Fort Worth Estate Planning Attorney
Comprehensive and High-Caliber Services in Mid-Cities and Throughout Denton County
Estate planning is an essential component of financial planning that allows you to protect your legacy and those closest to you. Our Fort Worth estate planning lawyer’s background as a financial advisor provides our firm with unique insights that we routinely leverage to better protect the interests of individuals and businesses.
Our team at The Messerli Law Firm, PLLC has over 20 years of business experience and is familiar with an extensive range of financial and estate planning tools. We will work to understand your goals and implement tailored solutions that will provide the peace of mind you deserve.
The Importance of Estate Planning in Texas
Everyone should have an estate plan. When someone passes away without an estate plan in place, their property becomes subject to Texas’s intestate succession laws. This means that the deceased will have no say in how their assets are distributed or who will care for their minor children.
An effective estate plan can help you avoid the consequences of probate, the process through which a deceased person’s estate is “settled’ in the eyes of the law. Settling an estate involves notifying the deceased’s heirs and beneficiaries, inventorying the deceased’s assets, fielding any disputes, paying any outstanding debts, and distributing assets. Without strategic estate planning, your beneficiaries may be forced to wait months before they receive inheritances. Unsheltered assets intended for your loved ones may also be seized by creditors or negatively impacted by estate taxes. Our team is familiar with how to efficiently structure estate planning documents to avoid these outcomes.
Our Fort Worth estate planning attorney can assist you with:
- Wills. A last will and testament allows you to decide who will receive your assets, who will take care of your minor children, and who will manage your estate. Contents of a will are a matter of public record, and assets not placed in a trust will be subject to probate. Wills also must be properly witnessed, signed, and formalized in order to be considered enforceable. The will is an important foundational document but should only be the first step in building your estate plan. We can help draft and validate a will that supports your goals and complements other elements of your estate plan.
- Trusts. Revocable living trusts function similarly to wills in that you can designate beneficiaries to your assets. Unlike wills, revocable living trusts are private, avoid probate, and allow for extensive customization. They can also be modified or canceled throughout your lifetime. Irrevocable trusts cannot be modified or canceled once implemented but can be leveraged to shelter assets from taxes or creditors. Our team is familiar with all types of trusts and can create mechanisms that will meet all of your objectives.
- Powers of Attorney. When you appoint a power of attorney, you give someone authority to act in your stead within a scope that you define. You may choose to name a power of attorney to close a business deal on your behalf, for example. A durable power of attorney remains in effect in the event you become incapacitated. This can prevent unnecessary disruption, confusion, and stress, as your chosen power of attorney will have the legal authority to conduct routine transactions (like paying bills) and make important discussions (including those involving medical care) on your behalf. Our team can help you select a power of attorney, draft the appropriate documents, and ensure that all responsibilities are clearly defined.
- Advanced Healthcare Directives. An advanced healthcare directive allows you to provide enforceable instructions for medical care should you become incapacitated and unable to advocate for yourself. These directives can provide guidance in numerous areas, including preferences for end-of-life care, whether you are comfortable authorizing a risky surgery, and whether you wish to be resuscitated. We can review scenarios commonly covered by advanced healthcare directives and ensure your positions and wishes are clearly articulated.
- Business Succession Planning. Private businessowners will need to select a successor and develop a plan for a smooth transfer of power. Our firm can help you explore all of your succession options and ensure the appropriate facilitation mechanisms are in place.
- Probate Representation. Numerous types of conflicts can threaten to prolong the already burdensome probate process. Some obstacles, including disputes over the validity of a will, may require litigation to resolve. We can represent the deceased’s personal representative and loved ones in all matters of probate.
- Trust and Estate Administration. A successor trustee will be responsible for managing the contents and activities of a trust once you become incapacitated or pass away. Many will elect a close friend or loved one to take on this duty, but trustees are subject to strict financial regulatory requirements that can be difficult to understand. Many well-meaning trustees can run afoul of these complex rules and be subject to stiff legal penalties. Similarly, you may be tempted to name a close family member as your personal representative, the individual responsible for settling your estate when you pass away. If your personal representative only has little to no experience navigating probate, they may be overwhelmed by their responsibilities. Our team can serve as both your trust and estate administrators and handle all of your financial and probate affairs.
You will also need to regularly update your estate plan as your circumstances change. Any major life event, such as the birth or adoption of a child, a marriage or divorce, a move to a new state, or a substantial change in assets should trigger a thorough review of your estate plan. Even when no major life events have occurred, you should still plan to go through your estate plan every few years. Our Fort Worth estate planning lawyer at The Messerli Law Firm, PLLC can recommend adjustments to your documents and make requested modifications as your priorities evolve.