You are well aware that an attorney will be provided for you if you can’t afford one to defend you against criminal prosecution.
What you probably don’t know is that an estate plan will also be provided for you if you don’t have one of your own. This default estate plan is written into Texas law. It sets the rules for how a person’s estate must be managed and administered after death or disability.
Guardianship law requires a competent person to manage the property and health care of a disabled person.
Probate law requires an administrator to distribute estate property to heirs at law after a person has died without a will.
So, if you don’t have an estate plan of your own, state law will determine what happens to your property.
While these laws go a long way to establish a fair system for administering an estate, at best, the system is cumbersome and expensive, and at worst, it makes all the affairs of your estate public record for the world to see.
Customizing Your Estate Plan
Fortunately, there are ways to avoid much of the expense, complexity, and publicity that come with the default estate plan provided to you by the state of Texas. You can override the default rules, to a great extent, by creating legally enforceable documents that allow your estate to be managed and administered the way you want it to be. You can also have more control over your property and health care and keep it more private.
You can customize your estate plan by creating legally enforceable estate planning documents. They include:
- Last Will and Testament
- Durable Power of Attorney
- Advance Directive
- Medical Power of Attorney
- Appointment of Guardian
The importance of using the right document for the right job in building your estate plan cannot be exaggerated. Each document has a specific function, and no single document can craft your entire estate plan.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Your last will & testament cannot control who gets the money from a life insurance policy. It’s not the right tool for the job. Changing your will does not change your life insurance policy. You must change both your will and your life insurance policy. This also applies to other assets you may have like retirement and pension benefit plans.