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Estate planning is about far more than just preparing documents and checking yet another item off your list: it is a powerful way to protect your family and ensure your legacy lives on. As such, a well-planned estate will provide you the peace of mind in knowing that your property and assets will be distributed fairly and that your estate will be managed prudently once you are no longer able to control it.

What is an estate plan?

Estate planning is nothing other than the process of solidifying your intentions for the distribution of your property after you pass away. Generally, an estate plan will include a will, one or more trusts, a power of attorney, and advance directives (for instance, a living will). In short, a will and trust will ensure your property is properly distributed among your heirs after your death. A power of attorney and advance directive will give someone you trust the authority to make financial and healthcare decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so for yourself. 

What is a will?

A will is a formal legal document that dictates who will inherit your property after your death. It becomes effective immediately after your death, and your executor (whom you will select when you prepare your documents) will distribute your property according to your intentions.

What is a trust?

Essentially, a “trust” is the legal term for the right to money or property. Someone called a “fiduciary,” who is either an individual or a financial institution, will hold onto the property for the benefit of the “beneficiary” - the person who is entitled to it. There are several different types of trusts with different ground rules about when and how the property should be distributed to the trust beneficiaries. 

What are advance directives?

An advance directive is a document that provides guidance to medical professionals should you ever become incapacitated. The document will specify whether you want to be kept alive if you end up in a persistent vegetative state and will lay out exactly what you want - and what you hope to avoid - in terms of life-sustaining and palliative care. For instance, do you want to remain on a ventilator, receive nutrition and hydration, or avoid any and all extraordinary means of life support? 

The purpose of an advance directive is to ensure your wishes are honored when you are unable to express them for yourself.

Do you need an estate planning attorney?

The goal of estate planning should be to preserve, manage, and distribute wealth in a manner that minimizes foreseeable risks and honors your intentions. Even the wisest among us cannot ensure the proper management of our life’s work without an estate plan. As such, it is wise to enlist the help of an experienced estate planning attorney.

At Foster Massengill, PLLC, we can help make sure that your legacy is not left to chance. Throughout the years, we have helped clients across Texas with their estate planning needs and we can work with you to provide the peace of mind of knowing your intentions will be honored and your heirs cared for when you pass away.

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