| Read Time: 4 minutes | Estate Planning

What Are the Requirements of a Valid Will in Texas?

A last will and testament is a foundational estate planning document. In a will, you can lay out how you want your assets distributed upon your death. You also name an executor who will oversee your estate. While this concept is straightforward in principle, there are many factors to consider when drafting a will. Most importantly, you need to know whether the document meets Texas will requirements under state law. At Massingill Attorneys & Counselors at Law, we help individuals and families of all net worth levels and backgrounds create effective estate plans. We can help you clarify your wishes, decreasing the likelihood of any unnecessary familial disputes in the future. What Are the Requirements for a Will to Be Valid? On one hand, Texas lawmakers want to encourage people to draft wills because they provide much-needed clarity when settling someone’s estate. However, at the same time, there is often a lot at stake after someone passes on, which can lead to unanticipated drama. Thus, Texas law imposes a few requirements to draft a valid will. Will Capacity Requirements First, the testator (the person creating the will) must have the legal capacity to create a will. This requires that they are at least 18 years old, are married, or are a member of the United States military. Second, the testator must possess the testamentary capacity necessary to execute a valid will. This requires that at the time they draft the will, they command an understanding of: The fact that they are creating a will; The practical and legal effect of creating a will; The property they own; The people who are related to them; and The fact that making a will eventually results in the permanent transfer of assets. Additionally, the testator must have the capacity to make reasonable judgments about the matters contained in the will. Generally, Texas will requirements include the need for the testator’s signature on the document. However, if they are unable to sign the will, the testator can designate someone to sign on their behalf. There is no notary requirement for a Texas will. Will Witness Requirements Most Texas wills must be executed in the presence of two credible witnesses over the age of 14. A credible person is someone who does not stand to benefit from the provisions of the will. Each witness must sign, indicating they witnessed the testator sign the will. The major exception to the witness requirements is for holographic wills. Undue Influence In addition to the above, a testator must be free from undue influence when executing a will. Undue influence is a legal term referring to a situation in which someone successfully influences the testator to include something in their will they didn’t initially want to include. For example, if someone told you that they are happy to take care of you as long as you leave them your house in your will, they may have exercised undue influence over you if that was not your original intention. Are Handwritten Wills Valid in Texas? Yes, holographic wills are valid in Texas, provided they are properly executed. A holographic will is one that is entirely in the testator’s own handwriting, meaning no part of the will can be typed or in anyone else’s handwriting. These are often used on an emergency basis when someone does not have the time or ability to get to a Texas estate planning attorney. There is no witness or notary requirement for a holographic will. While holographic wills do not need to contain the date of execution, it is always a good idea to do so. While holographic wills may seem like the easiest type of will to create, they also frequently give rise to will contests. A will contest is when someone challenges the validity of a will for any reason. Estate planning laws are complex, and when someone writes their own will they may use inaccurate or inconsistent phrasing. This can lead to ambiguity, and ambiguity typically results in will challenges. If someone who was not mentioned in the will believes they should have been included, they may challenge the validity of a handwritten will. And if the language is not airtight, they may succeed in invalidating the will. Limitations of Wills While wills are the cornerstone of any Texas estate plan, they are rarely sufficient on their own. In a will, you can determine how the court will distribute your property after you die, name a guardian for any minor children (or adult children experiencing disabilities), and name an executor to oversee your estate. However, all assets in your will must pass through probate and are subject to federal estate tax. Thus, many families also consider other estate planning tools, such as trusts, which can allow for the more orderly and cost-efficient transfer of assets. Similarly, a will only takes effect after you die. If you suddenly become incapacitated, the person you named as an executor has no legal authority to conduct business on your behalf. This is where a power of attorney comes in. A power of attorney gives you the ability to name another person to handle your financial affairs if you become unable to do so. When thinking about creating a will, it is important to pinpoint what you are trying to accomplish. Often, you’ll find that a will can only get you part of the way to your desired goals. You may need to use other estate planning tools that work in conjunction with the will. A Texas estate planning attorney can help you better understand how each of these pieces fits together. They can work with you to develop an effective estate plan. Schedule a Free Consultation with a Texas Estate Planning Lawyer Today If you do not yet have a will, or it’s been years since you updated your will, reach out to Massingill Attorneys & Counselors at Law. At Massingill Attorneys & Counselors at Law, we have extensive experience working with families, helping them develop...

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| Read Time: 4 minutes | Estate Planning

What Is a Bequest in a Will in Texas?

One of the most important decisions to make when estate planning is deciding who will inherit your assets. Your last will and testament will include these decisions in the form of bequests.   So what does bequest mean in a will? Generally speaking, a bequest is how you instruct who gets what when you die. There are many different kinds of bequests, which we’ll explain in more detail below. What Is a Bequest in a Will in Texas? A bequest in a will is the legal way of gifting someone money or property after your death. Bequests can be made to people, organizations, institutions, trusts, or foundations. However, you cannot “bequeath” property to an animal (although you can instruct that a sum of money be used for an animal’s care). When you bequeath property to a person or entity, they become a beneficiary and obtain certain rights. Types of Bequests There are many kinds of bequests you can make in a will. Bequests can be simple or quite complex, and they differ based on the property you’re gifting and the type of beneficiary.  Specific Bequest As the name insinuates, a specific bequest in a will is a gift of a specific asset to a specific person or entity. The asset can be either property or money. Here are a few examples: “I bequeath my Swarovski crystal rose figurine to my niece, Allison Turner.” “I bequeath the property located at 123 Main Street, Dallas, Texas, to my son Benjamin Smith.” The more details you provide when making a specific bequest, the better. This eliminates confusion and ensures that your intentions are followed. General Bequest A general bequest is a monetary gift to a specific person or entity. Here’s an example of a general bequest in a will: “I bequeath $10,000 to my son, John Smith.” The gift is paid out of the general pool of assets in the estate, not one particular asset, such as a bank account. Demonstrative Bequest Unlike a general bequest, where the source of the gift is irrelevant, a demonstrative bequest is a gift, usually of money, from a particular source. For example, if you want to leave $15,000 from your savings account to your sister, those specifications would be made through a demonstrative bequest. Another example is “100 shares of my Apple stock.”  Percentage Bequest With a percentage bequest, you can proportionally divide your estate among beneficiaries, as opposed to leaving them a dollar amount. Here’s an example of a percentage bequest: “I bequeath 25% of my estate equally among my four children.”  If you’re concerned that the value of your estate will fluctuate or certain assets may not be in your estate when you die, a percentage bequest might be appropriate.  Charitable Bequest Charitable bequests are gifts of property to a qualifying charity, non-profit organization, trust, or foundation. With a charitable bequest, you can satisfy your philanthropic goals and take advantage of the tax benefits. Residuary Bequest After satisfying all the bequests in your will, you may have leftover assets. This is known as your residuary estate. You can choose what happens to this pot of money and property by making a residuary bequest to a specific beneficiary. An example of this is: “I give all the remainder of my estate to the local ASPCA chapter.”  Contingency Bequest A contingent bequest is the transfer of property that’s only made if a certain condition is met. Here’s an example of a contingent bequest: “I hereby bequeath $50,000 to my niece Lucy, but only on the condition she graduates from a four-year university or technical college by the age of 23.” You can also structure a contingent bequest so that it takes effect only if the primary beneficiary dies before you. For example: “If neither my spouse nor any of my descendants survive me, I give the entire proceeds of my brokerage account to the Texas Children’s Hospital.” What Happens to Property Not Bequeathed Under a Will? As mentioned above, you can make a residuary bequest and specify who gets anything remaining in your estate. If you do not specify what happens to your residuary estate, Texas intestate succession law decides for you. Under the laws of intestacy, your leftover assets will go to your closest living relatives. Depending on who’s still alive at your death, the laws become more complex, particularly for blended families.  If you do not bequeath all your assets under your will, there may be unintended consequences. For example, it’s entirely possible for a distant relative to inherit remaining assets if you don’t provide specific instructions otherwise via bequests.  Contact the Estate Planning Attorneys at Massingill Attorneys & Counselors at Law Life is complicated, but estate planning doesn’t have to be. At Massingill Attorneys & Counselors at Law, we simplify and explain legal concepts, so our clients feel confident in their decisions. We take the time to learn every detail about your assets, your family, your wishes, and your dream legacy. When you work with our estate planning attorneys, you’ll receive a personalized, unique, and comprehensive estate plan. Our quality of work speaks for itself and continually earns us five-star ratings on Google.    If you live in any of the greater Austin, Texas areas, contact us to schedule an appointment. Let’s start planning your legacy today.

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| Read Time: 3 minutes | Estate Planning

Six Estate Planning Tips for Small Business Owners

Estate planning for business owners is one of the most important but overlooked parts of setting up a business. Often, folks wait until it’s too late to have conversations about their wishes for their small business after they pass on. When setting up your business, estate planning for small business owners can be an essential component of preparing for long-term success.  Your business is likely one of your greatest assets, and it’s something you should protect with plans and insurance while you’re alive. Don’t let all your hard work go to waste after you’re gone. Talking to a local business estate planning lawyer is the first step in helping protect your greatest asset, your business. At Massingill Attorneys & Counselors at Law, we can help you navigate all aspects of estate planning. To help you prepare, we’ve compiled the six top estate planning tips for small business owners. 1: Draft or Update a Will and Estate Plan A will and an estate plan can be foundational documents for your business. And talking to an estate lawyer is the first step in drafting a solid estate plan for your business. If you die without a will, figuring out how to pass down your company and its assets can become expensive and time-consuming for your heirs. Make sure you avoid this preventable confusion by putting your will and estate plan into place as soon as possible. 2: Communicate Openly About Your Business Succession Plan A business succession plan discusses how you want your business run after you’re gone. Talk about your succession plans with your family and business partners. Succession plans work best when you work with your heirs and partners to put them into place while you’re alive. An experienced Austin, Texas business estate planning lawyer can help you develop your succession plan today. 3: Draft a Buy-Sell Agreement (for Businesses with Multiple Owners) For a business with multiple owners, creating a buy-sell agreement can help ease confusion after one owner dies. A buy-sell agreement allows any of the following to happen upon your death: Your business partners can purchase your interest in the business; Your heirs can inherit your share of the business under your will; Your interest can be sold to a third party; or You can block a third party from purchasing your interest in the business. Make sure you speak to a lawyer and make your desires known. Having a buy-sell agreement in place as part of your estate plan can help open conversations in multiple-owner businesses. It can also ease transitions when one owner exits or dies. 4: Focus on Tax Efficiencies Taxes are one of the biggest concerns for any business owner trying to create an estate plan. One of the key issues in creating a solid plan is reducing the need to sell parts of your business to pay estate tax. Developing your estate plan with an experienced Texas estate planning lawyer can help you understand your potential liabilities. An estate planning lawyer can also help you understand your options for minimizing those liabilities and protecting your business and your heirs. 5: Confirm You Have Enough Insurance Life insurance and liability insurance can be a lifesaver for your heirs. Make sure you have enough of both when you’re doing your estate plan for your small business. You should consider buying enough life insurance so that your heirs or business partners have the liquidity to finalize your business affairs after your death. It’s also a good idea to pay the liability insurance for a certain period beyond your death. This can help your heirs in the event that a customer or client brings a lawsuit after your death.  6: Maintain Proper Records (and Disclose Where They’re Kept!) Any estate lawyer will tell you that an estate plan is only as good as the paper it’s written on. Unfortunately, many people write estate plans and then secure them in places where no one can find them. Don’t let this happen to you. Maintain proper records of your estate planning. Keeping your will and other estate documents with your estate planning lawyer is a great idea. Let your family and business partners (if applicable) know your lawyer’s contact details.  How We Can Help Our law firm serves Texas businesses like yours who want to prepare for the future. Attorney Joshua Massingill and his team have helped many Texas small businesses understand their estate planning options. We have abundant experience in estate planning for businesses. Contact us today to book a consultation to discuss your business’s future. We’re standing by and excited to speak with you.

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| Read Time: 4 minutes | Estate Planning

FAQ: Medical Power of Attorney in Texas

There may come a time when a person loses the ability to communicate his or her health care decisions. Whether the person loses capacity as a result of an accident, disease, or old age, it can be a difficult time for everyone involved. To ease the emotional stress of these types of situations, Texans should consider completing a medical power of attorney.  What Is a Medical Power of Attorney in Texas? A Texas medical power of attorney (POA) is a legal document that authorizes a person (the agent) to make medical decisions on behalf of someone else (the principal) when they are incapable of doing so. A medical POA in Texas is sometimes referred to as an advance directive. How Do You Create a Texas Medical Power of Attorney? To create a medical power of attorney, Texas law requires that you either sign the document in front of two witnesses or have a notary public acknowledge your signature. Your signature is confirmation that you read and understand the information in the disclosure statement, which is a required part of the medical power of attorney. Texas Health and Human Services (HHS) provides a medical power of attorney form for Texas residents that is modeled off of the Texas medical power of attorney statute. Who Can Witness My Medical Power of Attorney in Texas? Any competent adult may witness a medical power of attorney. However, the following persons cannot be one of the witnesses: Your agent; A person related to you by blood or marriage; A person who could inherit a portion of your estate; A person who has a claim against your estate; Your doctor or one of your doctor’s employee’s; or A health care provider or their employee at a health care facility where you’re a patient. Remember, you also have the option to sign your medical power of attorney in front of a notary public.  Who Can Serve as My Agent? Anyone 18 years or older can serve as your agent, except for the following persons: Your doctor or other heath care provider; An employee of your doctor or health care provider, unless that person is your relative; Your residential care provider; or An employee of your residential care provider, unless that person is your relative. If you designate your spouse as your agent and later divorce, your spouse is no longer the agent.  When selecting an agent, choose someone you trust. Healthcare agents must make medical decisions per your instructions and in accordance with your wishes, which includes your religious and moral beliefs. However, if you do not have instructions on how to handle a certain situation, the agent must make the decision based on what the agent thinks you would want. This is quite a significant amount of responsibility.   What Medical Decisions Can My Agent Make for Me? Your agent can make almost any medical decision you could. However, your agent cannot consent to the following: Committing you to a mental health institution; Convulsive treatment or psychotherapy; An abortion; or Withholding care intended to provide comfort.  Keep in mind that you can limit the agent’s decision-making authority within your medical power of attorney. When Does the Texas Medical Power of Attorney Go into Effect? The Texas medical power of attorney goes into effect immediately once you sign the document and deliver it to your agent. However, the agent can make healthcare-related decisions only once your doctor certifies in writing that you are unable to decide for yourself. Up until that point, you have complete control over your own medical decisions. If you are deemed incompetent but later regain competency, then your agent loses the authority to make health care decisions for you.  Can I Revoke My Medical Power of Attorney? Your medical power of attorney lasts until it is revoked (i.e. canceled), you become competent, or upon a set expiration date. If at the specified termination date you are incompetent, the medical power of attorney remains in effect until you become competent or revoke it.  You can revoke it at any time. To revoke a medical power of attorney in Texas, you can do any of the following: Destroy the document; Sign a new medical power of attorney; Sign a written revocation; or Tell your agent or doctor that you intend to revoke your medical power of attorney.  A written or oral revocation takes effect once your doctor is made aware and records the revocation in your medical file. Is My Texas Medical Power of Attorney Valid in Another State? A medical power of attorney executed in Texas is only valid in a different state if that state allows it. Under Texas law, a medical power of attorney that is validly executed in another state has the same effect in Texas.  What Happens If I Don’t Have a Texas Medical Power of Attorney?  If you are unable to make your own health care decisions and you do not have a medical power of attorney, the following persons (listed in priority) will make decisions for you: Your spouse, Your adult children, Your parents, or Your nearest living relative. These people will have the decision-making power to withhold or withdraw life-sustaining treatment. All medical decisions must be based on what your wishes and desires might be.  Contact Massingill Attorneys & Counselors at Law If you need a Texas medical POA, the estate planning attorneys at Massingill Attorneys & Counselors at Law are here to help. We offer flat fee pricing and a personalized approach that will leave you feeling confident in your estate planning decisions. Our 5-Star Google rating speaks to the success we bring to our clients. Contact us today or give us a call at (512) 410-0343 to schedule your consultation.

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| Read Time: 4 minutes | Estate Planning

Dying Without a Will in Texas: What Young Families Need to Know About Texas Intestacy Statutes

In many cases, this is what happens if you die without a will in Texas: complications and conflicts. Even more disturbing is that the state ends up determining what happens to your estate rather than you. When you have no will in Texas, you provide no definitive legal assurance regarding what your wishes are, and you give your loved ones no legal right to carry out even the wishes they are sure of. Dying intestate in Texas can and should be avoided by all adults, including those who are part of young families. Why You Should Have a Will A will is an essential part of an estate plan. When an estate planning lawyer creates your will, they do so after meeting with you and learning about your family and assets. They create a legally binding document—a will—that speaks for you beyond the grave. In this document, you state how your property and assets will be distributed. It can also address issues of care and support for your minor children.  A will can be very specific. In some cases, you may wish to be sure that you exclude a certain person from receiving anything through your estate. For example, say you have an estranged parent you fear will incorrectly argue that you promised them certain items. Your will can clearly state that you are intentionally leaving them out of the will and that you wish to leave them nothing. In other situations, you may have a partner to whom you are not married. Your lawyer will know that Texas intestate succession laws will exclude them from inheriting your property. As a result, they will make sure that your will, which will supersede dying intestate laws, clearly provides for your beloved partner. For a young family with kids, you and the child’s other parent may find that one of the most important parts of your will is providing for the child’s care if either or both of you pass away. What happens if you die without a will in Texas along with your child’s other parent? You leave with no legally clear statement of whom you wish to raise your children. Dying with no will in Texas leaves your estate without important protections you could have provided by creating a will. The court will deem you as dying intestate in Texas. At that point, the state law, not you, determines what happens with your estate. Regardless of age, health, income, etc. you should have a will. What Are Texas Intestate Laws? Texas intestate succession laws provide a road map of what happens to the estate of someone who dies without a will. The Texas Estate Code, which addresses intestate succession law, states that spouses and children, parents, and siblings inherit, in that order. There are breakdowns regarding percentages for each group, based on which parties are alive when you pass away. An Example of Intestate Succession Laws To provide an understanding of what happens if you die without a will in Texas and how the courts use intestate laws, consider this scenario. A young adult with a partner passes away suddenly and unexpectedly. They leave no will, and their partner is not their legal spouse or domestic partner. They have been with their partner for over 5 years. They were extremely close to their youngest of 3 younger siblings. They had not spoken to or had any relationship with their other two siblings in years, after a falling out. Their parents are no longer alive. The partner and sibling with whom they were very close believe in all sincerity that the deceased would have wanted the two of  them to have their personal belongings and possessions. They further agree that the person would have given a sizable amount of their financial estate to a charity close to their heart. However, because the person died with no will in Texas, this does not happen. Texas intestate succession law provides that the siblings would receive equal measures of the estate. The partner and charity would receive nothing. But the two siblings the person was not speaking with would each receive one-third of the estate. Special Consideration for Young Families Without a Will If you are a young family, what happens if you die without a will in Texas is that you do not protect your family or provide clear intentions of your wishes regarding your belongings. Instead, you put those you love in the unfortunate, costly, and time-consuming process of having to wade through court and bow to Texas intestate succession laws. Yes, these laws provide assistance to some family members. However, Texas intestate succession laws are not enough. For instance, while the Texas estate code which contains intestate circumstances addresses children, it does not fully protect them. Young families with wills often also create trusts, guardianships, and other protections for their families. These additional important protections are not fully covered by intestate laws. Your estate attorney can help you adjust your will as you face any of life’s milestones. They can update your will for changes and desires related to:  Marriage, Committing to a long term domestic partner,  The birth or adoption of a child, Providing care for an elderly parent or disabled sibling, Plans regarding home and property ownership, and Leaving gifts for close friends or charities you grow to deeply care about. Without a will, your wishes may not be carried out once you die. This will be the case even if you made those wishes clear in conversations with those you love. So what happens if you die without a will in Texas? Don’t make your family and loved ones find out. Work with a lawyer now and get a will. One of the most important adult decisions a young family can make is to work with a trusted estate planning law firm to avoid the court applying intestate succession laws to their young family. Massingill Attorneys & Counselors at Law: Austin, Texas Estate Planning Attorneys The attorneys at...

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| Read Time: 4 minutes | Estate Planning

Thinking About Doing Your Own Will?—LegalZoom vs. Hiring a Lawyer

When planning a will, many people assume that filling out a single document or form is enough to divide their property appropriately upon death. Unfortunately, this often results in unforeseen problems, such as beneficiaries contesting the will. At Massingill Attorneys & Counselors at Law, we are dedicated to helping clients protect their legacy and give their family peace of mind.  Is LegalZoom Good for Wills? A LegalZoom Will Review While it may be tempting to use do-it-yourself solutions like LegalZoom to create a will, it often leads to unintended property distribution. To create an effective will, you need to take all possible life outcomes into consideration, including deaths, births, marriages, divorces, adoptions, and more.  Websites like LegalZoom cannot tailor your will to your specific situation and only provide a generic, one-size-fits-all solution. For example, if you create a will with your wife as a beneficiary, what happens if she dies before you? LegalZoom cannot address these scenarios as thoroughly as an experienced estate planning attorney. Is a LegalZoom Will Valid? A LegalZoom will can be valid, but there are many circumstances that can make a will invalid. Without the assistance of an attorney, you are much more likely to make an error that invalidates the will or cause someone to challenge its validity. For a will to be valid, you can’t just fill out a form and put it in a drawer. It’s important to comply with legal formalities required by the state, such as signing the will and having it appropriately witnessed. LegalZoom won’t complete these steps for you. A LegalZoom will is also more likely to be subject to challenge. For example, imagine there are questions about whether the testator was mentally competent to sign. If an attorney prepared the will, they could attest to the testator’s mental capacity. But if the testator’s daughter just printed out the will and had them sign it, questions about mental capacity or undue influence could plague the probate proceedings.   Important Elements of a Will That LegalZoom May Leave Out Even if your Will seems relatively straightforward, there are a few key parts of your document that LegalZoom won’t cover. Here are some of the essential parts LegalZoom might forget to include in your Will. Alternative Executors and Beneficiaries When filling out a will, the testator must choose an executor to carry out their wishes. In most cases, this is a spouse, child, or other close relative. However, if the primary executor dies or rejects their role, the probate court must appoint an administrator for the will. Each state has its own laws designating who may serve as an administrator if the testator doesn’t have an alternative executor. In addition, if a testator doesn’t name an alternative beneficiary in case the primary beneficiary cannot receive a gift, the probate court will distribute the gift according to state law. Witnesses In some states, a will requires the signature of the testator along with signatures from two or more witnesses. This means that the witnesses must be present when the testator signs their will and include the date and location of the signatures. While this may sound like a minor detail, some states will invalidate a will without this information. Conditional Gifts It isn’t uncommon for testators to leave a gift to a beneficiary with a request for them to meet certain criteria. Conditions allow you to control when your beneficiary receives their gift and how your beneficiary uses it. For example, if you want to leave your child a family heirloom, you can give it to them under the condition that they don’t sell it. This is a great way to ensure that your wishes are fulfilled. However, LegalZoom may not provide an option for you to customize your gifts in this way. Guardianship Nominations A guardianship nomination is often overlooked in a will, especially if the testator expects their spouse to take care of their children. However, this section helps identify a legal guardian for a minor child in case both parents die simultaneously. Why You Should Hire an Estate Planning Lawyer One of the major risks with using a service like LegalZoom is that they aren’t a law firm. This means that they cannot legally review your will for legal accuracy, provide advice for filling out your will, or apply the law to your specific situation. As a result, many people who use their service unknowingly create an invalid or incomplete will.  If you want to create a will that minimizes the risk of legal disputes and carries out your wishes to the letter, hiring an estate planning attorney is your best bet. At Massingill Attorneys & Counselors at Law, our attorneys can help address your individual needs by making a comprehensive estate plan that covers every possible scenario. This includes identifying both primary and alternative beneficiaries, assigning legal guardians to a minor child, preparing detailed medical directives, and more. Need Help Planning for the Future? Estate planning isn’t easy to do alone, especially if you have unique circumstances or don’t know where to start. At Massingill Attorneys & Counselors at Law, we know that your will is an important investment in your legacy. Our goal is to tailor your will to your precise wishes and protect your family from potential legal issues. If you are ready to start the estate planning process or have questions about your existing will, call us at (512) 410-0343 to schedule a consultation. We proudly serve clients living in Cedar Park, Austin, and throughout the state of Texas.

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| Read Time: 4 minutes | Estate Planning

Why You Should Consider Hiring an Estate Planning Attorney

When a person passes away or becomes incapacitated, there are issues regarding probate, finances, inheritance, and much more. Making sure that you leave your estate situated to carry out your wishes means that you must first hire an estate planning attorney. A Texas estate planning lawyer is able to explain the ins and outs of estate planning, hear your concerns, evaluate your estate as a whole, and then create a solid estate plan. The Role of an Estate Planning Attorney An estate planning lawyer is a lawyer whose practice focuses on probate, wills, trusts, and related issues. They know how to create documents in compliance with the multitude of complex laws that carry out their clients’ wishes. Trust and estate planning attorneys also know how to best protect the assets of their clients. The best Texas estate planning attorneys do not produce one-stop shopping plans; they create plans and documents specific to each individual client. The Need for an Estate Plan The word estate sometimes causes people to believe that an estate plan is meant solely for people with massive amounts of money and extensive real property. That is a fallacy.  Every person needs an estate plan. At the very least, an estate plan will address: Creating a valid last will and testament that distributes your property the way you want, and Powers of attorney appointing someone of your choice to handle your medical and financial issues if you are able to do so. In other situations, a Texas estate planning attorney will address various trusts, complex clauses regarding specific bequests, and more. In all regards, the estate plan will address any tax implications regarding the estate.  When to Hire an Estate Planning Attorney Once a person reaches the age of adulthood, they should hire an estate planning attorney. A friend, partner, or parent cannot carry out your wishes once you are gone unless you document them in a legally binding estate plan. Life can take unanticipated and tragic turns at any age, even young adulthood. The older we get, the more urgent it becomes to work with a Texas estate planning lawyer. Our wealth, relationships, health, assets, and overall finances become more complex over time. In addition, our need to protect what we care about most (children, partners, pets, charitable organizations, etc.) becomes more clear. Regardless of your situation or age, every person should hire an estate planning attorney to address your needs. As your situation in life changes, your estate planning attorneys can adapt the estate plan. How to Choose an Estate Planning Attorney You may initially feel at a bit of a loss in trying to find a Texas estate planning attorney. You may be wondering:  Do I need an estate planning attorney near me? Can I use a general practice attorney? Is it risky to use an estate planning lawyer I have never heard of? In choosing an estate planning lawyer, it is imperative that you have an attorney in your state and ideally in reasonably close proximity to you. This is because an estate plan must comply with your state laws, and attorneys practice law specific to certain states. In addition, having a lawyer that is convenient to meet with is helpful. You also will need a lawyer whose practice focuses on estate planning. Laws relating to wills and estates are not only state-specific, but they also change at times. Lawyers who are experienced and specialize in this area will be aware of all of the nuances of estate planning laws. You don’t need to be concerned with whether you have heard of the lawyer. Look for a lawyer who does estate planning regularly and a firm with strong client reviews. What Questions to Ask an Estate Planning Attorney When you are looking for an estate planning lawyer, you want to make sure you find someone who will listen to you and help you accomplish your goals. You can find out if a lawyer is right for you by asking some of the following questions: How long have you been practicing law? How much of your practice is devoted to estate planning? Do you foresee any special complications with my circumstances? How will you communicate with me? You may also ask them to refer you to previous clients who can tell you more about their experience with the lawyer and what to expect. What Can Your Estate Planning Attorney Help You With? Your estate planning attorney can help you with all aspects of your estate plan, including: Identifying your beneficiaries; Determining how you want your property distributed; Implementing strategies to protect your property from creditors; Special considerations regarding businesses and joint property; Care for a minor child; Living, irrevocable or other trusts, if necessary; Protecting your assets from unnecessary taxes; and Preparing powers of attorney and medical directives. Your attorney should help you create a comprehensive estate plan that carries out your wishes and protects your assets. Online Template vs. Trust and Estate Planning Attorney Sometimes individuals make the mistake of trying to create their own estate plan with the help of online templates or random legal service online ‘shops.’ This is a mistake because templates and online sites: Do not always incorporate accurate and current laws; Often have question and answer forms that cannot catch and address every individual’s circumstance; Often do not provide clear rules for how to execute the documents, leaving them invalid; and Result in other individuals contesting them, because they are not backed by an attorney. Everyday individuals should not be expected to give themselves valid legal advice and create estate planning documents that meet all requirements of the law. You can avoid the errors that templates and online sites bring by hiring a Texas estate planning attorney. Massingill Attorneys & Counselors at Law  At Massingill Attorneys & Counselors at Law, our lawyers are approachable and welcoming. We want our clients to trust that they can leave the critical details of legal advocacy to our legal team. With our clear...

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| Read Time: 3 minutes | Estate Planning

What Makes a Will Valid in Texas?

All adults should have a will. Your Texas last will and testament allows you, rather than the state, to determine what should happen to your assets if you pass away. But if you do not follow Texas will requirements, the document will not be valid.   What Are the Texas Will Requirements? To be binding and enforceable your will must meet Texas will requirements. For instance, Texas statutory law and case law required that to make a valid will in Texas: You have legal capacity, You have testamentary capacity, and You have testamentary intent. Let’s look at each of these requirements in terms of what they mean for Texas will requirements. Legal Capacity Legal capacity means that the court recognizes you as an adult at the time you made your will. This occurs in one of three ways. You have the legal capacity to make a will if you: Are at least 18 years old,  Have been legally married (even if not 18), or Are a member of the US military. So long as you meet at least one of the criteria above, you are assumed to have the legal capacity to create a will under Texas will laws. Testamentary Capacity Texas will requirements state that you must be of sound mind when you make your will. This is different from legal capacity in that it is not addressing whether you are a legal adult but instead whether you have the mental ability to understand what it means to create your Texas last will and testament. The courts want to be sure that when you created a will, you understood things such as: What a will is and its impact; What your personal property is; Who your relatives are, and how they will be impacted by your will or lack thereof; and Who you want to give your assets to. Capacity is meant to protect those who may not understand Texas wills from having others take advantage of them to control their estate.  Testamentary Intent At the time you sign your will, are you intending fully and truly to make a legally binding document of a Texas last will and testament? If yes, you have met Texas will requirements regarding testamentary intent. However, if you are making the will as a joke, for instance, then the courts of Texas will find a lack of testamentary intent. Other Legal Requirements Capacity and intent are vital aspects of Texas will requirements. There are, however, additional Texas laws to be aware of. For instance, a will must be in writing. There are options for handwritten and typewritten wills. In addition, there are rules relating to signatures and witnesses. Courts will scrutinize every aspect of a will before declaring it valid. Using a Texas Will Template: Beware If you use a Texas will template, you are at great risk of failing to meet Texas will requirements. Individuals often end up with templates that are not up to date legally or executed properly. If this happens to you when you pass away, your loved ones will be left with a last will and testament Texas courts will not honor.  Attorneys Specializing in Wills in Texas To create a document that meets all Texas requirements, work with a law firm with expertise in estate planning.  A Texas attorney who concentrates their practice on wills, trust, and estates can ensure that: You have a good analysis of your estate, upon which to create your will; You have a legal professional to answer all your questions during the process; You have a relationship with that attorney, who can later update your will as needed; and, most importantly, You have a Texas last will and testament that fully meets all Texas will requirements. Creating a valid will in Texas is a complex process for someone who does not specialize in this area. Those who create a last will and testament must execute all Texas will laws to a T. Remove the stress and uncertainty of this process by working with a law firm that continually receives rave reviews. Then, you can focus on making sure your wishes are known, while they make sure you end up with a legally valid Texas last will and testament.  Massingill Attorneys & Counselors at Law: We Make It Simple Massingill Attorneys & Counselors at Law specializes in meeting the legal needs of Texas residents. Because of our flat fees, collaborative nature, and trusted legal excellence, we continually maintain a 5-star rating by clients. Call us today at 512-410-0343 or book an appointment online. We offer video, phone, and in-person consultations and make it easy for you.

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| Read Time: 3 minutes | Estate Planning

FAQs: Living Trusts in Texas

When it comes to estate planning, most people have heard of a last will and testament. While this is certainly a popular option for handling one’s estate, it is by no means the only option. In fact, a comprehensive estate plan will likely include both a will and a trust. What Is a Texas Living Trust? Broadly speaking, a trust is a legal entity organized to control your assets. A revocable living trust in Texas is a specific kind of trust that allows you to retain control of the assets you place into the trust while you’re still alive. Living trusts are a flexible option for managing your estate because you control which assets to put into it. For example, you could decide to transfer the title of your home and car to your trust. From that point on, the trust would own your house and car. Who Manages a Trust? When you set up a living trust as the grantor, you designate both trustees and beneficiaries. You can designate the same person as both a beneficiary and a trustee, and you can even name yourself as a trustee and beneficiary. Ultimately, the trustees are responsible for administering the trust for the benefit of the beneficiaries. They do this by following the instructions you set out in the trust formation documents. A Texas family trust is a popular option where only family members are listed as beneficiaries. What Is the Cost of a Revocable Living Trust in Texas? The cost of establishing a living trust will depend on a number of factors, including: The complexity of your estate and the number of assets you want to transfer into the trust; Whether the trust includes a spouse or significant other; and Whether you hire an attorney. It is possible to set up your own Texas living trust using an online service. However, doing so does come with some risks since you can’t take advantage of the experience of an estate planning attorney if you have questions. What Is a Revocable vs. Irrevocable Living Trust? A living trust in Texas can be either revocable or irrevocable. A revocable living trust gives the grantor the ability to modify the trust at any time. By contrast, an irrevocable living trust can only be modified with the consent of the beneficiaries. Living Trust vs. Will in Texas? While both wills and trusts provide for the disposition of your property, there is one major difference. Where a will is only effective after you die, a living trust becomes effective as soon as you transfer property into it. You can also make changes to your living trust while you are alive. What Are the Benefits of a Living Trust? Privacy is a major benefit of a living trust. The process of administering a will, called probate, is available in the public record. A trust, on the other hand, remains private. Revocable living trusts in Texas are also much more flexible and do not require all of the same formalities associated with changing and executing a will. Contact an Estate Planning Lawyer Setting up a will and trust is just one part of a complete estate plan. Massingill Attorneys and Counselors at Law offers flat-fee pricing on our will or trust-based estate plans. We will work with you to develop the best estate plan for your needs. Contact us today online or at 512-410-0343 to book a free consultation.

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| Read Time: 6 minutes | Estate Planning

Why Estate Planning Is Important in Texas

Many think that estate planning is only for the ultra-wealthy, but that is simply not the case. If you have assets, you have an estate. If you have an estate, you need a plan. For assistance, please don’t hesitate to contact our Texas estate planning attorneys by sending us a message or calling (512) 410-0343 today. Below we will explain why estate planning is important in Texas. What Is an Estate Plan? An estate plan is a set of documents that directs others on managing your assets during your lifetime and at death. Part of estate planning includes developing instructions on your financial and medical care if you are unable to make those decisions. Your estate plan may comprise a combination of the following documents: Last will and testament, Advance power of attorney, Living will,  Medical power of attorney, and  Trusts.  At Massingill Attorneys & Counselors at Law, our goal is to make sure your intentions are clearly defined in your estate plan. We achieve this by incorporating multiple document types.  Last Will and Testament A will is your final chance to speak. This legal document communicates your wishes and instructs your executor on how to distribute your assets. Your will is only effective once you die, and only assets solely in your name (also known as probate assets) are subject to the terms of your will. With this document, you can do the following: Gift specific property, cash, or other assets; Appoint your executor; and  Designate a guardian for any minor or disabled child.  Texas has its own unique requirements for a will to be valid. That is why it is advantageous to consult with an attorney to assist you in creating your will.  Financial Power of Attorney A power of attorney is a document that authorizes another person to manage your financial affairs on your behalf. There are several types of powers of attorney that are available based on your needs and goals. Powers of attorney can be broad or limited in scope and can take effect immediately or when a certain event occurs, such as incapacity.  A financial power of attorney can help protect you from financial abuse if you become incapacitated. Texas has a statutory form available, but it is best to speak with an attorney to fully understand the implications of the document before you sign. Living Will A living will, also known as an advance medical directive, provides end-of-life instructions. This document is meant to prevent confusion or disagreement among your family and health care providers with respect to how you want to be treated before you die. Typically, you would decide on the use of artificial hydration and nutrition, the use of breathing machines, whether you want to be resuscitated, and whether you want to be an organ/tissue donor. Medical Power of Attorney A Texas medical power of attorney allows you to appoint an agent to make health care decisions for you if you are unable to do so. Since the term “health care” includes a broad range of medical services, you may limit the agent’s power to only certain medical decisions. The document only goes into effect when a physician certifies that you lack the competence to make health care decisions. The health care professional must follow your agent’s instructions. Trusts Trusts are used for many reasons, but most commonly to pass assets to beneficiaries outside the probate process and protect against creditors. Trusts come in a variety of types, including living trusts, testamentary trusts, Medicaid trusts, charitable trusts, special needs trusts, and life insurance trusts.  These estate planning vehicles are attractive because the beneficiaries typically get their inheritance quicker and cheaper than through a will. With proper use, trusts can also provide certain tax advantages to both the testator (the creator of the trust) and the beneficiary. Why Do I Need an Estate Plan? Estate planning is important for many reasons, from protecting your hard-earned assets to providing for your family and minimizing taxes.  Peace of Mind Planning for your death may seem like a morbid task. It is. Discussing how you want to die and who should get your car may not be fun, but it is rewarding. Knowing you are making sound decisions about your assets and providing for your family should bring you and your loved ones peace of mind. Tackle the tough questions and decisions now, so your family is not left scrambling, during an already difficult time, to figure out what to do with your estate. Protect Your Assets Without an estate plan, you and your assets are not protected. You have worked hard for what you have, so take the time to shelter it from creditors, greedy family members, or divorce proceedings. As mentioned above, estate planning is both important and effective during your lifetime. The use of medical and financial powers of attorney can protect yourself and your assets from abuse. By incorporating wills and trusts into your estate plan, you continue to provide protection even after your death. Ensure Your Assets Go to the Intended Beneficiaries If you do not write your own will, Texas will do that for you. Under Texas intestate succession laws, your probate assets go to your closest living relatives. This highlights the importance of estate planning since your assets could pass to someone you may not want them to. Depending on who is surviving at your death, Texas will distribute your estate as follows:  If children survive, but not a spouse, then children inherit; If a spouse survives, but no children, parents, or siblings, then the spouse inherits; If parents survive, but no children, spouse, or siblings, then parents inherit; and If siblings survive, but no children, spouse or parents, then siblings inherit. The rules become more complicated when you have blended families or a mix of surviving parents, children, and siblings. There are several ways to avoid this type of distribution, such as executing a will, transferring your assets into a trust, or jointly owning property. Avoid...

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