A Few Tips for Those Starting the Houston Estate Planning Process

Few people look forward to creating an estate plan. However, the importance of creating a Houston estate plan cannot be overstated. By taking action now, individuals can ensure that they have the means to provide for themselves while protecting everything that they have worked so hard to obtain throughout their life.

For many, the concept of estate planning can be overwhelming. Below is a checklist of important steps for those who are thinking about how to start the estate planning process.

Take Inventory:

One of the most common mistakes people make is assuming that they do not have enough assets to make estate planning worth their while. However, before coming to this conclusion, it is important to sit down and take a detailed inventory of all familial assets, including:

  • Real estate
  • Collectibles
  • Retirement accounts
  • Vehicles
  • Checking, savings, and investment accounts
  • Life insurance policies
  • Business interests
  • Digital Assets

Once all assets have been identified, it is important to assign an approximate value to the items to gain a clear understanding of the total value of an estate.

Determine Future Needs:

Once all assets are identified, the next step is to consider what the future may hold. For example, are there young children who may need to have a guardian appointed in the event of a parent’s sudden death or incapacity? Is there a possible need for long-term nursing home care? Does the primary wage-earner have a life insurance policy in the event of their untimely passing?

Consider Directives:

A directive is a document that outlines an individual’s wishes. There are many different types of directives, including:

  • A Medical care directive
  • A financial power of attorney
  • Limited power of attorney
  • Trusts

While directives are a crucial element of any Houston estate plan, families should be cautious when naming decision makers, as directives can pass a significant amount of power onto other individuals.

Identify Beneficiaries:

Families often have assets outside the scope of a will. For example, beneficiaries can be added to bank accounts, investment accounts, and retirement accounts. By naming a beneficiary, the assets contained in the account will pass directly to the named beneficiary, bypassing the probate process.

Think About Estate Taxes:

While Texas does not have an estate tax, there is a federal estate tax for estates valued at more than $11.58 million. Estates that are subject to the federal estate tax will be taxed at 40 percent. However, through the use of trusts and other estate planning tools, it may be possible to reduce an estate’s value to lessen or eliminate the tax burden.

Obtain Professional Help:

Estate planning is a complex area of law that requires detailed knowledge of many different laws and federal programs. While there are many online services available to those interested in creating an estate plan, these services are generic and will not take a family’s unique situation into account. Thus, to ensure the maximum benefit from an estate plan, it is best to work with an experienced estate planning attorney.

Reach Out to a Houston Trust and Estates Lawyer

If your family is considering creating a Houston estate plan, contact the knowledgeable attorneys at McCulloch & Miller, PLLC. At McCulloch & Miller, we have more than 35 years of hands-on experience helping families plan for their financial future. Our dedicated team of estate planning lawyers is ready to meet with you to discuss your needs. To learn more, call 713-333-8900 today.

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