At its core, an experienced estate planning attorney is meant to help you for the unexpected. And with more than a million deaths worldwide and counting, COVID-19 can certainly claim the title of one of the most unexpected events in modern world history.
No one could have predicted that a global pandemic would hold the entire world in its deadly grip for months on end, but it happened. This tragedy has injected grief, sorrow, and uncertainty into communities across the world, throughout the United States, and all corners of Arlington, Texas—our home.
Such a tidal wave of change and fear overwhelming our daily lives has, of course, made many feel powerless, but there is a way to prepare for the worst so you never have to feel this helpless again. You can take charge of your family’s future by planning your estate with the help of a top estate planning attorney in Arlington, Texas.
The estate planning attorneys at Jackson, Landrith & Kulesz, PC understand the importance of having a sturdy, thorough estate plan that can hold up under every manner of legal pressure. And we have seen the COVID-19 pandemic highlight the urgency of planning for the unexpected. We can help. Reach out to our firm to begin your estate planning journey today.
Why Plan Your Estate in the Age of COVID?
We are supposed to be limiting our outings and face-to-face meetings, so why should you make time to meet with an Arlington estate planning attorney? Because there has never been a better time than right now to make sure you have a plan for every situation that could befall you and your family—from untimely death to the inability to make financial or healthcare decisions for yourself. We offer phone conferences and zoom calls for initial consultations so you only have to come in person to sign before a notary.
A deadly virus pandemic is hard to ignore, and this one serves as a daily reminder that nothing is guaranteed. Our safety, our loved ones, our health, and even our ability to enjoy a meal at a restaurant with our families can change in a matter of days.
Ask yourself: If something tragic happens to you, will your family be covered? Will they know how to divide and distribute your assets? If you already have a will, when was the last time you updated it? And do you want the state of Texas to decide who will care for your children, or would you like to make that call?
You have a responsibility to your loved ones to make sure these questions have clear answers. Do not let COVID-19 stop you from upholding that responsibility.
Building Your Estate Plan
Depending on your situation, needs, and desires, your estate plan could contain several important pieces. We discuss some of those pieces in detail below.
Your will is one of the most important documents to have prepared as part of your estate plan. A will can determine who will inherit your assets and which assets they will inherit; appoint an executor of your estate (the person who will settle your estate and ensure that your assets are distributed as you asked); and who will be the guardian of your minor children.
There are two basic types of wills in Texas:
- Attested wills. This type of will is formal and must be signed by witnesses. This type will enable you to distribute your assets to family members and loved ones, name an executor, and assign a guardian for your minor children.
- Holographic wills. These wills are handwritten completely by you, and they do not necessarily have to be signed by a witness. Holographic wills tend to be legally weaker than attested wills for various reasons.
Larger or more complicated estates may require a trust to ensure all your needs are met.
With COVID-19 putting lives at risk all over the world, it is critically important to ensure that, should something tragic happen to you, your assets will be distributed properly and your children will be cared for.
While a will can be a complex legal document, and it has to be done thoroughly, this does not have to be a daunting or difficult process. Our attorneys have years of experience with Texas estate and intestacy laws and therefore can make the process simple and effective.
While wills decide who receives your assets in the event of your death or incapacitation, trusts can help dictate how some of those assets are to be managed. Trusts are essentially buckets that hold groups of assets that are designated to a particular beneficiary. Actually placing your assets into those buckets requires funding and various legal documents, such as deeds.
A living trust is created while you are still alive—not just spelled out in your will to be created upon your death. A trust is considered revocable if you retain the right to dissolve or modify it. If you do not retain that right, the trust is considered irrevocable.
Revocable and irrevocable trusts are broad in scope, generally managing various types of assets. But Texas law allows for a few other types of trusts that may fit well with your unique circumstances or wishes:
- Testamentary trusts. This type of trust is established in your will and seeks to control how your assets are distributed after your death. This is a common option for people who would like to ensure that their assets are managed for their young children until those children become adults.
- Special needs trusts. This type of trust allows children with special needs (both minor and adult children) to continue receiving Medicaid and other government benefits after your passing, and your assets—managed by another person—provide additional benefits to your children.
- Spendthrift trusts. If you are concerned that the beneficiaries of your assets may be subject to major debts and creditors, a spendthrift trust may be a good option. These trusts specify that assets cannot be used to pay creditors. Additionally, this type of trust may work well if you think your beneficiary is not yet responsible enough to handle the assets you plan to leave to them.
All types of trusts can quickly become complicated in Texas, but a trust lawyer can help you make sure every legal detail is covered in full in the event that you pass away or are incapacitated due to COVID-19 or another illness.
Powers of Attorney
A critical part of your estate planning journey is your power of attorney document. In Texas, there are two types of powers of attorney: the statutory durable power of attorney and the medical power of attorney.
The first designates someone to make financial decisions in the event that you are incapacitated and unable to make your own decisions. The second designates someone to make healthcare decisions for you in the event that you are incapacitated and unable to make your own decisions.
In your power of attorney, you can limit the types of decisions that your designated person (“agent”) can make for you. You can broadly allow any medical or financial decision, or you can specify that the agent can only decide, for instance, whether you are placed on life support. (Keep in mind that an attorney can help you create an advance directive that specifies your wishes about end-of-life healthcare, and this is separate from your powers of attorney.)
In the age of COVID-19, incapacitation from serious illness is a very real risk, which is why it is more important than ever to ensure that you have the proper power of attorney documents in place.
Preparing for Your Meeting with an Estate Planning Attorney
The vast majority of people who decide to speak with an estate planning attorney have never done this before. Planning your estate is more or less a once-in-a-lifetime event, after all. This lack of experience may leave you feeling unsure of how to prepare to meet with your estate planning attorney. But have no fear—we are here to help and make this process as painless as possible.
If you have scheduled your initial consultation with an attorney at Jackson, Landrith & Kulesz, PC, you are well on your way to being prepared. As social distancing guidelines evolve as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, our meeting may be in person or virtual, but the content of the meeting will be the same either way.
All that remains before your first meeting is to gather the following documents and bring them with you:
- Information about any life insurance policies you own
- Recent bank statements
- Recent investment statements, including IRAs, money market accounts, index funds, pensions, and similar accounts
- Any stock certificates you would like to have included in your estate plan
- Deeds to your various real estate holdings
- Leases, buy-sell agreements, partnership agreements, and other documents that outline business agreements
- Any patents, trademarks, or copyrights you own
- Your previous will or other estate planning documents (if applicable)
If you are unsure of how to find any of the above documents, do not worry. We will guide you through every step of the process to make your estate planning journey a stress-free one.
Questions to Ask an Estate Planning Attorney
Your estate planning attorney will have plenty of questions for you. These are intended to ensure that we fully understand your estate planning needs. But you will likely have questions for us, too. If none immediately come to mind, consider asking your estate planning attorney the following questions during your first consultation:
- Based on my financial situation and needs, what type of will or trust do I need?
- Will you work with my financial advisors to make sure my estate plan is funded and carried out?
- What if I need to update one of my estate planning documents? Can you help with that?
- What kinds of changes in my life will require me to change my will?
- How can I help my loved ones avoid probate after I pass away?
- Can a probate lawyer from your firm help my loved ones with the probate process if the need arises?
- If you are unavailable and I need help with my estate plan, who should I contact?
Reach Out to a Top Estate Planning Attorney in Arlington
No one was prepared for the massive disruption COVID-19 has caused in our lives. But you can be prepared for the unexpected by getting your estate plan in order. A quick Google search will show you that there are hundreds of downloadable forms that supposedly help you create a will or trust—why not use one of those instead of meeting with an estate planning attorney from Jackson, Landrith & Kulesz, PC?
Because your estate plan is one of the most impactful legal matters you can undertake. Because one mistake can leave your family members tied up in probate, confused about what happens next, financially vulnerable, and unable to properly grieve your passing.
COVID-19 has highlighted just how urgent this matter is. But a global pandemic that threatens everyone’s health is not the only reason to consider working with an estate planning attorney at our firm. Everyone passes away, but not everyone does their loved ones and themselves in the favor of planning their estate thoroughly.
With Landrith & Kulesz, you get the benefit of our more than 50 years of experience helping Texans with their estate plans. That means you get unmatched experience alongside top-notch legal knowledge and world-class client service. We do not simply check boxes and push you out the door—we treat every client like family, focusing on the end result and cost-effective solutions to get you there.
We are ready to guide you through every step of your estate planning journey—from the initial consultation to the creation of your will and trust documents, from an honest conversation about your wishes and fears to ensuring that your executor is aware of their responsibilities, to help your loved ones with probate matters.
To find out more or schedule a consultation, contact the Arlington estate planning attorneys at Jackson, Landrith & Kulesz, PC