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Wills are often not enough for comprehensive estate planning

Responsible Texans will take the imperative steps to craft their estate plan to adhere to their desires and loved ones' needs. Many will think that they have done what is necessary to ensure their plan is airtight and covers all eventualities by having a basic will. However, mistakes are common when drafting estate planning documents. In many cases, the person will use the wrong estate planning vehicle to suit their needs. In others, they will not go as far as they should by stopping at a simple will without considering the possibility that other steps should be taken. Knowing when to go beyond a will is imperative with any comprehensive estate plan.

While a will is a good thing to have, there are other documents that might - and usually are - needed. In many instances, a power of attorney, an advanced medical directive and more will be essential. Having another person or more than one other person who can make decisions in the testator's stead is key. Medical decisions, asset allocation and the basics of life can be handled with these documents. Should the testator not have these documents, the court will appoint someone to oversee these issues and it might be a person whom the testator does not know or does not want. These documents are important for everyone, even someone who is younger and seemingly in good health as accidents and unforeseen incidents can leave them incapacitated at a moment's notice.

Going beyond a will is also crucial for certain assets that are beyond the scope of wills and probate. If there is an annuity, if the person has life insurance, if there is an IRA or a 401(k), or there is property that is co-owned and many other situations can be up in the air even if there is a will. There are certain designations with these documents that circumvent a will and must be addressed. Trusts are a flexible and useful way to address factors that a will does not. Considering a trust in lieu of or in addition to a will can cover all the bases.

Those who have not taken any steps to craft an estate plan should do so as soon as possible no matter their financial and family situation or their age. In addition, knowing what documents are available and how they can be tailored to the individual needs is one of the most important issues with drafting estate planning documents. Having legal assistance from a lawyer who is experienced in estate planning can answer questions, provide advice and help with the entire process.

Source: forbes.com, "7 Big Estate Planning Mistakes - Part 1," Bob Carlson, Feb. 21, 2018

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