If you need legal guidance on drafting a will or trust while you’re making an estate plan, do not hesitate to contact the wills and trusts lawyers in Austin at Smith Family Law.
Including a will and trust in your estate plan is crucial. These documents can benefit anyone regardless of health, age, finances, or family status. A will addresses your wishes about what should happen with your assets and who should care for your children when you die, and both documents protect your loved ones’ interests and futures.
An experienced lawyer from [firm-law] can advise you about your options during estate planning. We will guide you in executing a well-prepared will and trust suited to your needs. Call us at 512-714-2877 for a free consultation with a wills and trusts lawyer in Austin for more information.
Functions of a Last Will and Testament
A last will and testament, also called a “will” for short, outlines your final wishes and directs the transfer of property in your estate. You can use your will for multiple purposes, including:
- Appoint a guardian to care for minor or dependent children
- Name an executor to carry out your wishes and administer the estate
- Designate beneficiaries to receive your assets
- Instruct how to distribute property to heirs and beneficiaries
- Choose someone to manage assets left to minor children
Legal Requirements for Executing a Will in Texas
In Texas, you must be of sound mind and at least one of these to create a will:
- 18 or older
- Married or previously married
- A United States armed forces member
Your will must be in writing on physical paper. It can’t go on a digital file or get documented as an audio or video recording.
Finalizing your will to make it valid and legally enforceable also requires these elements:
- In writing
- Signed by you in person or by someone acting on your behalf in your presence or under your direction
- Signed by two or more credible witnesses who are 14 years or older while in your presence
Consequences of Dying without a Will
If you pass away without a last will and testament, your assets will pass according to intestate succession. That means any property in your estate at the time of your death will transfer to your surviving family members according to a specific line of succession.
Intestate succession begins with your spouse and children. However, your siblings or parents will receive your assets if you don’t have a spouse or child. If you have multiple surviving relatives, they must share the property based on state law.
For example, if you have a spouse and one child, all community property and one-third of your separate personal property will distribute to your spouse. Your children will receive the remaining property in your estate.
If you don’t have a surviving spouse, children, parents, or siblings, your estate assets can pass to distant relatives, such as grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles, and nephews and nieces. That means you have no control over who gets your property. Someone you don’t get along with or never talk to could get their hands on assets you don’t want them to have. That’s why it’s critical to draft a last will and testament.
Understanding a Living Trust in Estate Planning
A living trust is a trust you execute while you’re alive. You can name yourself the trustee, meaning you have control over the trust and all its assets during your lifetime. You can transfer property into and out of the trust or modify or revoke it anytime.
The successor trustee you appoint will manage your trust after your death. They have no control or authorization to do anything with the trust while you’re alive. When you die, they will be responsible for distributing all the property held in trust according to the instructions you leave for them in the trust document.
You can transfer almost any asset into a trust, such as:
- Copyrights and patents
- Real estate, such as a primary residence, rental property, or land
- Bonds, stocks, and other securities
- Valuable antiques, artwork, or furniture
- Interests in a business
- Precious metals
- Valuable collections of coins, stamps, and other items
You must also name the beneficiaries of the trust. The beneficiaries will receive the assets you leave to them. Naming beneficiaries isn’t enough, though. You must list the corresponding property so your successor trustee knows how to distribute everything.
Unlike a will that must go through probate, which is the legal process of validating a will and authorizing the transfer of property, a trust can bypass that process. That means your loved ones don’t have to wait for a judge to approve the administration of your estate. They can instantly access the assets you leave to them once your successor trustee distributes them.
A trust doesn’t only benefit your family when you pass away. It also offers substantial protection while you’re alive. You can include a provision in the trust allowing your successor trustee to access the assets if you are incapacitated and can no longer speak for yourself. That means they can manage the trust on your behalf and use the property or funds for authorized expenses, such as medical care.
A living trust can also benefit your minor child. If you die before they turn 18, your successor trustee will manage the assets on your kid’s behalf. They can use the money to pay for education, medical care, and other necessary expenses, as you direct in the trust document. Once your child turns 18, your successor trustee will distribute the remaining assets according to your instructions. If you worry about your child mismanaging their assets, you could provide a schedule for your successor trustee to transfer funds monthly or cover their college education. How you choose to structure the trust is up to you.
Get Started on Drafting Your Will and Trust Now
At [firm-law], we understand the importance of caring for your family even after you’re gone. You want your hard-earned assets to pay for your child’s college education, financially support your spouse, or carry your legacy to the next generation. No matter your reasons for executing a will and trust, you should hire a wills and trusts lawyer in Austin for help.