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Estate planning is a multi-faceted process

People in Texas may assume that only those who are extremely wealthy really need estate plans. After all, a person who is single can have assets totaling more than $5 million before concern exists about paying federal estate taxes. However, estate planning is not just for the 1 percent -- it is critical for people at all income levels.

Research shows that over 60 percent of people lack a will. Still, drawing up a will is important because without one, an individual's estate must be distributed in probate court according to prevailing state laws. This process may leave the beneficiaries of the deceased person facing unwanted and unintended expenses.

It is also important for people to check any beneficiary designations. After all, not all of a person's assets will be disbursed via a will. Certain accounts, including retirement funds and life insurance policies, allow owners to choose beneficiaries for these particular assets. If no beneficiaries are listed, the asset will have to go through the probate court, and a judge will determine who will get the money according to the laws of intestacy.

Setting up a trust may also be wise if a person has a large estate or is worried about heirs not being smart about the money inherited. A trustee can be appointed to distribute the wealth. When it comes to establishing a trust, there are several options from which to to choose. Tax considerations may be an important factor as well as the extent of control desired by the trust creator. Figuring out what to incorporate in an estate plan can be confusing, and help from a seasoned Texas estate planning attorney may help in sorting through these complex issues.

Source: U.S. News & World Report, "5 Estate Planning Strategies to Keep Your Money in the Family", Maryalene LaPonsie, Nov. 19, 2015

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