Dallas Estate Planning Attorneys
Helping You Protect Your Legacy
Contemplating one's mortality can be challenging, which is why many people find the process of developing an estate plan discomfiting. However, drafting a comprehensive estate plan is crucial if you want to protect your legacy, safeguard your last wishes, and ensure your loved ones receive the help they deserve after you pass away.
At DebnamRust PC, our Dallas estate planning lawyers will collaborate with you to create an estate plan that brings you peace of mind.
What's in An Estate Plan?
An estate plan is comprised of several legal documents, all of which - when combined - help an individual preserve their last wishes, receive good treatment at the end of their life, and pass down their property and legacy to friends and loved ones.
The most common types of estate planning documents are a statutory durable power of attorney, medical power of attorney, directive to physicians (commonly known as a living will), HIPAA releases, declaration of guardian, last will and testament, or another will alternative, and trusts.
Estate Plan Documents:
- A Statutory Durable Power of Attorney. A statutory durable power of attorney allows another person to act on your behalf to manage your things. There are generally two kinds of statutory durable powers of attorney: one that takes effect immediately, and another that takes effect when you become incapacitated or unable to manage your affairs.
- A Medical Power of Attorney: A medical power of attorney allows you to designate a person to make medical decisions on your behalf when you are not able to make them.
- HIPAA Release: A HIPAA release allows doctors to pass sensitive medical information to designated individuals. Without a HIPAA release medical professionals may not pass information to individuals without your consent.
- A living will. A Directive to Physicians, commonly known as a living will, determines your end-of-life wishes and the care you receive if you become incapacitated.
- Declaration of Guardian. If a court determines that a Guardianship is necessary, this document tells the court whom you would like designated as the person to act for you regarding your person and your possessions.
- A last will and testament. A last will and testament documents how you want to distribute property you own among beneficiaries after you die. A will also often names an executor, a person in charge of distributing your property as directed in your will.
- Other Documents. Additional documents could be included in an estate plan, either a will alternative or a Disposition of Remains.
What Makes a Will Valid in Texas?
For a will to be valid in Texas, a typed will must be signed by the testator (the will owner) in front of at least two witnesses, who must also then sign the will, and notarized. A handwritten will must be completely in the testators handwriting and must be signed by the testator.
Common Estate Planning Pitfalls
- A common misconception is that a person can leave a separate list of how they want property to be distributed, but that document is not binding.
- A will is not a contract. You cannot make changes to a will by crossing out and initialing a provision in a will. Any change made to a will that is not witnessed and notarized will not be effective.
- If a will is partially handwritten and partially typed, the court will disregard the typed portions. If the testator’s intent cannot be understood from only the handwritten portions of the document, the court will disregard the document entirely and your estate will have to proceed as if you did not have a will.
- Bank accounts don’t designate a person with Rights of Survivorship, and the bank account must go through probate to be distributed.
Trusts are not always a part of an estate plan. They are often used as a will alternative. Like a will, a trust can be utilized to distribute property from the grantor (the person who creates the trust) to beneficiaries.
However, unlike a last will and testament, property held in a trust does not need to go through probate before being distributed. As a result, many people choose to distribute property that can get caught up in the probate process - such as real estate - through trusts.
The most popular type of trust is a living revocable trust, which can be adjusted throughout a grantor's lifetime. For a trust to be valid in Texas, it must be notarized by a notary public, and the trust must contain property.
Common Life Events that may Warrant Getting or Updating an Estate Plan
- You purchase a home
- You purchase a second home
- You purchase real estate outside of Texas
- You purchase a car or boat
- You move to Texas from another state
- Children are born
- A retirement account is opened without designating a beneficiary
- You inherit property from someone
- The Texas legislature meets and updates the Texas Estates Code
At DebnamRust, P.C., our Dallas estate planning attorneys can help you put together a comprehensive estate plan that covers all your bases utilizing a statutory durable power of attorney, a medical power of attorney, a directive to physicians (living will), HIPAA releases, a declaration of guardian, a last will and testament or will alternative, and a trust.
What is the Difference Between Estate Planning and a Will?
While a Will is an important part of Estate Planning, it is not interchangeable. A Will helps to explain where your property and assets will go once you are deceased. It can also help determine who will serve as guardian of your children if they are minors. Lastly, a Will can declare an executor who will be responsible for distributing the assets/property to either people, charities, or both.
An Estate Plan encompasses documents that are in effect during your lifetime as well as documents that are not in effect until your passing. These documents include durable power of attorney, advanced directive, and healthcare power of attorney.
Understanding Estate Administration & Litigation
Estate litigation governs disputes that arise surrounding an estate. Common examples of estate litigation include:
- Disputes over the validity of a will;
- Guardianship conflicts;
- Claims of breaches of fiduciary duty by trustees;
- Claims of breaches of fiduciary duty by executors;
- Allegations of conflicts of interest or self-dealing during estate distribution;
- Allegations of accounting errors;
- Disputes over property allocation and conservatorships.
You can utilize estate planning documents to appoint an estate administration attorney for your estate. Estate administration attorneys work with other individuals named in wills and trusts, such as executors and trustees, to protect a decedent's (deceased individual's) estate.
At DebnamRust, P.C., our attorneys offer estate administration services that enable you to ensure your property remains protected and your loved ones receive the legal counsel they deserve even after you pass away.