Essential Steps in Estate Planning: Securing Your Family’s Future

February 15, 2024

Financially speaking, the laws in Texas regarding the bequeathal of assets are relatively forgiving. In the Lone Star State, there are no estate or inheritance taxes, which can make things easier for your loved ones after you pass away. Still, do not be fooled into thinking that because of this, it is not worthwhile to put time and effort into planning for your estate. Nor should you think the process is always straightforward. Below, our Houston estate planning attorney outlines the most important steps to take when planning for the future.

Create an Inventory of Your Tangible and Intangible Assets

Estate planning begins with taking a comprehensive inventory of your tangible and intangible assets. It may be obvious that you include certain types of property, such as valuable jewelry, real estate, bank accounts, art, electronics, and vehicles. However, there are also certain types of intangible property that you should also consider and include within your inventory. Intangible property you will have to account for includes cryptocurrency, social media accounts, and life insurance policies and annuities.

Create an Inventory of Your Debts

Just as you should create an inventory of all of your assets, it is just as important to create an inventory of your debts. Your debts may include credit cards, mortgage and auto loans, other open lines of credit, and other types of debts. Along with the different types of debt you currently carry, you should also include contact information for creditors and other holders of debt, as well as any relevant account numbers.

Name Your Beneficiaries

When you name beneficiaries, you designate the individuals or entities who will receive your tangible and intangible property as part of their inheritance. You should carefully consider who you want to name as your beneficiaries. While loved ones are the obvious choice for many people, you can also name friends, charities, trusts, and organizations. Along with naming your beneficiaries, you should also specify the tangible and intangible assets you want them to receive.

Meet With Your Financial Planner or CPA

Meeting with your Certified Public Accountant (CPA) or financial planner early in the process can make it easier to review your earnings and optimize them, consider additional savings tools, and consolidate accounts. Meeting with a financial professional can also help you determine if you want to take more advanced steps in the future, such as setting up a revocable or irrevocable trust. When taking these steps, it is always recommended that you speak with a Houston estate planning attorney.

Outline Your Goals for Estate Planning

Different people have different goals for estate planning, and it is important to determine yours early in the process. You may want to use your estate plan to avoid family disputes in the future, make sure your property is passed on to your heirs and beneficiaries, or provide financial security for your family members. Whatever your goals are, define them early, and they will guide you through the rest of the process.

Name Your Fiduciaries

Your fiduciaries are individuals or entities who will manage you, your property, or your money in the event that you pass away or become incapacitated and cannot manage them yourself. Your fiduciaries may include:

  • A guardian of your children
  • Financial power of attorney
  • Medical power of attorney
  • Executor
  • Trustees

The above entities have a legal duty to manage you, your loved ones, or your assets for your benefit and not for theirs. Due to this, it is critical that you are very cautious when naming your fiduciaries and that you only name people whom you deeply trust and who you know will respect your wishes.

Meet With an Attorney Who Can Help You Create an Estate Plan

To ensure that your estate planning documents are legal and enforceable, it is critical that you work with a Houston estate planning attorney who can help you finalize your plan and draft legal documents. The tasks an attorney can help with include, but are not limited to:

  • Drafting legal directives
  • Naming beneficiaries in transfer on death (TOD) deeds
  • Drafting your last will and testament
  • Assigning powers of attorney (POA)
  • Creating medical directives
  • Creating trusts
  • Understanding the business entity and asset protection
  • Forming a family limited partnership

Working with an attorney can also make sure you fully understand all of your legal options. A lawyer can also help you create important documents that will protect your loved ones from challenges during the probate process. When your documents have been drafted by an attorney, it will be easier for your beneficiaries to prove the validity of them.

Execute Your Plan

After completing the complicated process of planning your estate, there is just one more step you have left to take, and that is to execute your estate plan. This step can involve many details, which may include:

  • Signing documents
  • Funding trusts
  • Transferring assets
  • Updating beneficiary designations

An estate planning lawyer can help you with the above tasks and identify anything else that must be done to execute your estate.

Periodically Review Your Plan

Many people think that estate planning is a ‘set-it-and-forget-it’ type of task. It is not. The purpose of estate planning is to get your affairs in order before you pass away or become incapacitated, and those plans may very well change in the future. You should review your estate plan any time there is a significant life event such as a birth, death, divorce, or marriage. Even without these important life events occurring, it is still advisable that you review your plan every two to three years to ensure it still reflects your wishes.

Our Estate Planning Attorney in Houston Can Help

Estate planning can be complex and overwhelming. At Integrity Law Group, PLLC, our Houston estate planning attorney can help reduce the stress when creating your plan and make sure it includes everything necessary to make sure you and your family are protected. Call us now at (832) 263-1828 or contact us online to schedule a consultation and to get the legal help you need.

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