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Estate Planning

Everyone can benefit from having an estate plan. Estate planning is a topic that doesn’t need to be stressful or scary to discuss. Whether you already have an idea for how you want your property to pass when you are gone, or whether you have been avoiding the thought of estate planning entirely, a conversation with a trusted attorney to address your concerns, desires, and even fears can help you ensure that the future and the unpredictable are handled with ease.

Zapalac Law Firm offers a stress-free estate planning experience that involves getting to know you and your family, understanding your values and goals, and working with you to draft a comprehensive estate plan that is custom fitted to your family’s needs. We are not shy about explaining the ins and outs of estate planning so that you know precisely what your plan is, and we welcome questions on any estate planning topic you are curious about.

As life can change rapidly and certain events may substantially affect your estate plan (births, deaths, marriages, divorce, changes in law, etc.), we recommend you sit down and review your estate plan with us periodically so we can determine if any changes are needed. Just like an annual check-up with your physician, it’s a good idea to have an annual “check-up” on your estate plan!

Zapalac Law Firm also has experience with international aspects of estate planning and can work with you to find trustworthy foreign counsel in whatever country you may have assets in, and we will ensure that any foreign estate planning documents are factored into your overarching estate structure.

Our estate planning services offer:

A good Will is the basic foundation of most estate plans and is a basic item needed to avoid dying “intestate” (without a Will), which would subject your property to the default inheritance laws of the State. With a valid Will you can clearly determine how your property will pass after death, who will act as your Executor to handle the assets of your estate and distribute them as you desire, and you can avoid the costliness that often comes with an intestate estate administration. A Will does not avoid probate! It is rather the central focus of the probate process, where the Will is validated and your named Executor is given the legal authority they need to carry out your wishes. As estate administration if often more expensive when there is an invalid Will or no Will whatsoever, it is important to have a Will drafted by an estate planning attorney knowledgeable about Texas law.

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If you have property in other countries, it is advisable you have a Will or Will-equivalent that would be acceptable in the laws of that country, if needed under foreign law. Zapalac Law Firm can help find and work with foreign legal counsel to determine what your estate plan needs to ensure it works seamlessly on a global level.

Used for estate planning purposes, asset protection, or simply to keep ownership of property more private, a trust is very customizable and powerful. Trusts typically consist of a grantor (who creates the trust), a trustee (who operates the trust), and a beneficiary (the beneficial recipient of the trust). While the structure may look and sounds like a strange business entity, a trust is more like a legal “relationship” where the grantor funds the trust with property, which the trustee has a duty to manage and use for the benefit of the beneficiary. Assets held in trust are “owned” by the trust and managed by the trust terms. This means that a well-drafted trust could help with the avoidance of probate, allowing for the orderly transfer of trust property after the death of the grantor without interaction with the probate court.

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Trusts can also help provide for certain family members or other individuals, without allowing them direct access to trust funds. This can help protect certain family members or others from creditors or to simply allow assets to grow, undisturbed, until the beneficiary reaches a certain age. Trusts can be domestic or foreign, and certain situations and asset protection strategies may make foreign trusts more advisable. We are open to discussing foreign trust creation and working with foreign counsel and/or trust administrators to ensure your assets are protected as much as possible.

When you are unable to make medical or financial decisions for yourself (commonly known in law as being “incapacitated”), it is important to have documents in place that allow trusted individuals to make decisions on your behalf. These disability documents include items such as Statutory and Medical Powers of Attorney, Directives to Physicians (often called a Living Will), HIPAA Release forms, and other items that may be recommended in the event of legal incapacity. While often overlooked, having comprehensive financial and medical disability documents in place is important for any adult person, just to ensure that your wishes for your own care are made known and duly respected.

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Zapalac Law Firm typically drafts estate plans comprehensively, with disability documents and powers of attorney considered as part of your estate plan, but separate drafting of disability documents and/or powers of attorney is always possible.

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