Estate Planning Lawyer in Austin

Estate Planning Lawyer in Austin

Contact Smith Family Law now if you want to create or modify an estate plan. Estate planning is essential to protect your assets, manage your affairs, and secure your family’s future. Without a will, trust, and other necessary documents, your loved ones might be unable to make critical medical decisions on your behalf or assume ownership of the property you want them to have.

Our Austin estate planning lawyers at Smith Family Law have experience helping Austin clients draft valid and legally enforceable estate plans to meet their needs. Our team can help you determine how to distribute your assets, prevent your family from dealing with the time-consuming probate process, and ensure your affairs are in the right hands if anything happens to you.

Call us at 512-714-2877 for a free consultation with an estate planning lawyer in Austin today to learn more.

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    How Smith Family Law Can Help with Your Estate Plan

    There are basic documents you must incorporate into your estate plan, whether you’re starting from scratch or making changes to an existing plan. At Smith Family Law, we can assist you in drafting the necessary documents to protect yourself and your family and provide legal guidance regarding various aspects of an estate plan, such as:

    Wills and Trusts

    A last will and testament is the central component of an estate plan that can serve multiple functions, including:

    • Instruct how and to who to transfer property upon your death
    • Authorize an executor to manage your estate and distribute estate assets after a judge validates your will
    • Name a guardian for any minor children you have

    You must meet the requirements of Texas Estates Code 251.051 to execute a legally enforceable will which are:

    • In writing
    • Signed by you or someone acting on your behalf
    • Signed by at least two witnesses who are 14 years or older

    A trust is a fiduciary arrangement someone enters into with a third party, allowing that third party to manage and distribute assets held in trust upon their death. In a revocable trust, the person who creates the trust is the trustee. They can transfer assets in and out of the trust or revoke the trust at any time while alive. A designated successor trustee assumes control when the trustee dies. That person is responsible for distributing trust assets according to the decedent’s wishes. There are also special needs trusts, which provide essential support to individuals with disabilities, often while allowing them to maintain eligibility for government benefits.


    Probate is the process in which a probate judge reviews and validates a deceased person’s will and authorizes the executor to settle the estate.

    You can appoint someone as the executor of your estate in your last will and testament. That person handles debts, final affairs, property distribution, and estate taxes upon your death. Choosing someone you trust to act as your executor is crucial. They should be someone you know will fulfill your wishes as outlined in your will.

    Since probate can be time-consuming and prevents surviving heirs from receiving the property left to them promptly, you can include specific documents in your estate plan that allows assets to bypass probate, such as:

    • Living trust – A living trust can hold numerous types of property you own, such as bank accounts, motor vehicles, and real estate. You must name a successor trustee to handle the transfer of property and beneficiaries to receive the assets held in trust upon your death.
    • Joint ownership – You should consider setting up a right of survivorship if you own property with another person. When you pass away, the joint owner will assume automatic control of the asset without the property going through probate. However, they will have to prove they solely hold the title to the property.
    • Payable-on-death (POD) – You can add a POD to your bank account, such as a certificate of deposit (CD) or savings account. The person you designate as your POD beneficiary has no rights to the money while you’re alive. You can control everything in the account, determine when to spend the money, and revoke the POD designation if you want. However, your POD beneficiary can claim what’s left in the account when you die without waiting for a judge to authorize the transfer of the asset.
    • Transfer-on-death (TOD) deed – A TOD is beneficial for real estate you own, such as land, your primary residence, or rental property. You can sign a deed that won’t go into effect until your death. Your named beneficiary will assume ownership of the property once you die. Because of the TOD deed, the property will not pass through the probate process.
    • Beneficiary designations – You can complete a beneficiary designation form for various assets, including bank accounts, life insurance policies, and retirement plans. A properly executed beneficiary designation allows the funds to pass directly to your beneficiaries after your death.

    Power of Attorney

    Depending on your specific needs and goals, you can create a power of attorney (POA). Two main types are available in Texas:

    • Financial power of attorney – A financial POA authorizes your chosen agent to manage your business or financial affairs in specific circumstances.
    • Medical power of attorney – A medical POA authorizes your appointed agent to make medical decisions if you can’t speak for yourself.

    A durable POA is a beneficial type of POA to incorporate into an estate plan. It also goes into effect if you become incapacitated and can no longer make sound decisions for yourself. It’s an extra layer of protection to ensure you receive your desired medical care or that your finances and business are in order despite an accident, injury, or illness.

    Any mentally competent adult can be a Power of Attorney (POA) agent. However, you should consider whether the person you select is trustworthy and responsible enough to manage business operations, pay your bills, direct your doctors on the treatment they should provide, and other matters.

    Appointing a successor agent is a good idea if your first agent should be unavailable or unwilling to serve.

    Drafting a legally enforceable POA requires meeting these conditions:

    • Mental capacity – You must have the ability to understand the document you’re executing and the consequences of creating the POA.
    • Statutory language – You must also include specific language in your POA, such as warnings and notices. That’s why hiring Smith Family Law is vital. Using DIY forms, you find online could backfire and create severe legal issues for your family.
    • Notarization – You must sign the POA in the presence of a notary public.

    Guardian Designation

    estate planning lawyer in austin consulting with clients

    A guardian is a person you appoint in your estate plan to care for your minor child or children after your death. You can list one or multiple guardians. Naming a primary and alternate guardian ensures coverage if the primary is unable or unwilling.

    Your chosen guardian should raise your child as you would. They should know your values to make decisions on education, healthcare, religion, and daily life for your child.

    Establishing a trust for the guardian to access isn’t necessary, but it’s a good idea. The guardian can use trust assets for child-rearing costs like housing, food, clothing, and medical insurance.

    You might consider appointing two separate guardians to handle different responsibilities. One can take on the parenting role while the other manages the finances or your child’s inheritance.


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    Advanced Directives

    Advanced directives are documents directing family, doctors, and anyone else involved in your healthcare about the care you do or do not want if you are incapacitated or unable to speak for yourself.

    The most common types of advanced directives include:

    • Directive to physicians – A directive to physicians is also called a living will. You include your wishes regarding withholding or withdrawing life-sustaining measures while in a physician’s care.
    • Medical power of attorney – A medical power of attorney lets your agent make medical decisions when you’re deemed incapable. It is only effective during the incapacity period. If you gain mental competency, your agent loses their decision-making authority.
    • Out-of-hospital do-not-resuscitate (DNR) – An out-of-hospital DNR tells emergency staff not to resuscitate if your heart stops. They should allow you to die a natural death. However, an out-of-hospital DNR only applies to resuscitation efforts by emergency personnel. If you are in a hospital, your directive to physicians will apply.

    Plan for the Future with Smith Family Law

    A valid estate plan saves time and money, ensuring decisions are made if you’re incapacitated or deceased. It helps prepare your loved ones for difficult situations, so they don’t have to guess what you would want. The documents you include should clearly outline your wishes and provide the plans they can follow.

    If you’re considering forming a comprehensive estate plan or modifying one you have already created, call Smith Family Law at 512-714-2877 today for a free consultation with an estate planning lawyer in Austin.

    Written by: Smith Family Law