Estate Planning is More Than Just a Will

Most people think of estate planning as just doing a will or otherwise planning for passing ownership of property at death. While that is important, estate planning should include much more.
Every married person should seriously consider the marital property laws that apply to them and how they can be altered to meet your wants and needs. Texas is a community property state but it allows modification of those rules by agreement if it is done properly.

How To Properly Plan Your Estate

If you want what is in your name to be yours and what is in your spouse’s name to be your spouse’s then proper documentation can do that for you.
Likewise state and federal laws can control the beneficiary designations on your 401k, IRAs and other retirement programs. Setting these up properly is an important part of estate planning.
Estate planning should be planning for life as well as death. Powers of attorney, declarations of guardianship, and advance directives can help you deal with illness and incapacity.

Planning For Long Term Care

Planning for long term care either through long term care insurance or government programs such as Medicaid is an important part of estate planning. With proper planning someone can qualify for Medicaid and still pass substantial assets to his or her family on death. Advance planning is the key.
There is still an important place for wills and trusts in passage of ownership at death, however new tools such as transfer on death deeds and motor vehicle titles need to be considered too.
Everyone should discuss his or her personal situation as to all these matters with an estate planning lawyer. Your family, your estate and your wishes are unique to you. Your estate plan should be too.

Robert Morris is an Elder Law, Estate Planning, Guardianship and Medicaid Attorney at Hammerle Finley Law Firm.