New Year’s Resolution: Updating Your Estate Plan

As the end of the year looms, your to-do list is likely filled with holiday obligations, family plans and hopefully some down time once the major holidays are behind you. The end of the year is also a great time to review your estate plan to make sure your wishes are in order and take into account any family changes from the past year.

If an individual dies without an estate plan, the state will disperse their assets according to state law. In Texas, on occasions when an individual dies without a will or estate plan, the Texas Estate Code dictates how their property is dispersed.

If you die without a will, you are said to be intestate. Your assets and property will be passed on to others depending on Texas state law intestate succession. If you have minimal assets, the implications of this are minimal. However, if you own real estate or valuable property, have retirement savings or have certain wishes regarding how your property is distributed among your heirs, you need a written plan to protect your property and to ensure that it is dispersed as you wish.

Suppose you have a friend or an unmarried partner to whom you wish your property to pass. If you have not clearly laid out your wishes in a written estate plan, the Texas Estate Code dictates how your property is dispersed among parents, siblings and descendants. While it is rare, if you die without a will and have no living heirs as defined by the state’s Estate Code, your property could conceivably pass to the state.

If your family experienced a significant change this year – such as a divorce, death of a close loved one, birth of a child, marriage or adoption – you need to review your estate plan with a trusted local attorney.

While most of us think of the distribution of property, estate plans can also cover what happens to you should you become incapacitated, provide for long-term care, minimize taxes and establish guardianship of minor children, among other things.

At Chad West, PLLC, we’ve seen firsthand the life-altering impact of unexpected injuries such as a traumatic brain injury from a car accident. These things can happen to anyone at any time. A car accident or other traumatic personal injury that necessitates long-term medical care is only made more complex when you don’t have an estate plan, including documents dictating your medical preferences and medical and financial powers of attorney or long-term care preferences.

The beginning of the year is an ideal time to review your estate plan with a local attorney. At Chad West, PLLC, we have helped hundreds of clients with drafting their estate plans, including last will and testaments, helping to minimize taxes and protect their assets, establishing medical and financial powers of attorney and designating guardianship for yourself (should it become necessary in the future) and your minor children. We recommend our clients review their estate plans annually. To show our appreciation for the sacrifices of police officers, firefighters and active duty military personnel, we offer a 50 percent discount on our estate planning services.

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