As a Houston estate planning attorney, one of the questions I get asked is, “Can’t I prepare my estate planning documents by myself with some forms?” My response is usually something sarcastic like, “Sure, if you don’t care about what happens to your family when you die.” Seriously, though, in preparing an estate plan there are many issues that need to be addressed, and the odds are small that you’ve thought of them all and understand how to address them under Texas law.
Here are just a few of the questions you need to ask yourself. If you know the answers to all of these questions, then the odds are you have a decent understanding of Texas law when it comes to planning your estate. If not, it’s a good idea to speak with an attorney to make sure you have your bases covered.
- Who will raise your children if you die or become incapacitated? Is this written down in a document that has any effect under Texas law?
- If you have minor children, how will they inherit your property? (Hint: You shouldn’t leave it to them outright. If you do, the court will have to create a trust for them, which may add significant cost and potential delay to the administration of your estate.)
- If you have adult children, how do you provide an inheritance for them while protecting it from their creditors and preventing them from squandering what you’ve given them?
- If you have children with disabilities, how do you provide them with an inheritance while insuring that they won’t be disqualified from receiving any government benefits?
- Do you know the right words to include in your Will to provide for an “independent” administration of your estate, rather than a more costly and time-consuming “dependent” administration?
- If I prepare a statutory durable power of attorney in Texas, when does it take effect? How can you revoke it?
- Do you know how to tell if the property you own is community property or separate property?
- If you own separate property, how do you make sure it remains separate property if you ever get divorced?
This is just a small sample of the questions involved in preparing a well-thought-out estate plan. As you can see there are a lot of things to think about in preparing an estate plan. Your situation is different from everyone else’s, which is why you should seek advice from a qualified estate planning attorney who knows the right questions to ask and understands how to answer those questions under Texas law.