San Antonio Estate Planning Attorneys
Protecting Your Legacy & Estate
Thinking about the end of your life is never easy, but having a plan in place if something happens to you or you pass away is vital. A comprehensive estate plan enables you to safeguard your legacy and pass on your estate to loved ones, ensuring those who matter to you most receive the care they deserve in your absence.
At The Law Office of Derek S. Ritchie, PLLC, our San Antonio estate planning attorneys will help you develop an estate plan that strategically protects your assets.
Glossary of Estate Planning Terms
Before diving into how estate plans in Texas typically function, it may be useful to understand common estate planning phrases. You should familiarize yourself with the following terms as you progress with your estate plan:
- Decedent: A decedent is a deceased individual, often the owner of an estate.
- Beneficiary: Beneficiaries are individuals named by decedents in a will or trust to receive certain assets post-death.
- Testator: Someone who creates and signs a will (also called “executing” a will).
- Intestate: An intestate is an individual who dies without making a will.
- Heir: Most states have procedures in place for cases involves intestates. Heirs are individuals related to a decedent (often through parental rights or blood) who have a right to estate property under state law. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re guaranteed to receive the property if a will exists and they aren’t named in it.
- Trustor/Grantor/Settlor: This is a person who establishes a trust.
- Trustee: Trustees are named by a trustor/grantor/settlor to handle a trust if they pass away or become incapacitated.
- Personal representative/administrator: This person is either appointed in a will or by a court to help the probate court distribute a decedent’s estate.
- Guardian: A guardian is a person named in a will or appointed by a court to make decisions on behalf of a minor or somebody who lacks the capacity to do so themself.
- Conservator: A conservator manages the estate of a minor or person who lacks capacity, but they may not have the ability to make the same decisions as a guardian concerning their ward’s rights.
How Does Estate Planning Work in Texas?
Estate plans are typically comprised of various legally binding, enforceable contracts stating what happens to the owner of an estate and their property should they become incapacitated or pass away.
There are three types of documents that regularly comprise estate plans:
- Living will.
- Last will and testament.
- Trust (usually, a living revocable trust).
Trusts and wills have different requirements to be legally enforceable.
For a trust to be legally binding, the grantor must develop a written document detailing the terms of the trust and sign it in front of a notary.
For a will to be legally binding, the testator must sign it in front of at least two witnesses, who must also then sign the will.