There are few discussions that create more discomfort than those about end of life preparations. Many people say that’s something they will think about “later.” But what happens to your loved ones if “later” never comes for you? The time for making end of life decisions is now. Prepare the most essential Texas estate planning documents to ensure your wishes are carried out and your family is protected by using a simple tool known as a “love drawer.”
Estate planning is a vital and necessary part of caring for your family and loved ones. You spend the majority of your life protecting and providing for them. By preparing an end of life estate plan, your last gift to them can be one of the greatest.
One way to ease your family’s burden after you’re gone is by creating a “love drawer” to hold all of your essential Texas estate planning documents and end of life wishes. The following story about Tom and Jane will help you understand the meaning and importance of a love drawer.
Ready or Not: The Choice Is Yours
Tom and Jane are a typical married couple and are both in their 50s. Tom recently lost both of his parents in a horrible accident. Around the same time, Jane lost her father after he spent several months fighting a severe illness in the hospital.
Neither of Tom’s parents drew up a will or any of the necessary estate planning documents, which left Tom to deal with not only the trauma of losing his parents but also the legal burden of dealing with the probate of their estates with the state of Texas as the executor.
On the other side of the story, Jane’s father had prepared all the essential Texas estate planning documents the family needed to carry out his wishes, including a will, a medical power of attorney, and a durable power of attorney. He placed all the well-organized information and documents that Jane needed in what is known as a love drawer or legacy drawer, a secure place he had told her about in advance, where she would find everything she needed to make handling the administrative and legal aspects of her father’s passing easier.
Seeing both sides of the coin, Tom and Jane realized how important creating a love drawer was for their family. They took the necessary steps to protect their children and each other in the event the unthinkable happened by creating a love drawer of their own.
Three Essential Texas Estate Planning Documents
The documents to be included in an estate plan vary depending on the person’s life and particular estate planning needs. Because of that, no two plans look exactly alike. If you’re ready to protect and provide for your loved ones by facing estate planning head on, here are a few documents to consider incorporating in your love drawer:
- Last Will and Testament;
- Trusts; and
- Powers of Attorney.
Let’s take a look at the purpose of each of these essential estate planning documents for Texans.
Last Will and Testament
A last will and testament, or simply “will” as it is better known, is a legally binding document that states your final wishes as to the distribution of your property after your death. For Texans with minor children, a will can also name the person to serve as guardian for the children.
If you die intestate, meaning without a valid will, there are consequences for you and your loved ones. First, the state of Texas will be the executor of your estate, making the decisions about the distribution of your estate under Texas probate law. Additionally, your loved ones may have to endure court proceedings that can be costly and take time just to receive their inheritances. Even then, parts of your estate may not be distributed as you had intended.
A trust can also be a key estate planning document for many Texans. A trust is a legal tool used to divide the ownership of property from the right to enjoy that property.
To create a trust, a trust document names a trustee to be the legal owner of the property and one or more beneficiaries to have the right to enjoy or use that property. The document also instructs the trustee how and when to distribute the trust property to the named beneficiaries.
One of the benefits of trusts is that trust property is not part of your probate estate. That means you don’t need to include that property in your will. While the probate process takes time to transfer property named in your will and creates a public record of the transfer, property in a trust can be transferred immediately or at a designated date, but it does not go through the probate process. And sometimes trusts can help reduce estate and gift taxes.
Power of Attorney
A power of attorney is a document appointing a trusted friend or family member to act on your behalf and carry out your wishes with respect to your finances, business, or health if you become incapacitated. There are different types of powers of attorney, but the most common types included with essential Texas estate planning documents are the durable power of attorney and the medical power of attorney.
The durable power of attorney allows you to choose who will manage your property, finances, and other assets if you are unable to handle matters on your own due to physical or mental incompetency. The person holding a power of attorney acts as your agent, making decisions about the management of your assets when you are unable to do so. Texas law requires that a durable power of attorney meet certain requirements to be valid.
Similarly, a medical power of attorney, sometimes called a healthcare power of attorney, designates the person you want to make medical decisions for you if you become unable to speak for yourself because of a physical or mental issue.
Need Help Preparing a Legacy Drawer for Your Essential Texas Estate Planning Documents?
The thought of developing an estate plan can be overwhelming and downright frightening. People picture walking into an attorney’s office, discussing the most private and personal aspects of their lives, and signing stacks and stacks of documents that would take a legal dictionary to decipher. It doesn’t have to feel that way. An attorney experienced in helping people create their legacy drawers can provide empathic direction that helps you ease the burden on your family.
Led by Ted Smith, our team of knowledgeable estate planning attorneys listens and works with you to develop an estate plan that fits your needs. At Ted Smith Law Group, PLLC, we have been proudly serving the citizens of Central Texas for over 45 years. Let us help you protect and provide for your loved ones by ensuring you have the necessary and essential Texas estate planning documents prepared and executed before you need them. Contact us via the contact form below or call 254.690.5688 for a free consultation.