How to Build Freedom From Court Interference Into Your Estate Plan
If you feel that the matters of your estate should be kept private and that your assets should be used for your care during your lifetime and then distributed to your loved ones rather than eroded by court fees, you’re not alone. And luckily, all it takes to get there is a proactive attitude toward planning your estate. Let’s dive in:
Court Interference 101
Two of the most common situations in which the court becomes involved in your estate are guardianship and probate:
Guardianship and Conservatorship
When someone experiences mental incapacity, documents in their estate plan can direct a trusted person to carry out that individual’s wishes for the situation. But what if no such documents have been drafted? Then their business becomes the government’s business, too. A court proceeding called guardianship or conservatorship (also known as “living probate”) will be held to appoint guardians and conservators to manage the affairs of the incapacitated person.
If you have a valid will, the Texas probate process is usually relatively simple and efficient. Without a will it is different story – it may be a longer, more costly endeavor. Yet even if you are well prepared with a will, there are still reasons some people consider an estate plan that avoids probate. Because your will becomes public record after death, you lose privacy, the door is swung open so that your estate may be more vulnerable to will contests from those unhappy with their share of your estate, and creditors may be looking to seize the inheritance you’ve left the beneficiaries.
Free your estate from interference
If you would like to avoid guardianship, conservatorship, and probate, you can work with us to keep your affairs out of court entirely.
1. Powers of attorney
Agents or attorneys-in-fact are the individuals or entities you appoint to make decisions for you, be they medical or financial. You designate agents or attorneys-in-fact in a document known as a power of attorney. Durable powers of attorney are documents that continue in validity after the incapacity of the maker of the document (i.e. “durable” against incapacity). Since a durable power of attorney continues in validity, a durable power of attorney can help bypass the need for court-appointed guardianship or conservatorship.
Trusts are agreements that hold some or all of your assets, and trustees can be either individuals or corporate entities. Unlike wills, assets in trust at the time of your death do not go through probate. There are several types of trusts, and we can help you decide exactly which kind is best suited to your estate. By setting up and completely funding a revocable living trust, you can accomplish two important things. First, you can rest assured that your assets will be distributed to your chosen beneficiaries and won’t go through probate upon your death. Second, you also retain the ability to change or cancel the arrangement during your lifetime, enabling you to adjust your plan as your financial or family circumstances change.
Make sure your estate plan is air-tight
Deciding on appropriate powers of attorney and drafting revocable living trusts are just two of the many steps we can take together to keep your affairs free from court involvement. With a solid estate plan put into place with the help of a trusted attorney, you can take comfort knowing that everything you’ve worked so hard to build and maintain will be passed along to only the people who matter most. Give us a call today to learn more about interference-proofing your estate plan.