Estate Planning In Texas
You can save a lot of money, potential chaos and hard feelings between those closest to you by preplanning how you want your assets managed when you are now longer able to manage them yourself, and how your property will be divided at your death.
Powers of Attorney
In Texas, you can sign a power of attorney to appoint someone to handle your assets if you become incapacitated. At a minimum, a power of attorney should include the power to:
*Manage and transfer all assets
*Deal with the IRS
*Make gifts on your behalf
*Create and amend any trusts you set up
You don't need to transfer any assets at the time you sign the durable power of attorney, but it's a good idea to keep the person you've chosen informed about your ongoing financial matters.
You can also appoint a Power of Attorney for Health Care to make health care decisions for you when you're unable to do so yourself. This person can provide informed consent for treatment, or even refuse treatment for you.
Dying Without A Will
If you die without a will (known as dying "intestate") in Texas, your assets will be divided amongst your immediate family. If you're married and your children are also your spouse's natural children (or you don't have any children), your spouse will inherit your share of the community property (almost everything you've accumulated as a couple since your marriage).
If any of your children aren't also the natural child of your spouse, your one-half of the community property will pass to your children. But your spouse would be allowed to use and occupy your homestead during his or her lifetime.
If you aren't married, or have separate property (such as property you owned before your marriage or inherited from your family during your marriage), your real estate passes to your children (with a life estate for your spouse). If you have separate personal property such as furniture, cars and strictly financial assets, one-third of those would go to your spouse and two-thirds would go to your children or grandchildren).
If you have separate property, but no children, all of your separate personal property would go to your spouse. In that case, real estate would be divided one-half to your spouse and one-half to your parents or other close relatives such as brothers and sisters.
If you have only children, but no spouse, all property would go to your children or grandchildren.
A Texas lawyer who does a lot of estate planning can explain the consequences of some of the most basic choices you must make, such as whether property you want to leave to your minor children should be put into a trust at your death. For that reason, it makes sense to consult with a Texas estate planning lawyer and have him or her draft your will, so that you don't make costly mistakes or accidentally not accomplish what you intended.