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Wills: not adequate for addressing all estate planning subjects

Although carefully thinking about a will and then following through after due reflection by executing such a document is certainly an example of good estate planning in Texas and elsewhere, it might not qualify as comprehensive planning.

A proven estate planning attorney can tell you exactly why and help ensure that your wishes regarding real and personal property, gifting, charitable contribution, family heirlooms and legacies, bequests to surviving family members and other important considerations are fully and faithfully carried out.

And it is important to note early on that merely executing a will might not get the job completely done.

We explain why in an article on our website discussing wills, most specifically what makes sense to insert in a will -- and what doesn’t.

Take beneficiaries of life insurance policies and retirement plans, for example. If you list those persons in your will, you have effectively just engaged in a futile exercise. As noted in the above-cited article, provisions for beneficiaries set forth in a will “cannot supersede” what is noted within an insurance contract or retirement plan. Not knowing that can obviously set a family up for trouble, given the acrimony that might result if two sets of beneficiaries are revealed during probate.

Trust assets, too, are kept -- and remain -- entirely separate from assets listed in a will. That they are is the very reason for trust creation.

Here’s another off-limits subject for a will: provisions that seek to leave money or other assets to pets. Although deeply loved, of course, pets are not people, and they cannot be left assets through a will. A pet trust is an eminently suitable vehicle for that, and an estate planning attorney can help a trustor set up such a planning instrument.

In summary, although a will is a central and critically important estate planning document, it might not be able to fully accomplish all of an individual’s estate planning goals. Some subjects need to be put into a will -- and some most decidedly should be addressed elsewhere and in other ways.

An experienced Texas estate planning lawyer can bring clarity to the subject and help a client comprehensively and accurately attend to planning concerns.

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