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Estate Planning: Things to Consider Before You Start

Perrin Law Firm Jan. 24, 2024

Estate planning is a critical process that often gets overlooked until it becomes necessary. Truthfully, it's about more than simply outlining instructions for the distribution of your assets. Estate planning is also about selecting guardians for your children if needed, minimizing estate tax burdens for your heirs, ensuring that your needs and wishes are met in case of incapacitation, and so much more.  

Engaging in this process is something everyone should do, but it's important not to rush into it without careful consideration.  

Your Future Goals: Long-Term and Beyond

Your estate plan outlines your wishes for your future, and it's a crucial step in securing your legacy. By taking the time to carefully consider what you want to leave behind and who you want to receive it, you can ensure that your loved ones are taken care of after you're gone. 

There are many different goals that one may have when creating an estate plan. Some common goals include: 

  • Providing for your loved ones: Your estate plan can ensure that your assets are passed down to your beneficiaries in the way you choose. Through estate and tax planning, you can help provide financial stability and security for your loved ones. 

  • Donating to charity: Many people use their estate plan as an opportunity to give back to causes or organizations that are important to them. This can be a meaningful way to leave a lasting impact on the world through contributing to a cause that you care about. 

  • Establishing guardianship for your children: Consider how you want your children to be raised and cared for in the event of your incapacitation or death. An estate plan allows you to designate guardians who will be responsible for making important decisions on behalf of your children.  

  • Preserving your business: Business owners can use their estate plan to ensure the continuation of their business after they pass away. This can include establishing a succession plan or creating trusts to protect assets and minimize taxes for future generations.

These are just a few examples of long-term goals that can be achieved through proper estate planning. It's important to understand your own goals before you begin or update your estate plan.  

Taking Inventory of Your Assets and Debts 

Doing this will help you get a clear picture of what you have and what needs to be accounted for in your plan. Plus, you'll start the planning process off on an organized note.  

Assets can include real estate, investments, retirement accounts, life insurance policies, business interests, and personal belongings. Debts can include mortgages, credit card debt, car loans, and other outstanding loans.  

Once you have a complete understanding of your assets and debts, you'll then be prepared to think about how you want them to be distributed after your death. This may include specific bequests to family members or charitable organizations, creating trusts for children or loved ones with special needs, and setting up arrangements for the care of minor children. Going into a meeting with your estate lawyer with some ideas and questions about your options is always beneficial. And making these considerations will help you do that.  

The Variety of Estate Planning Tools Available 

Estate planning is not a one-size-fits-all process. There are various tools and techniques available to help you achieve your unique goals, such as wills, trusts, powers of attorney, and advance directives—all of which are worthy of your consideration. Here's an overview of these four main pillars:  

  • Last Will and Testament: A will is a legal document that outlines how you want your assets to be distributed after your death. It can also include instructions for guardianship of minor children and funeral arrangements. 

  • Living or Revocable Trust: A living or revocable trust is another way to distribute assets, but makes it so that upon your death, such trust assets don't need to pass through probate.  

  • Powers of Attorney: These documents allows you to appoint a trusted person to make financial, legal, or medical decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated. Without these documents, your loved ones may need to go through a lengthy and expensive court process to gain control over your affairs. 

  • Advance Directives: Advance directives, also known as living wills or healthcare proxies, specify your wishes for medical treatment in case you are unable to communicate them yourself. This includes decisions about life support and end-of-life care. 

Depending on your specific needs and wishes, your estate lawyer can guide you in selecting the most appropriate tools for your estate plan.  

The Pitfalls of Online Templates

You may be aware of online wills and other digital estate planning templates that are available. While these might seem like a convenient option, they carry significant risks. These templates offer one-size-fits-all solutions that may not take into account your unique family circumstances, long-term goals, and specific needs. Also, the laws surrounding estate planning can vary by state, and online templates may not be tailored to your particular jurisdiction.  

Hiring an estate planning attorney is in your best interest, especially if you have a complex estate. A lawyer can provide reliable guidance, identify the best solutions, help you create a personalized plan, and ensure legal compliance. 

The Role of Experienced Legal Counsel

Working with an experienced attorney is crucial when creating an estate plan. At the Perrin Law Firm, located in Clear Lake City, Texas, we offer a strategic and proactive approach to estate planning. Serving clients in Seabrook, Deer Park, League City, Pasadena, Friendswood, and the Greater Houston Area, the Perrin Law Firm provides professional, efficient, and personalized attention to help you navigate the emotional process of making end-of-life arrangements. 

By engaging their services, you can have peace of mind knowing that your estate plan is legally enforceable and compliant with state laws. We'll educate you on the laws and processes, identify the best solutions for your particular situation, and ensure that your unique needs and preferences are reflected in your plan.