Many people have heard of estate planning, but don’t actually know very much about it, or
understand how they could benefit from it. Estate planning is about conserving assets and protecting family wealth by avoiding or minimizing tax implications and other adverse events related to the transfer of wealth and assets prior to, and after, your death. It is a definitive plan that lays out how your assets should be distributed and transferred in a way that brings about the most benefit to your surviving family members.
An “estate” can include any asset, real estate, property, personal property, business interest,
investment, or intangible asset, such as intellectual property rights or other financial interests. Effectively, your estate is made up of all the things that you own, either on your own or jointly with another person, that have value.
Some people have the misconception that estate planning is only for the ultra wealthy, and that
people of modest income would never need such outlining and organization concerning their property and assets. However, estate planning focuses on identifying and utilizing certain methods that are designed to save your loved ones money in the long run.
There are a number of different vehicles that estate lawyers use to provide benefit to
clients, and which are best to use is based on the assets that the client has and the prospective legal or tax implications that could be associated with a transfer of those assets from the client to a recipient. Certain of these methods work together nicely and a well-planned estate can offer clients various protections and assurances that their assets will go to who they want, when they want.
● Joint ownership of an asset. Joint ownership or property creates a property interest in the
property for each joint owner. So if one owner were to pass away, his or her share in the
joint property would be divvied up to the remaining joint property holders.
● Preparing a will. A will is a handy legal document by which a testator (i.e., the owner of the
will) can designate who receives certain property items upon the death of the testator. Wills
in Texas are easy to prepare and a lawyer can help you with the requirements for making a
valid and enforceable will.
● Setting up a trust. A trust is a legal instrument by which property can be held by one
person for the benefit of another. There are many different types of trusts, for instance a
living trust, which can be revocable or irrevocable.
● Creating a life estate. A life estate is an ownership interest in a piece of real property (real
estate) that lasts for the duration of a person’s life. The ownership interest does not have to
be created in the property owner, but instead could be created in someone else. This means
that the other person will own the property for the duration of their life, and if they pass
away, the property interest can either revert back to the original owner or can be
transferred to someone else.
● Designating beneficiaries on all insurance policies and annuities. Surprisingly, a
number of people forget to designate a beneficiary on their various insurance policies,
which can create a headache for your family and loved ones when you pass away.
Undesignated insurance payouts go into a collective asset pot when you die, which is
distributed to your family members according to either instructions in your will, or if there
is no will, according to the laws governing intestacy (when a death happens and there is no
An estate planning attorney will be able to help you identify your assets and determine which
tools are most appropriate for you based on your particular circumstances. The estate planning professionals at Giles & Giles have prepared many wills, set up numerous trusts and have helped many clients plan out their estates. We are here to provide you and your family peace of mind. Please feel free to contact us today.