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Things to consider when estate planning

Many people think that estate planning is only for the rich and famous. When really everyone, no matter their income or estate size, should be creating documents like wills, trusts and power attorneys. Proper planning can help ensure that there won't be any confusion for your loved ones and that your last requests are fulfilled.

Consider a will

Wills are relatively easy to write and prepare. Costs for drafting a will are low, which is why many people have wills. Wills contain a lot a lot of important information including who your beneficiaries are, who your children's guardians will be, funeral arrangements and even people or entities that you don't want to receive anything.

The pros:

  • Easy and cost effective to create and edit
  • Easy to dissolve
  • Not complex

The cons:

  • Higher taxes
  • May be subject to the probate process
  • Less flexibility

Consider a trust

Trusts allow you to be very specific about what your last wishes are. You can specify the age, objective or circumstance that your trustee must fulfill before they can receive their trust. A trust usually avoids the probate process, which means a lot less hassle for the trustee. It also means that the estate information will remain private, unlike with the probate process, which becomes public information.

The pros:

  • Lower taxes
  • Usually is not subject to the probate process
  • Court fees are less for the trustee

The cons:

  • More complex
  • Costs more for you set up
  • Not easy to change or dissolve

You can also have both a will and trust. Deciding which option is best for you is mostly dependent on your circumstances and how specific or general you would like to be.

Power of attorney

A power of attorney is also very important to consider. This document appoints someone to act on your behalf if you become unable to due to medical, physical or mental reasons. You can give your appointed person as much control as you would like. Your terms can be very general or they can be very specific in regards to what they have control over. You can select as many powers of attorneys as you'd like and assign each a different area of authority. Typically, people select a medical and a financial power of attorney.

This is important to establish because if you should become unable to make decisions for yourself, you need to be prepared and have someone ready. When selecting a power of attorney, is it important to select someone you trust. Usually, this is a family member, close friend, attorney or agent. It is also important to select someone that is up for the job and willing to make tough decisions and carry out your last wishes.

It is always best to consult with a lawyer when drafting any of these documents. An attorney who is experienced with estate planning can help you address all matters that should be included in your will, trust or power of attorney. This will ensure that your last wishes are carried out as you specified.

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Jamie Graham & Associates, PLLC
310 South St. Mary's Street
Suite 2500
San Antonio, TX 78205

Phone: 210-272-7034
Fax: 210-308-5669
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