You need an estate plan now for many reasons, regardless of your age or medical history. An estate plan provides a framework for distributing your assets should you die, and it also sets up a framework for decision-making if you become unable to make decisions for yourself. It can protect your children and heirs, protect you in case of your own incapacity, and address tax issues now.
Protect Children and Heirs
An estate plan protects your children and other heirs such as spouses or relatives. Without a will, trust, or other estate planning in place, you have no guarantee that your wishes will be followed. Estate planning helps ensure that your chosen heirs will receive their inheritance.
Not having a will leaves your estate subject to default state laws. When someone who dies doesn’t have a will, these laws determine how their property will be distributed. Generally, the closest relatives inherit first. For example, your spouse from a second marriage might inherit a considerable part of your estate that you intended to go to your children from your first marriage. The laws of intestate succession (distribution when you die without a will) could lead to results that you didn’t intend. It might cause serious family conflict.
When you have a will prepared by a trustworthy estate planning lawyer like those at Henke, Williams & Boll, you don’t have to worry about your estate going the wrong place. A will can explain in detail exactly who will inherit different parts of your property. You also may want a trust or other estate planning structures to protect your assets and safeguard them for your heirs.
Protect Yourself in Case of Incapacity
Many people do not realize that estate plans cover more than just wills. Two important parts of many estate plans are powers of attorney and medical authorizations. A power of attorney is a binding legal document that allows someone else to make decisions for you when you cannot or when they are authorized to do so. Typically, powers of attorney allow someone to make medical decisions for you, make financial decisions for you, or both. You never know when you might need someone to speak for you, and a power of attorney can allow your person of choice to do so.
For example, you could sign a health care power of attorney allowing your daughter to talk to doctors and decide whether to authorize medical treatment if you are in a coma or sedated. Alternatively, you could sign a financial power of attorney permitting your trusted friend to handle your finances and pay bills if you no longer have the medical ability to keep up. Some people even decide to sign financial powers of attorney when they are unreachable on vacation or in a remote working location.
Without a legally binding power of attorney, decisions might be made for you to which you would not have agreed. Your doctors might decide to perform medical treatment that you did not want (e.g. life support). Or your finances might take a hit because you were not able to manage them. Talk to an estate planning lawyer about how a power of attorney could protect you in case you ever become incapacitated.
Address Tax Issues Now
Estate taxes and gift taxes could eat up your hard-earned money if you do not take action now. You may not realize the impact that taxes could have on your retirement planning and inheritance decisions. Your heirs and beneficiaries could be in for a surprise later unless you spend some time with a lawyer doing tax planning now.
Estate taxes levied by the federal government take into account the value of your estate upon your death. There are other taxes that may apply to you as well, such as the gift tax or taxes on trust distributions. A knowledgeable attorney familiar with federal and state tax laws can help you evaluate tax impact now, rather than waiting until it affects your heirs and beneficiaries. You may have options for tax planning that could better prepare your estate for the future. Speak to our estate planning team at Henke, Williams & Boll to learn more.
Your Estate Planning Needs Matter! Call Our Firm to Learn More
Henke, Williams & Boll lawyers are here to help our clients find the best solution possible. When it comes to estate planning, we know it is important to tailor our advice to your unique circumstances. Our team of experienced and knowledgeable attorneys assist Houston-area clients with their estate planning and business needs. Call (713) 936-5521 or use our convenient Contact Form to schedule a consultation.