Estate Planning

Wills

It is estimated that 60-75% of Americans die without a will. Without a will, a person’s estate is handled according to Texas laws of intestacy. Sometimes the law of intestacy is sufficient, but often it divides an estate in a manner that the deceased would never have intended. If a person does not have a will, he or she has no choice in how his or her property is distributed. Instead, the person’s property is distributed according to the makeup of his or her family alone. Nothing else is considered by the laws of intestacy.

 

For most people, creating a will is not about money or property distributions. People create wills to alleviate the stress placed on their family members during difficult times. They take comfort in creating a clear picture of how their desires and intentions will be carried out after they are gone. Also, many people use a will or an estate plan as an opportunity to make a memorable gift or show loved ones they care in this final way.

 

Another important aspect of a will is the assurance that proper care will be taken care of one’s children. For a single parent, a will allows them to designate a guardian for their children. Incorporation of a trust to provide for the person’s minor children is also a common reason for a will. The great thing about a trust is that it can be customized to fit an individual’s wishes. A trust can provide long-term support, a college fund, pay for medical needs, and can also be made conditional.

 

Additionally, people with larger estates can gain substantial tax advantages by using a properly drawn up will and trust. Special trusts can be used to avoid taxes on estates over $5,000,000.00. Currently, estates over $5,000,000.00 are taxed at a rate of 35%.

 

Warning: Internet Wills

There are online companies making generic, form wills without the oversight of an attorney. These wills are often contested and have trouble holding up under the scrutiny of a court. Wills are tricky because they must be written and carried out very precisely. Even in the act of signing a will, there is a specific process that must be undertaken to ensure the will is properly enacted. Forms drafted without an attorney’s direction are not tailored to the needs of the individual client, and they are not likely to be compliant with the most current laws. Often, the costs associated with a legal battle over a form will purchased online or at a bookstore are far greater than the cost of having a will drawn up by an attorney.

Long-Term Care Planning

 

Aside from having a will, there are other documents that everyone should have to make sure that their health care decisions and financial decisions are carried out in the manner of their choosing. Our firm is experienced in drafting these documents to suit the client’s needs. Below is a list of these documents with a brief description of each:

 

Medical Power of Attorney - allows appointed person to make medical decisions on his behalf once he/she is incapacitated.

 

Durable Power of Attorney - allows appointed person to make financial decisions and handle the person’s finances. This can be made effective immediately or take effect upon incapacity.

 

HIPPA Release - allows the designated person(s) to speak with the patient’s doctor about their medical care and allows them access to the person’s medical records.

 

Medical Directive to Physicians and Family or "Living Will" - tells medical personnel how to treat patient in the event they become incapacitated and gives directions on what kind of life sustaining treatment should be used. This directive sets the rules that the medical power of attorney must operate in as well.

 

Do Not Resuscitate Order - patient’s directive to not use C.P.R. or other life sustaining measures except for comfort.

 

In most instances, having a medical and durable power of attorney allows the patient and the family to avoid a costly guardianship process which involves at least two lawyers and a formal court process to grant and oversee the guardianship.

The timing of the creation of these documents is crucial. A person must be legally competent to create these documents. That is, they need to understand the nature of their surroundings, their property, and who they are giving property to and/or appointing as power of attorney. If a patient is beyond that point, then he/she will need a guardian appointed to care for their interests. This is most often a family member.

 

For any of these services, including wills, trusts, long term care documents, and guardianships, we at The Lewis Law Firm have experience and understanding, and we want to be available to help those who need our services. We offer very competitive rates and would be happy to help you in any way that we can.