The recent increase in unexpected deaths as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic has brought the issue of estate planning to the front of many people’s minds. In planning for the end of their life, asset holders may be confused by the various tools that may be used to divide their estate. Wills and trusts are both estate planning instruments that are used to protect assets and ensure that they are transferred to heirs as a benefactor desires. Wills and trusts are different from one another. Depending on the circumstances and desires of a benefactor, a will or a trust, or both may be appropriate tools for planning their estate.
Last Will and Testament Basics
Wills are the most common and widely understood methods for distributing an estate upon a family member’s death. A will is a written document that expresses the desires of a deceased person. A will only becomes active upon the death of its creator. Wills may include directives about funeral plans or other end-of-life issues besides property division. If a deceased person has minor children in their sole custody, a will can be used to assign guardianship of the children to another party. Absent a guardianship provision in a will, state courts will be responsible for choosing the legal guardian(s) of a deceased person. If a deceased person does not have a will, their minor children are at risk of being placed in the care of someone who they would not wish to assume legal guardianship of the children.
When someone dies with a will, the asset division is required to go through a legal process known as probate. Probate courts are responsible for interpreting and executing the wishes of the deceased in accordance with their will. A Texas probate case will require the involved parties to retain probate attorneys to assist in the case. A probate case may take longer than the parties desire, with assets often being held for a year or more before division.
Trusts Can Create More Control and Flexibility
Trusts are another instrument that can be used to divide someone’s assets upon their death. A trust created with the help of a Houston estate planning attorney can also be used to distribute assets while the benefactor is still alive. In the event of a debilitating chronic illness or degenerative mental health condition, a trust may be desirable because it is in effect upon being executed by the benefactor. Trusts may also be preferable to wills in estate planning because the use of a trust avoids the expense and delay of probate proceedings. Trusts also give more control to the benefactor in determining the fate of shared business interests among the heirs or beneficiaries.
Both wills and trusts are useful ways to ensure that someone’s desires are respected and honored upon their death. With the help of a Texas trust and estate attorney, interested parties can decide whether a will or a trust (or both) are appropriate tools in their estate plan.
Contact a Houston Estate Planning Lawyer for Immediate Assistance
The trusts and estate attorneys with McCulloch & Miller know the issues factoring Houston area families when it comes to estate planning. Our understanding and compassionate attorneys and staff can advise and assist you and your loved ones in creating a plan that ensures that end-of-life wishes are maintained after a loved one passes away. Our lawyers will be there to help you make important decisions to be sure your family and loved ones are taken care of for years to come. Contact our office at 713-333-8900 to schedule a free initial consultation with a Houston estate planning attorney on our team.