Estate Planning Attorney in Dallas, Texas
The term “estate planning” can bring up images of someone who owns a home in a gated community, drives around in luxury cars, and has tons of assets to protect and pass on to heirs and loved ones. However, estate planning is not just for the wealthy—it’s necessary for everyone.
“Life planning” might actually be a better term since an estate plan will not only designate who gets what after you’re gone, but it will also put in place legal instruments to protect you, your health, and your wealth while you’re still alive.
You can never be too young or too old to create an estate plan, but you can be too late. Too late can mean you suddenly face health issues, perhaps incapacitation, that make it challenging, if not impossible, to suddenly create the legal documents to care for your loved ones, let alone to put safeguards in place for your own future.
In other words, the quicker you can get started on estate planning—which can always be updated as people and circumstances in your life change—the better off you are. If you are located in or around the Dallas, Texas, area, and you need to commence your estate planning or review what you already have in place, contact the Law Office of Sharion L. Fisher.
I am an estate planning attorney who is compassionate about helping others. Reach out to me with all your questions about wills, trusts, advance directives, powers of attorney, and the estate planning process in general. We can meet in person, by phone, or virtually, but let’s get started with the process of planning for the future of you and your loved ones. I proudly serve clients throughout the counties of Dallas, Collin, Ellis, and Tarrant.
Estate Planning: Overview and Importance
Probably the one document most associated with estate planning is the last will and testament, commonly referred to just as a will. However, only about one-third of all Americans have even created a will, according to an annual survey taken by Caring.com. The pandemic, which should have awakened everyone to the uncertainty of life, hardly moved the scale.
A will is the basic building block of estate planning. A last will and testament names whom among your family, friends, and loved ones should receive which of your assets when you’re gone. A will also must go through a legal process known as probate in which a court oversees everything. Generally, a personal representative named in your will is in line to be named by the probate court as the executor of your estate, but what is your estate?
In simple terms, an estate is comprised of assets held in your name alone. These assets could be real property, cars, an art collection, antiques, securities, savings accounts, and more. Anything held in joint custody or with a named beneficiary will generally not be subject to probate and cannot otherwise be designated in a will.
For instance, real property held in co-tenancy with the right of survivorship transfers to the co-tenant, generally a spouse, outside of probate. A life insurance policy or a qualified retirement account with a named beneficiary also passes along outside of probate.
Probate, even for small or medium-sized estates can take months to get to the point when beneficiaries are finally awarded what’s due them. First, creditors, Uncle Sam, and other liabilities must be paid off, which can involve the prospect of selling off assets to pay them. It also may be necessary to dispose of assets to provide for named beneficiaries when the process concludes. All this takes time.
A will, of course, is preferable to dying without one. If you die without a will, which is called dying intestate, the probate court will name an executor of the estate, but at the same time, will dictate those assets be distributed according to the state’s law of intestate succession, which begins with any spouse and children.
Alternative to a Will and Probate Proceedings
A living trust, also known as a revocable trust, is a legal means to bypass probate almost entirely. When you create a trust, you place your assets into it. While you’re alive and not incapacitated, you are the trustee of those assets. When you become incapacitated or pass away, the person you name as your successor trustee will take over.
When you’re gone, the successor trustee will oversee the distribution of your assets according to your stated wishes. Unless unforeseen challenges arise, this can generally be done outside of probate proceedings.
A complementary component to a living trust is what is known as a living will, or advance health care directive. In an advance health care directive, you set forth your treatment preferences should you become incapacitated and unable to voice your preference yourself. You also name an agent, or health care representative, to convey those choices for you. An advance health care directive is also sometimes called a “do not resuscitate” order, but it does not have to be so focused. You can also choose “do resuscitate” or other treatment options.
Even with a trust, however, you may still want to have a will for two reasons. First, if you have minor children, only in a will can you name a guardian for them should you pass away. Second, you can use the will in a “pour-over” fashion to designate that any assets you left out of your trust will end up there.
How an Attorney Can Help
First of all, creating an estate plan is not a simple DIY proposition. You need outside eyes to examine your resources and help you create the legal instruments that can give you and your loved ones ultimate peace of mind as everyone moves forward in life. Also, though it’s possible to find forms online to create many of these documents, a fill-in-the-blanks approach may not be specific enough for your needs, and it may not survive any legal challenge.
With an attorney, you also have a means to update your estate plan and all its documents as your life moves forward and changes. An attorney can also retain copies of your will or trust, or both, and testify in court that you were of sound mind when you created them. Your attorney can also assist your executor or trustee in carrying out your wishes and dealing with any obstacles or challenges that arise.
Estate Planning Attorney in Dallas, Texas
For all your estate planning questions, needs, and concerns, contact the Law Office of Sharion L. Fisher. I will listen to your goals and wishes for the future, including taking care of your loved ones when the time comes, and then create the proper legal instruments to achieve what you envision. Let’s work together to give you and your loved ones ultimate peace of mind no matter what challenges life may throw your way. I proudly serve clients in and around Dallas, Texas, and throughout Dallas County, Colling County, Ellis County, and Tarrant County.