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Bexar county special needs trust lawyerThe idea behind estate planning is to put your family in the best possible situation by planning for future events. What will happen to my family when I am no longer here? is a challenging but essential question to ask yourself as you seek to grant your family peace of mind by preparing for whatever may happen. 

The needs of families can differ, as can the needs of individual family members. For example, suppose you have a family member with a physical or mental disability who is dependent on you or other family members. Depending on their level of disability, you may be concerned about their inability to care for themselves independently. You may be interested in securing their physical and financial well-being after you pass away. In that case, it is wise to speak with an experienced attorney knowledgeable in special needs trusts, which can grant you the peace of mind that your loved one will be taken care of in the future. 

What is a Special Needs Trust?

People with disabilities are often eligible to receive various forms of governmental and public aid that help with their ongoing needs. The disabled person must have limited income and other financial resources to qualify for these benefits. A very common pitfall families can run into is if they decide to give a disabled family member a large amount of money or other assets as a form of financial protection for the disabled family member. While this may seem appropriate, gifting the disabled family member with assets may make them ineligible for public benefits like Medicaid or Supplemental Security Income through Social Security. To avoid this, a family member can set up a special needs trust to avoid making them ineligible for public benefits.

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Wilson County living will attorneySo many things in life are completely out of our control. The estate planning process aims to give back some of this control to people and their families when the inevitable or unpredictable happens. Estate planning can address issues associated with money and property. To ensure their family is adequately provided for in the event of their death, many people create a will, laying out the deceased person’s wishes for when they are no longer living. 

While most people have likely heard of a will, they may not have heard of a living will. Essentially, a living will is a document of medical instructions that allows you to determine, while you are still alive, what medical decisions you would like administered or withheld in the event you become medically incapacitated. If you believe you or your loved one may benefit from creating a living, it may be wise for you to contact an experienced attorney knowledgeable in estate planning. 

Advance Medical Directives in Texas

Under Texas law, advance medical directives are identified as the following:

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San Antonio power of attorney lawyerPowers of attorney can be powerful tools for self-protection during your own lifetime. Should you ever find yourself in a situation where you are not capable of making decisions for yourself or managing your estate, you would likely want to be able to choose the person who should step in and begin managing your affairs. Many people think of powers of attorney as being important mainly for older adults who are likely to suffer mental deterioration due to the effects of aging and aging-related illnesses such as dementia. However, senior adults are not the only group of people who should have powers of attorney in place.

Our team has seen many, many situations where a seemingly young and healthy person is involved in an emergency and needs another person to make medical decisions or get their bills paid on time. Serious accidents can happen to anyone, anywhere, at any time. With powers of attorney in place, you can be ready for any surprises life may throw your way. 

What Are Powers of Attorney?

A power of attorney is essentially an authorization for someone else to take an action with legal effect on your behalf. Powers of attorney can give a person you choose certain privileges to make medical decisions, handle your finances, or take any other actions you deem appropriate. When contemplating preparedness for an emergency or future incapacity, springing powers of attorney are generally used. Springing powers of attorney do not take effect until you have been deemed incapacitated, so there is essentially no risk that you will inadvertently give someone else control over your life right now. 

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Texas estate planning lawyerCreating a will is often seen as the most basic form of estate planning. While an increasing number of people choose trusts over wills, these documents still have important uses for many individuals. Smaller estates may be passed entirely through wills in some instances. Texas state law sets out a few basic requirements that must be met in order for a will to be considered valid and enforced during probate. Some requirements relate to who the testator is, while others proscribe a very specific method of will execution.

In general, most adults will be able to create a will in Texas. There are limitations based on the testator’s competency, however. This is one reason why middle-aged and even young adults should consider creating a will now rather than waiting until they are older adults at risk for age-related mental deterioration. It is also highly advisable to execute a will only under the direct supervision of a qualified lawyer. 

Who is Eligible to Create a Will?

Generally, a person must be at least 18 years old to create a will. However, in Texas there are two notable statutory exceptions. A minor who is married or was married in the past will typically be permitted to create a will. A second patriotic exception pertains to minors who are serving in the U.S. military or an armed forces auxiliary agency. Testators must also be of sound mind.

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San Antonio pet trust lawyerMany people share a strong bond with their pets. Companion animals can be a wonderful source of comfort to their owners. If you have a dear pet who could potentially outlive you, you may be comforted to know that there is a way to provide for the ongoing care of your pet using your estate plan. Trusts for the care of an animal are explicitly authorized in Texas’s trust code. There are requirements governing the use of pet trusts. For example, the animal provided for must be alive during the grantor’s lifetime. A trust to care for your dog would likely be permitted, but a trust caring for all future descendants of your dog would likely not be enforced. If you are interested in using a trust for the care of an animal to provide for your pet should they outlive you, it is best to work with a skilled attorney. Pet trusts can be complex as can any other form of trust. 

What You Should Know About Trusts for the Care of an Animal

Unlike a trust designed to care for a person’s human loved ones, which may be administered for decades after the settlor has passed away, pet trusts are frequently of a more temporary nature. Most pets do not live longer than ten to twenty years in total. There are of course exceptions - some bird species have a usual lifespan on par with humans. However, for animals with shorter lifespans, the trust need not be a particularly long-lasting one. Pet trusts automatically terminate upon the cared-for animal’s passing. It may be prudent to include a clause governing what should happen to any remaining trust funds. 

Assets contained in a pet trust that exceed the amount needed to appropriately care for the animal may be distributed to the beneficiaries you have named in your will, or if you do not have a will, to your intestate heirs. 

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