Peace of Mind Starts With a Plan
Dallas Estate Planning Attorneys
Here’s a fact: everyone dies.
Unfortunately, relatively few Texas families have taken the time to create a few simple legal documents to protect their family when that day comes.
No matter your age or stage of life, it’s never too early to make your wishes known. Estate planning is a simple process that releases the burden from your loved ones and ensures control doesn’t default to the state or someone you don’t want taking your assets.
What Is An Estate Plan?
An estate plan is a legal strategy designed to anticipate and arrange for the care and disposition of your property at death or permanent incapacitation.
Your estate plan typically includes a variety of legal documents, such as:
- Last Will and Testament
- Powers of Attorney
- Medical Directive
- Nomination of Guardianship
- Beneficiary Designations
For every benefit of having an estate plan, there are also several risks to not having one. Having an estate plan ensures certainty (whereas not having a plan results in uncertainty); having an estate plan ensures efficiency in the transition of property (whereas not having a plan could result in significant delays and costs); and importantly, having a plan allows you to name who you want to be in charge of your estate after you die (whereas if you don’t have a plan the court will appoint someone).
Who Needs an Estate Plan?
While it’s true that not quite everyone needs a plan, the reality is that most people need a plan. If you have a house (or any real property), banking or securities accounts, personal assets, motor vehicles, a spouse, children, or anyone else you care to benefit from your assets when you die, you need an estate plan.
Sometimes the simplest words can cause confusion. A lot of people understandably think estate plans are only for large estate holders or older individuals with sizeable net worth. That is not the case. If you own a small house, a car, or have a modest bank account – in the eyes of the law, you have an “estate.”
Remember, an estate plan ensures your assets go to the people and organizations you choose upon your passing or incapacitation. We live in a world of uncertainty, so making plans for the future is a good idea for everyone, no matter how old, young, or wealthy.
Estate planning isn’t complicated and doesn’t have to be expensive. Texans who choose to go through a simple, inexpensive process with a lawyer can safeguard their loved ones against added expense, grief, and frustration. We can help.
Estate Planning is the process of creating a plan that organizes your property for transition after your death or during a period of incapacity.
Generally, the process involves an attorney creating various legal documents that accomplish your objectives for your assets. Our proven process in creating your estate plan is designed to provide maximum convenience for our clients and efficiency for our staff. Our top priority is to provide exceptional client-service while we serve you. For most clients, the process will be identical but, should a client have different needs, we will gladly accommodate any request.
Our simple 4-step Estate Planning process includes:
1. Initial Telephone Conference –
During this phone call, the firm’s Intake Manager will gather basic information about your family, assets, and situation. She will explain your options and pricing for our services.
2. Engagement of Attorney & Planning Worksheet –
After the initial call, the firm’s Intake Manager will send you an email with a link for you to sign our digital Engagement Agreement* (the contract Parvin Law Group uses to be retained by clients) as well as a link for you to submit payment. In addition, you will be sent a digital worksheet for you to complete which provides us the specific details and information we need about you, your family, and assets to prepare your legal documents.
3. Creation of Plan Documents & Client Review –
As soon as you engage us, our legal team reviews your Planning Worksheet and creates your legal documents. Typically, we will send you the first version of your documents within 14 days for your review.
4. Execution of Documents and Conclusion –
The final stage of our process is a brief meeting (usually around 1 hour) to execute your legal documents in our offices. Texas law mandates that many legal documents also be executed by witnesses and a Notary Public, both of which we provide. We organize this meeting to effectively execute your documents, give you guidance on several other important issues (like where to store your legal documents, beneficiary designations, etc.) and, at the conclusion of the meeting, you leave with your signed, original documents.
The reason most people don’t plan is that they simply don’t know where to start. Thankfully, we can help. The Parvin Law Group has worked with thousands of Texans to create simple, low-cost, and effective estate plans that keep things moving when you get hurt or pass away.
Frequently Asked Questions
Unless you agree that the Trust is not revocable upon being made, any trust can be changed or revoked until your death.
Yes. Texas law allows the creator of a trust to serve as the Settlor, Trustee, and Beneficiary as long as certain requirements are met.
Yes, a power of attorney can be revoked at any time by the person who made it (assuming they have the legal capacity to do so). Revocations should be done in writing, and the revocation of the rights to make decisions should be adequately communicated to the person who previously held the power. Additionally, if the person who has made the power of attorney is no longer capable of revoking the powers, but there is evidence of malfeasance, a court of competent jurisdiction may suspend the powers as well.
Yes. Even if you nominate someone else to make decisions for you (whether the power becomes effective immediately or upon disability), you still retain the power to overrule any decisions you wish. A power of attorney is not a guardianship and therefore you retain the right to make decisions which conflict with the agent you nominate assuming you have the legal capacity to do so.
Although you can, in our opinion, you shouldn’t. Crafting a high quality legal plan takes expertise and familiarity with applicable laws in your state.
Though some attorneys may respond to this question differently, a cautious approach would be to ensure your estate is properly planned to account for both future increases in wealth or a reduction in the federal estate exemption equivalent. In other words, if you are close to the threshold of being considered a “taxable estate” the prudent course of action would be to assume at your death the estate will be subject to a tax and, therefore, plan accordingly.
Technically, no. While there is no absolute legal requirement that says you must hire an attorney for this process, there are many benefits to utilizing an experienced, licensed attorney. With so much at stake – for you and your family – the modest investment required to hire an experienced estate planning attorney can give you peace of mind in knowing your documents are legally sound and prepared correctly.
Generally speaking, most people should have a will or other estate plan in place at their death to assist their loved ones in transitioning their property. Having a will allows the person making the will (known as the “testator”) the control of naming the person or entity getting their property. A Will also allows the testator to nominate someone to serve as an executor or to expressly dictate someone who cannot serve as the executor.
It depends. Just as an individual who receives income must file an income tax return, a trust may need to as well. Sometimes the Settlor (or “Grantor”) of the Trust may include trust income on his/her income tax return. You should consult a licensed and qualified attorney or Certified Public Accountant regarding specific tax questions.
When it comes to the distribution of your property, your estate plan only governs the assets that you own at the time of death. If you get sued, you may have to satisfy the judgment with assets that would have otherwise gone to your heirs or beneficiaries. Implementing an effective asset protection strategy can help you avoid this undesirable result.
Like all contracts, state laws govern the rules for contract interpretation, application, and validity. Typically, courts will consider whether or not the contract was the product of fraud, duress, or undue influence and, in addition, whether the contract is clear and unambiguous regarding the agreements inside of it.
I’ve already granted Power of Attorney to someone. Can they make medical decisions for me under that document?
If you have merely executed a power of attorney for financial or property decisions, the answer is no. You must execute a different form to grant someone the power to make health care decisions for you.
Generally, and unless stated otherwise in your Power of Attorney, your attending physician must certify in writing that you lack the ability to make decisions for yourself.
A trust is not “better” or “worse” than a Will; it is simply different. Like tools used by a carpenter, trusts and wills have entirely different uses. While some law firms try to sell every client who can afford one a trust, regardless of wealth, not every client needs a complex (and expensive) trust. If a lawyer recommends that you create a trust, he or she should be able to explain in detail why you would benefit from such a trust.
Generally, Texas law only recognizes two types of wills: (1) an “attested” written will which is typically drafted by lawyer, signed by the testator and witnessed by independent people who attest the proper execution of the will; and, (2) a “holographic” will which is a last will and testament written completely in the testator’s handwriting and which properly disposes of his or her property. Texas law no longer recognizes verbal wills.
Medical Powers of Attorney allow you to name someone else to make important health care decisions for you if you are unable to do so. In granting a Medical Power of Attorney, essentially you are naming someone else to make any medical decision you could make for yourself (if that’s what you want). Generally, such authority will allow your agent to make most decisions that you are able to now including consent for surgical treatment, blood transfusions, etc. By law, however, it does not permit an Agent to commit you for in-patient mental health treatment or consent to certain sensitive medical treatments such as convulsive care, abortion, or psychosurgery.
The powers granted under the Power of Attorney can be whatever you want them to be. While most clients are comfortable granting their trusted agent a high degree of authority, some clients simply want the power to cover bare minimum tasks like paying bills and dealing with creditors. Ultimately, the decision is up to you. If you don’t grant the authority in your power of attorney, the agent won’t have it.
Generally, such agreements are centered around marital property. In states that follow community property laws (such as Texas), it’s critically important to define if any member of the marriage has come into the marriage owning separate property. In addition, such agreements specify manners in which significant monetary gifts are made between spouses and the manner of determining community property.
It depends. Consequences of dying without a formal plan in place may include costly and frustrating delays in Court as well as (i) lack of control regarding the disposition of your estate (state law will dictate who gets your property); (ii) lack of control as to who deals with your belongings after your death (iii) potential negative tax implications (*only for clients with substantial estates); and (iv) uncertainty by your family and loved ones as to whether they will be provided for in your estate.
A trust is a legal relationship where one or more persons transfer property to a trustee to hold and administer for the benefit of beneficiaries. While it is not strictly a legal entity, a trust is easily thought of like a company. The maker of the trust (sometimes known as the “Settlor” or “Trustmaker”) conveys money or property to a Trustee (like the CEO) who administers the assets of the trust for the benefit of the beneficiaries (like the stockholders). Trusts can be created for a number of purposes including tax savings, privacy, creation of unique or special estate plans, holding specific assets (such as real estate, art or a firearms collection) or simply because they offer the Settlor a level of certainty that other types of estate planning may not. The creation of trusts can be more complex than traditional wills and are not appropriate for every client.
A healthcare agent is a person you name in your emergency, critical, and advance care plan to make medical treatment decisions for you if you become too sick or injured to make or communicate those decisions.
A Last Will and Testament is the cornerstone legal document of most estate plans. In essence, it directs who will receive your money and property when you die, as well as names a person to take charge of your estate business (the executor).
A Medical Power of Attorney is the document that allows you to name who is in charge of your medical decisions upon your disability or incapacity.
A Statutory Durable Power of Attorney deals with your finances. It is a document that allows you to name who is in charge of your finances upon your disability or incapacity.
Generally, an estate plan is a formal legal strategy designed to anticipate and arrange for the care and disposition of a person’s property either at death or because of lifetime incapacitation. Typically, such plans include consideration of necessary legal documents such as Wills or Trusts, Powers of Attorney, Medical Directives, and the nomination of guardians for incapacitated adults or minor children. When done correctly, estate planning attempts to eliminate uncertainty and minimizes the potential for negative effects on the estate (such as because of the payment of taxes or transfer of property to unintended beneficiaries). Estate planning may also include consideration of life or disability insurance, beneficiary designations (or payable on death designations), or re-structuring ownership of assets.
While a will can govern the distribution of all or a portion of a person’s assets after death, this is by no means the only function of a will. In Texas, wills are also used to:
- Name a personal representative or executor
- Provide funeral and burial instructions
- Provide the ability for heirs to disclaim their inheritance rights for tax purposes
- Provide the ability for personal representatives and executors to make tax elections
The specific situations in which your Advanced Directive will take effect are outlined in the document for example, your choices regarding life support in a situation where you are terminally ill and have only months to live.
Anyone who is at least 18 years old and of “sound mind” can create an Advance Directive.
Right now, you may not. You may have the ability to make all your financial and health care decisions necessary in your life. However, if you suddenly become incapacitated or injured, a power of attorney allows a person you trust to make sensitive (and sometimes time-critical) decisions for you without having to take complicated or costly legal action.
Once your Estate Planning Documents have been completed, the last and MOST IMPORTANT step is the signing.
Specific parameters must be followed during a document signing in order for the documents to be considered valid in Texas, as stated by The Texas Estates Code. If the documents are not signed correctly, they could be considered invalid and cause major problems for your loved ones in the event of your incapacity or death.
A lot of time and effort goes into creating your estate plan, and ensuring the documents are signed correctly is crucial.
Some spouses believe that signing a Pre-Marital Agreement is a sign of mistrust or doom regarding the relationship. Nothing can be further from the truth. Having a Marital Property Agreement in place provides clarity, defines expectations, and is good planning.
Your living will remains effective as long as you’re alive unless you intentionally revoke it or the courts overrule it (a very rare scenario).