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Estate Planning

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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.

To schedule a consultation with our team, contact us online or via phone at (210) 775-2000.

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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:

  1. Living will.
  2. Last will and testament.
  3. 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.

What Can a Living Will Do?

Living wills detail what happens to a testator if they become incapacitated or pass away, and their end-of-life wishes. You can utilize a living will to:
  • Establish medical power of attorney. You can utilize medical power of attorney to name an individual to look after your end-of-life care and make provisions for your health care if you age or become incapacitated.
  • Establish financial power of attorney. You can utilize financial power of attorney to name an individual to manage your estate at the end of your life or if you become incapacitated.
  • Set up an advance directive, spelling out your end-of-life wishes (such as whether you would like to be cremated or buried, requests for your funeral, etc.).

Everyone should have a living will. Even if you don’t have property you wish to distribute to beneficiaries, a living will ensures you receive the respect you deserve at the end of your life.

What Can a Last Will & Testament or a Trust Do?

Both trusts and last wills and testaments allow a grantor or testator to distribute their property among beneficiaries. However, they do so in different ways.

Property distributed through a will must go through probate. During probate, the court helps an executor or personal administrator (either named in the will or appointed by the court) distribute a decedent’s property. Probate can be a long, expensive process, particularly if the estate involves valuable property or beneficiaries disagree with the will.

Conversely, property distributed through a trust doesn’t go through probate. As a result, many people choose to distribute complex or valuable property through a trust. The most common type of trust is a living revocable trust, which can be modified throughout a person’s lifetime.

At The Law Office of Derek S. Ritchie, PLLC, we help clients develop comprehensive estate plans that protect their interests and assets.

To schedule a consultation with our team, contact us online or via phone at
(210) 775-2000
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