"Estate planning" in Houston refers to the decisions a person makes regarding what is to be done with their assets after their death, and the process of implementing those wishes.
Estate planning typically requires professional legal and financial advice, because of the complexity and importance of the issues involved. A poorly-executed estate plan can frequently end with survivors suing each other, and prevent your intentions from being effectuated.
In addition to deciding what to do with your assets after your death, your estate plan should also include things that might become relevant during life. Power of attorney is a big one. Power of attorney is an arrangement in which you give another person the ability to make decisions for you, if you become incapacitated. Additionally, effective estate planning can help reduce the effect of taxes and court fees on your final disposition to your chosen beneficiaries.
If you want to maximize the odds that your wishes will be followed after your death, you should do everything you can to make them legally binding. While this is not always possible, a Houston attorney will be able to make sure that, where it is possible, it is done.
Common Features of Houston Estates
Will: This is the centerpiece of most estate plans. A will is a document written by a person (the "testator"), typically with the help of a lawyer, which says what is to be done with their property after they die. Most provisions in a will are legally binding, to the extent that ownership of the property legally passes to the named beneficiary. However, a will cannot compel a person to do anything against their wishes (though it can certainly state your preferences on the matter, phrasing them as requests).
Living Will: Living wills are also very important for most people. Basically, a living will tells everyone concerned (your next of kin, and your doctor) what type of medical care you want if you become incapacitated. It normally includes the circumstances under which a person wishes to be kept on life support, when they want to be taken off of life support, and, sometimes, instructions on when medical staff should and should not attempt resuscitation.
Power of Attorney: This is an arrangement in which you give someone else, typically a trusted family member, the right to make financial and medical decisions on your behalf, in case you become unable to make or express your own decisions.
Funeral Arrangements: Some people, for religious and other reasons, have very specific wishes concerning the disposal of their remains after they die. Some want to be buried. Others, cremated. No matter what your preferences on this matter are, it's critical that you inform your family of them far in advance. These instructions should be included in a document that is likely to be read before your death (such as a living will), or very shortly thereafter. This excludes a will, because it's frequently weeks after a person dies until their will is read.
Do I Need a Houston Estates Lawyer?
A knowledgeable estate planning professional in Houston can be invaluable, and you will probably find their services to be well worth the price. They can make the whole process a great deal easier, and they can also help to minimize the chances that your estate plan will be disputed, saving your survivors a great deal of time, money, and energy.