In Texas, "estate planning" broadly refers to the process through which someone decides what is to be done with their assets after death.
The first step in any estate plan is to figure out what you really want to be done with your assets after your death. This is a very personal decision, and you should discuss it with your family, and others who might have a direct interest in your decisions. As for really implementing your goals, you should probably speak with a legal and/or financial professional to figure out the best way to accomplish these goals.
In addition to decisions concerning the disposition of your property, you should decide how you want to spend your final days. For example, many people have a strong preference about whether and to what extent they'd like to be kept alive by artificial means. Whatever your opinion on this matter is, you should make it clear to the people who will be positioned to make such choices for you, if you are unable.
A reliable estate planner in Texas may also help you maximize the percentage of your assets that go to your chosen beneficiaries, by minimizing the impact of taxes and court fees. Additionally, preventing a will or other estate plan from being litigated in court will save your survivors an incalculable amount of time, money, and energy - and the better an estate plan is, the lower its chances of ending up in court.
Common Elements of Estates in Texas
Estate plans in Texas almost always have these features:
Will: A will is a written instrument stating what you want to be done with your assets after you die. There are many issues that can come up in the drafting of a will. However, because the will doesn't have any legal or practical effect until after the person who made it died, they can't exactly correct these problems when they become apparent. Therefore, quality drafting, usually with the assistance of a brilliant attorney, is essential.
Power of Attorney: This is an arrangement that gives another person the power to make certain decisions, normally related to finances and medical care, on your behalf, if you become incapacitated or disabled, and thus unable to make or express your own decisions. You can choose who you give this power to. For obvious reasons, it should be somebody you trust.
Funeral Arrangements: If you have any opinion whatsoever on how your mortal remains should be handled, you should make it clear to your family, in writing. You should further make the necessary arrangements with a funeral home, in advance. If possible, you should try to pay in advance for your funeral expenses, to save your survivors the additional burden of planning and paying for a funeral. These arrangements should be laid out somewhere other than in your will, because a will normally isn't read for days or weeks after the testator's death, by which point it is usually too late.
Do I Need a Texas Estate Planning Attorney?
Given the importance of decisions related to estate planning in Texas, you will probably find that having an accomplished attorney to assist you will be well worth the cost, and might pay for itself in future savings.
Interesting Facts About Texas
Texas has a population of over 25 million people and is the second largest state by population and geographic size. Large industries like agriculture drive the state's economy. The Texas region was previously under Spanish colonial rule; at one point its official name was "Nuevo Reino de Filipinas: La Provincia de Texas".
A popular saying is "Everything is bigger in Texas". This is true even of the state's judicial court system, which is one of the most complicated in the entire U.S. This is because at each level, courts may be subdivided into separate civil and criminal branches. For example, most states only have a Supreme Court at the highest level; however, Texas has two courts of last resort, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and the Texas Supreme Court for civil cases.
The state of Texas maintains a special branch of law enforcement called the Texas Ranger Division. The Texas Rangers are commonly cited in popular media and have played a major role in many famous Texas criminal cases. A famous Texas civil case is Van Orden v. Perry (2005), which involved a Constitutional challenge of "religious symbols" located in front of the capitol building in Austin.
At times it may be necessary to hire a lawyer in Texas in order to navigate the multi-layered judicial system. Texas lawyers are skilled at processing claims in the different types of state courts. Working with a lawyer can help ensure that your legal needs are properly met.