I highly recommend each adult resident in Texas have at least a simple will and probably an estate plan. It is imperative to review your plan at every major life event for you, family members, and anyone named in the estate planning documents.
1. You do not have an estate plan or Will
If you do not have an estate plan or Will, or you created your own that has not been reviewed by an attorney, you need to meet with an attorney. It is significantly more costly to administer an estate without a Will than with a Will, in Texas.
Just as important is to ensure you have financial planning and healthcare planning documents in place in case of an emergency or healthcare issue.
Talk to your local estate planning lawyer to make sure you and your family are covered in case of an emergency.
2. You were recently married – Congrats!!
If you were married for the first time, or this is a subsequent marriage, it is imperative to check your Will and your post death planning to make sure you and your spouse are covered. You cannot will away your new spouse’s share of community property without specific written permission from your spouse in a prenuptial agreement or post marital agreement. Failing to protect your spouse’s rights in your estate may lead to expensive litigation.
If this is a subsequent marriage or if you have children from a different relationship, it is key to talk to an estate planning attorney to decrease the likelihood of future litigation within your family.
3. You were recently divorced
If you were recently divorced – or divorced at all since your prior look at estate planning, it is time to look again. This really could be an entire section of its own. We have an article with more in depth information regarding dealing with property, assets and liabilities during a divorce that can be found here.
1. Make sure all of the loose ends are tied at the end of your divorce. (Property is adequately transferred, titles are transferred, designated beneficiaries are changed, etc.).
2. Look at your existing estate plan and think about all the places that list your spouse – executor (to manage your estate), beneficiary (to receive your estate), trustee (to manage the estate for the benefit of another – maybe a minor child), etc. You likely want to change most or all of these. Consider adding successor or back up people to manage your estate and to make decisions for you if you become unable to do so.
4. You had or adopted a child
This will change the outlook of your estate plan. You want to make sure your child or children are cared for after your death. This becomes more important if your kids are minors. It becomes more difficult with blended families. In any situation, having a child or adopting a child is a great reason to review your estate plan.
Something people fail to consider is when people named as guardian in their estate planning documents has children. This is a big deal and to be considered. If I want my single sister to take my 2 kids if something happens to me and my husband, I can include that in my estate planning documents. If, then, my sister adopts infant twins, is she capable and ready to take on the responsibility of my 2 kids? Definitely worth thinking about.
5. Something happened to someone in your family or someone named in your estate plan
In our estate planning documents, we name executors to manage our estates; we name beneficiaries to inherit our assets; and we name agents to take care of our needs if we become incapacitated. If such an executor, trustee, agent, etc. marries, divorces, has children, goes to college, goes through bankruptcy, moves, or has any other major life events, it is time to review your estate planning documents to make sure all such documents still fit your needs.