be costly) before they can make decisions about your care or recieve their rightful inheritance. That’s not the legacy you should leave behind!
What should an estate plan include?
What your estate plan should include depends on your specific circumstances and legal goals, but generally, a comprehensive estate plan will include the following tools:
- A will – A will makes your wishes for the care of your dependents and the distribution of your assets known, but alone, it’s not enough to prevent probate. There are many types of wills available to choose from, including last wills and testament, joint wills, and more.
- A trust – A trust is a tool that owns your assets. You can set the terms of the trust and designate a trustee. Trusts can safeguard your assets against creditors, taxes, and even things like Medicaid; when your assets are in a trust, they aren’t technically in your name, which can be a great legal benefit to you. A trust also doesn’t have to go through probate, meaning your assets in the trust will be passed directly to your loved ones upon your death.
- A power of attorney – A power of attorney gives someone else who you trust the right to make legal and/or financial decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated and can’t make those decisions on your own.
- An advance directive – An advance directive expresses your wishes for your medical care so that your medical team or the person you’ve given power of attorney to knows what decisions you want to be made if you are incapacitated.
- Titles/property deeds, passwords and identity documents, insurance policies – When you’re planning for your death or incapacitation, you want to make things as easy for your family as possible, anticipating and removing all the challenges they will face. If all of the important financial and legal documents they’ll need to consult are gathered in one place, you could save them a lot of stress!
- Funeral instructions – Your family shouldn’t have to wonder or fight over what you would have wanted your funeral to be like. If you leave behind your burial and funeral preferences, you can save them time and stress.
- Beneficiary designations – You can name beneficiaries on your life insurance policy, bank accounts, and stocks, so that these assets don’t have to go through probate and can pass directly to your family.
Our Galveston estate planning lawyer can help you understand which documents you need to have in your unique plan!
Why do you need a Galveston estate planning lawyer’s help?
Some people try to “DIY” estate planning using online information and downloadable templates, but working with a Galveston estate planning lawyer is a better way to go about it. You’ll save hours of research and completing paperwork. You’ll avoid costly mistakes that can cause the very problems you were trying to avoid. You can be sure that the information and documents you receive are legally compliant with Texas state laws; they will also be personalized to your specific family dynamics and financial situation. An attorney takes care of your estate plan and your future so you can focus on enjoying the present!
Why choose the Law Office of Michelle E. Murphy to draft your estate plan?
When it comes to matters as consequential and sensitive as getting your affairs in order, the attorney you choose to work with matters most. Attorney Michelle E. Murphy understands how personal estate planning can be and takes an equally personal approach to legal advocacy. She cares deeply about the security of you, your assets, and your loved ones, so she will take the time to get to know you in order to offer you the wisest advice and guidance regarding your estate. Her over 20 years of experience helping clients in Galveston & beyond prepare for all of the future’s possibilities can give you peace of mind, and her ability to serve clients virtually provides convenience. She offers free initial consultations to clients so they can get to know her, ask questions, and learn more about the estate planning process. If you are ready to get started, call and schedule your free consultation today!
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Ms. Murphy made sure to use all of her resources and did everything legally possible to help me. She fought harder than other lawyers out there and found ways to make everything work in my favor. I really appreciate how she helped me and made me feel at ease under the worst circumstances. I recommend her highly.
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