Creating an estate plan can feel like a complicated, sometimes even daunting task. The good news is that it does not have to be that way. At Weisinger Law Firm, PLLC, our San Antonio estate planning lawyers are committed to making the estate planning process as smooth and understandable as possible.
We want to make sure that you have all of the information and tools that you need to protect yourself and your family. One question we often get is about the difference between an estate plan and a trust; specifically, how they interact with each other and why you may need both. Below, our legal team provides a basic overview of estate plans and trusts. If you have specific questions, please call us for guidance.
What Is An Estate?
An estate is made up of all of the money, property, assets, and liabilities that a person owns at the time of their death. Everything that is owned under your name is part of your estate. As such, the property/assets will be distributed in accordance with your estate plan—or, if you lack one, as directed by Texas law.
Imagine that a person did not do any estate planning at all. All of their property has to go somewhere—and where exactly it goes will be determined by the complex, inflexible rules set forth by the state of Texas. In effect, this means that the person will have no say in what happens to their estate. Worse yet, their loved one may be locked in a fierce dispute over who gets what.
Through a legally valid last will & testament, a person can assign beneficiaries and control how their estate—meaning their money, property, and assets—will be distributed. For many people, a will is an effective way to handle their estate. That being said, it is not always the best way to pass down assets.
You Can Use A Trust To Distribute Assets and Property
After a person passes away, their ‘estate’ will generally go through the Texas probate process. Any assets that are covered by your will must go through probate. However, there are other estate planning tools available. A trust is essentially a fiduciary relationship whereby a third party holds assets/property on behalf of another person. A trust is not separate from your estate plan, but is instead just a part of some estate plans.
When you assign assets to a trust, it can be thought of as the equivalent of taking those assets out of your “estate”—it is an alternative way to keep assets in your control and pass them down to your beneficiaries. One of the advantages of a trust is that, when set up properly, it will allow the assets within it to avoid the probate process.
Have A Trust? You Should Still Write A Will
Even if you set up a trust, there is a chance you will still have an ‘estate’. The reason for this is that sometimes property is forgotten about or left outside of the trust. A will can be a tool used as a backup in that case. Writing a will is important for a number of different reasons. It is recommended that every adult has a will.
Is A Trust Right For Me?
Trust planning is complicated. While setting up a trust can offer significant benefits, it is not the right estate planning vehicle for every situation. In some cases, using a will to pass down property/assets may simply be a more cost-effective option. If you have questions about whether or not you and your family can benefit from a trust, we encourage you to consult with an experienced San Antonio estate planning attorney.
Further, there are many different types of trusts. You should create the trust that is best suited for your specific needs and objectives. As an example, if you want to leave assets to a loved one with special needs, it is imperative that you do so through a Special Needs Trust (SNT). This type of trust offers important advantages, including protecting a vulnerable person’s ability to qualify for Medicaid benefits, Social Security benefits, and other programs.
Get Help From Our Texas Estate Planning Attorney Today
At Weisinger Law Firm, PLLC, our San Antonio will & trust attorneys work to assist individuals and families find true peace and security through careful planning. We will help you create an estate planning that is best suited for your needs. For a confidential consultation, please do not hesitate to contact us 210-308-0800. With an office in Selma, we represent clients throughout Bexar County, including in San Antonio, Universal City, Schertz, and Garden Ridge.