Estate planning can be a complex undertaking, especially if you have never had a Will drafted, or if for instance you just went through a Divorce, or you are newly re-married, or you have a special person that you want to inherit that is not part of your immediate family.  And this complexity does not only affect you, it affects those who may need financial your support, or who you may want to inherit, such as new children, previous children, your new spouse, a partner, your pets, and step-children, as you both may have children from a previous marriage.  As you can see, there are many working parts to planning the distribution of your estate, and without properly planning as to the funding of your estate, and then, the distribution of your estate, your family, your new spouse, your children your pets, etc. may be left out completely at the time of your passing, especially if your state has property laws that affect the distribution of marital assets and how they pass to a spouse at the time of your death.

Wills

Many people have specific heirlooms that they want to pass down to family members or to their children or to a friend. They may not have any financial value or they may be worth millions.  A Will is one way to bequeath to a heir, a specific item, especially if you still have that item at the time of your death as some heirlooms cannot be realistically protected in a Trust such as your mother’s special broach, your grandfather’s watch, or other family keepsakes such as your family’s china or silver, items that hold special meaning to you, or your family.  A Will does not force a person to keep an item that was bequeathed, and not having the item can cause hurt feelings, especially if the item was sold before the person passes away.  In fact, many times when a Will is read, if an item that was bequeathed is no longer available to be distributed, there is no financial or legal repercussion that the heir can take, unless, your Will includes a provision that bequeaths a different item to the heir, if the item is not available, or it provides for a specific type of compensation, should the item bequeathed be no longer available.  Keep in mind, you cannot bequeath in a Will, any item that is not legally yours, or which is not your part of community marital property acquired during your marriage.

Ensure that your heirlooms and your property is bequeathed properly to your proper heirs, and that your Will is drafted in detail with your final instructions clearly noted.  An Experienced estate planning lawyer can help draft that document for you.

Trust

If you are in need of a document that will provide specific details as to how your estate and your assets shall be distributed to the dependents of the Trust, look no further.  A Trust can provide you and your dependents with those specifics, while you are alive and after you pass.  A Trust allows you to preserve your assets, so that they can be distributed according to your desires, by first appointing a Trustee who will oversee the trust and who will make sure that your specifications as to the distribution of your assets will take place. This distribution can be to your children, your spouse or any other heir to your estate according to your wishes.  You as the creator of the Trust are the grantor and the Trust can have co-trustees, such as a spouse. In fact, some heirlooms and financial assets including homes, and cars, can be placed into a Trust.  As for these heirlooms, an automobile can be used by the heirs of the Trust or it can be sold to fund the Trust, as designated by the grantor in the details of the Trust.  If you are married, a Trust is usually drafted in benefit of both spouses and names both parties as co-Trustees.

Although a Will must be created before you pass away, a Trust can be created after you pass away, through the terms of your Will.  You can set up a Trust at any time before your death or before you are deemed incapable of making legal decisions.  

Your estate lawyer will review your financial assets and your heirlooms and they will discuss with you how you want those assets or heirlooms distributed. They will then, draft the proper estate planning documents that will carry out your wishes and will ensure that your Trust and Will, meet all federal and state requirements.

Post Divorce – Wills and Trusts

If you just went through a divorce, dissolving a Trust that you created during a marriage, is usually a must.  And if you had a Will, and it named your ex-spouse as an heir to your estate, voiding that Will is a must, especially if you left property to that ex-spouse or you intend for that ex-spouse to still inherit part of your estate after your divorce.  In most states, if you left property to an ex-spouse in a Will, the provisions of the Will as to that ex-spouse, are null and void, even if you still want them to inherit. 

If you are newly divorced, or are about to be divorced (and there are no injunctions in place with the court that prohibit you from voiding a Will or Trust that you created during your marriage) you should seek the advise of a qualified Trust and Will Attorney as soon as possible so that they can read through your Will and or Trust and help you understand what documents need to be dissolved or can be revised.  They will also be able to help you understand what estate planning documents are missing or what documents need to be redrafted or amended.

Post Marriage Agreements

Much like a prenuptial agreement, a post- marital or post-marriage agreement, allows married couples who agree, to contractually agree to certain financial stipulations and the distribution of separate and community property, during the marriage. These agreements can also allow each partner to manage the property and assets that they owned prior to the marriage, as separate assets from the marital property.  While these agreements can be as simple or as complex as needed, there are specific requirements that must be met in order to maintain the legal right to the property throughout the course of a marriage and possibly after.  A qualified estate planning lawyer will ensure that your assets and the contract meet these requirements. 

If you need a Will or a Trust drafted, or if you need a Will or a Trust dissolved or amended, or if you need a Post-Marital Agreement drafted, contact one of the qualified legal representatives of Goldstein & Scopellite, PC. Goldstein & Scopellite, PC is located in Dallas, Texas and was established in 2002.  For more information, they can be reached at 214-351-9100.

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