Of all the questions that the attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan received about the will drafting process probably the most frequently asked is whether it is even necessary. When we think about estate planning or will drafting, we are considering a subject that too many people seem as foreign as living on the moon. Having a will is not for regular, everyday people. Rather, having a will is for rich people. Your grandmother or grandfather may have had a will but they had some money and some complicated finances in their lives. Why do you need a will? If you’re not wealthy or well to do what is the benefit of going through with drafting a will in the first place?

 I must tell you; I don’t necessarily blame you for thinking this way. Estate planning is not an exciting subject. Watching paint dry or grass grow is probably more exciting than walking through end-of-life scenarios and trying to think critically about what steps to take for your life and that of your family when you pass away. The material itself is dry and unexciting. When we consider that drafting a will involves planning, expense, and time there is not much fun that goes into the process. Since we all lead busy lives to begin with it is difficult to make time for subjects that are not fun. When we spend so much time on the drudgery of life and of everything in between drafting a will it’s probably not something that we have much interest in.

Additionally, drafting a will pouring gauging in Any kind of end-of-life planning requires us to think about the end of our lives. Of all the unpleasant subjects to think about, I could think of no subject that is less pleasant to consider at the end of our lives. Considering our mortality, it’s probably humankind’s least favorite subject. You would much prefer to consider planning for the rest of your life in terms of what you’ll be doing when you’re alive rather than thinking a great deal about end-of-life scenarios then involve unpleasant subject matter. As a result, if we consider all the reasons why people may not want to consider circumstances regarding end-of-life planning this is probably one of the most if not the most important reason. Namely, when you consider end-of-life planning you must necessarily consider the end of your life. Again, not a lot of fun to say the least.

Another reason why you may be holding off on doing any kind of end-of-life planning is due to the time that you believe it takes. We’re also in busy trying to live our lives that we do not necessarily want to take the time necessary to consider our deaths. This is a dangerous game to play. For one, none of us know the minute or the hour that we are going to pass away. Most of us reading this blog post likely have more time to plan for our deaths. However, it is also possible that the end of our lives is not far off. I don’t say this to scare anyone or to be intimidating in any way. However, the reality is unexpected events can occur in your life just as readily as they can occur in anyone else. Stories we hear about other people dying young or from unexpected causes don’t just happen to other people. That can happen to us just as easily. 

As a result, time is not always something that we have on our sides. Time may be working against you if you know that you have a certain condition or illness that may shorten your life span a considerable amount. In that case, you do not necessarily have an extended period to plan for these types of events. Rather, the amount of time that you must plan for end-of-life scenarios may be relatively limited. In that case, you need to act while you have the ability and the way we thought to do so.

The costs of hiring an attorney to help with estate planning

Another major concern that some people have about drafting a will is that it will cost a great deal of money. If the time commitment weren’t bad enough, you may have been led to believe that drafting a will is also extremely expensive. There might be costs associated with going to court. There may be costs associated with hiring an attorney. It is almost certain that you will never have to step foot in court regarding the drafting of your own will. Rather, there are many different sorts of ways that you can draft a will. None of which specifically require you to go down to the courthouse. 

Rather, this is the process that can be done essentially overnight and does not necessarily involve a judge or even attorneys. Having a wheel drafted could be as simple as taking out a piece of paper and writing down your wishes in terms of who gets what after you pass away. Months you jot down those thoughts on the paper & your name you could have a couple of people witness the signing and then slip that will into your desk drawer. From there, you have what probably will end up as a valid will that can be used by your family to sort out the loose ends of your state after you pass away. 

However, it may also be the case that you have somewhat more complicated setup circumstances to consider than the average person. For example, do you own a business? Do you have a great deal of debt? Do you have a large estate with many assets? Do you have many children from different relationships where you may need to consider things like trust? These are all valid things to think about in terms of end-of-life planning. It is not always sufficient merely to draft your own will or to go online and have a website build the will for you. For some people, these are perfectly fine methods. For others, it is better to work with an experienced professional like an estate planning attorney.

For the remaining parts of today’s blog post, I am going to share with you my thoughts on why working with an estate planning attorney can I offer you numerous benefits compared to having a wheel drafted either by the computer or simply having you draft a will on your own without anyone’s assistance. While you do have options when it comes to drafting a will, I can tell you that the most direct way to complete this process is to work with an experienced professional. Rather than simply make that recommendation and leave it at that we can consider some specific points of emphasis that may be more critical for you. 

As always, the blogs be right here on the website for our law practice deal only with general information that is intended to pertain to a wide audience. I am writing today in hopes of being able to provide general information and perspective for everyone who is an adult who lives in Southeast Texas. As I’m sure you can imagine there is a wide variety of people with different life experiences and needs here in our state. With that said, I will not be able to touch on the specific circumstances that may be relevant to you and your family. The irony is that your specific circumstances are at the core of the relationship between you and your lawyer. That is what you and your lawyer would end up spending most of your time discussing. It’s not generalities in concepts in law. Rather, you would be talking about your circumstances to help you arrive at solutions that work best for you and your family.

With that said, if you do have any specific questions or want to follow up on any of the concepts you read about in our blog posts today and I recommend that you speak to one of our experienced estate planning attorneys today. You can arrange a free of charge consultation with one of our lawyers in person at one of our two Houston area locations, over the phone, or even via video. Take the time to learn about the law with an emphasis on your specific situation. I think if you do this you will be more confident in whatever your estate plan ends up being. At that point, you can comfortably lead the rest of your life feeling secure that you have done as much as you can then take care of your family.

Do you have any debt? 

Probably the most overlooked item when it comes to the world of estate planning is the relation to debt. It used to be that debt truly was a four-letter word in the sense that most people tried to avoid it as much as possible. Our grandparents may have borrowed some money to buy a house but that was about it. Otherwise, cash was king. Our parents’ generation began to widely use credit cards. But things like college educations, vacations, and other more expensive items were purchased with cash. However, our generation is fully embraced debt to the extent that we finance the purchase of items on Internet websites, college educations, and everything in between. 

As a result, our generation is more indebted to other people than any previous generation. True, there are different factors to consider and explanations as to why debt is so prevalent for the millennial generation and even younger generation Xers. However, the simple truth at this stage in the game is that you need to prepare for the effect that debt can have on your estate planning. Most notably, debt can have a meaningful impact on your life to the extent that you need to consider it when going through with end of life in estate planning. 

For example, do you even know how much debt you have? I don’t mean a general idea or even a basic understanding. Rather, I mean do you know how much that you own and to whom the debt is owed? If you couldn’t take out a piece of paper and tell me in round numbers how much debt you have in the names of your creditors, then this is a problem when it comes to estate planning. The state planning does not cover merely who you want to end up with your family heirlooms or who have beneficiaries who will be on a retirement plan or other financial instrument. Rather, the truth is debt comes before any of these items. 

When it comes to your state no beneficiary under your will can receive property unless and until all creditors are satisfied. This means that once your will is drafted it goes into probate the executor of your will has to notify creditors but you have passed away to allow them to attend to matters related to the money you owe them. For example, the executive of your estate may need to post something online or publish something notifying the accreditor of your passing period from there, the creditor will have a certain period to intercede into the probate process and work through the payment of those debts.

Secured creditors like a mortgage company or even the company that loaned you money for your car have collateral that vacancies and take back if a debt is not paid. These folks would go to the front of the line when it comes to collecting money from your estate. The property in your estate can be sold and the proceeds sent to these creditors. Other unsecured creditors like credit card companies would go to the back of the line it may not receive anything out of your state after you pass away unless you have sufficient property to consider.

It can be a shock to some people to learn that your beneficiaries may end up receiving not a dime from you unless and until all creditors are paid in full. The assumption is that what you want to happen in your will in terms of the property will always be able to be followed through by your executor. This is true for the most part, but the rights of creditors are protected under Texas law. Therefore, you should work with an experienced state planning attorney before completing a will. The attorney can help you plan for specific things regarding creditors and help inform you of your rights as well as the rights of the creditor themselves. 

This may cause you to rethink your current financial situation in terms of paying off debt as well as to which beneficiaries’ property should be promised. I have seen many other people take a different course regarding their attitude towards debt once they realize that the debt does not go away after they pass away. Some forms of student loan debt are like this. However, other debts will live on past the point in time when you pass away. It may even be the case that your spouse becomes liable for a particular debt even if the debt is in your name.

Another situation where it may be especially advantageous to you to work with an experienced family law attorney is if you currently have children under the age of 18. In that case, it is not sufficient to merely name your children as the only beneficiaries under your will and to promise them all the property that you own. Rather, children of yours who are minors cannot technically and legally own property. As such, different legal mechanisms need to be considered to provide for their well-being until they become adults.

Probably the most common method of providing for children that are minors is known as a testamentary trust. A testamentary trust is simply hey trust that is established through your will. The testamentary trust could state how you want your property to be held for the benefit of your children until they reach the age of 18. If you would like a certain amount of the money to be released for your children at certain milestones in their lives and you may specify this. Additionally, if you want the money to be invested in certain mutual funds or stocks you may also specify this. The point is that your children are not legally capable of doing these things on their own once you pass away. The trustee of your trust can be established within your will and that person would follow through with your wishes until your child reaches a certain age.

When it comes to more complicated concepts like these working with an inexperienced estate planning attorney is the best course to take. 

Questions about the material contained in today’s blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan

If you have any questions about the material contained in today’s blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed estate planning and probate law attorneys offer free of charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about the world of estate planning and probate law as well as about how your family circumstances may be impacted by any number of end-of-life situations or scenarios