No matter the value of your financial assets, everyone should have an estate plan to determine how assets will be distributed upon their death. Failing to do so means that the state government makes that decision for you. The more you own, the more this becomes a pressing concern because new laws and regulations will continue to significantly affect your estate and thus how your wishes are carried out upon your death. Failing to set forth your plan in a will ultimately results in long-term expensive battles for those you care about and leave behind.
Your first step is to meet with an experienced estate planning attorney in order to ensure that your will is executed properly and in accordance with state laws. In order to prepare for and as part of this meeting, you will want to think about—and possibly even discuss—certain issues with your loved ones; These issues include:
What Property Will be Included in Your Will?
Make a list of assets you will want to leave in your will, and those that will need to be provided for via listing beneficiaries elsewhere (for example, your 401(k)). Note that married couples can only leave those assets that they jointly own; there will need to be separate wills to address separate property owned by each spouse.
In deciding to whom to leave property, do not forget to include both first choice and contingent beneficiaries in case your first choice beneficiaries do not survive you.
Choosing an Executor
The executor you choose should not just be anyone close to you; ideally, it is someone who has some financial know-how, as well as some knowledge of the law, if possible. Perhaps most importantly, make sure you discuss it with them and that they are comfortable serving as the executor. Your executor should also be informed of how to access the will when the time comes in accordance with the will being stored safely.
Guardians for Children and Their Property
If you have children under the age of 18, you will need to designate a guardian in the event that either parents die and/or one or both become incapacitated. You will also need to appoint someone to manage their inheritance. You can discuss exactly how you want to do this with your attorney (i.e. whether to designate them as a trustee, property guardian, etc.).
Once you have consulted and drafted your will with the assistance of an experienced estate planning attorney, you will need to sign it in the presence of witnesses and notarize the document, as well.
Remember: Continuous Estate Planning is Essential
Life is continuously changing, and thus your will needs to be updated on a regular basis, especially given that laws and regulations change. Revisiting your will ensures that your family is protected and that taxes are reduced or eliminated.
Contact Us to Get Started
To get started, contact our Houston estate planning lawyers today for a free consultation. We will help ensure that your best interests are represented and reflected in your will from the get-go.