While both wills and trusts are imperative parts of estate planning in Texas, there are many more essential parts to include if you want a streamlined and easy transition of your assets after you pass. Distinct estate planning documents, such as a Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare and a Durable (Financial) Power of Attorney, are integral to a healthy plan.
Estate planning is hardly just for the wealthy; a well-thought-out and detailed estate plan can help ensure that your finances and assets are handled accordingly after your death. For anyone with underage children, an estate plan is particularly important, as it designates their guardians in the event you and your spouse pass away or they cannot care for them.
As San Antonio, TX financial advisors, PAX Financial Group is here to help you with the process and make it as easy as possible.
Creating an Estate Plan in Texas
Below is an informative guide on how Texans can go about arranging their affairs and all contingencies in the event of their passing. Due to some of the complexities and overall importance of these documents, it is recommended that you work with an attorney who specializes in estate planning.
Establish a Living Trust or Last Will and Testament
The last will and testament and a living trust are the two primary legal documents used in estate planning to carry out the deceased’s wishes. It is important to note that they are not mutually exclusive, and many individuals use both to help transfer their property and assets down to their heirs.
A last will and testament is a legal document that provides instructions on how an individual would like their estate handled in the event of their death. Because of this, wills are considered pillars of estate planning and one of the most vital elements. All wills must go through probate court before their beneficiaries receive anything.
A living trust is another critical estate planning document. However, it has several distinctions from a will. The biggest difference is that a trust does not have to endure the probate process before assets are transferred. An individual, the successor trustee, administers the grantor’s (creator) estate after their death. Furthermore, a trust will become effective immediately after it is signed, transferring ownership of the assets to the trust.
All wills must be signed by the Testator and two witnesses who must be at least 14 years old.
Find a Health Care Attorney-in-Fact
Selecting a health care attorney-in-fact is critical in forming a robust plan. In the event that an individual is deemed incapable of making important decisions, the agent is granted authority to consent, withdraw, or refuse any health care treatments. Since the agent is granted considerable power, it is imperative that the person granted these powers is someone you have immense trust in and believe will make their decisions with your best interests in mind.
The Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care document is how the agent will be selected and allows individuals to choose successor agents along with their primary choice. It also grants them the ability to place limitations on any powers granted to the chosen agents.
A person must complete this form in the presence of two adult witnesses or get their signature acknowledged before a notary public.
Find a Financial Attorney-in-Fact
In addition to finding a trusted health care agent, you may also want to seek out a financial agent to help secure your financial affairs after you pass. This financial agent is granted the authority outlined for a durable power of attorney and can make all financial decisions for an individual, just as they would if they had the ability to do so. This agent should be a trusted person who can be expected to operate with the individual’s (principal’s) best interests in mind.
A Durable (Financial) Power of Attorney document provides both the name of the selected financial agent and details on how they are allowed to represent the principal’s interest in any financial transactions. You must be clear on what transactions you authorize the selected agent to enact in this document and the document’s effective date.
The principal must sign this document, and the signature must be acknowledged by any state official who is authorized to take both oaths and requirements.
Take Inventory of Current Assets
Taking inventory of your current assets, such as personal property, stakes in businesses, real estate, as well as bank and investment accounts, is a wise way to jumpstart the planning of one’s estate. Ultimately, this bit of housekeeping and organization will help any financial agents or other individuals ensure that all assets have been accounted for and can be transferred appropriately.
Your beneficiaries are the individuals your assets will be transferred to upon your death, and a considerable part of your estate plan. Beneficiaries are often immediate family members but can be friends or business associates as well. Beneficiaries should be established while you are of sound mind, and it should not be something to procrastinate on. Once you decide who they will be, they should be notified and told what their inheritance will comprise.
Checklist Completed. Now What?
Once you have completed your estate planning checklist, store your documents in a safe place where they are easily accessible. Give copies of these documents to your selected agents and heirs to help ensure an easier transfer of assets.
Estate planning can be a complex and lengthy process, and it will likely change over time too. Luckily, PAX is here to help. We have over 15 years of experience in the financial industry, and our expertise extends beyond just estate planning in San Antonio, TX. We provide our clients with the necessary guidance and foundations to achieve their financial goals in every aspect, from investment management to retirement planning. We provide several online guides that cover a wide array of personal finance and financial planning topics.
Everyone’s situation is unique, and your individual estate plan won’t be any different. We hope that this article helped provide clarity for your own plan, but if you still feel lost or unsure, don’t hesitate to reach out and talk with one of our PAX Financial Group professionals.
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