Wills, Trusts & Estates
Wills | Trusts | Powers of Attorney | Medical Directives | Living Wills
Legal Tools for Protecting Your Estate
You’ve worked hard to save and provide security for your family. You want to know that, when you die, they’ll be taken care of and that your property will be distributed according to your wishes. That’s the benefit of estate planning—peace of mind while you’re living and protection for your loved ones after you’re gone. But where do you find the right attorney to put your plan in place. Come to The Legal Café.
At The Legal Café, we have the tools and resources to help you connect with an experienced estate planning lawyer. Set up an appointment with a wills and trusts attorney today.
Essential Parts of an Effective Estate Plan
A comprehensive estate plan does more than simply identify how your estate will be divided. It also can provide instructions for doctors, should you be incapable of making your own decisions. And you can designate someone to act on your behalf in other matters, including legal and financial issues. Here are the various documents that can make up an estate plan:
Wills—A will is a legally-binding document that sets forth how certain things will be handled in the event of your death. Typically, a will addresses the following:
- How your property will be divided
- Who will oversee the administration of your estate (as executor, administrator or personal representative)
- How any outstanding debts will be paid
- How final tax filings will be completed
- Who will act as guardian of any minor child, or any adult for whom you have been the legal guardian
After your death, your will must typically go through the probate process, where the court ensures that the provisions of the will are honored. The probate process can be time-consuming and expensive, though, tying up an estate for months or even years, and costing as much as 7% of the net worth of the estate.
- Trusts—A trust can accomplish many of the same objectives as a will, but a trust document creates a separate entity that has the legal right to own property. A trust can be created during your lifetime (a living or “inter vivos” trust), or it may be created upon your death (a testamentary trust). Because your property is held by the trust (and not by you), there’s no need for your estate to go through the probate process after you die.
- Powers of attorney—A power of attorney designates another person to make decisions on your behalf. The power of attorney might arise only in instances where you are unable to make decisions for yourself, or it can go into effect immediately. The power of attorney can apply to all personal matters related to you, or it can be restricted to certain concerns, such as medical, financial, or legal matters.
- Advance medical directives or medical powers of attorney—This document provides instructions to medical personnel and designates a person to act as your medical decisionmaker. Most often, the advance directive goes into effect only if you are unable to make rational decisions on your own.
- Living wills—A living will includes instructions regarding specific types of care in specific situations. It customarily identifies whether you want certain life-saving measures to be used in the event you are unconscious or in grave medical condition. A living will often includes a “Do Not Resuscitate” or “DNR” order.
The Legal Café, in the heart of the courthouse district in Fort Worth, can put you in touch with an experienced estate planning attorney. To learn more, complete our online form or visit us at 114 Main Street in Fort Worth.
What You Can Expect When You Hire an Estate Planning Attorney
Your lawyer will typically start by learning as much about your financial situation as possible, so you’ll want to gather all financial records. Your attorney will then ask about your goals. Who do you want to include in your estate planning? Is there specific property that you want to go to a particular person? Are there any restrictions that you want to put on access to property? Your attorney will then explain the different options available to you.
Once you decide how you want your estate handled, you can expect your lawyer to prepare all the necessary documents and arrange a time for you to execute the documents. At the will execution, your signatures will be witnessed and notarized in order to put your estate plan legally in place. Some estate planning attorneys also handle legal matters related to the administration of your estate. Ask your attorney if this service is available and how much it costs.