Estate Planning 101: What is an Estate Plan?

If you haven’t started an estate plan yet, there’s no time like the present. Our estate plan guide is easy to follow. No more guesswork!
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Staff Writer, @DooleyNotedLaw

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You might ask, what is an estate plan and why do I need an estate plan? We can’t deny creating an estate plan seems like a daunting chore, but it’s something we all need to face.  Following our Estate Planning guide will give you the security that comes with knowing you’ve planned for the future of your loved ones. Plus, you can have peace of mind knowing your estate plan will take care of your family financially if something happens to you.

If you haven’t started an estate plan yet, now is the time. Our guide is easy to follow and will take the guesswork out of this important process.

An estate plan establishes who will eventually receive your assets. It can also include other information about your financial affairs and how you want them handled if something happens to you. With the help of an Estate Planning Attorney, this process is easy and affordable. 

“Estate Planning is only about finances.” That’s a common misconception. Estate Planning also includes decisions about medical care if you are unable to make them for yourself. If something happens and you have no estate plan in place, state law will dictate who receives your assets and how your financial affairs are handled. (Sounds scary.) Because this state dictated plan may not include what you had in mind, Estate Planning is an important process that everyone should go through.

What is an Estate Plan?

Estate planning is the process of creating a proposal for the distribution of your estate after you die. So, you might wonder now, what exactly is my estate?

Your estate includes everything you own, from your home and car to your bank accounts and life insurance policies. Estate Planning ensures that the appropriate parties distribute your assets according to your wishes. It also ensures your loved ones are taken care of if something happens to you.

An estate plan can include a will, power of attorney, living will, and beneficiary designations for retirement accounts and life insurance policies. Each of these documents serves a specific purpose in ensuring that the appropriate parties carry out your desires after passing. You should also keep copies of all important documents in a safe place, so someone can easily locate them.

Basics of an Estate Plan

The most important part of estate planning ensures the financial wellbeing of your loved ones. It provides peace and security knowing they have what they need to continue living their lives. It’s also important for estate planning purposes because it helps to ensure you don’t leave any loose ends behind when you pass away, which could cause financial problems or legal issues later on down the line.

Estate Planning Documents

Estate planning documents should outline who will receive or inherit property after a person passes away. They should also include how each party should handle the transfer of ownership. Estate planning documents should outline any wishes regarding the estate in case of death or incapacity, such identifying who will pay off debts and bills after a person passes.

Let’s discuss the main estate planning documents that you will need.

Revocable Living Trust

A trust is a legal document that outlines a person’s wishes of the estate and who manages the estate assets. A revocable living trust is the main estate planning tool used by estate planners today. This type of trust allows you to maintain control over how your property transfers upon death. 

When you establish a revocable living trust, you become the trustee. As the trustee, you retain complete control of the assets in the trust, which allows you to revoke or amend it at any time. You also have the right to name successor trustees who will take over management of the trust if you become incapacitated or die.

Schedule of Assets

A Schedule of Assets is a document that lists all assets and the value associated with each. This document is a valuable tool for estate planners because it provides an overview of the estate and identify potential estate planning issues. The Schedule of Assets should list all of your assets, including belongings, bank accounts, investments, and real estate.

Last Will & Testament (Pour Over Will)

A Last Will and Testament, also known as a Pour Over Will is a legal document that specifies how the executor should distribute assets upon death. This is important because if you die without a will, the estate assets are distributed according to state law. This document includes language which states any assets left out of your trust at death should be passed along to it after probate has been completed. This ensures all estate assets are dealt with the manner that you wish.

Certification of Trust

A certification of trust is a document that notarizes the existence of your estate trust. This document can be helpful if you ever need to prove the existence of your estate trust for any reason. For example, if you ever need to show that your estate trust exists in order to avoid probate, the certification of trust can provide that proof.

HIPAA Authorization

When you are estate planning, you may consider including a HIPAA authorization. This will authorize disclosure of your medical records to the person(s) you designate in the document who can make decisions regarding your healthcare when you cannot do so yourself.

Living Will

A living will is when you document your wishes for medical care in the event that you are unable to communicate them yourself. This can include things like whether or not you want to be resuscitated if your heart stops beating, or whether you want to be kept on life support.

Power of Attorney

A power of attorney is a legal document that gives someone else the authority to make decisions on your behalf. Estate Planning recognizes two key types of power of attorney: general and limited. A general power of attorney grants someone permission to make all decisions on your behalf. A limited power of attorney is only effective for a specific task or tasks. For example, you might only give your spouse the authority to make medical decisions if you become incapacitated and nothing else. It’s important to have a power of attorney in place because it ensures a responsible party carries out your wishes if you are unable to make decisions on your own.

Who Needs An Estate Plan?

Basically, if you have assets, you need an estate plan. It’s that simple.

An estate plan is a document that can be updated over time. You may want to adjust your estate plan as life changes. For example, with a new child, you will want to make adjustments to your estate plan. You may also want to revise your estate plan if you experience a major change in your financial situation. Also, buying or selling a business is a big change that requires updating your estate plan.

Why hire an Estate Planning Lawyer in Texas?

Estate planning can be a huge undertaking, so we recommend hiring an estate planning lawyer in Texas. 

It’s never too early (or too late) to start estate planning. If you’re ready to get started on estate planning, Dooley Noted Law is here to help. We can create a plan that meets your specific needs and goals. Contact us today to get started!


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The contents of this post, and the posting and viewing of the information on this post, should not be construed as, and should not be relied upon for, legal advice in any particular circumstance or fact situation. An attorney should be contacted for advice on specific legal issues.

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