Texans who believe that time is on their side and that youth is a justification not to create wills and trusts are often caught flat-footed if something happens. Regardless of age, people need to be aware of the need to have certain documents prepared just in case of an unforeseen eventuality. Even with the newsworthy people like the musician and actor Prince who died unexpectedly and did not have a will, a vast proportion of the U.S. population still does not have a will.
Statistically, 64 percent of people over age 18 in the U.S. did not have a will in 2016. For many, a specific life event sparks the decision to move forward with documents for an estate plan. That can include getting married, having a child, getting divorced or there being a death in the family. Experience is believed to be more of a motivating factor than the simple advice to be prepared for the future. When there is not an estate plan or if the details are not clear, a death can cause significant family disputes between the heirs.
If there are minor children and a parent dies without a will, the state will name guardians; probate court will determine what happens to the assets. There are certain inherent facts that people should remember as they consider an estate plan. Local laws are important. In Texas, the probate laws are known to be efficient, so trusts are generally advisable for those with assets of $1 million or more. It is also wise to have a trust to distribute assets to children over time instead of all at once.
Transferring bank accounts to children prior to death is a mistake as it might leave a person without sufficient assets to live if they have a longer than expected life. Some parents place a home in a child's name before they die. If the child experiences financial problems, this can affect the parents. Finally, the wills must be kept updated. Many people are taking steps to keep track of digital information with the growing use of technology.
Wills, trusts and other tools for an estate plan are essential to making certain that the desires of the testator are in writing and common problems are avoided. Even those who do take the steps to take out wills and trusts must make sure that they know about necessary updating tactics to keep the document current. An experienced lawyer can provide legal help with these aspects of estate planning.
Source: New York Times, "Wills Can Avert Family Warfare, but Have Their Own Hidden Traps," Janet Morrissey, April 21, 2017