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Estate Planning Basics

What is Estate Planning in Houston?

It is mentally challenging to visualize one’s death. Most people don’t want to talk about the possibility of dying. However, we cannot successfully predict how long we will live. Serious illnesses and accidents can happen to people of all ages. Therefore, creating a good estate plan early can help you and your loved ones prepare for the future. 

A well-prepared estate plan will help you ensure your wishes are carried out when you die. It gives you peace of mind knowing that your valuable assets will be properly managed and distributed according to your will. Knowledgeable Houston estate planning attorney can help you understand the basics of estate planning and its importance to you and your family. 

At Chargois Harper, we are dedicated to helping families through difficult times by providing the best legal advice regarding asset protection, probate, charitable giving, and other estate planning needs. We will work with you and your family to achieve these goals while protecting your assets.

What is Estate Planning?

Houston estate planning attorneys

Estate planning determines how your assets will be managed and distributed after your death. Your estate includes everything that you own.

You have to ensure that all your houses, cars, finances, bank accounts, life insurance policy benefits, real estate properties, retirement accounts, and other investments will be left in good hands after you pass away. A credible estate planning lawyer in Houston TX can help you understand how estate planning can help protect your valued assets.

An estate plan is a set of important documents that state your wishes for the distribution of assets and property, guardianship of minor children, and even healthcare decisions. Having an estate plan minimizes the chances of family strife and court battles involving legal issues on inheritance. In addition, it reduces estate tax and ensures the proper allocation of your valuable possessions.

What are the Different Estate Planning Tools You May Need?

The most basic step in estate planning involves writing a will. However, estate planning goes beyond just executing your last will and testament. Various estate planning tools can help you make decisions about your healthcare if you are incapacitated, guardianship of your minor children, reduction of estate taxes, and avoiding probate. A reliable Houston estate planning attorney can help you determine the legal documents that are essential in creating a well-developed estate plan.

Last Will and Testament

A last will and testament is an important component of a comprehensive estate plan. It is a written legal document that declares your wishes to designate beneficiaries, appoint a guardian for your minor children, and allocate your assets after death. You, as the testator or author of will, should clearly state your plans on how and what to distribute to your chosen beneficiaries and heirs. A skilled estate planning lawyer in Houston can guide you through the process of writing a will.

When creating a will, you’ll assign an executor to manage estate affairs when you die. Executors play a vital role in estate planning. After your death, your executor will pay your debts and distribute your assets according to the terms of your will.

Keep in mind that your will has no legal authority until after death. Therefore, it does not help manage your affairs when you become incapacitated whether by illness or injury. Furthermore, a will does not help an estate avoid probate. The probate process is a court-supervised legal proceeding that validates your last will and testament. Your assets must still go through probate court before they can be distributed to your named beneficiaries.

Writing a will is important, not just for wealthy people, but for everyone. If you die without leaving a will, you are considered to have died “intestate”. In this case, all your assets, finances, property, and guardianship of your minor children will be handled and distributed according to the intestacy laws in your state. It can cause financial hardship and long court battles for your loved ones.


Aside from creating wills, another method of estate planning is considering a trust. It involves the process of giving authority to another party to handle your assets in favor of your beneficiaries. A trust is a legal entity with at least three parties involved: the trust-maker, the trustee (trust manager), and the trust beneficiary.

A trust can be classified into two categories: testamentary and living trust. A testamentary trust can be created using a will. A trustee will be named in the document to control the distribution of assets according to the trustor’s wishes, following the trust document and its directives.

Living trusts allow you to hold assets for beneficiaries while dictating how and when they receive those assets. It is called a living trust because it is created while the trustor is still alive. Unlike wills, living trusts allow you to avoid probate court. Moreover, you’ll need to decide whether to use a revocable trust or an irrevocable trust. A revocable living trust allows you to make changes, while irrevocable trust cannot be modified. It is advisable to work with a seasoned Texas estate planning attorney to determine the best option for you.

Powers of Attorney

A power of attorney (POA) is a legal document giving another person (the attorney-in-fact) the legal right (powers) to perform certain things on your behalf. You can authorize your trusted attorney-in-fact to handle your assets and finances by having a durable power of attorney (DPA). You can use it if you become disabled, incapacitated, or unable to manage your finances.

In the event of incapacity, you may use a medical power of attorney to appoint another individual (typically a spouse or family member) to make important healthcare and treatment decisions on your behalf. If you are considering the use of this document, you must choose the person you trust the most. After all, this person has your life in their hands.

Health Care Documents (or Advance Medical Directive)

An advance directive determines your future medical care.  These are legally binding estate planning documents that specify the type of medical treatment and personal care you would want to receive should you lose the ability to make your own decisions. In Texas law, anyone over the age of 18 may execute an advance directive.

This document is the combination of a DPA for healthcare, a living will, and Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) release forms. An advanced health care directive describes what medical procedures you do or don’t want and who has the right to make medical decisions for you if you can no longer make them yourself. If the documents are incomplete, your doctor may refuse to acknowledge this directive.

Hire an Experienced Texas Estate Planning Attorney Now!

Creating an estate plan can be overwhelming and stressful, especially if you are still young and in good health. However, having an estate plan in place before you die is one of the best things that you can do to protect your family and your legacy. No one knows what will happen in the future, therefore, it is important to plan our life ahead of time.

To ease the burden of the estate planning process, it is best to seek legal help from our competent Houston estate planning attorneys at Chargois Harper. Our estate planning law firm will help you put your wishes for incapacity and death into writing. We will assist you in creating an effective estate plan in compliance with the state and federal estate planning laws. We will explain the different estate planning options and help you choose the best one. 

If you have any questions regarding estate planning, call us now and schedule an initial consultation.


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