Tyler Estate Planning and Asset Protection Lawyer
There are two things inescapable in this world: death and taxes. So we agree we all die, right? The problem with death is that none of us want to face that reality, me included. An estate is just a fancy word of what belongs to you when you die. Your “estate” is whatever you have left when you die. When you die, whatever is “yours” is still yours, even at your death. It can’t be given or deeded or provided to other people without someone with authority blessing as much, except in limited circumstances such as beneficiaries of a 401K or a payable-on-death bank account, for example. But otherwise, nothing automatically transfers to who you want it to transfer to, absent an order from the Court.
And an order from the Court usually requires lawyers.
So why plan for it or worry about it if you’re dead? Several reasons.
First, you can spend your whole life trying to save money, protect your family, grow your wealth, get a 401K, have a pension, have an IRA, have a savings account, save for retirement, pay off your car, pay off your home, save for your kids – whatever. If you die, though, whatever you have goes to others. You can’t take any of it with you. And in some ways that’s great, as hopefully you’re headed to a place where you need it no more, but it’s absolutely not great if what you have goes to those you don’t intend for it to go to. Or if your family has to spend thousands of dollars to get it where it should get. So all that you plan for and strive for in life is essential to protect in death. Either you control what you planned for and provided for, or you let others control it for you.
Second, there is almost nothing like death that brings out human greed. Sometimes heirs of an estate (those who can get your stuff when you die) work reasonably together and resolve things. Many times they don’t. A proper estate plan can help avoid that problem, or at least make it easier for those who might have to deal with a troublesome relative.
If you do not have a will, you die “intestate.” That means that you fall upon the State’s statutory scheme (law as provide by statute) in terms of how property gets distributed for those without a will. You don’t want the government to control how you want your property distributed – you want to control it. And you want to minimize the fights that result from greed.
And in Texas we have two types of estate administrations. Generally, there is an “independent” and “dependent” administration. A will allows you to appoint an independent estate administrator – someone who you appoint, essentially, to settle the affairs of your estate after you die. All that person needs to do is to do what you have requested in a will, and they need to pay off debts and confirm to the Court that they did what you asked. That is cheap, figuratively.
But without a will, generally the Court will require a “dependent administration,” which means two things. One, an estate administrator has to be appointed by the Court – someone you may or may not have wanted to handle your estate. But two, that means that almost everything that the estate administrator wants to do has to be approved by the Court. Let’s say you have a $500 credit card balance when you die. A dependent administrator generally has to go to the Court and ask permission to pay that balance. Asking the Court requires time and money – usually legal fees are involved. Just over a $500 credit card balance. Your estate will spend far more in legal fees than $500. And an independent administrator can just pay the balance and report it to the Court. So an independent administration is much cheaper – meaning that more of your money and assets actually go to who you want them to go to instead of costs of court.
Estate planning is the process of developing documentation per your instructions for your assets and your care, upon your incapacitation or death.
Having an estate plan is essential for every family. However, there is not a one-size-fits-all formula, and I listen to your expectations and needs before we review the specific circumstances of your estate. If you need to speak with an attorney about your estate plan, please give me a call.