Estate Planning - Wills, Trusts, & Probate

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Estate Planning - Wills, Trusts, & Probates

ESTATE PLANNING

Many people do not want to think about what will happen if they become incapacitated or pass away. We get that. But how will your family deal with your death? Will there be infighting among family members? Who will make decisions on your behalf? How will your estate and belongings be protected? We can address all of these questions by establishing a comprehensive estate plan. We will guide you through these issues, and help put you at ease, knowing that your loved ones and your assets will be protected. The Law Office of Dana A. Ehrlich has expertise and experience in this area and is here to represent you in the process of drafting of a personalized and detailed estate plan that will protect your assets and save you and your loved ones money. 

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There are several documents included in an estate plan meant to outline your wishes. These documents include:

LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT

A will is a legal document that instructs how a person’s assets will be distributed after they die. A last will and testament must then be validated through the probate process (i.e., court). Although we can use a revocable living trust (see below) to avoid the need for probate, we always draft a will to cover any assets not mentioned in the will - this is called a pour-over will. Using a pour-over saves your beneficiaries from litigating to whom different assets should go. 

There are also several scenarios that could arise where you may be incapacitated and your beneficiaries may have to make decisions on your behalf. We will guide you through different scenarios in detail. It is important to know who will make financial decisions for you if you become disabled. You should also know who should make your healthcare decisions if you are unable. We will cover scenarios such as these and others in detail with you, and set up advance directives to give you peace of mind.

REVOCABLE LIVING TRUST

Like a will but better, a revocable living allows assets to be transferred so that they pass directly to designated beneficiaries upon your death without the need for probate. Probate (think court) is the legal process of validating a will and distributing assets. Probate is generally time consuming and expensive, but, can be avoided by the use of a revocable living trust. A trust is created by a grantor and designated a trustee and co-trustee who are responsible for managing the truth assets. The revocable trust can be revised during the life of grantor to accommodate any life changes. You can also use a revocable living trust to control the how assets are distributed (ie, limited by age, special needs and substance abuse). 

Durable Powers of Attorney
A durable power of attorney is often referred to as a DPoA. This will come in handy should you ever become incapacitated. The DPoA allows others to act on your behalf. The DPoA typically gives individuals a range of ability authority from managing assets to running a business. We can create a "springing durable power of attorney" for you that becomes active only if and when you become incapacitated.

Healthcare Durable Power of Attorney
The healthcare durable power of attorney (DPoA) allows a person or persons of your choosing to make your medical decisions for you should you be incapacitated. This is a very important document to have us create for you. Your healthcare DPoA will have the ability to make important decisions from operations to nursing care.

PROBATE

This is a word you should become familiar with. Probate is the court-managed process to determine how and where a deceased person’s assets will be distributed.

If you have your assets in a well-written living trust, it is likely that no court-managed administration is necessary. The successor trustee will still need to administer the distribution of the deceased's assets.  The length of time needed to complete the probate of an estate varies, but in Texas the probate process can take between 12 to 24 months, depending on the complexity of the estate.    

Probate estates require several steps from notifying heirs, appraisal of assets, payment of debts, sale of assets, and then distribution to heirs. 


The Law Office of Dana A. Ehrlich can create a unique estate plan tailored to your needs and concerns, protects all your assets and saves you and your loved ones money. Call us at (325) 655-5351 on your estate planning matter today.
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